If you’re only posting once in a blue moon on Facebook and Instagram, you could be missing out on major sales. Opening a restaurant is more competitive than ever, and managers who know how to promote a restaurant on social media win repeat business—and continue to grow in a crowded market.
Sometimes, you might even get lucky. Even if you’re still not sure how to promote a restaurant on social media, odds are your customers already do. According to a national dining trends survey from Zagat, more than 60 percent of diners take Instagram photos of their entrées before they dig in—and 75 percent of diners have chosen their next meal based on social media buzz.
But you need more than luck to get your customers to bite—you need to be a reliable source of surprise and delight online. Strategic social media marketing ideas for restaurants can drive sales and increase foot traffic, as Nation’s Restaurant News reports. Consistent, exciting social media campaigns also increase brand awareness, engage customers, and extend your brand experience.
Not sure which platform will help you get where you want to go? Before settling on a plan or putting all your energy behind Facebook ads instead of Instagram stories, put in your homework by doing an audit of your existing social media platforms, suggests Shawn Conner at the Hootsuite blog. Once you know how each of your platforms is contributing to your company objectives, you’ll have an easier time setting measurable goals and tracking metrics, like reach, audience engagement, or sales conversions.
Remember: goals for social media campaigns can vary—and you don’t have to try and do everything at once. Start with a concrete goal: Do you want to increase your overall engagement by 10 percent? Gain a few hundred new followers? Encourage customers to share their experiences at your restaurant online by posting pictures or using a company hashtag? Each of these campaigns will require different tactics—as well as understanding how to use the customer data you already have.
According to Kevan Lee, the director of marketing for Buffer, setting the right benchmarks, or targets, ultimately depends on the goal you have for each channel and each campaign. Whether you set goals based on previous performance or dig into your competitors’ successes using tools like BuzzSumo, establish a baseline for success for each type of campaign on every platform you use. Then simply try to meet or exceed your goal using clever copy, beautiful images, and well-timed posts. Engagement rates won’t lie!
Once you’ve used your available data to make reasonable goals, it’s time to start experimenting with strategy. Here are three social media platforms—and marketing ideas—for restaurants to reach new and existing customers.
Who should be on it: Everyone—from small, local restaurants to major chains—needs a Facebook Page, which makes it easy for customers to see your operating hours, contact information, and address. If you’re so new that you’re still working on a branded website, a Facebook Page can be a great way to generate interest in your restaurant or catering services.
What works best on the platform: Although the Facebook algorithm changes regularly, image- and video-driven posts still work well here. It can also be an essential way to communicate quickly and reliably with customers who have questions about your restaurant—so don’t rule out the messenger app as part of your customer service and social media engagement strategy.
In addition to posting engaging content, try capturing and advertising to leads with Facebook’s sophisticated LeadAds program. LeadAds allow you to “target your perfect audience with an offer,” writes marketing consultant Nick Fosberg at the Toast blog. Say, a coupon for a half-price meal, or a BOGO cocktail during happy hour. In order to redeem the offer, users must submit contact information—which you can then use to build your email marketing list. Need more social media marketing ideas for Facebook that set restaurants apart? Start here.
Who should be on it: If you have a visually appealing brand, space, or menu, Instagram can generate buzz, drive engagement, and add up to sales.
What works best on the platform: Everything from styled photographs to brand ambassador campaigns and customer-generated content.
According to the point-of-sale retailer Toast, Instagram is the social media platform that most often transforms into restaurant sales. “Both newly opened restaurants and restaurants that saw profit growth in 2017 are flocking to Instagram more than restaurants where profit dropped or stagnated in 2017,” reports Toast in their Restaurant Success in 2018 Industry Report. If successful restaurants are pivoting to Instagram, it’s because they’re seeing growth—in their number of followers, their reach, and, ultimately, sales. That makes maintaining a robust Instagram account one of the best social media marketing ideas for restaurants.
Because of the platform’s association with lifestyle content, it’s an especially good way to develop partnerships with influencers who have a large number of followers. In Los Angeles, this strategy has transformed how local restaurants do business. According to Maral Tavitian, a local reporter for LA Weekly, restaurants now tap an elite group of food Instagrammers to drum up business—and, at the very least, buzz.
“We really loved Bonnie [Tsang] and we liked her style of photography and we thought that it would be a great opportunity for customers to see Bestia through her eyes,” Ronit Menashe, the vice president of marketing and strategy for Bestia, told LA Weekly, explaining why he invited Tsang to take over their account for the day. (Many of her 65,000 Instagram followers likely followed along!)
But influencer campaigns aren’t the only way to promote a restaurant on social media. User-generated content—like shared pictures during a contest or promotion—can work especially well, too. Not only do your customers engage directly with your brand, but their photos showcase your space and—most importantly—your food!
Who should be on it: Large brands or multi-location franchises have the social reach to make Twitter’s algorithms work for them.
What works best on the platform: Social listening and contributing to trending conversations might help you tailor your social marketing strategies on other platforms.
Twitter can be tough for restaurants to master—but the platform still helps your brand maintain a presence online, and can even help you engage more directly with your followers. One Which Wich campaign, for example, used a survey to showcase their new “Ultimate BLT”—a perfect way to invite customers to interact with what would be an otherwise run-of-the-mill product announcement. According to Toast, the strategy works so well that Which Wich was their social media engagement leader in Q1 of 2017.
But don’t just limit your Twitter strategy to endearing Tweets—experiment with providing customer service by setting up searches for your brand name and responding to customer comments or complaints. Or time your tweets to the dinner rush and offer a discount for a meal. With Twitter’s analytics, you’ll know how successful your conversion rates for online orders are right away!
Need more social media marketing ideas from successful restaurants?