In today’s competitive restaurant market, diners are coming to expect an increasing amount of engagement with the establishments at which they dine. One of the best ways to connect with diners is through social media. In years past, restaurants could get away with having their own website and little else. Later, a Facebook profile became necessary. Today, however, restaurants need to reach out to customers through a wide variety of different social-networking platforms, including YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. An extremely popular social-media platform, Twitter allows people to “tweet” short messages and photos to their followers.
For restaurant developers, Twitter offers a great way to let diners know about specials or new offerings. In addition, tweeting is an excellent method of attracting new customers. As followers organically retweet the restaurant’s messages to their own circles, they give the establishment an incredible amount of free marketing that comes across as a recommendation from a friend rather than as an advertisement.
Unfortunately, many restaurant developers may not understand how to use Twitter effectively to market their establishments or realize the wide range of ways to engage customers using the platform. The following are some tips on how a restaurant can get the most from its Twitter account:
People are said to eat “with their eyes first,” so posting appealing pictures of food can bring people into a restaurant. From a computer, restaurateurs can use twitpic, yfrog, and similar services to upload photos, and most smartphone Twitter apps support photo posting. Another great way to share photos is to retweet photos that followers have taken—provided that they make the food look great. Doing this not only demonstrates how much other people love the restaurant’s food, but it also makes individuals feel recognized by the restaurant. When retweeting, restaurant owners should always send a quick thank-you note to the initial tweeter to develop a strong relationship with the customer.
Share daily specials.
Most restaurants feature special dishes and cocktails that aren’t on the regular menu. Before Twitter, restaurants would use signs or chalkboards outside the restaurant to advertise these specials. While Twitter does not render these old-school methods irrelevant, it is often a much more effective way of bringing people into the restaurant to try these unique offerings.
Restaurant developers should think strategically about when they tweet these specials. Dinner specials should be sent out around 4 p.m., when people are just getting hungry and starting to think about what they want to eat. Another approach is to tweet early in the day so that people have time to alter their plans and try a particularly intriguing dish.
Build a strong following.
While many restaurant developers wait for their social media networks to grow organically, it is smart to jumpstart the process by following local food lovers. Often, these people will follow back so that messages instantly reach a larger crowd. Food lovers are more likely to retweet photos and messages so that the network expands at an exponential rate. Restaurant developers should be aggressive about building a following, especially if their establishment is new.
Another trick for building a quick following is to hold contests, such as trivia games. Every few days, the restaurant can tweet a question and offer a free appetizer or cocktail to the first correct response. Many people will follow the restaurant for a chance to win.
Humanize the restaurant.
Followers can get burnt out on pictures and posts about food. To build a strong following, it is important to humanize the restaurant by posting funny things that staff members say and regular updates about employees, such as an engagement or a new pregnancy. With the permission of customers, restaurants can also share photos of regulars having fun at the restaurant. In the case of special events, the restaurant should focus on the fun that people are having as much as the food itself. People love feeling a personal connection to a business that they patronize; therefore humanizing the establishment will build a more loyal following.
Pay attention to what people say.
Twitter allows people to search tweets, so restaurant developers can see exactly what users are saying about them. While this function is a great exercise for collecting constructive feedback and seeing some positive reviews, it is also an effective way to connect with users and respond to their concerns. Restaurant developers should avoid getting defensive and instead focus on making customers happy and letting them know that their feedback has been received.
Restaurant developers can also use Twitter to discover what people are saying about their competition. If someone posts something negative about a competitor, it is a great opportunity to invite that individual into the restaurant for a more pleasant experience. In addition, good reviews of competitors can give restaurant developers and idea about how to improve their own services and align offerings with customer expectations.