Today’s hyper-connected world makes social media a must for virtually all restaurant developers, whether they’re promoting an upscale restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan or a family diner in Washington, DC. While restaurants can benefit from the exposure offered by social networks like Instagram and Twitter, the most important platform is still Facebook. The mother of all social networks has more than 1.5 billion users from a wide range of demographics and a high level of mobile engagement, meaning you can reach users wherever they are. In addition, Facebook offers unrivaled versatility. Business can post updates, photos, and videos and instantly reach a huge number of followers while giving them the chance to share the post with their friends. The following tips can help restaurant developers create a high-impact Facebook strategy.
1. Be Responsive: People on Facebook do not want to feel like they’re talking to a wall. When restaurants engage both their fans and their critics, they show how much they value their customers’ opinions. Whenever a question or a concern arises, restaurant developers should ensure that they (or a designated employee) issue a response quickly and professionally. Even a quick “thank you” for a compliment can turn a casual diner into a devoted fan of the restaurant. Engagement remains one of the most important aspects of good social media etiquette across all sites, but especially on Facebook, where restaurants get to show their human sides.
2. Embrace transparency: When negative feedback lands on a Facebook page, some restaurateurs may want to delete it or ignore it. When people begin to notice that this is happening, however, they may lose trust in the restaurant. Diners never expect restaurants to be perfect all the time, but trying to hide mistakes leaves a bad impression. A more appropriate response is a quick and sincere apology, followed by an attempt to make amends, such as inviting the person in for a second-chance free meal. With more serious issues, the restaurant may offer direct contact information to resolve the problem in a private forum.
3. Post interesting content: While the purpose of a Facebook page is to increase traffic to the restaurant, trying to hard-sell products does not always impress diners. People are more likely to share an interesting story or engaging piece of content than news of daily specials or a list of reasons to check out the restaurant. For example, a restaurant that specializes in local seafood may want to post a video about the fishermen responsible for catching the fish served. With all the emphasis on eating locally grown produce, it may be interesting for customers to see “locally caught” seafood. Restaurants may also want to share recipes or “human interest” stories about the achievements of their employees, whether related to the restaurant or not. Posting specials and deals is an important part of any social media strategy, but the best accounts offer more to engage their fans and to make the page seem less self-serving.
4. Give discounts strategically: A great way of getting likes and appealing to new customers is to offer discounts or giveaways, such as a free appetizer. While these strategies can indeed increase sales, restaurant developers need to be careful not to trap themselves in a corner. When restaurants offer very deep discounts or group deals, such as those through Groupon, the new customers may have a diminished view of the value of the product, which means that they will not return to pay full price for it. A great way to bring in customers but keep sales up is to offer a “buy-one-get-one” deal. For example, for a given night, a restaurant may offer a free cocktail with every entrée, or a free dessert for couples who order two meals. These giveaways bring people into the restaurant without decreasing the perceived value of the food. Restaurants that want to give away discounts should do so sporadically, so that customers don’t automatically expect them and only return when there’s a new deal.
5. Ensure consistency: The people who respond to customers online are generally not the same people who welcome and serve diners at the restaurant. Because of this, miscommunications can occur. However, restaurant developers need to minimize the number of times people receive one answer online and a different response once they come into the restaurant. This task becomes especially important when a restaurant has multiple locations. Consistency depends on maintaining a strong company culture and creating training sessions that involve all employees. When miscommunications happen, restaurant developers should have a protocol in place to de-escalate the situation as quickly as possible.
6. Take advantage of the platform: With so many different social media accounts available, it can be tempting to post the same content on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. However, each of these platforms has a different focus. If posts to Twitter automatically populate on Facebook, the restaurant may seem terse because of Twitter’s 140-character limit for tweets. On Facebook, restaurant developers can pen longer, more elaborate posts that serve a different purpose than those on Twitter. The latter platform is great for quick updates, but for in-depth stories, longer videos, and series of photos, Facebook is the better choice. A common strategy is to give teasers on Twitter and encourage followers to look for more information on Facebook. Of course, this only works if there is actually more information available on Facebook.