The restaurant experience is critical to establishing loyalty and trust with your guests. Everything from the way their waiter or waitress speaks to the presentation and taste of the food and beverages being served can make a lasting impression. You have a lot to worry about inside your restaurant, and social media may be the last thing on your mind if you’re a small business owner.
I’m close friends with a restaurant owner who says that he “doesn’t have a creative bone in his body” but he understands to value of an online presence for his website. Why? Because that is exactly where he can find his customers!
If you are hoping to build brand awareness or build brand loyalty with your guests, consider some of the following ideas for your restaurant’s digital presence– whether it is a website, Instagram, or Facebook page.
- Ask your customers to help you build your Instagram Menu: If you have an Instagram account, I hope you are posting mouthwatering photos of your food and beverages 3-5x per week. To engage your customers, consider asking them to help you build your “Instagram Menu” by asking them to take photos of their meals and post them to social media using a hashtag (ex. #YourRestaurantName). You, or someone who is social savvy on your team, can share attractive submissions on your Instagram account. This is a fun way to engage your customers and build brand awareness by getting your customers to create user-generated content!
- Tweet at hungry people in your local area: Twitter’s Advanced Search is a tool that goes unnoticed by many. You can use it to beat the competition in town! Try using the Advanced Search to search for hungry folks in your local area, like this:
You may end up finding tweets like this one:
Your next step can be to reply with a message like, “Hey @ve_nicee, we’ve got a $7 pizza special and we deliver! Check us out: website.com #deliciouspizza”
This is a tactic to consider doing manually, instead of setting up an automatic tool. I also suggest creating a photo to send with your tweet. If the tone of your restaurant is fun, young, and clever, you could send back a funny GIF about being hungry. If your restaurant is upscale, you could consider making a Twitter image (using the free Canva tool) with more information about your special pizza deal.
- Take a panoramic photo of your restaurant and play a game on Facebook: Use your iPhone camera to take a “pano” picture of your restaurant. Then, post it to Facebook and ask your Facebook followers if they can find an item in the picture. Maybe you’ve hidden an object, or your restaurant has a lot of decor and you can choose something to call out. It’s like a virtual Where’s Waldo! This will help you engage with guests on Facebook by inviting them to comment on your photo.
- Host a contest on your social media channels! Your guests will be happy to enter a contest if there is a worthy prize. Here are a few contest ideas:
- Recipe contest: Invite your guests to submit their best cocktail or appetizer recipe. The best recipe will be featured for a week or a month at your restaurant!
- Guessing Game contest: Post a photo of a jar of candy or a menu item (Ex. Chocolate Chip Cookie) and ask your fans to guess how many pieces of candy or chocolate chips are in the item. The winner wins a $25 gift certificate to your restaurant!
- Review contest: Instruct your servers to mention to guests that if they write a review of the restaurant, they’ll receive, or be entered to win, a coupon, discount, or free menu item.
- Photo contest: Ask your guests to capture their best moments at your restaurant. Are they enjoying a birthday dinner with the family? Are they celebrating the end of finals weeks with their roommates? Ask them to submit a photo and create a hashtag (ex. #RestaurantNameMoments). The guest who submits the winning photo wins a gift card or a free dinner for two.
- Like, comment, and share contest: This is the easiest content you can do! Post a photo of a beloved menu item and ask your Facebook followers to like, share, and comment on the photo. This increases engagement on your photo, which will spread brand awareness. Choose a random follower who completed the contest to win a prize (it may be the menu item in the photo!).
- Engage with guest check-ins on Facebook: When someone checks in to your restaurant page on Facebook, you should always engage with their check-in. For example, if they check-in and say, “Celebrating Dad’s birthday at our favorite restaurant,” you can comment on the post with a congratulatory message. Always thank the guests for dining with you, too!I hope my ideas have inspired you to use social media to engage with your customers. Please comment to let me know if you have tried one of these ideas, or if you are planning to try one soon!-JM