Social media is an inevitable part of running a modern business. Whether your business is active on social media or not, you can be sure that your guests are tweeting, posting, and Instagramming about your restaurant online.
For many restaurant operators, managing social media profiles is just another item on the increasingly long list of to-dos. For others, social media is a priority in their business development and something they’ve built into their restaurant marketing plans.
It is from these gurus that we derive inspiration and motivation.
Here are 10 best practices and examples to inspire your restaurant social media strategy and apply them to your own business.
1. Create a Consistent Voice
What: Sweetgreen has built an iconic brand on the fresh and sustainable food ideology. Their clean and modern aesthetic is consistent in everything they do — whether you’re on the mobile app, in-store, or following them on social media. It’s subtle, but Sweetgreen uses only lowercase letters on social media, consistent with their app, logo, and website. The same vibrant photography is used across all their marketing materials. They even appear to have developed a clear emoji strategy on social media. The Sweetgreen brand is recognizable even when their logo isn’t on the screen.
Why it's awesome: There’s no doubt that Sweetgreen thought long and hard about their social media strategy (and, admittedly, probably hired an experienced agency to help). Even without professional help, it’s possible to create a consistent message and imagery for your business. It allows your to brand to become more than just a place to eat food, enabling guests to relate to your business outside mealtime. Use social media as an extension of the guest experience, solidifying your brand loyalty from guest’s mobile devices.
2. Respond to Online Reviews
Who: Paris Creperie
What: The managers at Paris are constantly monitoring their Yelp business page. A Paris employee responds to every single review, the good and the bad, with a personal response addressing the reviewer's comments.
Why it's awesome: By addressing negative reviews and showing appreciation for positive ones, the Paris team has created a transparent and friendly persona online. They're not afraid to talk about their flaws and make a public attempt to improve upon them. The managers on Yelp use any negative reviews as an opportunity to learn about their business and to turn naysayers into brand advocates. Even if you're not able to address every post on your Yelp page, it's a good idea to address your disgruntled customers and to try to turn that relationship around.
The manager's diplomatic and helpful comment on this post inspired the reviewer to slightly retract his harsh comment and to change his review from 2 to 3 stars.
3. Share Customer-Generated Content
Who: Pieology Pizzeria
What: Using the #MyPieology hashtag, Pieology social media followers get a chance to be featured on the large brand’s social media pages. Pieology is constantly sharing customer photos on all their social media channels.
Why it's awesome: Pieology is turning their customers into valuable brand ambassadors by sharing their comments and photos online. By acknowledging these posts and encouraging them with the #MyPieology hashtag, Pieology is creating social proof for the brand and generating a backlog of social media content. It’s essentially free marketing!
4. Offer Exclusive Coupons to Social Followers
Who: Pieology Pizzeria (again)
What: When Pieology fans in Irvine, CA share a photo of their pizza on social media with the hashtag #MyPiology, they’re sent a coupon for free cinnamon sticks.
Why it's awesome: Pieology gets a second shoutout here because this location is taking the next step in encouraging customer social media engagement by offering an exclusive deal to customers who share online! Pieology is rewarding their social media network for talking about their business. Additionally, coupons like this are more likely to be shared among friends and can inadvertently increase the size of the restaurant's network overall. According to a study from Whaleshark Media, 74% of active coupon users indicated that they would be likely to try a new brand if they received a coupon or promotion code.
5. Ask Guests to be Evangelists
What: Monteverde won Chicago Eater’s Restaurant of the Year because of their unapologetically adventurous Italian food and support of local fans. They used social media to spread the word about their Eater Award nomination and directly asked patrons for their support. Clearly, it worked.
Why it's awesome: You work hard to develop a relationship with guests when they’re in the restaurant. Social media is an opportunity to capitalize on those relationships. If you've delivered a knockout experience and guests are connected with you online, followers will be happy to support the business. Bonus points to Monteverde for sharing other people’s posts on Twitter, creating social proof that they’re a great spot.
Did You Know? - 96% of restaurants are on social media. Are you?
For more stats on restaurant social media, Download the Restaurant Success in 2017 Industry Report.
6. Spotlight Your Employees
What: Mei Mei was founded by three siblings and has since developed a reputation for award-winning food and staff that’s like family. Mei Mei has made put their staff at the center of their brand.
Why it's awesome: Profiling the people behind any business is a great way to humanize the experience for customers. Whether or not your team is winning awards, posting pictures from "behind the scenes" or sharing funny anecdotes about the staff can make followers feel more connected to the business and the people that make it possible.
7. Ask Questions to Engage Followers
What: Improve engagement on social media by asking fun questions and encouraging responses. Followers are more likely to remember the content of the post, like the fact that Which Wich now offers Ultimate BLTs, if they interact with it in some way.
Why it's awesome: Social media is about more than just telling your followers what's happening at your restaurant. It's also about listening to them. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are a great way to create a two-way dialogue with your customers. Ask questions like "fill in the blank," "what is your favorite item?" and "what item would you like to see on our menu?" to inspire followers to engage with your posts and to interact with you rather than simply continuing to scroll down the page. Which Wich, which topped the charts for social media engagement in Q1, uses Twitter polls to engage social media followers - and show off their fun brand (see #1 on this list).
8. Capitalize on Trending Topics
Who: Upper Crust Pizzeria
What: When social media was abuzz with a vicious Nor’easter named Stella hit Boston, Upper Crust Pizzeria chimed in on social media using the already trending hashtags (#openinBOS) and a photo of their team bundled up with a local weatherman.
Why it’s awesome: Jumping on topics that are already trending on social media is a great way to increase exposure for your posts, especially if you have a clever take on the topic. Marketers call this strategy "newsjacking" and use it as a way to be seen by everyone following the popular trend. Upper Crust also took this opportunity to show off their staff (see #6 on this list).
9. Host Social Media Contests
What: Everybody loves free sandwiches! Capriotti's uses fun games like caption contests for food coupons to engage followers. They select a winner for the most creative comment and send them a coupon to use the next time they visit the restaurant.
Why it's awesome: There are a million types of contests you can run on social media. They're quick wins for both the restaurant and the fans. By asking guests to participate in fun trivia questions, riddles, fill-in-the-blanks, photo contests (see Example #3), or caption contests, the restaurant is building rapport with guests and encouraging engagement online.
10. Use Video to Bring the Brand to Life
What: Il Primo posts a video about once per week to promote new specials, a local sports game, or an upcoming fundraiser. They use video to show what’s life is like “behind the scenes” and build a fun, family-friendly brand.
Why it's awesome: The team at Il Primo is proof that you don’t need a professional marketing team to make a splash with video on social media. The 6-location pizza group uses budget-friendly services and even their mobile phone cameras to shoot video and share with their social media followers.
While starting and maintaining a vibrant social media network can seem like a daunting task, the bottom line is that it's about people. Social platforms provide a direct line of communication with existing and potential customers. Use these examples of social media for restaurants as inspiration to kick your business's social media marketing into shape.