Social Media 101 for Restaurants
For better or for worse, tweeting has changed the way people speak and write. Twitter is now an important tool for communicating promotions, photos, links, and news—and whether or not you’re a fan of the shorthand language that tends to crop up on Twitter, it all happens in 140 characters or less. With 230 million monthly users, this micro-blogging site sends out 500 million user-generated tweets every day. With easy Instagram integration, along with its six-second video creation app, Vine, Twitter is also becoming more and more visual and interactive.
Setting up a branded Twitter feed
Registering for an account on Twitter is very similar to setting up other social media accounts. You will need to create a username or handle (e.g., your business name) that’s 15 characters or less. Then, upload a profile picture (e.g., your logo) and a cover photo (something to enhance your brand). Add a bio or short 160-character description about your restaurant and include a URL that will link back to your branded website. Complete your profile, adjust your settings, and even choose a customized, branded background.
The 5 B’s for being a good Twitter community member
Many tweeters preach the “5 B’s,” but not every tweeter agrees on what those B’s are. Depending on the source, you will hear varying advice to be interesting, be polite, be concise, or be useful, but here is my version of what the 5 B’s should say:
Be friendly (follow others, share their content, and even have one-on-one dialogue)
Be helpful (share content that your followers can use)
Be unique (be different)
Be fascinating (with a mix of links, photos, videos, humor, deals, and news)
Be your brand (with a human voice)
I’d also add that you should be quick to respond. Social media channels are often the first place someone will turn for customer service needs, and with real-time expectations, it’s a good practice to reply to each tweet or direct message within 24 hours (and to strive to answer each one within an hour when possible).
Knowing the language
When you try to squeeze an entire news story into 140 characters, it’s only natural to start using abbreviations and shortcuts in order to say as much as possible in one tweet. However, it can be daunting to try to read and understand tweets if you don’t know the language. When you’re planning to travel to a foreign country, you might subscribe to Rosetta Stone to learn how to interact with locals; likewise, you need to learn the unique dialect inside the Twitter community.
Here are some of the most widely used abbreviations in tweets. Attribution is important to the Twitter community, and a lot of its shorthand involves giving credit where credit is due. (Twitter notifies users when someone attributes them, so RT-ing someone, for example, isn't just a way to share information with your followers—it's also a networking tool.)
RT = Retweet—tweeting someone else’s tweet to your audience, or asking for a RT to spread the news you’re posting.
CT = Cut-tweet, or noting that the tweet is just a partial retweet.
PRT = Partial retweet, or a truncated version of someone else's tweet.
DM = Direct message, or a private message between you and another Twitter user.
HT = Hat tip, or a way to attribute a link to another Twitter user.
MT = Modified tweet, meaning you’re paraphrasing a tweet originally written by someone else.
Using a hashtag (or the pound symbol, #) before a word or phrase will automatically create a hyperlink that, when clicked, will take a user to search results of every tweet using that same hashtag. This function makes it easy for users to follow conversations on any given topic across the entire network. Essentially, you can start a hashtag conversation with any phrase you want, such as an #event your restaurant is hosting or your #SignatureMenuItem.
Here are a few popular conversation topics you’ll see:
#CityName = Use your city to help you get found in searches
#Foodpic or #Foodporn = Share photos of your dishes
#ILoveFood = In other words, offer up a foodie-friendly tweet
#LocalFood = Dish about your local menu
#MM = Music Monday—Post about a band, local radio station, or relevant song
#MeatlessMonday = Post a vegetarian dish special or vegetarian recipe
#SundayFunday = Promote “fun” specials or entertainment on Sunday
#TastyTuesday = Share a recipe
#TBT or #ThrowbackThursday = Post historical pics or retro-themed trivia
#ThirstyThursday = Promote drink specials
#TT = Transformation Tuesday—Show off a renovation or a big change
#Twecial = Offer a restaurant special when the tweet is mentioned in-store
#Tweebie = Offer a freebie via a tweet
#QOTD = Quote of the day—Say something memorable
Key audiences and what to tweet to each
Customers/potential customers. Twitter is a great tool for connecting with customers on a personal level. You can share updates and talk about your restaurant in a way that makes you seem like their friend. And by offering “twecials” or “tweebies,” you will drive in-store traffic. The key is getting to know your customers well and making them feel special through positive online interactions, as well as sharing a mix of helpful content they’ll enjoy seeing.
Media/bloggers. Most media channels, bloggers, food magazines, and industry news sources have Twitter accounts. Not only is this channel a great way to follow the trending topics that you’re interested in, it’s a great tool for forming or maintaining relationships with the folks who can help talk you up. Twitter is a quick and painless way to promote messages to a specific person—just type @username to alert them of your tweet. That means you can notify your community’s food blogger about a brand new menu item, or ask the local newspaper to put an event you’re hosting on its community calendar.
Fellow community businesses. On and offline, being a good local business means forging solid relationships with other businesses and organizations in your neck of the woods. Show your local pride by being a part of relevant conversations on Twitter, by sharing local news, and by being friendly with your actual neighbors. You might even discover some partnership or co-promotional opportunities. Sharing local information makes you more relevant and helpful in your customers’ eyes, too.
Charities you support. Retweeting feel-good information, event updates, or life-changing statistics adds value to your Twitter feed—and to your reputation. Get involved and use Twitter to show you care.
Employees. Often, businesses forget that their employees are following their social media accounts, and it could be a good practice to share helpful tips or public company news with these constituents. (I would also recommend including Twitter in your brand’s crisis communications plan, so you can easily stay connected with employees if a disaster strikes.)
Vendors. Having online relationships with your food suppliers, restaurant furniture dealer, and equipment companies can help you stay on top of discounts and enjoy the benefits of those relationships offline, too.
Restaurants that serve up tasty tweets
One of the best ways to learn how to use any particular media channel is to look for others in the industry who use it successfully. Twitter is no exception.
Mill House Brewing Company in Poughkeepsie, New York celebrated a grand opening earlier this month. They have been using their Twitter feed all spring and summer to gain followers, post photos on their construction progress, promote beer picks, answer user questions, and retweet other users' comments about them. When you land on their Twitter page, you see they’re not the only ones talking (they let their customers speak for them and retweet the good news), which speaks volumes about how they’re managing a successful Twitter presence. They’re sharing multiple tweets a day, and even though they just opened their physical doors, they already have nearly 300 followers, a full deck of photos, and some compelling content.
Chicago’s Citizen Bar relates directly to sports fans in their Twitter bio, and then shares sports-related content that their 1,375+ followers will appreciate. They use the @ and # symbols wisely, have real conversations in the Twitter space, and retweet what their customers say. Staying active in the channel, they tweet multiple times a day and have a variety of photos and videos in their media deck.
Finally, Birch & Barley in D.C. is another restaurant tweeting well. Their 3,365+ followers enjoy chef-inspired foodie posts, mouth-watering #foodporn, and a personable voice. The out-weighted amount of self-promotion balances their own interesting content with retweets and replies that all combine to create a strong, unique Twitter presence.
Tweet about it
Twitter is always evolving. With new timeline customizations, “promote-a-tweet” paid opportunities, the ability to schedule a tweet in advance now from within the platform, and changes to their mobile apps, it can be daunting to keep up with all the fluctuations. However, if you learn the basic guidelines and get to know the language, you’ll find a way to fit in and adapt to the transforming “Twittersphere.” Happy chirping!
The opinions of contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by FSR magazine or Journalistic Inc.