Social Media 101 for Restaurants
To conclude this series on social media for restaurants, let’s take a few minutes to tie it all together. Once you decide which combination of Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Foursquare, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, LinkedIn, etc., works best for your brand, how are you going to manage the multiple networks? It can seem daunting at first, but with a clear plan, a definitive number of hours set aside each week, and a little faith in your “do-it-all” capabilities, you will discover that interacting with your guests on the Internet can be just as fun as it is at the restaurant table. (And every time you read a delighted customer’s online comments, it will make everything worthwhile!)
Employ Site-Specific Strategies
As the old saying goes, you can’t boil the ocean. It’s critical to decide on a few select social media sites to invest your time and energy into, based on your target market and brand strengths. For newbies, I recommend starting with three channels (in addition to Yelp). Put most of your focus in two and less effort into the third. Not every ball in this juggling act has to be of equal weight. Over time, your portfolio may grow to include five to 10 channels. Even the largest social media teams know it’s not wise to build a presence on every new site that crops up—learn the advantages of each contender, and choose what fits for you. Every business is different. Distribute your social messaging in a way that creates the most engaging conversations with your customers in the places that reap the most reward for your unique brand.
After you decide which channels you’ll be using, strategize how you’ll use each of them. While it’s important to have consistent messaging and carry over a similar brand voice to all, I do not recommend posting the same updates verbatim to all networks at the same time. Have you ever landed on a Twitter feed that was just a scrolling list of links to the user’s Facebook posts? Ugh! I know your time is precious, and technology makes it super easy to write one post and share it everywhere with a single tap. However, no two social communities are the same. And you have to adapt to each in order to thrive—you have to actually go to Twitter to be a successful tweeter. Think of it this way: how social are you if you never show up in the neighborhood? Each network has a different psychology; they attract and engage with people differently, so it only makes sense to design a plan for Facebook that’s different than a plan for, say, Foursquare. (Note: Using those easy-to-share features are convenient from time to time, but never as a substitute for posting unique content to a network. When you do use a tool to share the same piece of content across multiple platforms, be sure to tailor your message to suit.)
Recently, I listened to a webinar from the well-known social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk in which he related the difference nuances of his personality to social media. To paraphrase: “I’m a different Gary with my kids than I am with my wife. And I am a different Gary at work than I am with the guys at the bar after work. I’m still Gary. Just adapted to the people I’m with and the places I’m at.” Maintain one brand across all social media sites, but tell slightly different tales on each. Create and share content that supports your site-specific strategy.
Wouldn’t it be great if a Facebook fan also wanted to follow you on Twitter? By sharing different posts on each, it’s more likely that someone will see value in following you in both spaces. And there you have it! Higher follower numbers on all fronts who are a) loyal to your brand and b) actually care about what you say.
A monthly, quarterly, or annual content calendar for your restaurant will help tie your social messaging to your overall marketing and advertising communications. For example, if you’re having an in-store Mother’s Day special with promotional TV ads starting in April, then you should integrate those ads with your Facebook content, and vice versa. Plan an email campaign and corresponding blog article during the same month. (One blog has a useful Excel template you can download. Other good options for post management are Google calendars, Outlook calendars, or the tried-and-true basic Word document.)
Remember, social media isn’t about blasting your message to the masses. Every site strategy needs to include how you’ll promote two-way communication.
Find, Create, and Source Great Content
Follow other accounts that post information that may be of interest to your followers. By commenting on, liking, and sharing other people’s content, you can show up in your follower’s newsfeeds without too much effort—while being engaging. Share articles, images, recipes, and so on that you discover anywhere across the web. The search function will aid in finding relevant conversations to join. Add your own brief commentary to shared content in order to make it better pertain to your followers.
Original content should be fresh and brand-friendly, whether you’re designing a video, an infographic, or a promoted link to a creative landing page. You can add humor, tell a story, educate, or just show off some photos or behind-the-scenes videos. Social media is also hyper-local, so dish up neighborhood news and share tidbits important to others living, working, or playing in your neck of the woods. Fresh content can also be in the form of a text update or a reply to someone’s message. It doesn’t always have to be elaborate, as long as it’s relevant. Do it tastefully, and in a way that enhances your brand.
Sometimes, you just run out of good ideas—or the time it takes to deliver them. That’s OK. Ask some of your staff to help create new content, or better yet, ask a customer! Find a guest blogger to write an article for you. Hire a graphic designer to put together some professional imagery to use (a student artist could use the experience, and may even accept payment in the form of gift certificates to your restaurant). Personally, I’m not a huge fan of outsourcing all your social media (the best way to be “you” on social media is to, well,…be you), but there are agencies dedicated to social promotions. Franchisees should look to corporate social media pages and marketing teams for content. When creating your content calendar, identify which pieces you’ll need help with or what times of the year you should seek assistance from an outside source.
Time Management Tips
There are many tools available to help you manage all of your social media accounts, such as Hootsuite, Sprout Social, or Sendible. They put your different channels side-by-side in a dashboard so you can post updates, track insights, and receive notifications for all of your networks in a single place. If you manage just a handful of accounts, you might not find a service like this as useful as managers of 10 or more networks. Still, these programs can provide valuable insights, and may save you time.
Each service provides slightly different tools in terms of notifications and reports. A tool like Social Bakers makes listening for social mentions easy, whereas another may be geared more toward posting. Experiment with the free trials of a few before determining which you prefer. Depending on your social volume and budget, you may even choose to delay a subscription.
With content calendar in hand, go to your dashboard or to each site weekly (or monthly, or quarterly) to schedule posts in advance. Some sites will even auto-schedule posts based on the optimal times of past engagement. Not every social media site allows you to pre-schedule, but it definitely streamlines the process! Plus, you’ll hit your audience when they're actually listening, even if you can’t sign in at the most effective times. Try to hit different people with similar messaging at different times of the day as well—consider that some followers may see every post you share, but most won't.
Email and mobile app notifications are crucial. Because you want your reply time to be less than 24 hours (and within an hour when possible), you need to know as soon as someone asks a question, tags you in a post, or comments on your page. Oftentimes, you can reply right from the notification, keeping you efficient.
As your networks grow, assign multiple administrators to carry out a unified content plan. They can also help with listening and responding. Re-consider the need for a third-party tool to help streamline your efforts.
Use metrics to your advantage. Check your page’s analytics regularly, so you know which type of posts and content are garnering the highest return in the form of likes, comments, and shares. Add more of those post types and tweak (or remove) anything that isn’t working for you on your calendar. Also check which networks are driving the most traffic and conversions to your website via Google Analytics to prioritize your networks in terms of the attention they deserve. Ensure your time is spent efficiently—and gain a higher ROI on your marketing efforts.
The volume of posts and time spent on social media will differ among restaurants. Depending on whether you’re an independent or a multi-unit brand, as well as the variables of your staffing and your target audience, it really boils down to your call: what portion of your marketing pie should be allotted to social media? Whether you dedicate just a couple of hours a week to your networks or hire a full-time social media manager, the more you put into social media, the more rewards you’ll reap from your posts, tweets, and pins.
Social media channels are constantly evolving. Embrace those changes by staying up-to-date on new features and ways to engage with your audience. Know when it’s time to jump on a new site or abandon an old, and be confident the choices you make are right for your brand and your customers.
The opinions of contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by FSR magazine or Journalistic Inc.