social media marketing

11 social media marketing best practices for restaurants

You’ve pivoted. You’ve survived. Now, it’s time to thrive.

By Sabrina Falone

All marketing, both traditional and digital, is about sharing your brand’s messaging in a way that creates an emotional response that inspires people to spend money with your company. That’s certainly no different with social media marketing.

Social media is a great way to connect and communicate, with a wide range of people, on a regular basis. Marketing on social media can seem daunting, especially when you’ve never done it before, or only do it here and there. Think of social media marketing like any other relationship; the more you show up and the more effort you put into it, the more you’re going to get out of it. And, just like many #IRL relationships, the more authentic you are, the deeper the connection will be.

Brands often think they need to have a polished and curated feed, but authenticity is the real trick to success. Keep it positive but be willing to think outside the box on how to show your customers what really makes your establishment special.

Two of the most important principles in effective marketing strategies, both traditional and digital, are to know who you’re talking to and always go to them. Don’t expect your customers to seek you out. Make it easy for them to find you and then make your digital offering so enticing that they want to learn more about your business by exploring your various channels.

Facebook remains the most popular social media platform in Canada; 83 per cent of online Canadian adults report having a Facebook account, followed by 51 per cent on Instagram and 42 per cent on Twitter. Facebook also has the highest percentage of daily users (77 per cent), followed by messaging apps (69 per cent) and Instagram (69 per cent).

For the foodservice industry, it’s especially important to know that 81 per cent of consumers’ purchasing choices are influenced by their friends’ posts on social media and 78 per cent of people said that social media posts of companies influence their buying decisions. Even more relevant is that 30 per cent of millennial diners avoid restaurants with a weak Instagram presence.

RELATED: The Instagram Effect: How social media impacts foodservice

Social media marketing doesn’t necessarily convert into new business right away. Research shows that expert marketers’ top goals for social media marketing are to increase brand awareness (69 per cent), website traffic (52 per cent), and audience size (46 per cent), as well as promote content (44 per cent), increase community engagement (43 per cent), drive sales (40 per cent), and connect with their audience (30 per cent).

It’s important to establish the goals of any marketing efforts before launching a strategy and to establish the key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll use to measure results. This can get complicated but, like most things in life, keeping it simple especially when starting out is usually the key to success.

Brand awareness is an important goal and the KPIs to monitor are the growth rates of impressions, clicks, and website traffic. Each social media platform has a business dashboard that provides numerous analytics that will outline the relevant insights needed to guide your content strategy.

Good-quality content is essential in every marketing strategy and the possibilities truly are endless. Creativity is key, but it’s also just as important that the messaging and branding are consistent and that you don’t lose sight of the marketing objectives.

It can be easy to get carried away with elaborate campaigns or to feel overwhelmed by the possibilities. So, let’s break it down: here are 11 best social media marketing practices for restaurants:

1. Offer Value

Good-quality content should provide entertainment, information, or inspiration. Don’t post just for the sake of posting. Every piece of content, whether scheduled or spontaneous, should offer some kind of value to users.

2. Be Interesting

This doesn’t mean you need to be super witty or edgy, just don’t be boring. Tell stories that integrate your key messaging. Don’t try being who you think you should be. Know your voice and use it consistently and unapologetically. Some of the most engaging content is about community and the people who work at an establishment. Create posts, stories, reels etc. that highlight your best-selling dish and where the recipe originated. Support other businesses by featuring the growers and producers used. Introduce the incredible team members who prepare the food, wash the dishes, tend the bar, and seat the guests.

3. Consistency is Key

Ensure all social media profiles are detailed and consistent across all digital channels, including Google My Business, Yelp, Trip Advisor etc. Profiles should include location(s), business hours, phone number, website, delivery services, and a link to menus.

4. Cross-Promote

Invite Twitter followers to leave a review on Google. Link social media posts to your website and include social handles on all marketing collateral. Once you have a customer’s attention, you want to try to keep it for as long as possible, so you can share as much messaging as possible. Don’t forget tip #3 – consistency across all channels will help build brand awareness.

5.  Timing is Everything

Align content subject matter with the time of day i.e. don’t publish the new burger promo at 8 a.m. Content will make its biggest splash in the first few hours of going live, so think about the time of day in relation to what you’re sharing.

6. Quality over Quantity

The photos and videos shared on social media are a direct reflection of your establishment’s quality standards. Professional images are ideal but not essential for all content, so just ensure the food is appetizing, the venue is clean, and images are well-lit and well-framed. Also, don’t get hung up on the “aesthetic” of the grid. Many marketers feel the days of ultra-curated feeds are behind us. They’re definitely beautiful and aspirational but not super relatable and often don’t come across as authentic. Any of your posts may be someone’s first impression of your business, so make sure it’s a good one.

7. Contests & Giveaways

Contests are a great way to attract new followers and reward loyal customers, as well as build rapport and boost engagement. The key is to ensure the contest also serves your marketing goals. Running a contest requires a good amount of resources to plan and execute, therefore your ROI should be worth the additional spend. Don’t make it complicated for people to enter the contest (because they won’t) but do ask for something that will help reach a particular marketing goal. Increase your organic reach by asking people to share your giveaway on their feed and/or tag a friend. Build your newsletter audience by asking people to sign up on your website.

8. Budget for Paid Ads

Organic growth is not impossible but takes time and patience. You can speed things along by investing in paid ads and sponsored posts. It doesn’t need to be a huge investment, as even a modest budget can get your content out to thousands more people per day. Geotargeting your local area and retargeting users who have previously engaged with your account are great places to start when selecting an audience for your ad campaigns.

9. Show up in the Community

Respond, ask questions, and engage your audience by participating in the conversation. When users make the effort to connect via comments or private messages, try to respond as quickly as possible so they feel appreciated. Private messages are a great way to build one-on-one connections with customers and they help to build brand loyalty.

10. Re-Share Customer Content

If/when customers tag you in a post or story, be sure to thank them personally in a private message and re-share their content to thank them publicly. This is a great way to build rapport and loyalty with satisfied customers.

11. Influencer Marketing

Ambassador campaigns have proved to be a successful and cost-effective form of social marketing. Partnering with a trusted source to promote and endorse your restaurant is a great way to increase community engagement and target a specific audience. The best partners are those who have similar values and a persona that is relatable to your target market. Don’t get caught up in their follower counts; a better indicator of a good-quality influencer is the amount of engagement they have on their posts. An engaged audience usually signifies that followers trust the influencer and will accept their recommendations.

Bonus Tip: Social media marketing is just that: social. It’s not a stuffy business meeting, it’s supposed to be a fun and light-hearted way to connect with people. Empires are built brick by brick and so are digital communities – post by post.

Sabrina Falone is the Owner and CEO of SF Creative Culinary Services, a full-service digital marketing agency based just outside Toronto. The in-house test kitchen and production studio bring marketing strategies to life through mouth-watering recipes, engaging photos and exciting videos. With a creative yet uncomplicated approach, Sabrina has been serving food and beverage brands all over the world for nearly 20 years. SF Creative Culinary Services offers a boutique experience with large agency capabilities to help brands grow and make an impact.

LinkedIn: @SabrinaFalone
Instagram: @sf_creativeculinaryservices