social media

7 ways to grow your restaurant’s social media following

By Mark Plumlee

The restaurant industry is increasingly being driven and impacted by social media. Apps like Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook can help you generate more website hits, create buzz, and contribute to your restaurant’s overall success.

Think of it this way: if each post is like a mini billboard, then the more followers you have, the more potential customers you’re reaching. So, it’s worth the effort to increase your audience! Whether you’re a social media newbie or just looking to boost your follower count, these tips will help your restaurant get attention:

Share beautiful images

People eat with their eyes first, so if you want to get more followers, you’ve got to make your food look absolutely delicious. Need some pointers? When posting food photos, here are a few basic tips:

  • Use natural light whenever possible to avoid shadows and overexposure.
  • Make the most of what’s delicious. Feature the gooey cheese pull of a pizza slice being lifted, and emphasize the sheen on a freshly-applied batch of chocolate ganache. Show the best your food has to offer!
  • Different foods may look better from certain vantage points. Try photos from various angles to see what works best: overhead, at an angle, and in a straight-on closeup.
  • Don’t forget dessert. Dessert photos are among the most “liked” and shared photos out there. So be sure to include plenty of pretty pictures of pies, cakes, or plated desserts on your feed!
  • Get some assistance. Not only do social media templates give you a framework to showcase your food in the most flattering light, but they also make your posts look professional and add consistency to your feed.

Connect and crowdsource photos

It’s likely that your customers are already posting great shots of your food. Why not highlight their talent while repurposing their work on your social media accounts?

Instagram makes it easy. Just click on the “tagged photos” tab in your profile and feast your eyes on all of the beautiful, mouthwatering content your customers have generated. From there, you can reach out to them to ask if you can repost the photos.

The etiquette is simple: DM them, say thank you, and ask if they can use their photo with credit on your feed. You’ll find that most people are happy to share their photos and have their names associated with your brand. As a bonus, they might even share the repost with their followers, drawing attention to your account and growing your audience.

Make friends with food bloggers and influencers

It’s worth taking the time to build relationships with prominent food bloggers and influencers. They’re generally super-connected with their audience, so a good word from them can go a long way. Not sure how to slide into their DMs? A great first step is to tempt them with a free meal or complimentary drinks at your restaurant in exchange for an unbiased review.

Remember, it’s not just about quantity, it’s about quality, too. A food blogger who is well-known in your area, even if they have a relatively low number of followers, might have more of an impact on your restaurant than a national blogger. Connection is key and even if someone has thousands of followers, without a close connection, exposure may well not translate into sales.

Create a secret menu

A secret menu refers to dishes or menu customizations that your restaurant can make but has opted not to advertise. The goal? To build a mystique, stand out from the crowd, and make customers feel like they’re insiders.

But here’s the real secret: your secret menu should only be a secret from those who don’t follow you, giving special attention to your social media audience.

For instance, C&C Creamery, a popular ice cream spot in Philadelphia, often posts “secret menu” items on their Instagram stories. Only customers who follow them regularly are going to see them and take advantage of the specials. However, people love to brag, so customers frequently post about their secret menu experiences, which tempts more people to follow the ice cream shop’s account and visit them in person.

Host a giveaway

People love free stuff, so giveaways are a popular and effective way to attract more followers. If you have a decent following, a giveaway is something you can potentially do on your own — or, you can partner up with a social media influencer or blogger.

The idea behind a giveaway is pretty simple: offer an incentive (say, a $100 gift card to your restaurant) and ask for a simple action in return.

In general, the fewer requirements, the better the participation. For instance, ask entrants to follow you, like the contest photo, and tag a friend. This way, too, it attracts the attention of the tagged friend, encouraging them to enter, as well.

A giveaway like this can generate a lot of attention for your account. Sure, some of your brand-new followers might drop off after the contest ends, but chances are that your account will be bigger than before, and you’ve reached a whole new crowd.

Hashtags are your friend

Hashtags can be extremely helpful in connecting you with people who might be interested in your content.

Want to attract relevant followers? Move beyond basics like #pizza as a hashtag for, well, pizza. For instance, if you are located in Atlanta, tags such as #atlantafood or #ATLeats can help identify with locals who could become regulars.

You can also have fun with hashtags! For instance, people love food holidays, so why not get in on the fun? Using hashtags in creative ways like this is engaging and gets people interested in what your restaurant has to offer.

Be consistent

You don’t have to post nonstop, but consistency is key. Find how many posts per day or week works with your schedule and stick to that. Don’t get overzealous and post six photos one day and then not post for the next three days. Not only will this have you competing with your own posts for attention, but something that feels inauthentic to your followers will be a turnoff. Regular and consistent content is what keeps people coming back!

Ready to get social?

Social media can play a pivotal role in getting your restaurant noticed. Every time you post, it’s like a call to action that could result in more sales, so the more eyes you have on your posts, the better. It will take some time and effort to develop a following, but it’s time well spent to attract attention, stand out from the crowd, and build your brand.

Mark Plumlee is the Sr. Editor for MustHaveMenus, a DIY design and digital marketing service for restaurants, and has written for CRFN and many foodservice publications on food industry trends and technology.