social media

Navigating the new space of social media ads: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

By Sean Beckingham

When almost everything we do is shared online and more hours are spent in front of a tablet or computer screen than TV, there’s never been a better time to advertise on social media. However, with the rapidly changing nature of these platforms, it’s hard to know where to begin and where to put your money when it comes to buying ad space. Whether you’re looking for more likes, exposure, or simply feet through the door, there’s a way for your restaurant to achieve that on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

With the amount of content being shared on any given feed, it’s easy for ads to get lost in the noise. Still, Facebook has managed to keep a firm finger on the pulse of the advertising world and never misses a beat when it comes to satisfying the marketing needs of its users.

How do you ‘like’ me now?

While some may argue that Facebook ads don’t work, that simply isn’t the case. When implemented properly, their ads can provide your business with a reach far beyond what other social networks offer. “Facebook ads can be targeted down to most minute of interests and behaviours, the most intricate audience matches can be used to reach highly relevant audiences with your paid campaigns,” says Andrew Hutchinson of SocialMediaToday.

Types of Facebook ads include:

  • Carousel Ads – the carousel format lets you show two to five images and/or videos, headlines and links or calls to action in a single ad unit.
  • Mobile App Ads – help you get more people to install or engage with your app.
  • Dynamic Ads – let you create relevant and timely ads on Facebook based on the products people have visited on your website or your app. Facebook creates the ads for you and personalizes them for each of your customers.
  • Lead Ads – provide a simpler way for people to fill out forms on Facebook. Lead ads can be used to collect sign-ups for newsletters, price estimates, follow-up calls and business information.

The type of Facebook ad you choose can vary depending on your business objectives. Based on this you can create ads that encourage people to like your page, or that will get people to visit your website. Facebook allows you to choose from objectives such as: page likes, creating offers that customers can redeem in-restaurant, local awareness to reach people near your business, and even raising attendance at your event or restaurant launch.

Facebook ads allow marketers to get in front of their ideal audience on a consistent basis. Using advanced targeting (essentially segmenting your audience) to zero in on specific demographics relevant to your restaurant style or particular menu offerings will also increase the success of the ad.


More readers are turning to Twitter for their daily dose of news and entertainment. The platform, which can be seen as a modern-day town crier of sorts, challenges brands to create compelling headlines in under 140 characters.

Advertising on Twitter, when done correctly, can result in a major boost in awareness for your restaurant, positive buzz and ultimately more diners in the seats. Twitter currently offers a variety of advertising options for your business, such as Promoted Tweets, Promoted Accounts, and Promoted Trends, all of which can help your restaurant be seen – and tasted.

Promoted tweets are regular tweets purchased by advertisers who want to reach a wider audience or to encourage engagement from their existing followers. This type of ad comes with the added benefit of reaching more people who are interested in your specific type of business. According to Twitter: “They should be used to place your best content in front of the audience that matters to you at the right time.”

If your goal is to drive action through your Promoted Tweets, you have the option of offering coupons and deals to your customers in the copy of your tweets, or even promoting sales and giveaways. If you want to drive awareness, Promoted Tweets can do this in several ways, from promoting awareness around events and new product launches, to connecting with influencers and brand advocates by ensuring they see your content.

Promoted Accounts suggest accounts that people don’t currently follow and may find interesting. This type of ad helps introduce your restaurant to a group of people who may enjoy it based on similar restaurants that they are currently following. Promoted Accounts also help boost your follower growth. Growing your Twitter follower base can help your restaurant drive purchases, increase brand awareness and word-of-mouth sharing, as well as drive web traffic.

Finally, Promoted Trends are an extension of Twitter’s Promoted Tweets platform. They appear at the top of the Trending Topics list on Twitter for increased visibility allowing users to easily interact with the promoted trend.

Before diving into the unique world of advertising on Twitter, it’s important to keep in mind a few of their guidelines:

  • If your account is fairly new, be sure to complete your account’s Twitter profile and spend a few weeks familiarizing yourself with the best practices. The most successful advertisers on Twitter are those who are avid users of the platform.
  • Twitter users can protect their Tweets in order to control who can view them, however, this setting is not currently supported within Twitter Ads.
  • Accounts cannot participate in Twitter Ads if they have been deactivated by their owner or if they are in a suspended state at the time they apply.

Twitter ads essentially provide your business with an opportunity to connect with its audience in meaningful ways to drive actions. Twitter’s character limit challenges businesses to make every word count; viewed as an opportunity rather than an obstacle, there’s no limit to the audience your restaurant can reach.

A picture is worth a thousand bites

Boasting a community of over 400 million, Instagram is one of the world’s biggest mobile advertising platforms. As changes are constantly on the horizon for the popular photo-sharing app, it is becoming more and more important for brands to stand out visually.

As posts continue to become more curated, achieving solid return on investment is key. With such a large potential audience, the possibilities for raising awareness of a new restaurant or enticing diners to test out new menu items are endless. To drive real business results, Instagram has developed a variety of ad options to choose from that support your unique objectives, from clicks to your website, to video views.

As the app is based solely on sharing visuals and receiving “likes” in return, the medium is truly the message. Instagram’s photo ads offer brands the ability to tell their story through striking imagery. A great photo can inspire your audience to see the restaurant in a new way, or even entice someone to have their next meal there.

Moreover, according to Instagram, “video ads offer the same visually immersive quality as photo ads…with the power of sight, sound and motion. And now, you can share videos up to 60 seconds long and in landscape format.”

The ability for a restaurant to have a minute of airtime at their disposal is great news, as more audiences are being targeted online as opposed to traditional media outlets.

Finally, Instagram’s carousel ads bring an additional layer of depth to photo ads. The audience can swipe to see more images and a call-to-action button takes them to a website to learn more about the business.

How to create an Instagram ad

  • Choose your objective (are you looking to send people to your website or boost your posts?)
  • Create an audience for your ad (can be narrowed down by characteristics such as age and gender)
  • Set your budget and schedule

Small businesses have spoken – or double tapped, rather, and Instagram has taken note. Their ability to adapt to the constantly changing demands of their users ultimately equals an insta-win for the app and every brand willing to take advantage of its features.

As Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram ads allow you to combine engaging copy with memorable visuals, there are endless possibilities to how you can promote your restaurant online. With the right ad in front of the right audience at the right moment, these social media platforms can help you meet your marketing objectives as well as secure your brand as one that is in tune with today’s media savvy population. With so much possibility at your fingertips, now is the time to embrace what these networks have to offer.

About the author:

Sean Beckingham is president of Branding & Buzzing, a social marketing agency established in 2011 that specializes in the food and beverage category. For more information, visit