The social media landscape is ever growing and changing. It can seem like a daunting task to figure out which sites to join and whether they will be beneficial to a business. The secret is to not look at these programs as larger-than-life or complicated venues. With social media, start small and follow the same golden rule you do in your foodservice establishment: it’s all about the customer.
Just as dining out is a communal activity, so too are Facebook, Twitter and the myriad other social media websites. Users of these sites want to feel engaged, relevant and allied with others. Restaurant Reputaion.net reminds us that, “Your customers are people first and foremost and social media is one way to maintain a fun, light-hearted connection with them outside of your business’ four walls.” This means actively responding to positive and negative reviews, seeking out suggestions, and making customers feel like their opinions or ideas are being heard and possibly implemented. According to a report by Restaurant.org, social media users tend to dine out more often. The people active on Twitter or “liking” you on Facebook should be prime candidates for special offers, loyalty programs and discount promotions. Social media like Pinterest, an online pin board, allows you to show off food, special events and employee interactions with customers.
Tip: Don’t feel you have to designate one employee to oversee all social media activity on behalf of your business. Allow staff to get involved, share their voice, and post images as well.
A Sneak Peak
Everyone likes getting into the V.I.P. room. Make your customers feel special by giving them exclusive content. These do not have to be time consuming or professional level videos. They just need to keep your customers engaged and interested in learning more about your business. Use social media to show off recipes, introduce new chefs, and act as a “backstage pass” for your customers. This will remind customers of the quality they can expect when they come back. It also gives them a deeper connection to your business. Use your web presence as the “electronic word of mouth” it truly is, and base your content on the online habits of your target customers.
While you may not be on social media websites, your existing and potential customers are. There is a strong likelihood that people are talking about your business – and without being socially engaged, you are missing valuable feedback and viewpoints. According to a study by Restaurant Sciences, “consumers are interacting with their independent restaurants and nightclubs via Twitter 10 times more actively than they are with chains.” While most large chains use social media to give out deals and marketing promotions, higher-end and independent restaurants need to use the space to really establish their brand.
Tip: Try liking and following similar niche restaurants. This allows customers who are loyal to a specific type of restaurant to more easily find and become familiar with your business.
Take those first small steps and you’ll discover that social media offers several online opportunities to present yourself to consumers, which can create a buzz and drive traffic to your front door.