Guest Post by Ryan Gould, Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services at Elevation Marketing
Opening a new restaurant is a difficult task, but getting it discovered can be even more daunting. Social media, luckily, has made the job of the restaurant marketer much easier. With this ubiquitous technology, you have at your disposal a mass-marketing machine that is largely free to use. And it works.
It’s said that 75% of people surveyed purchased a product after seeing it on their social newsfeeds. The lesson? Post on social media and your customers will come.
Here are a few more tips for ramping up buzz for your new eatery using Facebook, Instragram, and the various other social channels in use today.
Rule #1: Get Into the Minds of Your Ideal Customer
Marketing to one person is more effective than marketing to thousands. People want you to speak to their needs directly. To do that on a large scale, effective marketer’s create what is called a “persona” for each type of customer. Start with your ideal customer.
To develop a customer persona you create a name, face (use a real picture), job, salary, hobbies, interests, and anything else that will help add flesh to the bare-bones skeleton of your ideal customer in your mind. This makes your marketing easier because in your mind you design your communications for a single person. This persona is who you will be marketing to on the various social media platforms you choose to use.
Here is an example persona for the ideal customer of a trendy upscale restaurant:
Cheryl Biggs is caucasian in her mid-40s. She works as a Sales Manager and makes $120,000 per year, including commissions. She loves a good bargain, but indulges occasionally in designer shoes and purses. She stays fit with hiking and Pilates. She lives in one of Seattle’s trendier neighborhoods in a two-story, four bedroom house. She has two chocolate labs, drives a Lexus SUV, is married, and has two children in their early teens who attend private school.
Ideally, you would have years of analytics and insights to gather data from in order to create these personas; but since your restaurant is new, you will have to build your persona over time. You start by creating one with whatever knowledge about your customer base you have at the present time, even if you are just basing it on assumptions.
But besides just guessing here are some tips you can use to base your persona on real data:
Facebook Insights, for example, provides you with important data regarding the people who visit your page and ads. You can learn their genders, ages, locations, and language. You can also discuss your ideal customer amongst your staff. After all, the person you are marketing to is the very person you hope will come in and dine. Who better to sculpt the perfect social media follower than the waitstaff and management who work among your customers daily.
You can also post surveys on Facebook and leave leaflets on your tables for your customers to fill out anonymously to help you learn more about them.
Once you have a well-crafted customer persona in mind, you can market to that person specifically. If you’ve done your research correctly, your posts will begin to resonate with your audience in all new ways.
Speaking of social channels, which should you use? That’s where your research will come in. Discover where your ideal customer is likely to search for and find your restaurant online. Is it on Facebook? Instagram? Foursquare or Yelp? If your ideal customer uses all of them, then those are the platforms you should use in your word-spreading campaign. The good news is that, no matter which platforms you put into play, the following advice will work for all of them.
Rule #2: Fill Out Your Profiles Thoroughly
Continue your ideal customer mind-reading and write down all the elements a new customer might look for on your social profiles. These should include your restaurant’s name and tagline, the address and hours of operation, specials and happy hour, and your menu and website. The key is to use every space you are allotted. If you can add ten images, add all ten; and make sure they are of the highest quality with good lighting, especially if you are taking pictures of items on your menu.
Some social channels have options to create buttons, like Facebook’s “Book Now.” And if you have multiple locations, be sure to list all the addresses and phone numbers. Social media channels like Facebook will showcase the closest addresses for users in that area.
Rule #3: Be Consistent
Ideally, you will want to choose one person to post to all of your social media accounts. This will ensure that your voice remains consistent, which is crucial if you hope to build familiarity and loyalty with your audience. Another element that requires consistency is the frequency with which you post. How frequent you post depends on your audience. Once per day is easy to commit to and will keep your restaurant top of mind with the local populace. Multiple times per day is ideal, as you may reach different people at different times. Just don’t post so much that you annoy your followers. That’s a good way to get an unfollow. Instead, post whenever it’s important.
Rule #4: Create Relevant Posts
You should only post when you have something notable to say. For instance, you could post in the morning that brunch lasts all day; and then again in the afternoon to announce happy hour. If you have a special event coming up, such as Thanksgiving Dinner for those who don’t feel like cooking, that’s a third post you can use to round out your social activity for the day. No matter what you choose to post in the beginning, however, you will soon learn your audience’s preferences as you proceed. In other words, your followers will teach you what to post by their engagement.
Rule #5: Don’t Be Annoying
QuickSprout conducted a survey to find out what annoying actions get restaurants unfollowed on social. The top offender is posting too many promotions. If every time your audience opens their Facebook app, they see your restaurant, that could lead to fatigue. The next in line is using slang and jargon. Don’t try to be so hip that your posts become cringeworthy. Your customers are people; speak to them accordingly. Not surprising, trying to be funny when your posts aren’t comes in third, and not replying to messages comes in last.
Rule #6: Tell Stories
Social media users, and millennials in particular, don’t like to be blatantly sold to. Instead, take action shots and explain what’s happening using real people and their actual names. For example, you might post a picture to Facebook and Instagram with one of your servers holding up your latest creation titled: “Mark is ready to serve the new Spicy Cordon Bleu Chicken Sandwich,” or “Mary is about to serve the first Tacos Especial.” Telling stories, even short ones, and using smiling faces and names, makes your posts seem more human and less robotic. Your posts will also become endearing.
Once the story has been told, follow up on the same post with the name of the menu item you’re advertising, the price, and how long it will be available, for example. Keep your posts fun and appealing, and they’ll do their jobs at getting people to come in for a visit.
Rule #7: Encourage Reviews
Another way to endear yourself with Millennials, who comprise most active social media users, is to make use of reviews. Social reviews are about as good as a recommendation from a close friend or family member; but make sure the posts are authentic.
While you shouldn’t ask for positive reviews, as that is the opposite of authentic, you should encourage your customers to leave reviews once they’ve sampled your menu offerings. Give away a free appetizer with proof of leaving a review on Yelp, FourSquare, Facebook, or any of the other social channels your restaurant features on. That’s just one way you can fill up your social profiles with rave reviews from loyal patrons.
Rule #8: Respond in a Timely Manner
Finally, as your posts begin gaining steam, your followers are bound to leave not only reviews, but comments. “I love this place!” one person might write. “They have the best wings I’ve ever had! Might be another.
Of course, your reviews and comments may not all consist of raves. You may get a few rants as well, such as “The service was so slow Wednesday night,” or “We ate their Tuesday and came home sick as dogs.”
Whoever is posting to your social accounts should respond to each review and comment in a timely manner. A simple thank you will do for most, but joining in on the conversations is better.
When it comes to your negative reviews and angry rants, respond in kind and promise to do better. If at all possible, contact the person offline and invite them in for a meal on you. Often, that can be enough to turn a frown upside down, leading to an edited review in your favor.
Posting consistently with a compelling message, and with plenty of real-life stories, is key to putting your restaurant on the map on social media. As long as you have an ideal customer in mind and you stay away from the posts (and posting schedules) that annoy, your new restaurant is sure to get a hefty and loyal following.
Author Bio: Ryan Gould is the Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services at Elevation Marketing, a B2B marketing agency. Ryan helps medium and large brands improve sales and market share by developing integrated marketing experiences distinguished by research, storytelling, engagement and conversion.