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We’ve put together restaurant social media in four parts. Here’s your guide to making your restaurant a ‘cool place’ on social media.

Part 1 – Social Media & Social Networking

Social Networking and Social Media are often used interchangeably. For the purposes of this article, I’ll use these titles for different ideas.

Social Networking will be any platform that joins people with a common interest. So for a restaurant, it’s about reviews. And for your purposes, it’s about getting more of them, and getting your business into the ‘sweet spot’ of having a lot of reviews with an average of about 4.3 stars. Higher than that, and people won’t believe you. Lower than that and you risk having new customers being cautious about your business and going someplace else.

Examples: YelpEat24OpenTableZagatGayotZomatoGoogle My BusinessTripAdvisorYahoo Local et al.

Social Media is about connecting with people. It’s about building relationships, transmitting information and sharing content that other people can and want to share as well. And by the way, sharing and wanting to share your content is critical. The more people like, love, share and comment on your content the better. Social media is all about being top-of-mind, and when people are sharing and talking about you, you’re in peoples heads. And that can be very good for business.

Examples: FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagramYouTubeSnapChatPinterest et al.

Most of the work you need to be doing is on Facebook, Instagram, Yelp, Google Places and a few others. Twitter, if you can keep up, is good too, although it’s tough because people expect an immediate response and get frustrated when you take half a day to get back to them. And while most restaurant owners are pretty nocturnal, you have to sleep sometimes, and when you do, some sleep deprived customer will get fussy that you’re not up at all hours to answer their petty comment or question.

By the way, Google Places can cross between Networking and Media, because some people do use Google a little like Facebook and Instagram. But for the most part, the real media platforms to focus on are the ones I’ve listed above. And most of your efforts need to include Facebook. For all the talk about Facebook lately, it is still the biggest, baddest platform out there.

Part 2 – Why Use Social Media

The simple answer is, 80% or more of human beings in the United States use social media every day. That’s about 260 million people. My guess is, some of those people are your customers.

Here are some other stats that might help make the point for being engaged on social media and social networking platforms:

Follow review sites, consumer reviews are 12 times more trusted than product descriptions. Your reputation is at stake.

Empathica Research shows that nearly three out of four customers (72%) have used Facebook to make restaurant or retail decisions, based on comments and images that have been shared by other users.

What Social Media Experts Say

A recent study by two prominent Berkeley economists discovered that as little as a half-star difference in a restaurant’s Yelp score would swing business up by about 27%.

And if that’s not enough, here something to think about: Location. As in, you want your business to be where a lot of people hangout. And your people are hanging out with social media and networking.

Here’s a scary thought: 34% of small business owners do not have a social media presence at all, and another 64% of business owners completely suck at it. So that leaves about 2% that get it right.

How Do You Know?

If you’re doing it right, you should hear from people that they like your social media program. You know, customers who are in your area and visit your restaurant and come up to you and say things like: Wow, cool post on Facebook, or I saw your photo on Instagram and really liked it. And if that’s not happening, you may not be doing it right.

You can stick your head in the sand, but it won’t make social media go away. And just because you’re ignoring the conversation doesn’t mean nobody is talking about you. It just means the conversation is going on without you.

The first step to joining social media is deciding to become a part of the conversation.

Part 3 – Social Media Platforms for Successful Restaurants

There are a lot of social platforms out there, so unless you are pretty savvy, we recommend focusing your efforts on Facebook and Instagram, and forgo Twitter and the others for a while. This is because most of the people with discretionary income spend most of their time there, and the platforms are linked together, making it easy to post on both sites at the same time.

Becoming the ‘cool place’ on social media is not that difficult. Actually, it’s really difficult. It’s a little like running a late night talk show. Or a comedy sitcom for foodies. But there are things you can do to make your business look good on social media.

Photos are king!

So make sure every shot you take looks really, really good. If it doesn’t look great, don’t post it. And use indirect sunlight. It makes food look good. Just don’t shoot the photo with the light behind the food or all you’ll see is a big shadow.

Try to be consistent with your ‘voice’. People want to have a relationship with your business, and they can only do that if your comments and photos are consistent.

Share customer generated content. Which means, encourage your guests to post on your site. Have contests, take photos and offer incentives for people to take selfies in your restaurant. And make sure your staff members ‘check in’ on social media when they arrive at work. Even if you have to pay them a little something (they have friends, and those friends may stop in for a meal).

Social Media Tips

Ask your guests to become evangelist by asking them to post, offer positive reviews and engage with your posts. This is essential, because social media works on programs that expand your posts to new and more people when people are organically engaging with your posts.

Ask Questions. People love to talk about themselves, and they love to comment. So make sure you post a lot of questions on your Facebook and Instagram pages.

Answer reviews. Even the good ones. Do not argue with guests online, but always thank the person for commenting, even if it’s a bad review. Be nice!

Post about 5X per week. Social media has a very short attention span, so posting a lot will help keep you top-of-mind with your guests.

Part 4 – Get Creative Help

The key to being a successful restaurant operator is knowing what you’re good at. And this includes knowing what you’re not good at. If you’re naturally a good photographer, a good writer, and a part-time comedian, great! Post away. But if you’re not any of those things (actually all of those things), then get some help!

Subscribing to the HotOperator Social Media Program can help you develop a nice base to work from for your social media program. It’s cheap, easy, and includes tips on how to post, what to post and even includes photos and posts you can just add your logo to and post on your pages.

The best part, the creative is worked out by professional photographers, writers and social media experts. So when you use the HotOperator program, you will be getting a month’s worth of posts that will get the attention of your potential guests.

Sign up now, and try it for a month or two. If you’re not satisfied, you can cancel at any time!

HotOperator is a restaurant marketing company offering menu design and engineering, marketing consulting, social media, classic marketing and restaurant brand development. Reach out to HotOperator when you want to grow your restaurant!

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