Tips on Social Media for Restaurants: Surefire Ways to Increase Your Social Media Following

Chris Rumpf

Founder and CEO, 15+ Years of Restaurant Technology Innovation

Tips on Social Media for Restaurants: Surefire Ways to Increase Your Social Media Following

Facebook estimates, that within a year of its launch, Instagram Stories has accumulated 250 million daily active users.

This is a telling statistic. Between all the hacks to please algorithms, rank well on search engines and reach more followers, an important aspect of social presence gets continually overshadowed – the how of the experience.

Here is the silver bullet that successful content creators understand: People visit a brand’s social profiles for information, but they follow for the stories they tell.

Think of the time you looked up a brand to see if they are offering a discount, but hit ‘follow’ because of a beautiful photo they shared. The same rule applies to restaurants.

The following tips on social media marketing for restaurants will help you balance the informative content you need to provide with the experiential components to inspire a following.

1. Get Yelp right

Yelp enables users to share their experiences with photos and reviews with their feedback and grievances. It is a platform that should not be taken lightly, because of the search engine authority Yelp holds.

Since your presence on Yelp is one of the first few results a search will pull up (sometimes even before your restaurant’s website), the following points are evergreen in ensuring you stay on top of your game.

  1. Keep your information updated – The restaurant’s address, cross streets, public transportation options, phone number, website, menu – audit these constantly to provide only the most updated information. Pay special attention to include seasonal specials, to keep things interesting.
  2. Let the user-generated content and brand-generated content mingle seamlessly – Users visit Yelp for honesty. So your shots that are studio lit and composed with orchids will stand out – but not necessarily favorably. Hire photographers to shoot your food in restaurant lighting and ambiance so they speak the same visual language as the photos your customers are taking.
  3. Treat reviews as seriously as your business numbers – Yelp grievances hold tremendous power in shaking your trustworthiness. Held against the reality of multiple choices and split-second decisions, your strategy to combat negative reviews is vital. Consider these factors:
  1. The speed of resolution
  2. The quality of resolution
  3. The attitude of resolution

Unlike the privacy of direct messages on other media, you have nowhere to hide on Yelp. So how you handle disgruntled customers on Yelp is as public (and more permanent) as it would be in your restaurant.

Respond quickly, even if to say ‘We apologize for your experience. We are investigating the matter and will be in touch very soon with a resolution.’

Be proactive with your solutions and over-correct if necessary. The customer you are reaching out to is not just the one complaining, but all who will be reading their complaint.

2. Invest in Content

Having profiles on social media is a powerful means to interact with your loyalists every day. But even the attention of the most loyal of fans tends to drift away. Creating good content is, therefore, not a choice. It is the device that will keep bringing back their attention to you.

Most restaurant owners find themselves overwhelmed with the running of their business to contribute to content creation. But there are smart ways to work around this challenge.

  1. Commission work to photographers, food bloggers, and illustrators – Invite a good mix of hobbyists and professionals whose aesthetic you like to create a wide range of images that you can use. The American-Mediterranean restaurant, Jack’s Wife Freda makes the most of its charming tale of husband-and-wife ownership, the warm companionship of long-term relationships and the creative reach of Instagram. Sweet messages on sugar packets, some sizzle on matchboxes and photographs by stylists let them do the talking through art, colors and most importantly, other people.
  2. Look inside your kitchen – Be resourceful by creating content that talks about your staff, your philosophy and your restaurant. Let your chefs take over your Instagram stories and document a day in their lives. Take your audience through the process of produce selection. Let your interior decorator and mixologist take over segments to talk about their work and what they bring to your restaurant. Behind the scenes stories are a gold mine for community engagement.
  3. Be the champion of user-generated content – Conduct hashtag research and look through your tags to find content your followers are posting from your restaurant. With permission, you should be able to share special moments, glorious food shots and casual weekday photographs that your users are creating. Take it a step further and create contests for users to share their content. Everyone likes their moment in the spotlight. Why not use it as a chance to also connect with them?

3. Community Engagement Leads to Social Engagement

It is a simple formula really: Do interesting things for attention. Do relevant things to stay memorable. A good meeting point for both is to invest in opportunities to create a context for the community.

At the grand level, Starbucks is quite the darling for every marketing executive. The Starbucks celebratory gift cards, the holiday-themed cups and beverages, and the anniversary blend collector’s items that present glorious illustrations – are the easy go-tos for inspiration on the subject of relevance.

But if you don’t have that kind of budget, coffee shops and local bakeries and restaurants are good case studies for leveraging the best of local culture. As an example, Fowl and Fodder in Toledo champions organic practices and sources grass-fed beef, pastured livestock, artisan cheese, and freshly baked bread exclusively from Northwest Ohio.

In conclusion, the rules of social media are changing constantly, especially when it comes to social media for restaurants. Algorithms are switched around to benefit the platform. But there is only one rule you need to remember to benefit your business – it is as much about the experience online as it is about the experience offline. Each feeds the other. And while the proof is in the pudding, the path to get there is just as important.