You’re almost ready to enter the world of social media. Or you may be revamping your existing social media presence. You have dreams of the droves of people eagerly lining up for a table outside your locations and fantasies about the food fans you’ll amass through your social media marketing efforts.
This is a good idea as even the perfect locations, well-trained staff and carefully curated menu can let you down without the proper marketing plan . More fundamentally, think of social media as another key way to reinforce any overall marketing message you have.
For example when Chipotle wanted to associate its brand with freshness and farm-to-table food they created this touching YouTube video which hit those themes. It went viral, getting more than 14,000,000 views and generating widespread publicity for the brand. Social media can be a very effective channel to advance your brand strategy. Remember social media is that magical ingredient which will make for a true recipe to success!
But today when it’s hard to understand the difference between content marketing, viral social media and what makes one an Instagram star it can be difficult to know what tactics to ask your marketing team to deploy. This is why it’s important to bear in mind the overall positioning strategy or marketing message. They will help guide you to the appropriate tactics, target audiences and platforms which will support your strategic goals.
Here we present some current social media marketing tips for restaurant chains in 2015 by social media platform!
Food lovers are increasingly visual and love to share photos of their well-presented meals online, especially on Instagram. Currently the popular image-sharing site has over 21,000,000 posts under the hashtag #foodie alone.
Have a professional photographer take drool-inducing photos of your menu items and your stylish decor.
Here is an example for The Keg Steakhouse which uses striking, polished and professionally taken photos of premium menu items on their official Instagram account, connoting a high-end feel to their brand:
You can also use smart phones to take more ‘organic’ looking photo content which implies a more authentic and simple brand, using ‘real-life’ photos which appeals to Instagram users.
Also clearly indicate your Instagram account name on your website’s home page and even include a photo-stream.
Also use hashtags to get optimum attention from potential customers on Instagram. Find out which hashtags are trending and see if any are relevant and then pair them with a striking image of your food. Again make sure the hashtag somehow relates to your offerings or brand. For example on national hot dog day look for associated hashtags that are popular (i.e. trending) and if you sell hotdogs on your menu use that hashtag.
You can also go niche with your hashtags. Again this takes some research – find out which specific hashtags are linked to your food menu and location. So if you are in New York there may be a frozen yogurt hashtag for Brooklyn. Use such a hashtag along with a specific location in your tags and those accessing their Instagram account on their mobile device (how it is predominantly used) around that location will know to look for you.
Also create a specific hashtag to go with a promotion or contest you are running. For example if you are asking for the best photos of a featured menu item then create a hashtag such as #beststeak so that your followers and any other users may use this hashtag in their posts and create additional publicity for your promotion and by extension you.
And do for sure run promotions and contests as they generate interest in your food and brand. You can be creative and make promotions/contests which tie in with popular areas of interest or run more traditional photo contests to create user generated content. A photo contest motivates customers to engage with you on a public forum and share your menu items to their potentially large following. Promotions can also be tailored to serve a strategic purpose. For example if you want to reinforce your brand’s relevancy and current popularity you can ask Instagram users to post their favorite recipes (as the Pinkberry example bellow does) or menu items from your chain for a prize. The large number of responses will show your brand to be continually popular amongst the young and tech savvy Instagram users. Remember all this Instagram activity is getting attention and publicity for your brand with the market you want to target – food lovers.
A great example of this is Pinkberry’s ‘Summer Obsession’ Instagram contest here for which they created a hashtag, and simple and an easy to participate with rules:
One brand which got creative with their Instagram campaign was Starbucks. Their ‘Behind the Scenes’ campaign aimed to showcase the processes of making their signature drinks. Images uploaded were natural looking shots featuring their employees making drinks aligned with the steps ‘testing’, ‘tasting’ and ‘preparation’. The campaign humanized the big brand as it showed their employees and also created interest in their menu items. It also positioned them to be honest and transparent in how their drinks were conceived and made, making the items more appealing to both Starbucks fans and newbies.
B2C social media marketing will always include a Facebook presence. Current and future patrons are on Facebook daily, sometimes checking their account a few times a day, giving you multiple opportunities to catch their attention.
Firstly focus on your cover image. Make sure it has a crisp and appealing image of a menu item or customers having a good time with your food at your location. Feel free to change your cover photo when you are running a new promotion or introducing a new menu item. Also include some text which describes the promotion you may be running. Also (like in Instagram) use lots of photos of your food and drink items. Consider creating a ‘lookbook’ of your most popular food items and drinks or menu items you may be introducing.
You have limited word count in the ‘About’ section of your Facebook page, make every word count . Describe your specialty (are you an Italian restaurant or a Mexican one?) and your brand story and include your website and locations.
A good example of a chain restaurant that has created a good Facebook page is Milestones here:
Their cover photo advertises their promotions, their posts showcase menu items and their ‘About’ section hints at their brand story. They even have video (which is a good addition to your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts).
It is also a good idea to create multiple pages for each of your locations and have your staff from each location regularly post updates and photos and answer customer queries. This way you create a ‘buzz’ in the community you are serving. But be careful to have a uniform presence throughout all these Facebook pages, instructing staff who administer these pages to post regularly and keep local pages sharp and current. Look into a platform that will help your Head Office manage the bulk of the copy which will be sent out via these Facebook pages. Outdated content on regional pages will reflect poorly on the overall brand.
Beyond this you can create paid Facebook ads with geo targeting. This is excellent for creating awareness for each of your locations from the grassroots level through niche targeting. Target your ads to be seen only by Facebook users in the geographic location of each of your chain restaurants. You can also target your ads to be seen by those with specific likes and specific pages liked. So if you are a downtown, Italian restaurant focusing on organic ingredients you can target those in the downtown core who have an interest in Italy and organic foods.
Once you do have Facebook likes and followers know that they will expect Facebook specific offers/deals and contests. Post exclusive offers on your Facebook page which can be packaged as ‘insider’ discounts/promotions. These can include discounts if they like a particular post or a free drink if they share your photo post with their friends. Or consider offering Givex gift cards or promotion cards as prizes. This way you ensure visits to your locations. Contests on your Facebook page generate excitement and garner visitors to both your page and locations.
It is very likely that you will find major restaurant brands on Twitter. But it is not enough to simply open an account. You have to think about what you will tweet and how will it engage with your target audience. Don’t just tweet out promotional jargon, it will appear to be spam and will irritate your initial following. Instead use Twitter intelligently – know how the platform works and how to get as much value into those 140 characters as you possibly can.
Don’t overuse or underuse hashtags on Twitter. Use them widely to have your tweets show up in as many feeds as possible and like for Instagram keep an eye out for trending hashtags which you can use in your own tweets. Try to keep to two hashtags per tweet. Also do not be shy about using photos on Twitter.
Although it is supposed to be a text-oriented site, including photos with your tweets is a good idea as this will increase engagement and impressions. Timing is important too, send your tweets out near breakfast, lunch and dinner time and talk about relevant promotions you are running for that meal. Post timely content. For example if it’s a hot day offer a discount on cool drinks, if there is a big game on tell people they can watch it at your locations (this also applies on Instagram and Facebook).
If you are creative and original you can create a lot of buzz via a contest or promotion which is ideal for a chain wanting more brand awareness.
One established brand that created Twitter buzz very successfully is Domino’s Pizza.
Using the hashtag #letsdolunch Domino’s UK ran a campaign that fans gleefully participated in. Domino’s UK offered to reduce the price of their pizza according to how many people tweeted them with the hashtag #letsdolunch in time for lunch. The promotion ran from 9am to 11am and generated large interaction from deal-seeking pizza lovers who saw the price of a large pepperoni pizza go down from ¬ £15.99 to £7.74. The campaign advertised the Domino brand via all the tweets that were sent out to get a deal and the order mechanism for the campaign meant people were liking or following the Domino account.
Or consider Wendy’s who publicized their new Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger, in part, with a Twitter campaign asking Twitter users to tweet about the new burger with the promise that some tweets would be sung by reality-tv star Nick Lachey in a finale video. The contest generated many humorous tweets which praised the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger and effectively spread the word about its arrival on Wendy’s menus.
Yelp (and Foursquare, Zomato)Yelp (and other location centered sites/apps which we will discuss) has a lot of clout in the restaurant industry. On the reviewing site restaurant patrons review your restaurant’s food and customer service and more. They can also add photos of your menu items and establishment decor. It is best if you are proactive and set up an account right away. This is as customers can review you even if you don’t have an account. You don’t want potential negative feedback floating on the Internet where you cannot respond to it. As such open that account with photos, restaurant hours, locations, menu, prices and information on Wi-Fi/Parking etc.
It is also important to respond to any negative feedback in a courteous manner – as you would a real-life complaint – because your response will be recorded on the Internet presumably forever. Showing that you are open to feedback and care about your customers’ experience puts a positive spin on a negative review.
Foursquare and Zomato also allow patrons to leave reviews. These apps/sites are primarily used via mobile devices and tell restaurant goers which restaurants are near them at anytime. It is important to be listed on these platforms as they attract foot traffic to your locations and can direct both local clientele and out of town visitors to your locations.
As a restaurant chain you will want the best partners working with you to ensure your success! Contact Givex to get help with online ordering, loyalty programs and POS.
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Also see our blog post on top restaurant technology trends here.