Social media is changing the way we engage and consume food. From viral food trends to the #foodyouwanttoeat tag on Instagram, social media is an inescapable presence in the foodservice industry. Ignoring the importance of social media no longer cuts the mustard; restauranteurs and the businesses they run must capitalize on this trend before being rendered irrelevant.
Let’s get trending
No operation can exist without social media, it connects you to your customers and gives you the opportunity to communicate with them. For up-and-coming restauranteurs social media is a critical strategy of growing your business, something foodservice industry PR expert Felicity Read of Leapfrog PR advises her clients on constantly. “All restaurants need to have at least a Facebook account for sheer numbers and an Instagram feed for engagement,” she advises.
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Social media algorithms are known for being tricksy. They promote some content and disguise others. Pumping out content into the social media ether and hoping it arrives on the ‘Discover’ page of new customers simply isn’t good enough: you need to strategize.
“It’s important that social media is done in the right way. It’s very tempting to just pump lots of pictures out but that’s a one-way street,” says Read. “If you want to grow your business you need to think about how you can engage with your audience; use relevant hashtags and involve other local businesses so that you’re not just talking to the same people all the time.”
Like, comment, share
Social media is a very crowded market, creating unique content while staying relevant can often feel overwhelming. Having a clear strategy and figuring out what’s bespoke about your offering will help to separate you from the crowd. “Remember you and your restaurant are unique, only you have that menu, only you have your ambiance, style, and creativity,” says Read.
Giving a voice to the people behind the mouth-watering food photos is a simple, effective way of bringing your restaurant to life. “People get inspired from people,” says Read.
Whether its stories or reels, videos are the latest popular format on social media and one’s savvy restaurateurs have been quick to capitalize on to get their content trending. Videos introducing the chef to followers, talking through new menus, or doing a back-of-house tour are simple ways of making content more personal while enabling you to sell your business in a more creative way.
Successful social media is not just about posting new content; making time to engage with followers, reply to people, and reflect on comments is crucial. “Investing in your social media feed doesn’t take up a lot of time; embrace it as part of your business. Like, comment, give feedback,” says Read. “Always be polite and courteous, that doesn’t mean you can’t be fun, but make sure you communicate well with people.”
Beating the backlash
Most restaurants have had experiences of serial chancers – customers trying it on in the hope of a free meal. Although tempting to lash back, remember, social media is a public space. If you wouldn’t retaliate in public, then don’t do it over social media.
“When it comes to negative feedback, the key is to not ignore it. Issues need to be dealt with and they need to be dealt with promptly and politely. Say you’re sorry if someone has had a bad experience and offer to put it right. Offer an explanation if there is one, but don’t give excuses,” says Read.
- Plan your social feeds
On a fortnightly or monthly basis plan out your content each month. Take into consideration any big events or seasonal changes you can use as a hook to drive your business. Use a planning tool such as Hootsuite to help you to schedule your social media posts.
- Creative content
Keep your feed fresh with new images of your food and the people behind it. Make sure your content is replenished regularly, at a minimum, refresh it with every menu change.
This is where you turn social media from shouting into an empty room to getting noticed. Don’t get weighed down with measuring followers; having an engaged audience is much more critical to your success. Asking questions like ‘What’s your favorite summer vegetable?’ encourages followers to engage while it also does some research one your behalf. It’s a win, win.
- Keep it relevant
Having topical, fun content that reflects what’s happening is important for engagement. Planning is essential, but make sure to review your plans. If something happens that renders that content irrelevant you may need to alter your scheduled posts.
- Community is key
Whether you’re a branded restaurant or an independent, you are part of a high street and a community. The more relevant and engaged you are with that community the more people will talk about and respect you as a business that has a strong social ethos.
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