Marketers used to try to convince consumers to buy their product before even conversing with them. A modern restaurant’s strategy should be to engage with their future customers BEFORE convincing them to buy anything. That’s how brands are winning business in 2014.
That said, the key to reaching new and existing customers is to send the right message in the right channel. In other words: being where your customers are and saying what they want to hear. In this day and age, it’s imperative for social media to be an integral part of your marketing campaign for that reason; social media is where your future fans are.
Users browse social media sites on a daily basis to see what products they’re friends are using and what foods they’re eating. A Pew Research Center study found that about 55 percent of adults seek information about restaurants on the internet – and that those adults are likely to be technology adopters.
While your restaurant social media pages can be used for customer relationship management, it is just as effectively used as a marketing tool. The 140-character limit on Twitter makes it perfect for sales language, like notifying your followers of your special promotions. You post quick quips about your latest deals or new menu items to entice customers to come in and try them – and even attach a photo to show them off.
Customers are more likely to try something new if they have a coupon or discount. Just think: if they browse through their Facebook or Twitter feed while their hungry, a mouthwatering food photo could make them drop what they’re doing and stop in for dinner.
An effective way to do this, and reward customers for friending or following you, is by offering exclusive promotions, contests or giveaways to your friends and followers. For example, invite them to come to your restaurant and receive a percentage off of their bill or a free appetizer – as long as they can show proof that they retweeted you or checked in on Facebook.
Customer engagement and service
Social media makes it easier to manage customer relations and provide customer service. When you communicate with a customer via phone or email, it only benefits that one customer. When you respond to customer queries on social media, other users will be able to see it and benefit from it as well. Keeping a close eye on these comments will also allow you to monitor and shape your restaurant’s reputation.
By engaging with your customers and responding to their posts, you can start threads and conversations that open up a direct line of communication between you and your potential or existing customers. You can share information about specials, new products, new menu items, renovations, etc. to keep them in the loop.
Social media is an extremely easy and effective means to gain feedback on your service, menu items, ambiance or special events, as well as get great customer testimonials.
When customers see that you have a Twitter handle or are using a brand-related hash tag, they are more likely to talk about their restaurant experience and link to your page in the process. And any time they say something positive, you can retweet or share it to leverage it as a testimonial – one that your followers will know is authentic and credible because they will be seeing it straight from the source. Even if only one person mentions your restaurant, hundreds of their friends and followers are going to see it.
Social media is easily integrated with popular location-based smartphone apps like Foursquare, Yelp, Google Places and Groupon. These apps allow users to gain information about your restaurant – especially those who have never visited your restaurant before or are new to the area. They can access hours of operation, menus, deals and promotions and customer reviews, not to mention “check in” so that other social media users can see where their friends are eating.
These apps are popular in larger cities where it is difficult to discern a decent restaurant from a crappy one. They are also popular among users in their 20s and 30s (70 percent of users are between the ages of 19 and 35), who use them frequently to flag their favorite locations. It’s a simple and effective way to (literally and figuratively) put your establishment on the map.