Advertising is still a good way to get the word out about your restaurant, but consumers usually don’t base restaurant choices on ads. According to a Nielsen survey, 92 percent of consumers trust the word of friends, family members, and other consumers when deciding where to dine out. So it’s no surprise that savvy restaurant operators now incorporate user-generated content (UGC) — feedback about their establishments from those who have eaten there — into their restaurant branding strategy.
- It builds brand trust. Millennials are known for sharing information about products and experiences, using social media as a platform. Over the past few years, millennials have also tended to consult social media postings in making restaurant choices, and increasing numbers of baby boomers, too, now research restaurants online. Research from Infopop shows that UGC is 20 percent more influential than any other type of media. The more positive information potential customers can find thanks to UGC, the more likely they will be to trust your restaurant brand.
- Stories sell. Consumers love to read and see images of what others ate during a visit to your restaurant, and how they enjoyed it. Integrating stories from happy customers into your restaurant branding strategy also forges a strong emotional bond between potential customers and your brand.
UGC Integration Basics
Incorporating UGC into your restaurant branding strategy takes a little creativity. Some suggestions are:
- Menu enhancements. Add quotes from customers to your restaurant’s menu, giving guests a customer’s-eye-view of what to expect from your menu and service and to reinforce your brand.
- Social media contests and campaigns. Everyone loves to win prizes, and participating in social media contest generates excitement and makes people feel connected to your brand. Be creative with online contests — showcase your company’s culture as well as the fact that you serve great food.
- Yelp page promotions. UGC also comprises online reviews. Respond to any reviews posted there, thanking customers for leaving feedback as well as apologizing to unhappy guests and addressing their concerns. Then promote your Yelp page by placing a Yelp badge on the homepage of your restaurant’s website. Put a “Find us on Yelp” message in your advertisements and identical signs in your restaurant’s front window. Add a link to your Yelp page in your email signature.
- Secure permission. Most customers will be more than happy to allow you to use their UGC in your restaurant branding strategy. However, don’t assume that this is the case. Let them know what you’d like to do ahead of time, fully disclosing where you intend to showcase the content and what they may be entitled to in return (e.g., a free dessert for using their testimonial about that item on your menu).
Your restaurant branding strategy will likely evolve and change over time, but finding ways to incorporate UGC will probably always play a part in gaining and maintaining customers’ trust. Consider how you can use UGC to differentiate your business from the competition, and let your customers help you spread the word about what they like about your restaurant.