Tips and Advice for Marketing your Restaurant on Social Media


When it comes to running your restaurant, marketing is usually not top of mind. Between hiring and training staff, running the kitchen and managing food costs, getting word out about your wonderful menu and restaurant often takes a back seat. But outside of the most popular restaurants in the area, you really HAVE to do some online and digital marketing to keep your business in the mind-map of the dining audience. I’ve pulled together a list of recommendations and tips to help you lay down a foundational program. My background with social media? About 10,000 followers on my food blog social feeds and I have managed B2B accounts with over 100k followers for a large Fortune 500 tech company. So here’s a quick primer on what to do and what NOT to do.

Where should you be on social media to market your restaurant?

Probably the two most important channels to be on are Instagram and Facebook. Why? Because Instagram lends itself well to food pictures and there’s already a slew of foodies and influencers on those channels to engage with. Heavily focused on imagery and simple text, Instagram is an easy way to deliver snapshots of your restaurant and business, online. Demographics for Instagram tend to be a bit younger, more heavily targeted to the 18 to 29 millennials.

Facebook would be my next suggestion and given its seamless integration with Instagram, works well as a combination for shared social media. Content posted to Instagram is easily re-shared on Facebook given their common ownership. The main benefits of Facebook is its longer content format and more mature audience (25 to 54 age range) which I think is a better fit for a dining audience. I’ve also found that virality (re-sharing content amongst the audience) seems to be stronger on Facebook due to its large network.

Twitter (IMO) is a bit more of a news oriented micro-blogging platform with less emphasis on visual imagery. So I’d consider it to be your third option for social media marketing. Snapchat is also another good option but tends to be geared for a younger crowd. So choose wisely for the time you have available! Also for your social media accounts, try to keep the name/handle consistent so people can find you easily.

What skills do you need to run a social media account for a restaurant?

Running a social-media channel is a multi-tasker’s dream (or nightmare!). They need to be part photographer, part videographer, writer, editor and Ms. Manners for what you’ll run into online. They need to have a good eye for images and the quality of images to be posted. Social is moving heavily toward video content and snippets so they’ll have to have a steady hand. They need to write up short, pithy and engaging words to keep your audience interested and also have good grammar and watch carefully for typos.

And they’ll have to respond to occasional questions, attacks and uncouth behavior online and represent your business properly. And they need to do it all, real-time and now! While some of your social media can be scheduled, it truly is meant to be authentic and real which means sometimes you’ll need to just react to what happens in the course of the day (surprise closing/weather, daily specials, news).

Who should manage your restaurant’s social media?

Well there are probably several right answers here depending on your situation and how much money and time you want to spend. You can do it yourself as the owner-manager of your business who knows what he/she wants the social feeds to represent. But your time may be limited and/or social media may not be of any personal interest

You can hand off the work to a staff member with an interest in social media and who will be onsite regularly for your business. Maybe a front of the house hostess or bartender may have a good eye and ear for social media content. Or you could hire an external PR firm who will certainly have stronger social media skills and tools but less of the intimate knowledge and content around your business. And of course you’ll have to pay them a bit to manage your social feeds and they will have to come in to your location from time to time, to grab images of your restaurant and food.

In the end, I would recommend having at least one individual onsite who can react more quickly to what’s going with your business for your social feeds. An external social media manager is convenient but may not be as close or dedicated to your business as you’d like.

What tools should I use to manage my social media?

Since most of your social media will be handled off of a smartphone, I’d recommend a 1st or 2nd generation iOS or Android phone. Camera technology moves so quickly it makes having a newer phone to ensure high-quality pictures (iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Google Pixel) a necessity.

There are also a slew of social media tools to help you schedule, view and respond to social media posts and comments. Probably one of the most common is Hootsuite but this space is changing constantly. So certainly do some research and googling on what’s available out there. Often these social media tools allow you a freebie and limited version to try it out. If you’re focused on say 3 to 5 posts per week on multiple social media channels, you can see why it might be important to have a scheduling tool at your disposal.

What type of content should you put on your social media?

Most social media for restaurant should revolve around imagery and videos of your restaurants since they are the most easily digested and engaging types of content. And while food-ingredient pictures and the preparation of your food are probably the most popular topics, your business is so much more than that. Pictures of your staff in action, happy customers, your dining room and kitchen, details of your decor are also important.

News and announcement around life at your restaurant (new dishes, new daily specials, changed hours, upcoming events and promotions) are also important and particularly good for longer format content on Facebook. I’d also toss out social media around your neighbors, activity in your area might also be fun. You’re part of a community and reminders of where you are and who’s around you is interesting and helpful.

As you work and gain experience on social media, you’ll slowly develop a voice (funny, quirky, interesting) that represents your restaurant and hopefully one that engages your audience (generating likes, retweets, shares, etc). Just make sure to steer away from too much sassiness, political topics, etc which may isolate people in your audience. Words online can often get misinterpreted.

Make sure you also use popular hashtags (#Subject/Topic) for Instagram and twitter. It helps make your posts and tweets more discoverable. And try to stay consistent with your posts, you want a regular stream of interesting content to stay top of mind. I’d say 3 to 5 posts minimum, per week. Preferably daily!

What should I be concerned about on social media for restaurants?

Well there’s a handful of gotchas to be concerned about. Angry customers are probably the biggest concern. Whether reasonable or not, keep the conversation civil and work to defuse and learn from the complaint. There may be a kernel of truth to it but I’d suggest responding quickly to the issue, offline and out of site to the public. There are some people who you can never please and they will be loud, please check out my Putting Poison to Pen post to see what you may run into.

Separately, the role of influencers in social media. While you may want to invite some to a media event or invite them to try your restaurant, I would be careful here. The best social media and feedback comes from regular, paying customers so I’d focus your efforts here. There’s also been a huge increase within the influencer community around gaming. You can buy 10,000 followers for maybe $60 and even purchase likes/comments on your posts ($1 per 100) online. So it’s hard to tell who is really an influencer without knowing that person and their history, well. Gaming and cheating is particularly high on Instagram and probably the lowest on Facebook from what I’ve seen and experienced.

So there you go, a quick overview on social media best practices for your restaurant. This business is constantly in flux with new tools and trends popping up so it certainly takes some time and effort to keep up with it all. But I can tell you that it’s absolutely WORTH the effort for the success of your business. Please check out some of my posts below which cover other topics important to social media and online marketing!

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