Social Media for Restaurants - 5 Ideas to Get Started

The top benefits of social media marketing, as identified by the Social Media Marketing Report 2011 released this week, are generating more business exposure (as indicated by 88% of marketers), increased traffic (72%) and improved search rankings (62%).  The report also indicates that those who invest the time (at least 6 hours per week) and have the experience (3 years or more) find the greatest benefits.

We know what you are thinking:  (1) I am busy running a restaurant, how can I find the time to fit social media into an already chaotic schedule and even if I did, (2) how do I do it and (3) what do I get out of it?

The good news is that you are not alone – most business owners and managers have that same response.  The bad news is that there is no magic answer to the question # 1 (finding the time).  This is going to involve looking at what you currently do to see what can be delegated to someone else to free up some time for you to focus on a new initiative.  We talked a bit about the importance of finding the time and a few ideas to consider earlier this week. The only other option is to add a few hours to each day, and if you have figured that out, we really want to talk to you!

Back to the good news, there are many answers to question # 2 (how do I do it) and # 3 (what do I get out of it).   Let’s start with the how question – first, you have to make a plan.  Just like everything else in your business, you have to identify goals, a strategy, and a plan to be effective.   Random posts, tweets, and blogs when you have a few minutes to squeeze them in are not going to be nearly as effective as planned, cohesive, and targeted messages that support and enhance your other marketing activities.  Take the time to develop a thoughtful, strategic plan before you dive in to the social media pool – it will be time well-spent when you consider the results.

Here are five ideas to get your plan started.

Announce to be Found

If you don’t tell your customers where to find you online, you may not be found.  Include the links to your social media profiles in your advertising, on signs in the restaurant, on your menu, on your business or gift cards, and on your receipts if it’s possible.

Ask Questions

Use your Facebook page to ask your customers questions.  Ask for feedback on recipes, menu suggestions, or a best experience in the restaurant.  Asking questions will engage your audience and you may find out some great information too.  Social media isn’t just about broadcasting your information out to people – it’s about community and conversation.

Include Photos and Video

Mix up the content you share so it’s not all plain text posts.  Restaurants have a unique opportunity to showcase your menu and facility with photos and video.  Take photos of daily specials or record a brief video clip of one of your servers talking about the daily specials.

Reward Your Fans

Customers are liking your page, following you, answering your questions, and looking out for the daily specials – they are doing a lot of work so reward them in a way that brings them in!  Offer fan only specials, pick a fan of the month to reward with a gift card/certificate, or ask fans to post about their experience for a free appetizer or dessert.  Make sure you follow any rules for contests on your chosen platform.

Experiment Beyond the Traditional

We know, calling Facebook pages and Twitter “traditional” is a bit odd.  But, technology is changing every day and with Facebook Places and apps like FourSquare and Latitude, you have an opportunity to take social media marketing beyond just fans and followers.  Google just announced check-in deals for Latitude that work like Facebook Places and FourSquare deals, where different offers are revealed when someone checks-in to your location.  You can take it a step further and only offer deals to repeat or frequent customers.  FourSquare has the ability to offer deals only to the “Mayor” of your location (the person with the most check-ins) and Latitude lets you customize status levels that customers can unlock only with multiple visits, and then offer different deals to different levels.


There are so many opportunities for restaurants to use social media to increase business, but you have to have a measurable plan with results that you will track.  You don’t have to be everywhere – you just have to be where your customers are and that may take some time and trial-and-error for you to learn.  When you start tracking your results and answering question # 3 (what do I get out of it), it will become clear where you should be spending your social media time for the best results.

If you aren’t sure where to start or need some more ideas to get your plan going, let us know.