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Planning your restaurant social media strategy: When, where, and what to post

Planning Your Social Media Strategy: When, Where, and What to Post

People from all walks of life log onto social media platforms every day not only to connect with each other but also to stay up to date with their favorite brands. That’s especially true for restaurants: According to a 2019 survey of 1,069 adults who had ordered takeout or delivery at least once a month in the United States, 45% had tried a new restaurant based on content the restaurant itself has posted on social media.

In this guide, we’ll explain how to leverage the power of restaurant social media marketing to reach new customers, retain existing clientele, and boost your sales. By providing engaging and entertaining content to your audience, your restaurant will be the hottest spot in town where everyone wants to dine.

Why is restaurant social media marketing so important?

Social media marketing gives restaurants the opportunity to introduce themselves to potential new customers and foster existing relationships, which is key for building any brand. For restaurateurs in particular, creating personal connections with your followers enables you to continue delivering that feeling of warm hospitality to your guests even after they have finished their meal. Maintaining a strong social media presence with beautiful images, videos, and written content will help you demonstrate what sets your restaurant apart from the rest and remind people to keep coming back.

Choose your social media platforms

Finding your voice and defining your unique style takes time to get right, so we recommend choosing one or two platforms to get started. Each platform has different features and caters to different audience demographics, so you’ll have to decide which will make the biggest splash for your business. Let’s dive in and look at some of the key differences to help you decide which ones will be the most beneficial for your restaurant.

01. Instagram

As a platform that highly relies on visual imagery for engagement, Instagram has become a crucial restaurant marketing tool. In fact, 90% of Instagram users follow a business profile to stay informed of its latest happenings—and this includes restaurants. You can post captioned images and videos on both your grid and your Stories which disappear after 24 hours. In 2020, Instagram launched Reels, which are 15-second video clips. You can even use an online video maker to create professional videos to promote your restaurant with any of these Instagram features. Instagram has a mixed user base, 63% of users fall between the ages of 18 and 34.

02. Facebook

A Facebook page is great for sharing basic business information, such as your hours of operation, location, and menu. It’s also an excellent platform to promote new menu items, special events, and customer reviews. Facebook is useful for appealing to an older niche that may not be on Instagram. “A more mature clientele is still on Facebook, and this is a very large and economically stable crowd who may not be on Instagram,” said Dotan Baruch, the owner of Blender Communications.

03. TikTok

To appeal to a younger audience, TikTok is a great platform to take advantage of. 60% of TikTok users fall between the ages of 16-24, so if college students or young adults are your main demographic, definitely consider this app for your restaurant’s social media marketing strategy. TikTok has quickly gone from purely a means of entertainment to a legitimate marketing platform. By creating short videos that show off various aspects of your restaurant, TikTok can help you create brand awareness. People can engage with your videos by sharing, liking, and leaving comments, which can lead to new clientele.

04. Twitter

With Twitter, you can create posts that are up to 280 characters long and keep your followers up to date with the latest happenings at your restaurant. You can also include images with your tweets to grab people’s attention. The user base skews slightly older, with 57% of Twitter users falling between the ages of 25-49. You can use Twitter to jump into conversations, respond to reviews, run promotions, share insights, and engage with the local community.

05. YouTube

YouTube is the most widely used social media platform in the US, so its audience is extremely diverse. Although creating full-length videos is time-consuming, this platform can be great for giving potential customers a behind-the-scenes look at the work you and your staff do: You can create cooking tutorials, interview staff, or reveal how your team prepares a unique or unusual dish. This type of restaurant social media marketing is most effective when used in tandem with Facebook or Instagram so that you can promote your videos and get even more attention.

A Facebook post of a YouTube video and a Twitter post.

Getting Started

Once you’ve decided on your social media marketing strategy and have set up your business accounts, it’s time to set up your profiles. These are the key pieces of information you’ll want to include:

  • Username: Your username should include the name of your restaurant. If it’s already in use, try adding underscores or your city to distinguish your business. And if you don't have one yet, use a restaurant name generator to get creative ideas.

  • Restaurant name: Be sure to list your restaurant name consistently across all platforms.

  • Profile picture: Use your restaurant’s logo for all of your social media accounts. If you don't have one, use a Restaurant Logo Maker to give you inspiration and help you create your own.

  • Location: If your restaurant has multiple locations, be sure to list them all in your bio. It’s better for brand consistency to use a single social page than have separate ones for each location. That being said, you can use Facebook Locations to create a main profile that has a map of all of your locations and links to the separate pages for each location. This option allows you to create location-specific content and analyze customer behavior for each site. Plus, having multiple Facebook pages is good for your restaurant’s search engine optimization (SEO).

  • Bio: Briefly describe your restaurant and link to your website.

When to post on social media

While there is no hard and fast rule, posting twice a week on each of your social media platforms can help you establish your restaurant’s brand. It’s also best to do so consistently on specific days and times so your followers can expect to see your restaurant pop up on their feed.

There are many studies on the best times to post social media, but most of the findings contradict each other. A common thread, however, seems to be that engagement goes down on the weekends and in the late evenings. While you might get more engagement during those times, a rigid schedule is unnecessary.

Your best bet would be to do your own experiments: Try posting at various points in the day for a few weeks. Then, use the Facebook Business Suite to see which posts performed best on your Facebook and Instagram accounts. These features can help you determine when your specific audience is most active on each platform and when they’re engaging with your posts. You can also check out your competitors’ pages and see when they published their best-performing posts.

More often than not, the content you’re sharing will determine when you share the post more than anything else. If you are promoting something on your dinner menu, it’s worth posting the morning of so that people can take advantage of what you’re promoting. The rates of restaurant dining increase on the weekends, so posting later in the week may result in higher engagement

Types of social media posts

Just like the best time of day to post varies based on your audience, the type of content your followers respond to can also vary. Here are types of content you can use for your restaurant’s social media marketing.

01. Reviews

Encourage your customers to leave online restaurant reviews so that you can repost them to your social media accounts and thank the customers who wrote them. This is an excellent marketing tactic that shows off both your cuisine and customer satisfaction for all of your followers to see.

02. User-generated content

User-generated content (UGC) is anything that your customers post about your restaurant that you can then share on your account. This can be anything from someone posting a video of themselves on Instagram stories of themselves blowing out birthday candles on a slice of your famous chocolate cake to someone tweeting about how much they’re craving one of your subs. Reposting UGC on your own social media channels creates a personal connection between you and your customers, generates interest in your business, and builds community.

03. Calls-to-action

A call-to-action (CTA) is a post that prompts your audience to engage with your business. When writing CTAs, try to incorporate a sense of urgency and use active language with words such as get, build, discover, buy, or learn.

Examples of CTAs include:

  • Posting a picture of a dish and asking your followers to tag someone who would love to try it

  • Asking your followers a question and encouraging them to answer it in the comments (“Which dish are you most excited to try on Chef Dina’s new summer menu?”)

  • Sharing a special event your restaurant is hosting with a registration link

04. Livestreams

Did you know people watch live videos three times longer than prerecorded ones? Livestreaming is an exciting way to create relationships with your followers and offer them a behind-the-scenes look at the work that goes into running a restaurant. People enjoy them because they get to interact with your restaurant in real-time, which cultivates trust and demonstrates transparency. Ultimately, this can lead to an increase in likes, shares, website visits, and eventually, your bottom line.

You can broadcast livestreams on all major social media platforms. Choosing which one is best for you can vary depending on your audience, so you might need to experiment and see which one drives the most engagement.

Consider streaming:

  • Cooking demonstrations

  • Q&A's with your chef or owner

  • Kitchen tips and tricks

  • Videos of your bartender shaking up new cocktails

05. Show off your employees and vendors

Create posts dedicated to those who contribute to the everyday success of your restaurant. By introducing your staff and vendors on social media, you can show your appreciation for their hard work and make customers feel like they have a more intimate relationship with your business. Consider posting photos of specific staff members along with short bios, a few fun facts, or a story that demonstrates their work ethic.

You can also highlight your suppliers to inform your customers about how and from where you source your ingredients. People are conscious of the food they eat and may be more eager to give you their business if they know you support local, ethical vendors.

An Instagram Carousel post of a cafe's staff members.

06. Promotions

Social media marketing is all about grabbing people’s attention and holding it for as long as possible. What better way to do this than running promotions? People are drawn to social posts that offer something discounted or free because of the excitement of getting something of value. Everyone loves a deal and promotions are the perfect way to bring in new business and encourage new customers to try your cuisine.

07. Competitions

Holding competitions for gift cards or free meals is a powerful way to get people’s attention and encourage them to try your restaurant. These sorts of posts can boost engagement and garner interest in your business by encouraging likes, shares, and comments. It’s also a way to give back to your clientele and thank them for their support.

For example, in March 2020, Modern Bread and Bagel in New York City held an Instagram giveaway for a $50 gift card to celebrate reaching 10,000 followers. To enter, participants had to follow the restaurant’s page and that of its sister restaurant, Arba, then tag a friend in the comments. It was an easy way to attract new followers and pass some of the existing ones along to Arba.

Tips for restaurant social media marketing

Now that you understand what kind of content to post, here are some additional tips that can help you maximize your social media presence.

01. Create a website that represents your business

To maximize your business’ exposure and online presence, it’s vital to create a restaurant website that’s as unique as your cuisine. Your website will act as the face of your business in the online world, so be sure you use a quality restaurant website builder that’s 100% customizable and designed to bring in traffic. Then, you can link to your website from all your social channels and link to your social media profiles on your website.

Need to make a website? Learn more about restaurant website costs and how to create a restaurant website.

02. Use high-quality images

Did you know that three days after reading a piece of information, people will typically only remember 45%? However, include an image and the percentage goes up to 65%. Posting pictures or videos that are of lesser quality might not only be unappealing to your followers, but they could also hurt your brand image. Social media is heavily saturated, so you need to stand out from the crowd in the best possible light in order to be noticed.

03. Keep your branding consistent across channels

No matter which social media platform you’re posting on, every aspect of your online presence should be in keeping with the tone, look, and voice of your restaurant. This means that your images should always be aligned with your restaurant colors and aesthetic, and your captions should have the same voice. Consistency is the key to creating a long-lasting impression and building trust with your followers.

The best way to create this consistency is to determine your brand identity before you establish a social media strategy. In doing so, you’ll cement the backbone of your entire brand and what you stand for. This should be used as a reference point for everything you do. If a social media post is not in keeping with your restaurant branding, you shouldn’t post it.

04. Use engaging captions

While great photography can grab the attention of your audience, it won’t necessarily bring in new customers unless you include a caption explaining what it is. There is no ideal length for captions, as long as it brings value to your followers and conforms to your brand voice. Ideally, captions will either give your audience a sense of your restaurant’s vibe, offer them a story that reveals more about its inner workings, prompt them with a CTA, or say something amusing.

05. Work with influencers

Social media is a marketing powerhouse. Another strategic way to get the word out is by working with influencers who can help you promote your business. Instagram has an extremely diverse user base of chefs, food critics, and travel bloggers. Consider offering a free meal or gift card to local influencers who share reviews on their own social channels. When influencers highlight your restaurant, their followers will certainly take notice.

If you’re struggling to find the right influencer for your needs, check out BuzzSumo or NinjaOutreach. These platforms enable you to search for influencers in your niche and connect with them.

06. Use hashtags

Hashtags are essential for expanding your reach to people who may not already be following you. When using hashtags in your posts on Instagram, for example, people who already ‘like’ those specific hashtags will see your posts on their feed and can opt to follow your restaurant’s page.

For maximum visibility, use a combination of hashtags with varying levels of popularity. While #food will have a lot of followers, it also has hundreds of millions of posts, so your chance to break through is much slimmer than being seen by users who follow #glutenfreetreats. Tagging both high-volume and low-volume hashtags is the best way to maximize your exposure to people who aren’t already following you.

If you need help, a tool like Top Hashtag can help by showing you the top trending restaurant and food related hashtags.

07. Stay active

Don’t forget that engagement with your followers is a two-way street. You can’t expect people to communicate with your social pages if you don’t respond. Make sure you have a designated person or team in place to manage your social media to post regularly and reply to comments, likes, and reviews. Having a consistent online presence will help build trust and keep your restaurant relevant.

A social post using multiple types of engagement strategies

It’s clear that social media has become a primary restaurant marketing tool. By implementing these strategies into your marketing game plan, you’ll be able to promote your business, increase sales, and nurture customer relationships all with the click of a button.

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