Handling social media marketing when running a restaurant can feel overwhelming and unproductive. There is so much to learn, and how do you even know if your efforts are working?  Often times we hear restaurant owners express their concerns and frustrations. So we decided to ask industry experts their tips for restaurant social media marketing.

Here’s what he had to say: 

#1 Post thirty minutes to an hour before peak meals

Getting people to make the snap decision to come to your restaurant is the goal of social media. There is no better time to pop up in their social feed then right when people are getting hungry. Fire off an 11AM or 4PM post to nudge people toward your door.

#2 Keep your posting strategy simple

Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest, the easiest way to fail at social media is to never specify what you should be posting and why. By defining post categories that are always worth tossing on your wall, you can pull from those for inspiration. Do not get stuck in “but what should I post” land. 

Here are some categories for your restaurant to use:

  • Changes in hours or closures. Always post your holiday hours etc.! 
  • Specials. Did you whip up a breakfast taco with local seitan chorizo? Tell people about it. 
  • Food photos. This is obvious, but find the most Instagram-saavy person on your team and have them be in charge of taking casual Instagram photos. And if you’ve never hired a professional photographer to take pictures for your website and socials, then it’s usually worth the investment.
  • PR. Any newspapers or TV stations that feature you are worth sharing.
  • Repost customer stories. When people have a good experience at your restaurant, they’re going to talk about it. Repost their story or photo and credit them for an easy source of content. 
  • New chefs and employee stories. Transparency is in these days. Talk about your story and put a face to the food!

#3 If you’re opening a restaurant, involve your customers in your story

Great marketing makes customers feel like they’re a part of something they can be proud of. If you’re thinking about remodeling a section of your restaurant or had a crazy story happen, tell it. Thank your customers for understanding when wait times were long during opening week. Let them know you’re listening by talking about specific questions customers asked. In other words, be human, listen, and share. 

#4 You have to pay to play on Facebook

Restaurants can get a lot done with organic posts, but don’t expect to get very far outside of your audience on Facebook these days without paying.  Split your efforts by these two avenues. View unpaid posts as a way to provide information to potential customers that find you and encourage previous ones to come back. Use paid advertising to bring brand new people to your restaurant.

#5 Never boost a post on Facebook

Boosting is a less accurate way of advertising on Facebook. If you want to spend money, you should do it with more precision within the actual ad portal. This gives you a few advantages:

  • You can use that same page post in various campaigns (i.e. using it for different restaurant locations). 
  • You can be more granular in your targeting. 
  • You can analyze the results better within the ad platform.
  • You will gain valuable experience using the ad platform. 

#6 Geographic restrictions are your friend

Using a master page to post about a specific location? Restrict your customers by location so you avoid sending irrelevant information. Using advertising? Go as local as possible for the best bang for your buck. 

#7 When using ads, be hyper-specific

Advertising comes down to how well you can speak to your customers’ desires. Build customer personas and structure your ads to speak straight to them. From geographic location to interest profiling, you can reach specific sets of people. This gives you an opportunity to run some interesting campaigns. 

For example, if you were a new pizza shop in Indianapolis, you could quote a food critic who hailed you as the best pizza in Indianapolis. Then you could make the headline: The best pizza in Indianapolis? Find out for yourself. Couple that with a fantastic shot of your pizza and a discount to boot, and that’s a good campaign to run. 

#8 Carefully pick influencers and reach out about a free meal in return for an honest review

Yes, there is a lot of fluff and snake oil in influencer marketing, but if you’re careful about your choices they can be a fantastic channel for you to use. Imagine your ideal customer, find an influencer that speaks directly to them, and reach out about a collab. Depending on the size of the influencer, this could be as simple as a free meal or you can negotiate a price. 

Pro tip: Don’t search for people with a lot of followers. Engagement is more important than followers. If someone has 25k followers, but only averages 200 likes per post, that’s a terrible engagement rate. Try to find people with at least a 10% engagement rate. You’re searching for a community! 

#9 Ask for reviews

Everyone knows that Google Reviews can make or break a restaurant’s reputation. You need to gather good ones fast to stay afloat. There is no shame in asking, and the best time to ask is right after a good experience. If you gathered their email, send a message asking for a review. Then, explain why it’s important the same day they came to your restaurant. Put a sign up that offers a discount for a completed review. Do whatever it takes — this is especially important during an opening. 

ask for ratings for your restaurant

#10 Create unique specials for your community

Find ways to be a part of your community culture. If a new library opens up, offer 10% to anyone who comes in with a library card that day. If there was a marathon, give a free side to anyone who ran. Be active and listen. There are always open opportunities. 

#11 Completely fill out your profile on all your social media platforms

Social media platforms and search engines reward complete profiles. Every platform you’re on should have at least:

  • Your address
  • Your hours
  • The type of food you serve
  • Your phone number
  • Delivery/takeout specifics. 
  • Some description of your story and what makes your food unique.
  • Mention of the immediate neighborhood you’re in. This helps with local SEO.
  • A link or prompt to make a reservation. 

#12 Don’t spread yourself too thin

Master of all is the master of none. One of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to do everything on every platform. Don’t do that to yourself. Focus on Instagram and Facebook as a restaurant, and maybe add in Pinterest. Whatever you do, do it well; it’s the only way to make social media work. 

#13 Use localized retargeting to push for reviews and run special promotions

By using geographic targeting on Facebook, you can set up a campaign that only targets the physical location of your restaurant. This is a super clever way to ask your customers what they think of your restaurant and prompt them to leave a review. You can also use this same strategy to target festivals. For example, if you’re known for your bloody marys, you could put an ad up targeting people who are at a bloody mary festival on a particular day.

#14 Use offline events to analyze your Facebook advertising ROI

Facebook has a fantastic feature called offline event tracking. This allows you to export customer information and tie it to your advertising.  For example, if you ran a delivery campaign to offices around your neighborhood, you could export all your delivery sales from that period and upload that information into a .csv on Facebook. It tells you exactly how much revenue your ads generated and it asks: did this person see this ad before taking action? If so, add that specific order value to that ad campaign. 

Once you nail down a strategy that is bringing in more customers to your restaurant, you can up the budget.

Put these tips to the test

If you want specific action items on how to build lasting relationship with your customers, our Social Media for Restaurants: Where Great Service Begins Guide has your back.

Our guide covers how to drive engagement with online marketing and how social media platforms are changing the dining experience. You’ll finish the guide knowing what steps you need to take, one post at a time.

Give your restaurant the edge above your competitors — download the Social Media for Restaurants Guide and tweet your way to the top.