Being Social

Whether you’re new to social media or have been doing it for quite a while, it’s always a good idea to review and refresh your strategy. Especially since things continue to evolve. New online platforms are launched, foodservice competitors come and go, and your own circumstances change.

Of course your strategy should cover the content of your posts, their frequency, and ways to measure your social media success. Here are some tips to help you plug in.

How Many?

Mallard Cottage in the Quidi Vidi Village, St. John’s, has a strong online presence linked from its website, including Pinterest, Reddit, Delicious, LinkedIn, and Stumblers. The restaurant posts a daily menu on Facebook, as well as frequent photos and news on Twitter and Instagram. Wolf in the Fog, in Tofino, put up an evocative Vimeo video for lasting impact. Choose only the social platforms that you can 1) do well and 2) do often enough, and 3) happily pay for now that most worthwhile services are no longer free.

Play to your strengths and choose your online formats accordingly. For example, lots of menu changes, events, professional-looking food photos, nicely written messages.

How Often?

being social insert 1Posting once a week to social media is a good rule of thumb, especially if the message is short and sweet. The overall consideration is: What story are you telling about your operation? For example, a “Great Dinner with the Family” story could mean regular messages covering a variety of topics that interest parents and grandparents. These could include encouraging a visit before or after sports events, talking up school news, and mentioning a special kids’ meal or healthy choices available. Even simple reminders that you offer booster seats, changing tables in restrooms, and toys and crayons to keep children entertained can be worth posting.

The Who

You don’t have to be the only one trying to keep up with social media. If there’s an employee or two you can trust, ask them to help you write posts or photograph food. They could suggest topics or offer ideas for images. And there’s no shame in hiring a social media expert, even if it’s just to get you started. What’s more, proofreading all posts is a must. Listing “naval orange” instead of “navel orange” looks bad. Just know that you are in charge of your brand, and should approve even the tiniest detail before anything verbal or visual goes live.

Icons Everywhere

Is your business on Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? Anywhere else? Stick those symbols in your windows, on your menu and website, and in any ads that you run. Remember to visually present them at events you attend—on booths, signage and fliers, for example. Any time you talk with a reporter or media rep about your business, be sure to mention your social media efforts. Information like “we’re running a photo contest for our 5-scoop ice cream sundae” piques your customers’ interest.

Positive Boost

If the review list is slim, here’s how to get more. First, ask! Next, post good reviews to your social media sites via links and badges. Finally, ask for shares. Request that fans and followers tweet or share their nice reviews. You could even reward them with a discount or inexpensive giveaway. (Note: Avoid saying you’re looking for positive reviews; that’s manipu-lative and could get you kicked off of review sites.) Remember that your business should retweet or like customers’ tweets and posts for even more leverage.

ROI

Any social media site you use has ways to track your “results.” Also, do a search of your operation and see what comes up. The things to mention often on your platforms are your location, your menu offerings and your events. A social media expert can help you determine the effectiveness of what you make happen online. And it can be a simple task for servers and hosts to query customers: “Did you see our Facebook post about the new burrito?”


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Mix It Up

Alternating promotional blurbs with useful information and something fun can be effective in gaining attention and loyalty for your business. Promos could be announcements of discounts, new menu items or a push for catering, takeaway or gift cards. Or any background about your chef, building or setting—even a clip of original music or back-of-the-house sing-outs on your Twitter audio. Recipes and cooking tips qualify as useful info. As for fun? How about linking to a newspaper story describing the world’s largest mushroom.

Families, sports fans, people looking for a fast lunch…Know your audience, and talk about what is intriguing to them. Another idea: Find one or more restaurants in other cities that closely resemble yours (or that you aspire to be like) and create posts similar to theirs.

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