SUCCESSFUL RESTAURANT MARKETING THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA
Let this serve as a warning regarding the changing climate of our business (and please don’t shoot the messenger). Social networking as a medium for spreading the message of your business is here to stay. It has pervaded many industries, and it is in the process of doing so for the restaurant business. There are only two reasons that more restaurants don’t use online social networks to advertise: there is not enough time in the day, and some restaurant operators are, how shall we say, slightly stuck in their ways. However, the chance exists that those restaurants who fail to embrace marketing through social media in the coming years will be left behind.
For a new restaurant looking to establish a regular clientele and to reach out to first-time diners, social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and the countless other popular sites offer a great and easy way to reach guests. On top of that, the various hospitality-oriented services like OpenTable and FohBoh let your guests look for updates and specials, make reservations and read about recent events. They’re too easy for your guests to use and too accessible for operators to avoid. They offer the advantage of letting guests sign up to be “friends” or add themselves to e-mail lists that gain them access to special offers and promos that operators issue. They also let operators cultivate a more palpable sense of what the experience of dining at their restaurant means by adding pictures, videos and descriptions of the experience.
In the end, it’s not about the message you are sending to your guests. It is about the medium through which your guests can most easily be reached. And that medium increasingly is online and through mobile devices. Restaurant operators who are quick to leverage these media gain access to countless and regular forms of advertising, most of which are free, quick and easy. These are the sort of quick blasts that fit into the lifestyles of most people in their 20s and 30s. Additionally, the successful restaurant pages encourage guests to describe their experience at your restaurant, providing instant word-of-mouth testimony.
By now, nearly every corporate venture uses email blasts to send out promos, coupons and news to clientele. Some of the more actively social corporations are teaming with social media marketing companies to reach young audiences who have developed the habit of marking their presence at a business or location with a smartphone, to tell friends where they are and what they are doing. A recent article in the New York Times on restaurant chains that use social networking services claims that this is ideal for restaurants that target men between the ages of 19 and 35. In other cases, sites like restaurant.com allow potential diners to scan promos and coupons from member restaurants who pay a small fee to advertise. Diners then choose where they are going to eat based on the deals they see. This is decidedly not geared toward the 19 to 35 male demographic. However, the two examples underscore the notion that nearly any restaurant can find an online outlet that targets their anticipated audience.
So, why doesn’t every restaurant have a Facebook page or hire a social media marketing company? Chances are that most restaurant operators don’t have the time to manage a restaurant and manage a social network campaign. Chophouse owners might all want to be experts on beef, but they’re not in cattle ranges sizing up the next cuts of ribeye. However, it’s worth parsing out a little time each week (or hiring someone to do it) to create a Facebook message, post a few promos, or upload a video. Also, OpenTable, restaurant.com and a few other restaurant-specific sites are excellent venues offering customer access and are relatively inexpensive. In the end, failure to manage a web presence can lead to not knowing what is being said about your restaurant online. And we all have learned that the immediacy of information means that the wrong message about your restaurant can reach thousands of eyes instantly.