1. Own your presence: Your customers are online and looking for you — whether you have taken the time to set up your presence or not. Don’t let them control it for you. Take ownership of your online identity and manage it with as much care as you do with your in-house identity.
2. Find the right platforms: Social media is the place to be if you’re hoping to successfully market your brand and connect with customers. However, not all social media platforms may be right for your business. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram seem to be the platforms best-suited to the restaurant industry, but you may want to experiment with others as well.
3. Make it about them: Many businesses often make the mistake of jumping into social media and talking about their brand, their promotions, their hours of operation, etc. The common theme? They’re only talking about themselves. The point of using social media is so you can be social, so you can connect with your customers and prospects. Make sure you’ve got a good mix of self-promotional chit-chat as well as genuine interactions with your audience.
4. Think before you share: A lot of brands have gotten themselves into hot water by sharing content or commentary that wasn’t deemed appropriate on social media. If you’re going to take the time to engage with your customers in such a public way, take time to make a plan. Then sit on it for a bit… and then review that plan again. Better to be safe than sorry.
5. Be real: Much like how you would expect your team to approach in-person interactions inside your restaurant, your communications on social media needs to be genuine. If your audience senses any sort of phoniness, disinterest, or negativity, they may jump ship for someone who seems to care more.
6. Offer exclusives: Brand loyalty doesn’t just stem from having a great dining experience. You know this. That’s why you probably have a loyalty program or some other sort of exclusive deal offering to drive more regular business to your restaurant. Well, social media is a great place to offer this as well. Incentivize your followers to jump into the discussion and reward them when they do so.
7. Share some love: One of the most important things to remember about social media is that your audience wants to know you’re listening. If someone happens to mention you, share one of your posts, or post a photo of a dish they had at your restaurant, let them know you saw it. Respond in a timely fashion, tag or mention them, and show your appreciation.
8. Listen: You’ve taken the time to talk and talk and talk through points 1 through 7. You’ve done a great job in mixing it up and making sure it’s about you, though it’s really mostly about them. Now it’s time to step back and listen. You already give your customers an opportunity to voice their feedback through a variety of outlets. Social media needs to be one of them, too.
9. Take the good with the bad: When you start listening to your audience, you may find that what they have to say isn’t all positive. And that’s okay. Not every guest is going to walk away completely satisfied. That’s why it’s your job to listen, acknowledge, and rectify. You can manage this communication on social media, but it needs to be done with care.
10. Manage the relationship: When you take ownership of your social identity, you’ll find that people want to connect with you and share their feedback — positive or negative. Make sure you have developed a plan that will allow you to consistently and effectively communicate with your guests after they’ve provided you with feedback. And, better yet, invest in a tool that will help you monitor the multi-channel feedback (not just social), manage the relationship, track for operational trends, and (hopefully) increase the overall loyalty to your brand