UTILISING SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media is perhaps one of the most talked about yet least understood areas of digital marketing. It’s hard not to get swept up in the frenzy, between the massive media hype and the ever-changing social media landscape. However, you should always remember that marketing on social media platforms is still just marketing, and the same fundamental principles apply no matter which channel you use. The following is a simple guide to social media marketing for restaurants and cafes, with some general tips on how to think about social media, as well as some specific applications.
What Is Social Media?
To get started, let’s talk about what we mean when we say social media. At its heart, social media is any website or app where people can share information about common interests. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are probably some of the most obvious examples. There are hundreds, if not thousands of social media networks to choose from, each serving a particular niche and purpose. Here are some of the most commonly used platforms:
- Facebook: the 800-pound gorilla, Facebook is THE most used social media platform for restaurants, allowing you to connect with fans, share multimedia messages (images and videos) and also run promotions such as sweepstakes.
- Twitter: the king of the short form essay, Twitter is great for quickly updating your fan base.
- Instagram: the leading image-based social media platform, Instagram has transformed smartphone photos into an art form.
- YouTube: the most popular video sharing site, YouTube is the second-largest search engine after Google and has a user-base that rivals Facebook.
This is just a quick list of social media networks that hospitality business owners should consider. Social media platforms are always evolving and overlapping, and new players enter the market every day, which can be very confusing. One simple way to decide where to focus your efforts is to find out which social media channels your customers are using. If they are already talking about you on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you need to join in and, better yet, lead the conversation.
Once you have figured out what each social media platform is good for, you need to decide what your content will be and how you will interact with your fan base. This is where you need to carefully consider the value that you are providing. Your customers (or potential customers) are paying you with the currency of their time and attention.
In exchange, they offer you the opportunity to reach out to them anytime you want. Do not repay them with content that wastes their time as they will quickly move elsewhere and retain a negative association with your brand.
Nobody knows your customer base better than you, so think about what your clientele might consider to be valuable. This could be:
- Mouth-watering photos of your food and cocktails that spark their imagination and appetite.
- Details about upcoming events that will excite your customers.
- News and commentary about causes and organisations that your customers feel passionately about.
Make a list of what you think your customers would like to see and try it out. Don’t be afraid to experiment and test new ideas. Your customers will let you know very quickly what works and what doesn’t.
In the world of social media, review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Zomato (formerly Urbanspoon) occupy a special place. Many customers will check out one or more review sites before selecting a new restaurant, and even small changes in average ratings can have a profound impact on a cafe’s bottom line. There is often a contentious relationship between restaurants and cafes sites for precisely this reason.
Here are a few tips on how to deal with review sites:
NEVER create fake reviews. Ever. Fake reviews are easy to detect, and if you get caught your business can suffer irreparable damage to its reputation.
DO ask customers for reviews whenever you get a chance, whether it is in person, on the bill, or over social media. Oftentimes all you have to do is ask nicely.
READ reviews but take them with a grain of salt. Reviews can sometimes offer insight into a fixable issue that can improve your product and service. Don’t be disheartened by overly negative reviews, as these are often exaggerated.
CONSIDER responding to reviews. This is a tricky one, because it can end up occupying a lot of your time, and will not necessarily translate directly into more business. Customers will appreciate the owner/manager engaging with them, or personally dealing with problems. Always respond to negative reviews calmly and professionally – a negative review handled well can sometimes be more valuable than a positive review.
- TAKE CONTROL of your page on review sites if possible. Zomato now lets you own your page so you can respond to reviews, post menus and update business details. Some restaurants and cafes now use Zomato as their foremost presence online, instead of developing a website.
While review sites are important, at the end of the day the best thing you can do is to focus on the quality of your product and service, and the results will speak for themselves.
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