How many hours a year do you think people spend browsing food images on any given social network? The market segment of 18 to 35-year-olds spends nearly 130 hours each year just looking at food on Instagram. That’s a lot of bacon and pizzas. What’s more, nearly a third of that segment will avoid a restaurant if they can’t easily find it on any social media platform.
Surviving in the restaurant business is already difficult enough, but now you also need a strong online presence to have any sort of edge over the competition. The good news is that we know a couple of ways for you to implement the best restaurant social media campaign to create an online presence and get a leg up over less social media savvy competitors.
Below, we’ll be giving you actionable tips for your own killer social media campaigns to expand your reach and draw in new clients.
1. Regular info blasts—educate clients to add value
Keeping your audience in the loop is absolutely vital. Consumers’ number one most desired content from brands is information. While it’s possible to wow people with snazzy graphics and well-produced video, it doesn’t mean they’ll be engaged—they have to be learning something.
That’s how Kogi BBQ turned into a near household name seemingly overnight. Despite starting with only one food truck on the streets of L.A. and a single smartphone, owner and founder Roy Choi leveraged their Twitter account into a massive following that continues to this day.
Their food speaks for itself, but the simple act of always keeping people informed of where they were going to set up shop for the night meant that diehards could almost always get to eat their food.
Kogi BBQ still updates their Twitter with their locations every single day.
Roy Choi and his team were in the right place at the right time—Twitter was just taking off when they started out, and they pioneered its use in creating word of mouth and street cred. The social media landscape has changed in the 10 years since Kogi started, but that doesn’t that mean the lessons learned from their success can be ignored today.
Bottom line: to create the best restaurant social media campaign possible, use your social media to constantly update your audience on your schedules, promotions, and deals—you’ll be adding more value to their experience with your social media account, which will keep them coming back. Consumers typically need to see something 2 to 4 times on social media before they decide to make a purchase, so getting them to return to your account will pay dividends in the long run.
2. Contests and giveaways get your audience engaged and participating
People love freebies—and none more so than hungry diners. Creating fun giveaways and contests is a great way to encourage your audience to engage with you. Showcasing the people who make up your most loyal followers can create a sense of community and spurs conversation on your social media accounts.
One great example of this is Pieology Pizzeria—they make liberal use of coupon giveaways, contests and polls. They even give their social media follower points on their Pie Life Rewards app. Each time they hold one of these social media events they make sure their copy and their imagery are as colorful and vibrant as their pies. As a result, they have loads of engagement from these posts—almost ten times their average comments and likes.
Even if you’re giving away something as big as a year’s worth of food, it’s a win-win situation—your brand gets massive exposure and word-of-mouth, the winners get to eat great food, and the contests get the thrill of possibly winning.
Pieology Pizzeria showcasing two great strategies: user-generated content and an enticing contest.
3. Make use of customer-submitted images
Everybody loves getting their 15 minutes of fame, and nowhere is that more prevalent than on social media. This is hardly a bad thing for a restaurant—with the rise of smartphones and great phone cameras, everyone is a potential photographer. Engagement is a key metric in the best restaurant social media campaigns, and leveraging customer photos to increase engagement for your social media account is as simple as choosing to repost images that feature your food.
This type of restaurant social media campaign was pioneered by Applebee’s with their Fantographer campaign in 2014. They encouraged diners to snap photos of what they ate at Applebee’s and to tag each photo with the #Fantographer hashtag. Then, they reposted the best pictures on all their social media accounts. Nearly a thousand photos were submitted, and almost a hundred were used—months worth of posts with nearly zero effort required. While they may not be the first brand to come to mind when you think of beautiful food, what they did increased their followers by over 30%.
Of course, you need to be judicious with your choice of images to repost, but most of the heavy lifting is going to be done by your followers. Pick images that are in line with your brand’s message and sufficiently high-quality that they don’t stick out like a sore thumb on your feed, and you’re good to go.
Shake Shack featuring their most adorable customer—drawing in pet lovers and food lovers alike.
So, what are the drawbacks? It costs nearly nothing to do and increases both followers and engagement. You need to be able to come up with creative ways to get your followers involved—simply asking people to take pictures of food isn’t going to be enough anymore. Give your audience something to do. Think of things like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and other viral trends. People are also much more likely to be inclined to participate if they can show off their personality alongside your food. Combine this with the giveaways and contests we mentioned before and you’ll likely have more submissions than you could ever want.
4. Show off your restaurant’s philosophy
Every restaurant has its own message that it’s trying to convey with its food. From how you source your ingredients to the care you put into your cooking, there are ideas that are being conveyed to your customers. People love learning about that kind of thing—this ties into our first point above, but instead of being simply informative, it can lend more personality to your brand and help create a deeper, more personal connection of ideals.
Everytable showcasing the process behind their food.
The best way to do this is through the use of video—distilling a brand philosophy down into a few lines of text is no mean feat, and the longer format of video will allow you to convey your message without turning it into a wall of text. Yes, it’s more expensive and more difficult to do than image posts, but a good video can be incredibly compelling content for your audience.
Everytable is a prime example of a restaurant with a great philosophy that is reflected in everything they do—even their social media. They regularly post content that features their ethos of fresh, healthy, and affordable food for everyone. They don’t just do it for likes and shares, either: they also use their social media accounts to direct people to volunteer for programs that help fight food insecurity. Now that’s a message that hits home.
5. Get the basics right and it’ll all pay off
Of course, all of these strategies have to be backed up by the fundamentals—great food and a great visual aesthetic. Food is one of the most popular hashtags on Instagram, simply because it’s easy to make it look good. There’s an opportunity for contrast that can make your dishes visually interesting. Of course, it depends on your brand: if you’re more upscale and low-key, a more subdued approach might fit you better. If you’re seen as a quirky, more hipster-style brand, then maybe you can go wild with your colors and imagery.
Whatever approach best fits your restaurant’s message, creating a compelling and consistent aesthetic is key. The default image and video editors for most social media platforms are pretty limited or nonexistent, so maintaining that kind of consistency requires third party programs such as Instasize that allow you a wider range of tweaks and presets that will really bring out the best from your content.
Pujol chooses a more understated color palette that’s still visually appealing and in line with its earthy aesthetic.
At the end of the day, hungry diners will choose a restaurant that is consistent, memorable, and reliable—these restaurant social media campaigns will ensure that your digital presence is in line with your brand image and that it adds value to the overall customer experience. You’re in the business of delighting customers, and you’ll have to do that on social media as well.