Social media is massive- and you already know that. Whether Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook or WeChat, everyone is on social media, tweeting, snapping, checking in and sharing their lives. For many it’s the first thing they check in the morning. A world of advertising and engagement.
While many restaurants are embracing customer driver social media, others prohibit diners from sharing pictures of their experience. The New York Times has reported that many restaurant owners aren’t enthusiastic about diners taking pictures of their food and sharing them with legions of online followers. Describing the practice as invasive and a breach of dining etiquette, some owners are prohibiting customers from photographing food.
A significant number of consumers recommended brands, products and services via social media. Instagram meal pictures are so popular, in fact, that they form a significant percentage of content on the site, with their posting being a well-known stereotype of Instagram. They share pictures of their delicious looking meals, tag their location and bingo- free advertising to their followers for your restaurant. In addition to this, the pervasive nature of social media in the lives of the average consumer has led to increased levels of trust in social recommendations. Consumers are turning to social media for recommendations and ideas on where to eat out, based on comments and images shared by other users.
The Need to Connect
Consumers have a strong desire to connect with brands and other consumers via social media. As a result, restaurant brands need to proactively engage their customers through mobile and social channels rather than making it harder for customers to distribute images and mentions to their social networks. Any customer who is willing to capture an image of their meal and distribute it to followers online is a potential brand advocate. As a restaurant owner, it’s your job to empower brand advocates and develop strategies to amplify their messages.
The How-To of Social Media
How do you actively engage social media users in your restaurant? Offer a hashtag, featured prominently. May restaurants have ‘Instagram worthy’ sections on their menu, for example, milkshakes where the presentation is taken to the next level (with an according match in price tag). Not only does it encourage customers to buy the pricier items on your menu, it reminds them to ‘share’ with their followers, meaning increased engagement for your brand. Don’t underestimate the importance of your engagement either. When public posts tag your brand, respond to those posts- negative or positive. Praise positive posts and reiterate that you hope to see them again soon! Respond to negative posts by apologising for negative experiences, and using the opportunity to address issues in your brand and determine problems. Consumers will see you engaging and trying to create awesome experiences for each customer, and they will trust you for it.
The best restaurants don’t just sell food—they sell experiences. For many customers, social media is part of the appeal of dining out because it enables them to share their experiences with their online communities. So by encouraging customers to distribute images and messages about their meals, you can enhance the customer experience you offer your guests.
Join the Conversation
Social media also holds your restaurant accountable for quality and consistency. When customers are encouraged to share their experiences with others, every dish counts and your restaurant is incentivised to better understand the impact food presentation has on guests’ perceptions of food quality. Consistency becomes key, and your brand better for it.
Social Media can be intimidating because they remove control from you about how your brand is perceived and marketed. But by properly managing the customer experience and embracing social media engagement, you can substantially increase the amount interest and engagement in your restaurant, which will only positively affect your bottom line.