Four easy social media moves to re-engage customers.
Throughout the pandemic, restaurateurs everywhere dreamed of the day they could reopen at full capacity. As vaccinations increase and COVID-19 cases decline, that dream is finally becoming reality, albeit one that comes with a new set of challenges.
When the coronavirus hit, it put its infamous spikes right through our crystal balls, shattered the status quo and taught us that in a world of uncertainty, we can only count on change. Restaurant owners are facing staggering losses (the National Restaurant Association reports 2020 sales were $240 billion less than projected) and having to navigate a new and dramatically more competitive landscape. How can they reconnect with customers in this “new normal”?
Social media can be a powerful, immediate and cost-efficient way to create buzz and demand, especially for small restaurant owners. In a survey conducted earlier this year by digitalcommerce360.com, 72 percent of respondents reported an increase in their social media usage since the start of the pandemic. With in-person activities at a standstill, consumers traded the real world for the digital one, using social media as a vital connection, not just to friends and family but also to their favorite businesses. Of course, the restaurant industry has relied heavily on social media for many years, well before the advent of COVID. In a survey conducted in 2019, 45 percent of respondents said they had chosen and visited a restaurant based on that establishment’s social media content. Further, 22 percent said that restaurants’ social media posts also convinced them to return.
Social media will play an even more critical role over the next several months as restaurants began to recover from shutdown. Of course, most small restaurant owners don’t have the bandwidth or budget to mount a robust, professional quality social media program. But they can work smarter, not harder, to fill their tables. Here are four simple strategies that owners can use to dust off their digital doorway, improve content and engagement, and drive business, all without cost or a significant time commitment.
Find your sweet spot—If you feel like you’re spread too thin trying to manage all of your social channels, see if one is performing better than the others and focus your energies there. Some channels don’t make as much sense for certain types of businesses. We eat with our eyes, so visual platforms like Instagram are fantastic for restaurants – more so than say, Twitter which can be beneficial for sharing news and managing customer service but doesn’t easily capture what you’re selling.
Make your content crave-worthy—One thing we know for certain, people are craving experiences and interaction right now. Instagram and Facebook, in particular, offer you the chance to showcase and promote how it will look and feel to be back in your restaurant. Share images of amazing food, crop images to capture a dining room full of smiling faces, post a video of kitchen staff prepping or plating food, and don’t forget to add some upbeat background music. In short – bring the experience a customer would receive in your restaurant to life. It costs nothing but effort.
Make it as easy as possible for people to know what is happening with your restaurant—Check your information online at least once a month to make sure you’re always providing the correct information to customers. Updating your contact information, hours and any other important information that’s listed on social media is a great way to always stay in constant communication with customers. Another easy way to entice your customers is by regularly featuring snapshots of menu items in your posts.
Create social media content to get the word out about your reopening—As you approach the reopening of your business and the various stages of Covid-19 restrictions in your area, it’s smart to update your customers and followers every time you make a change.
Every restaurant small or large needs a social life, especially now. With these simple strategies, your restaurant can put its best face—and food—forward. For additional tips, download the free Small Business Owner's Social Media Marketing Playbook from Ripl.
Clay McDaniel is the CEO of Ripl, Inc., a privately held software technology company based in Seattle, Washington, that provides marketing software and premium subscription services to small businesses globally via its mobile and web applications. Ripl is partnering with American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation on their “Backing Historic Small Restaurants” Grant Program. As part of the grant package, each restaurant will receive a one-year free membership to Ripl to help its marketing efforts. The Ripl app provides an all-in-one cost efficient social media marketing tool for small businesses. To learn more about Ripl, view tutorials, or receive support, visit http://www.ripl.com or the Ripl Facebook Page.