Part 1: How to engage customers on Facebook
Over the next few months, we're looking at a few ways your full-service restaurant can take advantage of social media’s most popular channels. Not every platform will fit into your overall marketing strategy, but understanding how to connect with your customers within each network will help you decide which ones are best for you. It's an important decision; in fact, it's safe to say every restaurant can benefit from a well-thought-out social media presence. Before drawing up your plans, know that it's best to feature branded, complementary messaging across all of your media – on and offline – but also offer exclusive content on each. Carve out slightly different goals and find the right voice for every site. (It's not a good idea to auto-post everything you share on one channel to another—each network has its own style.)
Social media is a complex world, but it can also be endlessly entertaining. Let’s break it down channel by channel. To kick this series off, let’s look at Facebook, and its 1.15 billion* monthly global users.
Chances are, you’re on Facebook. The majority of your customers are, too. To form relationships with your customers/prospects and stay at the top of their minds, hang out where they spend a lot of time...Facebook! Two thirds (67 percent)** of online adults say they use the site, which boasts more than 4.5 billion* annual likes. The demographics slightly favor females and a younger crowd**, but the percentage of users in all age groups remains high, including 32 percent** of Internet users 65-plus. Facebook is so large that restaurant brands just cannot ignore it.
First, decide who will manage your Facebook content. You may assign multiple administrators, but each must have a personal Facebook profile in order to access your page. Setting up a Facebook page is different than creating a personal profile, because Facebook has separate rules for businesses. In fact, if you set up your brand as an individual, it’s against their rules, and you risk having your page shut down. If your administrators want to post status updates via mobile devices, they should download the Facebook Pages app. Some restaurants use Facebook as their sole web presence, but you shouldn’t replace your website with Facebook.
Plan in advance the types of content you intend to share. For some examples, let’s look at these restaurants' Facebook pages together: Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh, and OVIE Bar & Grill.
EXAMPLE ONE: Ruth’s Chris Steak House
The pros of Ruth’s Chris Steak House’s Facebook page:
The profile picture is the Ruth's Chris logo. It states that it is the “official fan page.” With 135 locations and multiple Facebook pages, it’s nice to reassure users they’ve landed in the right place.
The cover photo is of…steak. It’s a perfect brand fit. The photo also promotes the very timely National Filet Mignon Day on August 13. Your cover photo should change regularly to keep your page fresh. Facebook visitors will see the cover photo and the most recent posts.
The About line is informative but brief, making an instant personal connection with the founder herself. Facebook is about people, and Ruth’s Chris shows a human side immediately.
Offering regular “themed” updates is a great Facebook strategy, and Ruth’s Chris often posts funny tips from servers. These tips have high engagement numbers (measured in comments and “likes”), and they're written in a way that’s more about people than potatoes. Similarly, you could offer a weekly recipe, a video how-to, or a restaurant-related comic strip. By offering a weekly feature on one platform, you can invite and entice your followers on other social media to join you in this space.
EXAMPLE TWO: Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh
While the first example was a corporate Facebook account for the entire chain, this one is a Facebook account for one location. Many restaurant chains have both – a corporate page and individual location pages. Locality is an important factor in creating strong community with fans. Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh posts updates about the Three Rivers region, including Steelers football updates and local events. These topics probably won't be interesting to fans of Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas. Show your local community you care about the same things they do.
The menu tab allows visitors to see all their food and drink offerings with one click. They have a contest tab and another to collect email sign-ups. You can create Facebook tabs using many different services, such as www.tabsite.com, which is free. If you're searching for a way to let customers know about your locations, Bullseye location software offers a free tab to chains with fewer than 1,000 storefronts. Search for other freebies before making a tab purchase.
Photos and videos have the highest engagement rates and are often seen more than link or text-only updates. A recent video of a live music performance with audience participation showed off the restaurant's lively atmosphere. It earned 85 likes, 14 comments, and 35 shares. A Facebook share is the Holy Grail for engagement, and posts with higher engagement are more likely to be seen.
Another surefire way to improve engagement is to redistribute other content that has gone viral. Images of the “happy hump day” camel from a GEICO commercial spread like wildfire across the web when it made its TV debut this summer. Just by sharing a picture with their followers, Hofbrauhaus scored 269 likes, 16 comments, and a whopping 141 shares. Finding ways to use “already-hot” content will spike your Klout score — a good measure of your online reach.
EXAMPLE THREE: OVIE Bar & Grill
Unlike the first two examples, OVIE is a one-unit concept. A full-service restaurant with a 40-seat bar, OVIE also offers a “grab-and-go” section, which is perfect for their near-the-train location in Chicago’s Transportation Center.
They’ve incorporated an OpenTable tab and offer Belly rewards seamlessly on Facebook. OVIE does a great job tagging other accounts and using Facebook’s new #hashtags to join similar conversations by topic. It’s important to remember to talk with people, not at them. This post is relevant to OVIE’s community, shows off one of the chefs and includes friendly tags. Human interest stories are compelling and engaging in social media spaces.
If you ask 10 social media managers how to get likes, you might get 10 different answers. Contests and coupons tend to work well, and 52 percent*** of Facebook users will “like” a food or drink brand to get a discount. Promoting your social networks within your restaurant, on your menu, and on your website are great ways to build a fan base. Once you have an active community, don’t get caught up in continuing to offer Facebook-only discounts. Your engaged fans are now customers that spend money with you regularly. Save the promotions for recruiting new customers. Your fan base will continue to grow as you share brilliant content.
Post volume usually ranges from three times a week to three times a day, depending on the brand’s strategy. For small advertising fees, you can opt to have Facebook promote a post to ensure it’s seen by a certain number of users. These posts are different than Facebook ads and can be less expensive; many social media managers feel they are also more effective.
Studying Facebook pages, creating killer content, and building community will be ongoing marketing activities. With frequent social media changes, be ready to adapt as needed. And don’t forget to have fun! Facebook is a place to socialize online with your biggest fans; that’s a pretty exciting opportunity.
*Facebook’s Newsroom & Company Information: http://newsroom.fb.com/