A reported 79 percent of Americans have at least one social media account. That’s 260,000,000 people, just in the U.S.

And social media is where all those people turn to find recommendations for bars and restaurants. So your online cachet can either make or break you when it comes to getting new business in the door.

There are dozens of things you can do to gain more followers and increase engagement. But today, I’m going to share the top three things you should do to maximize your impact on social media.

Let’s start with the easiest tip (which is also the most neglected by restaurants).

1. Reply to Every Comment

Yes, every comment, good or bad. 

Why respond to bad comments? Because 88 percent of customers are less likely to come back if you don’t respond to their complaints on social media. 

And why respond to good comments? Because 71 percent of customers who have a positive social media interaction are likely to recommend you to others.

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And yet, complaints that tag restaurants on social media only have a 29 percent chance of getting a response. And positive comments fare even worse — only a 23 percent chance of a response.

Responding to customer comments is always a win — as long as you do it right.

Respond Quickly

Responding to comments on social media isn’t something that you should do when you get around to it. It needs to be done promptly. 

78 percent of those who post a complaint on Twitter expect a response within an hour. This doesn’t mean that you or your social media manager need to be glued to your feeds 24/7. 

But you should check them at least once per day.  Dedicate 20 or 30 minutes each day to checking and responding to comments on every platform you use.

And make one person responsible for comment responses. That way, no one will assume that “someone else” will respond. Quick time-saving tip: you can respond to Facebook and Instagram messages on your restaurant’s Facebook page. 

Once you’ve synced up your accounts, go to your Facebook Inbox. You’ll be able to type out responses for both Facebook and Instagram comments on your computer, instead of tapping them out on your phone.

Be personal

Don’t use “stock” responses to reply to comments. 

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Use the commenter’s name and respond to their comment specifically. This will make them feel like you’re really paying attention.

And consider signing off on your responses with your name. It feels more intimate and will remind the commenter of the people behind the business.

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Don’t get mad

It can be tempting to lash out when someone insults you or the business that you’ve worked so hard to build. 

But don’t do it. 

First of all, clapping back at a customer never looks good. It just makes others who read the interaction think you’re unprofessional. 

And second, try to remember the person on the other side of that comment.  What if this was the first date night that a young couple has had since their baby was born? They’d be justified in being upset if their night was ruined by poor service.

So it’s up to you to make it right.

If there needs to be a conversation about the complaint, take it out of the public comments. Ask the commenter to send you a direct message so you can get to the bottom of the problem.

And don’t delete the comment. Trying to hide negative feedback doesn’t work, and it looks cowardly. 

The only time you should delete a negative comment is if it includes profanity or bigoted language that will offend other customers.

2. Perfect Your Look

Choosing a look for your accounts gives your followers a taste of what it’s like to come to your restaurant, even if they’re halfway around the world.

And an eye-catching feed will draw users in, encouraging them to hit that precious “Follow” button.

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So how do you do it?

Decide on an aesthetic

Spend some time thinking about the feeling you want your customers to have when they are in your restaurant.

Are you trying to make them feel cheerful? Romantic? Healthy?

What can you do to bring that vibe onto your social media feeds?

McDonald’s includes their happy red and yellow brand colors in almost every picture they post on social media. Smiling faces, tasty food — their feed is a cheerful place.

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Ahi Poke in London focuses on a certain background color for a few months, before switching it up. Their feed is clean and fresh, but the rotating colors prevent it from getting stagnant over time.

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You don’t have to focus on color to have a consistent aesthetic.

For example, Olive Garden chooses to focus on the subject of each image. They keep things simple, with images of food on white plates, sitting on wood tables.

The food is the highlight of each image, taking up most of the frame. Although their pictures feature a variety of colors, they’re still consistent with their subjects and composition.

You can also create an aesthetic with a filter. Choose just one or two, and apply them consistently to all photos.

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You can create your own custom filters and light levels with third party apps. This will help you to create a bright, cheerful theme, or a dark, moody one, depending on your preference.

Organize your feed

This tip primarily relates to Instagram, but it can have a big impact. Consider how your images appear on your feed as a whole, rather than your individual posts.

Instagram shows images in a grid on mobile. So consider how those images will look all together.

You can do groupings of three related images all in a row, like Taco Bell.

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Or, you can block out your posts, using different brand colors or different types of images in a pattern.

When users are considering whether or not to follow your account, they’ll first look at your profile. And an eye-catching grid will be an indication that you post interesting, attractive content.

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Post images on all platforms

It’s true that Instagram and Pinterest are the most photo-heavy social media platforms. But images perform better on Facebook and Twitter than you might think.

Photos on Facebook get way more engagement than text-only posts. They get 53 percent more likes and 104 percent  more comments!

And on Twitter, images get twice as much engagement as text-only posts.

So keep that brand theme consistent, not only on Instagram but across all platforms. The more images you post, the better your overall engagement will be.

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3. Be Fun, Human, and Relatable

No one wants to talk to a robot.

You’re a person talking to other people. For some reason, when businesses start talking to customers through the filter of the internet, they forget that.

“Use” becomes “utilize.” “Eating” becomes a “dining experience.”

Ditch the corporate execu-speak and talk like you would in real life.  You’ll create more meaningful relationships with your followers as you show the real person behind the account. If you wouldn’t say it to your best friend, don’t put it on the internet.

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A few more things to remember:

It’s not about you

Social media isn’t a place to shout about your goals or achievements. It’s a place to engage in meaningful conversations. So instead of focusing on what you want, remember to consider what your followers want to see. Content that’s educational and entertaining will go a lot further than simply advertising.

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Don’t hide (all) of your flaws

What’s something we all have in common? No one is perfect.

People like to see others mess up every now and then. It can be fun to share a mistake or something that went wrong.

Did the chef burn that pizza to a crisp? The home cooks out there will relate.

Is there a typo on the menu? Why not laugh about it?

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A little humility goes a long way.

That’s not to say you should share a bad health inspection report, or an argument you’re having with the club owner next door. Keep it light, and keep it positive.

Go behind-the-scenes

People love a peek behind the curtain. Share some behind-the-scenes info with your fans!

Post a video demonstrating how to make one of your signature recipes. Or show off your perfectly organized walk-in — a site most people never get to see.

Share some anecdotes of how you got your restaurant started. Or post with pride when your oldest child graduates high school.

Restaurants are about more than just food — they’re about community. Your customers and followers want to get to know you, so let them.

Social media is an extension of your restaurant. It deserves the same amount of care and consideration that you put into branding and decor on-site.

These tips are simply the online versions of things you’re already doing — responding to feedback, creating an atmosphere, and being personable and friendly to your customers. Although implementing these tips will take some time, there will be a payoff in the form of a strong brand, customer loyalty, and great feedback that you can use to get even better.

Are you ready to see an increase in followers, engagement, and revenue? What’s stopping you from taking charge of your social media, and making it a beneficial part of your marketing strategy? 

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