Bar and Restaurant: Going Social

Use geolocation platforms, ratings and review sites, and social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to attract new customers.

Savvy bar and restaurant owners know that social media is one of the hottest marketing tools today. Here’s how social media can help you attract and retain customers.

Geolocation platforms

Geolocation lets customers use the GPS feature in their smartphones to “check in” at your bar or restaurant. Customers can check in on Facebook or Foursquare, a geolocation app that links with their Twitter and Facebook accounts. When your customers’ friends see that they’re at your bar or restaurant, they’ll be motivated to come by as well. Encourage customers to check in by offering promotions and discounts such as a free drink, a discount off their meal, or some other reward. Get creative; look for check-in rewards that are likely to get shared. Visit Facebook and Foursquare for more on marketing your bar or restaurant with check-ins.

Review sites

Once you’ve claimed and optimized your bar or restaurant’s listing on local search, ratings and review sites (see our article on online marketing), you need to monitor your reviews. Check the sites daily, since even setting up a Google alert on your bar or restaurant name won’t show you all the reviews. Respond quickly to negative reviews, but don’t get defensive. Thank the reviewer for their feedback and try to remedy the situation. If necessary, ask to contact the person privately via email or phone to discuss the issue.

It’s important to thank people for good reviews as well—remember the point of social media is to engage with your customers. And personalize your comments whenever possible. If someone comments on how awesome your desserts are, instead of just saying “Thanks,” say “Thanks, glad you loved our fries.” Ask if you can feature positive reviews on your website or marketing materials as testimonials. Consider all reviews a (free) opportunity to learn what your bar or restaurant needs to improve.

Social media sites

Facebook and Twitter are the best-known social media sites, but up-and-comer Pinterest, where users “pin” photos to virtual “pinboards,” is attracting attention with its visually oriented focus. All three can work well for a restaurant or bar.

Twitter is a great way to share timely information—for instance, you can tweet about today’s lunch special at 11:00, when people are starting to think about lunch, or send a 3:30 tweet with a code good for a free happy hour appetizer. Pinterest is more branding-focused; use mouthwatering photos of food and drink, or create theme boards (“Beers We Love” or “This Sunday’s Brunch”). Facebook is a happy medium of both—you can use it for timely posts and deals, while also featuring drool-worthy visuals.

Best practices:

  • Get visual.

    Even on Facebook and Twitter, photos often get more response than text-only posts. Try posting photos of the daily special at your restaurant, or a refreshing new beer your bar just put on tap. Also post photos of events at your bar or restaurant, like the Tuesday Trivia contest winners or the diners enjoying your Easter Sunday menu.

  • Engage.

    Social media isn’t a one-way street. Engage with customers by asking questions (“What’s your favorite item on our appetizer menu?”), conducting surveys (“What classic cocktail would you like our mixologists to create for you?”), or getting quick feedback (“What should we name this dish?”).

  • Have fun.

    Social media isn’t supposed to be corporate, so make sure your pins, posts and tweets reflect your and your business’s personality—whether that’s an irreverent pub, a family-oriented pancake house, or an earnest vegan cafe.

  • Track results.

    Facebook and Twitter offer free analytics tools you can use to measure the results of your social media activity; use them. Note what types of posts and what times of day or night get the most responses. More important, note which social media promotions actually drive traffic into your bar or restaurant.

  • Cross-promote.

    Include links to your social media accounts on your bar or restaurant’s website, and put signage in your windows, at your hostess station or on your menus encouraging users to follow you on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.

Third-party apps:

Managing social media can get overwhelming. Here are some tools to simplify things.

  • NutshellMail monitors your business’s Facebook and Twitter activity related to your business and emails you a summary.
  • Mediafeedia, for Facebook, lets you schedule posts, manage multiple Facebook pages, get email notifications about activity on your pages and more.
  • Tweetdeck (owned by Twitter) helps you sort all your incoming Twitter data, schedule tweets and manage multiple Twitter accounts.

Pros

Cons

Social media tools are free, and tap into the social nature of the bar and restaurant experience. 

Although you won’t have to invest any money in social media tools, they do require an investment of time and effort to succeed.

 

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By Rieva Lesonsky