You post invitations to your brunch. You post photos of your food. The photos look pretty good. You’re getting over 20 Likes on your Instagram posts and that feels like progress. But, aside from Likes, you’re not getting any engagement, you’re not really growing your audience, and it’s not moving the needle in your revenue.
You’re not alone. Most businesses that use social media plod along without getting results or return on investment. There is a solution. In fact, there are many solutions. There’s a myriad of strategies that can be used to make social media pay off (going viral is not one of them).
My favorite strategy is to outsource your social media to your customers.
- People are 3 times more likely to repost from people they follow than businesses they follow.
- Reach—your top 10 followers combined probably have way more followers than you.
- Creating brand advocates for your restaurant effectively expands your marketing efforts.
- Posting something positive about your restaurant is the same as an endorsement or personal recommendation.
- People trust personal recommendations even more than they trust online reviews (and they trust those a lot).
Did you notice one of the points wasn’t “because then you don’t have to do social media yourself”? Make no mistake, outsourcing your social media takes every bit of time and effort as any other strategy. And it gets results.
When I think of social media for restaurants, I think Instagram. Food and the social aspect of dining out are visual as well as emotional. Instagram is the best way to convey that message and is my frame of reference as I write this article. However, these strategies work with virtually all social media platforms.
How do I outsource my social media to my customers?
Mostly, you just ask. Ask them on your menu. Ask them at the bottom of your receipts. Ask them with a table stand. Ask them in your email marketing. Ask them on your social media.
Create a hashtag for your restaurant and start using it in all your posts. Ask your customers to tag their location (your restaurant) and use your hashtag. People eat first with their eyes—set up an area where the light is optimized for food photos and encourage guests to use it for pictures to post to their followers.
The Law of Reciprocity
Now that you’ve asked people to post about you in your restaurant and your social media, it’s time to enlist the law of reciprocity. Engaging with your brand evangelists in an authentic and positive way will keep them posting about you and encourage others to engage.
Much like reputation management, you need to respond to people who are posting about you. A ‘Like’ is a weak response. Comment. Thank them for coming in. Engage like you’re friends who want to hang out again.
Studies show that people get a similar dopamine boost when a brand responds to them as when one of their favorite celebrities does. When their followers see you responding and engaging with them, they will get a positive feeling about your restaurant and will be more likely to visit and post when they do.
Everyone wants to be acknowledged and felt like they’re being heard. It’s very powerful.
Keep the Ball Rolling
Be more proactive than reactive. Don’t just respond to everyone posting about you, become fans of your followers. Comment on pictures of their puppies. Comment on pictures of their kids. Comment on pictures of their kids playing with puppies.
Here’s the hard one: like and comment when they post about another restaurant. The restaurant business is not a zero-sum game. By supporting your followers supporting other restaurants, you will come off as confident and secure as well as a ’team player’.
This is also an awesome opportunity to gain some insights into what is important to your customers. Engaging with your followers this way demonstrates that you care about them beyond the dollars they spend in your restaurant.
All in all, I recommend that every hour spent on social media should be 10-15 minutes dedicated to posting. The remaining 45-50 minutes should be spent engaging with your followers and finding new people to engage with.
A few hundred engaged followers will move the needle for your restaurant far more than 10,000 passive followers.