Social media is here to stay, so how does a restaurant utilize it properly? First, social media is not a replacement for traditional marketing; it is only another tool in your marketing toolbox. You might ask the reason you need to engage with social networks at all. Some statistics on social media and purchasing habits:

  1. Consumers are 71% more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals. (HubSpot)
  2. 49% of consumers use Facebook to search for restaurants. (Mashable)
  3. 58% of Facebook users expect offers, events or promotions when they become a fan. (HubSpot)
  4. 81% of U.S. survey respondents say friends’ social media posts have directly influenced a purchase decision. (Forbes)
  5. 15.1 million consumers go to social media channels before making a purchase decision. (Knowledge Networks)

What does one take from all of this? First, you do not control your brand anymore, not in the traditional sense. Consumers are talking about your brand (your restaurant) whether you like it or not, so it is up to you to engage the “community.” Even if you are not using any social media channels, check out your business listing on websites such as Yelp and Local.com. You will see reviews of your establishment, and, yes, some of them are negative. Knowing the above statistics, you need to engage the community. If a user gives you a rave review, thank the person. If the review is negative, you need to address it and not arbitrarily dismiss it. Show the consumer you care!

What will be the big social media trends for 2013? Let’s start with mobile. More than 100 millions users have a smartphone. Mobile Internet is due to overtake wired use by 2015. Are you ready? The second big trend is video. This is such a no-brainer, especially when combined with the growing use of mobile devices.

Here is one example of how video could help your social reach. Suppose you have a special for the night: Let’s say osso bucco. You record the chef on your smartphone, for 30 to 45 seconds, explaining the dish and the reason it is special. You then go to YouTube and upload the video. YouTube has great video-editing capabilities. You place your logo on the video and post. Then, you use Twitter to tweet about the dish and post the video on your Facebook page. Maybe you let Foursquare followers know where you are having that dish, and you create a quick video blog about it. The point is no matter what channels you are using, integrating video is a great way to spread your message.

I was talking to Steve Vilnit, director of fisheries marketing at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. He says the department regularly takes chefs out on the bay to show them the variety of seafood caught in Maryland. I can think no better way to promote your restaurant and local sourcing. What a wonderful promotional video you could create by showing people how you source locally.

Data collection is another key use of social tools and of your website. What is the point of having a website or a loyalty program or social media if you do not capture user data? This is the reason it is so critical to have calls to action on your site. A call to action urges a user to take immediate action. It can be in the form of an e-mail-newsletter sign-up. Maybe you tell people to call, and you offer a discount to the first 20 respondents. Anything that can capture a customer’s name and contact information benefits your business in the long run.

In marketing, we say you need at least seven touch points a year to keep your brand in the forefront of mind. We all know it is much harder to gain a customer than to keep one. Using social media to reach out to customers is a powerful tool for keeping customers thinking about your brand.

This post is by Paul Beaulieu of Harrison Marketing.

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5 Responses to “Why is social media still underutilized by restaurants?”

  1. cat says:

    why am i here..oh right. cause of school……..

  2. Doggy Dog says:

    All this talk about Social Media is stupid we have it YAY!! Dont neeed to put up articles about it….

  3. FunFun says:

    your suppose to be posting stuff about the articles not being immature children…. get a life!

  4. Great article. Thanks for sharing