Many restaurant owners have figured out by now that the need to have a Social Media presence.  All kinds of businesses, especially restaurants, are increasing their activity on Social Networks like Facebook and Twitter and now beginning to use Pinterest and Instagram.   Unfortunately, most restaurant social media efforts aren’t used effectively because restaurant owners don’t understand the difference between effective marketing and blatant advertising spam.

Here are some easy ways for local restaurant owners can to promote their business via more effectively using Social Media for Restaurants.

First lets discuss exactly what Social Networks are:

A Social Network is a platform that will allow you to connect with your customers on a more intimate level than you can using typical advertising methods.  It can be used to place your message directly into your customers’ inboxes or even to their cell phones.  Most people get social media notifications on their mobile devices, which increases the chances that they will view and interact with your restaurants message.

As a person that owns his or her own restaurant, the idea of having closer contact with your customers may excite you, but you may still be wondering, how you can promote without blasting your followers with unwanted advertisements?

Here are 4 easy ways to get more customers using Social Media for restaurants.

#1 – Have Your Customers Promote Your Restaurant For You!!

We all know the best way to advertise is word of mouth… and it’s more effective if it’s your satisfied customers.  But how do you get a satisfied customer to tell other people about their experience with your restaurant?

  • Offer Facebook Check-in Deals – offer a discount, discount appetizers or a free dessert in exchange for a check-in. (This can also be used on Foursquare)
  • Offer discounts off their bill or provide free items in exchange for sharing a photograph of their dishes on Instagram or Pinterest.
  • Create a hashtag on Twitter and then host giveaways or contests that require your customers to tweet something good about your restaurant using that hashtag.
  • Host giveaways or contests on Facebook that require them to share the contest with their friends. (The key to contests is they have to be really good… not a free cup of java)
  • Sponsor free events for bloggers and ask them to Tweet about the event.  (This can be gold!! Not only can you generate more links to your site, but bloggers usually have cult like followings, and their recommendations carry tremendous weight)

A great example of this is having a  free bloggers luncheon, and during various times throughout the event, prompt the bloggers to take a few seconds to Tweet about the food or share their experience on Facebook or Google+.  As long as the food is good and the atmosphere is comfortable,  bloggers will be more than happy to share the details with their followers.

These are great ways to get your followers to do the social sharing for you, now here are some ways to promote your restaurant on your side of the table.

#2 – Create Social Media Specific Deals

Post  Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare, or Instagram only deals.  Give them a coupon code that they can use to get a discount or free item in your restaurant.  Not only does this create a call to action for people to join your social media community, it is also a great way to track how effective it is.

#3 – Remember That The Goal Is To Grow “Offline”

Many people seem to forget that while the activity is being share online, most people spend the majority of their time offline!  Be sure to get involved with your community and look for things that can enhance your brand by being a part of.  Then, once you find a charity or organization you feel is in line with your personal and business views, encourage your customers to get involved by offering an incentive for sharing the information about your cause on their social networks.  Be sure to give them an incentive though… for each share, your restaurant will donate a certain amount to that community group, charity or cause.  This becomes even easier to promote if you get heavily involved with the organization and people associate your business with the group.  Being a sponsor can help that too 🙂

I would suggest that you try your best to find a cause or organization that is not controversial or one that could have a polarizing effect!   Starbucks had some recent issues with guns and their coffee shops… and while it generated great buzz, might not always be the best for long term business.  People are more willing to patronize a business that they know isn’t just there to make money, but one that also cares about what they care about.

#4 – Think Outside Of The Circle

Don’t be afraid to do something that hasn’t been done before.  Allow people to sign up to your loyalty progam on your Facebook page.  Rename (or create) one of your more popular drinks using social media jargon… or better yet, use Youtube to demonstrate how the drink is made.  You can also create cooking videos or host events or benefit dinners and tie them all into social media.

Use QR codes on your menu to provide ingredients, health facts, recipes, or just simply what wine goes best with which meals.  You can also post them around your restaurant so your customers can scan them and be taken directly to your Facebook or Twitter page (any page on the web).  Scary as it may sound… you would be surprised how many men will check this out if placed above a urinal (where else are they supposed to look?).

The sky is the limit for creating creative and effective ways to get people to your social media profiles.  The important thing is to make sure that the content you provide is relevant and engaging.  Don’t fall into the trap thinking that people want to see a Twitter feed filled up with the same discount posted every 20 minutes.   It is entirely possible that you don’t have the time to handle this yourself… so find a digital marketing agency like these guys if you need help.