Restaurant Briefing: Facebook Dominates

Promote Your Business Restaurant Industry By American Express January 23, 2015

The National Restaurant Association’s 2014 Restaurant Industry Forecast includes interesting information about the rise of digital marketing, including social networks’ adoption by consumers and operators. With so much attention on restaurants’ use of channels such as Twitter and Instagram, it is worth noting that Facebook still dominates – by a large margin. Nearly all operators (99% in fine dining, 97% in family dining, 96% in casual, 93% in fast casual, and 90% in quickservice) report they currently use Facebook. (Twitter is the next most popular, but the penetration is typically about half of what it is for Facebook across segments, with the exception of fast casual, in which 78% of operators are using Twitter.) What’s more, operators indicate that they are likely to continue to predominately use Facebook – again by a large margin, with the exception of fast casual.

“Facebook has been around longer than Twitter or Instagram. It’s got more history with the industry and operators have more familiarity with it,” hypothesizes Annika Stensson, Sr. Manager Research Communications, National Restaurant Association, about Facebook’s dominance. “Facebook is also more versatile in that it’s far easier to share things if you have more to say than 140 characters’ worth, and you can use it to link back to your website, run promotions and contests, etc. From a user standpoint, Facebook definitely has the widest reach, with people logging in from their computers, tablets, and mobile devices.”

So, while the social network landscape will continue to evolve, Facebook is currently part of almost all restaurants’ marketing efforts. But are restaurants using the channel to its best advantage to promote their brands, engage and communicate with guests and potential guests, and drive traffic? Some ideas:

MAKE YOUR PAGE INFORMATIVE – including address, phone number, hours, the restaurant’s story and cuisine, menus, payment methods, etc. Link to your website and, if you have one, link to your mobile app. As with other online channels, contact information must be consistent with other online listings to help your page come up in searches, and accurate to create a good map of your location on your Facebook page. For Facebook Pages tools, click here

CONSISTENTLY POST A MIX OF ENGAGING CONTENT Engagement is essential on Facebook. When your posts are popular, relevant (meaning they inspire frequent clicks, Likes, comments), and recent, this increases what Facebook calls EdgeRank. Higher EdgeRank means Facebook will feed more of your posts into fans’ Timelines. Interesting content – updates with stories about the restaurant, your team or your suppliers; kudos to staff members who go above and beyond; questions and quizzes, photos and videos, daily specials and promotions, links to relevant information, etc. – all engage fans and encourage them to take action. Visuals play an important role – they say a lot about your restaurant and its food and are something people love to share. Facebook research shows that posts with pictures draw 120% more engagement than those without them. For more info on EdgeRank Checker, click here

We want Quartino’s Facebook page to give people a feeling of what it’s like to be in the restaurant, how lively and exciting it is. We post daily – fun facts (i.e., the bathroom tiles are the same tiles used in the New York City subways), as well as links to recipes, and lots of food photos, including the mosaic of food shots in our Timeline. We ran a contest all about the World Cup and encouraged our fans to take photos of their Quartino pizza and upload them using the hashtag, #QuartinoPizza. Additionally, we handed out postcards with the hashtag so users could find out about the contest both online and offline. I curate our page and comment on fans’ shares, plus respond to all comments and questions.” – Allana Mortell, Quartino Restaurant Social Media Specialist, Gibsons Restaurant Group, Chicago, IL

CONSIDER CONTESTS – including photo contests involving your food – as another way to engage Facebook fans. Contests (and prizes) incent people to provide their email addresses, check in at your restaurant, and comment on your posts. There are apps that will create and run contests and it’s important to familiarize yourself with Facebook’s guidelines.

We run monthly contests on The Firehouse Restaurant’s Facebook page posting questions about wine, food, or dining. To promote our Monday Courtyard Nights patio dining, we’ll ask, ‘Do you prefer eating indoors or outdoors?’ This not only engages fans, but gives us good feedback on patrons’ preferences. The question and the prize ($50 gift card for Courtyard Nights) are posted four times during the month. The winner is announced on our page and generally 100 people respond.” – Lindy Gervin, Marketing Assistant, Harvego Companies, Sacramento, CA

INTERACT AND RESPOND To encourage your fans to engage with you, it helps to engage with them. Respond to as many posts as you can and as quickly as possible – answer questions, address comments/concerns, and show your appreciation for those who post or comment, even if it’s a simple thank you. Negative comments are especially important to quickly respond to and resolve if possible. For Facebook help, click here

We constantly respond to posts on our official MacKenzie River Pizza Co. Facebook page, as well as on our local pages. The majority of people post on our wall and we respond publicly, typically thanking them for positive feedback, attempting to make good if there’s been an issue, and answering questions. It’s the way we ran our restaurants before social media existed – being aware of what customers want and responding to their needs so that they have a great experience, or if an experience was less than perfect, we make a strong effort to win them back. When we comment on a post, about 50% respond back thanking us. If we want to discuss something further, we’ll ask a guest to call and 90% do.” – Erica Coffman, Director of Marketing, Glacier Restaurant Group, hq, Whitefish, MT

Ads can encourage page Likes and drive traffic to your website and, importantly, to your restaurant. A Facebook ad feature allows businesses to geo-target consumers based on zip codes, which means that you can blast an ad to people in your area. For more info on Facebook ads, click here

We manage Facebook advertising for a number of our clients. We’ve found that Facebook having changed its algorithm in the past few months has meant that some of our clients are no longer enjoying the organic reach they once had, and thus advertising has become integral to their marketing plans. We do a variety of ads depending on their marketing goals – to increase Facebook Fans, customer engagement, reservations, and/or drive traffic to our clients’ websites. The good news is that it has been very effective toward reaching those goals, and it doesn’t require a big budget to make a difference.” – Heidi Hess, Email and Social Media Director, Fishbowl