As a restaurateur, social media deserves your attention now more than ever.

Food and beverage content is wildly popular across all social media platforms, and restaurants that take the time to make social media a strategic part of their marketing mix can reap major rewards.

The good news? Learning how to use social media for restaurants can be done with a minimal time commitment. Here are tips, best practices and examples of how restaurateurs are navigating — and conquering — social media marketing for restaurants.

Benefits of Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing can throttle everything from your website traffic to your establishment’s foot traffic. One 2016 report from Social Media Examiner showed that 66% of the marketers surveyed saw lead generation benefits when they used social media platforms for six or more hours per week.

Here are just a few other ways social media for restaurants can pay off.

Increased Brand Awareness

As of 2018, people spent 136 minutes a day on social media platforms. Engage them.

More Website Traffic

A 2018 experiment conducted by Hootsuite demonstrated that there is a positive correlation between social media engagements and better search engine rankings.

Better Customer Satisfaction

About 54% of customers would rather receive customer care via social media channels than over the phone or through email, and one study showed that customers that receive responses from brands on Twitter are willing to spend up to 20% more and are 30% more likely to recommend the brand.

Cost-Effective

It’s free to set up an account for your business on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. Plus, paid ads on these platforms are relatively low-cost.

Highly-Targeted Audiences

You can use social media advertising for restaurants to tap into ultra-qualified audiences full of users who are primed to want your goods and services.

What are the best social media platforms for restaurants? 

Best Social Media Platforms for Restaurants

Now that you know all of the benefits of social media marketing, where should you start?

Before determining what and when to start posting, let’s take a quick look at popular social media platforms for restaurants, and the ins and outs of each. Getting a feel for how each major platform works is key in learning how to use social media for restaurants, and can help you develop a polished strategy for your own establishment.

Check out HubSpot’s social media for restaurants guide for a complete breakdown of how to capitalize on these social media platforms as a restaurant owner.

Facebook and Instagram at a Glance

Facebook and Instagram have the largest audiences of all social media platforms, with 2.13 billion monthly users and 1 billion monthly users, respectively. Both platforms allow you to entice visitors with rich visuals that show off your menu items, staff and anything else that makes your restaurant unique.

While your Instagram audience will include a large crowd of 18-to-29-year-olds, your Facebook audience will likely skew a little bit older, as 51% of teenagers say they use Facebook.

Keep in mind, Instagram users prefer quality posts over quantity of posts, so it’s ideal to limit yourself to one post per day. Conversely, Facebook focuses more on community-building by encouraging visitors to customers to check in, visit your page, leave comments and more, so aim for one to three posts a day.

Twitter at a Glance

Twitter is a great platform to announce immediate news, respond to your customers and stay relevant in the eyes of your audience. You can expect to reach 330 million users of all ages.

The platform is known for being fast-paced, which means you should post a little more frequently — up to five times a day (not including responses to individual tweets).

Snapchat at a Glance

If you’re looking to reach younger audiences, Snapchat’s audience is comprised of more than 100 million users, mostly in the Generation Z age range. Restaurateurs can use Snapchat to reach customers with immediate, fast-paced content, i.e., “Get $1 off an order of $10 from 2 p.m.-5 p.m. today.”

What content to post on social media depends on your restaurant’s clientele.

How to Manage Social Media for a Restaurant

Similar to a personal social media profile, you’ll want to start with the basic information about your establishment when building your restaurant’s profile.

Social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook allow you to include the most important information about your restaurant in your profile. When building your social media profiles, start by including your restaurant’s:

  • Hours
  • Location
  • Contact information
  • Website

This way, visitors can access your information quickly, no matter which platform they’re browsing on.

Social Media Content for Your Restaurant

The types of content you should post will depend on your clientele, business type and general vibe of your establishment.

Pro tip: A social media content calendar can help you plan and schedule all your social content in advance. You can start by promoting events, specials and daily deals.

 

1. Content About Your Restaurant

Menu Items

Obviously, it’s smart to post about what brings customers to your restaurant in the first place. However, it’s good to approach these posts with a strategy in mind.

Sweetgreen is a great example of a restaurant that has created a recognizable aesthetic with their posts, giving them a consistent and polished online presence.

From their photo treatment to their consistent use of only lower-case letters, users enjoy a visual experience on par with the delicious, high-quality food the restaurant is known for serving.

A social media post from Sweetgreen.

Note: Your photos don’t have to be high-end shots like those of Sweetgreen. A quick mobile phone shot can create decadent-looking images too, as Yeastie Boys Bagels demonstrates.

A social media post from Yeastie Boys Bagels.

Additionally, you can use your social media platforms to alert your customers to new menu items you’re rolling out.

Specials

Promoting your specials can help you gain some major foot traffic.

Buffalo Wild Wings takes a funny and creative approach to bringing attention to their buy one, get one free Tuesday wings special with this comically edited video of “the moment America learned about the return of Wing Tuesdays.”

A social media post from Buffalo Wild Wings.

Events

Creating and promoting an event for your restaurant doesn’t need to be complicated. There are many simple, effective social media campaign ideas for restaurants to promote events.

2. User-Generated Content

User-generated content (UGC) consists of photos, tweets, videos and basically any other type of content that is created and posted by fans and customers.

This means that anyone who takes their own photo, posts it to a social media platform like Facebook or Instagram and tags the brand or uses a hashtag is creating UGC.

A social media post from Pieology Pizzeria.

UGC is valuable in that it provides you with a bank of additional content to use and social proof that your restaurant is worth visiting.

3. Questions

As Jenn Chen of Sprout Social puts it, “Approach social media like you would a group of strangers at a party. Sprinkle tidbits about yourself while mostly engaging with other people.”

This example from Which Wich Superior Sandwiches illustrates how a restaurant can engage its followers in a fun way. When followers interact with posts like this one, they’re more likely to remember the content of the post, i.e., that Which Wich serves BLTs.

A social media post from Which Wich Superior Sandwiches.

Pro Tip: The experts at Hootsuite recommend using the rule of thirds for social media: one-third of your content promotes your business or generates leads, one-third of your content comes from other sources that align with your business, and one-third of your content engages with followers directly, through answering questions, responding to comments or reposting user-generated content.

 

When to Post Content

Knowing the best times to post can increase your chances of reaching the right people at the right time. Review your highest-performing posts to see what days and times you posted them.

Also, make sure you’re posting at times that make sense for your niche. For example, if you own a coffee shop, you won’t get as much interaction late on weekend nights as you would during mornings and workdays.

Additionally, leveraging topics that are already trending on social media can help you boost your post’s exposure, like City Tap in Chicago does in this post with National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. (As an added bonus, they offer the dessert to restaurant industry workers for 50% off, since the holiday overlaps with their weekly “Industry Love” night.)

Social media post from City Tap.

Social Media Advertising

In addition to organic social posts, social media advertising presents immense opportunities for your restaurant. You can use Facebook ads to super-refine the audiences for your ads.

For example: If you run a restaurant on the East Coast and you want more business for happy hour, you can target users in the greater Washington, D.C., area who are male, work in white-collar jobs, like craft beers, are between the ages of 21-35 and have an income in the top 15%-25%.

 

As with organic posts, timing is integral to your restaurant’s paid social media marketing strategy. Because social network timelines are more algorithmic, a social media advertising strategy that pairs with your posted content is recommended. You can promote posts at a designated hour to ensure that your customers see time-sensitive specials at the right times, writes Jen Chen of Sprout Social.

Take Advantage of Location-Based Advertising

Similar to Facebook ads that allow you to choose the parameters for your ideal customer, location-based advertising presents a huge advantage to restaurateurs by targeting people who are physically near your establishment.

“Location-based advertising allows you to control when people see your ads, oftentimes within a certain radius. On Facebook, you have the ability to target from specific business locations. When a customer walks by a location and happens to be browsing Facebook, they’ll be served up a Facebook Ad,” write the experts at Sprout Social.

According to NinthDecimal:

  • Retail mobile ads performed best when served within 2-5 miles of a store — 24% better than the average click-through rate.
  • Store visits increased 80% within the first day a mobile ad was served compared with average store visits.

With current and potential customers using their mobile phones upwards of 150 times a day, this is a great strategy to gain some quick, same-day foot traffic to your restaurant.

Marketing Is Just a Photo Away

Whether your restaurant is active on social media, your visitors and customers likely are talking about you in the digital realm. Why not join the conversation?