receives compensation from some of the companies listed on this page. Advertising Disclosure


Social Media: First Steps for Restaurants editorial staff editorial staff

From launch to relaunch to new menu items, learn how to make the most of social media.

When you've got a brand new restaurant, getting people in the door as quickly as possible is one of the essential keys to early success. One incredibly effective way to do that is to create a buzz on social media. We're not suggesting you create a bizarrely abstract video in an attempt to go viral. What you want to do is capture the interest of your target audience on their preferred social media platforms.

1. Build All Your Profiles, Including Local Search

The first step is to build out all your social media profiles. Make sure you've got robust profiles for the big sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and G+, but do your research and take a close look at what other social media sites are popular in your local area with your target demographic.

Once you've got those profiles up and running, get on top of local search results. You can't just assume you'll get foot traffic or people will stumble across your Facebook profile. A staggering 60% of all adults use their mobile devices to search for local businesses. Of those, 50% go to a local business within one day, and 18% make a purchase. Therefore, getting your eatery above the fold in the local search results is crucial. Think of all the business you'll be passing up on if don't make the most of local search tools. Make sure you've got a complete profile, with pictures, opening hours, address and a detailed description on:

  • Google My Business
  • Yelp
  • Bing Places for Business
  • YP

2. Don't Oversell Your Business

Yes, the whole point of your social media profiles is to get people into your restaurant, but people don't want to be bombarded with a continual flood of "Come eat at my great restaurant," "Isn't my new menu awesome?," "Look, we've got a special" posts. This is a huge turnoff, and you'll quickly lose a large percentage of the followers you've gathered.

Keep your promotional posts to around 25% of the total number of posts you make weekly. The other 75% should be engagement posts, or posts that are of interest to your followers. Share posts from other noncompeting businesses. Post behind-the-scenes pictures so your customers can see what goes on. Do profiles of your suppliers. Showcase your fresh produce. Remember, people who engage with your posts or who are interested in your engagement posts are more likely to share them and are more likely to visit your restaurant.

3. Interact With Your Customers

A lot of sites recommend scheduling all your social media posts weeks in advance using an application like Hootsuite, claiming that you then don't have to touch your social media accounts during that time. However, people like to know that there are real live humans behind your social profiles. And they want to be heard.

Whether their feedback is good or bad, they want a response. So interact with them. If they comment on a photo you shared, like and/or respond to that comment. If they leave a negative review, apologize for their bad experience. If they leave a positive review, thank them and let them know you'd love to see them again. It's good for business, shows you care and makes customers feel valued.

4. Run a Competition

If you want to get the word out about your new restaurant, a revamped menu or just want a boost in foot traffic, take to social media and launch a competition. Ask your followers to like, comment, share, retweet a picture or post, or run a caption competition. After a set period, close the competition and choose a predetermined number of winners to receive a free meal, a gourmet hamper or something similar.

5. Give Exclusive Social Media Deals

You can also give away exclusive coupons via social media. Let your followers download coupons directly from your social media profile or send out email coupons to your email subscribers.

You can also team up with other local businesses and exchange coupons. For example, you could buddy up with a local fashion boutique and promote their money-off coupons on your social profiles in exchange for them returning the favor. It doesn't cost you anything and benefits both businesses.

6. Use Paid Social Advertising Carefully

Paid social advertising can be a good thing, but it's easy to overspend. It's also all too easy to get the targeting wrong. To get the most from paid social media ads, it's crucial that you only target the most likely geographic area and your customer demographics. Be really, really specific. Yes, this means that your ads will be shown to fewer people, but they'll be the right people. There's little point in targeting people 100 miles away from your business. How many people are going to travel 100 miles for your food?

7. Set up a Social Media Calendar

A social media calendar can be super simple. But having one helps to keep your social posts on schedule. Set reminders for when you need to post and what kind of content you need to share. You can also use Hootsuite or another similar app to schedule your basic posts in advance and watch and interact with all your social streams from a single dashboard.

8. Optimize Posts with Hashtags

Jump on the hashtag bandwagon. If you happen to sell tacos, post a picture of one of your delectable taco meals and include the #TacoTuesday tag, for example. Take a look at what hashtags are trending and see if you can come up with a post to fit them. Has your chef produced a stunning dessert? Share a pic under #foodporn. Is something on your menu decadently delicious? If so, #nomnom. While hashtags may seem a little silly, they are invaluable on social media, so make sure you take advantage of them.

9. Use Quality Images & Videos

While it's true that your customers and followers like to see a human side to your business, your images and videos need to be clean and of high quality. Nobody wants to see grainy images or jumpy, distorted video. The images and videos you share are your chance to stand out in the maelstrom of social posts we are each subjected to every day. Make yours count.

10. Tag Relevant Noncompeting Businesses

Supporting other local businesses is a great way to utilize social media. First, you're helping to promote and thereby support other local businesses. Second, they'll return the favor. Tag the profiles of noncompeting local businesses and their followers will see it (and you).

The business will also most likely respond (assuming they've got a proper social media strategy themselves) and may mention you to their followers in return. Aside from increasing your local visibility, tagging other local businesses is an easy way of doing your bit to support local businesses. And that's important to your own survival, too.

Image from baranq/Shutterstock editorial staff editorial staff Member
The purpose of our community is to connect small business owners with experienced industry experts who can address their questions, offer direction, and share best practices.