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Facebook Marketing for Restaurants

David Smania
by David Smania August 23, 2016
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Facebook’s mission fits perfectly with restaurants and hospitality. 

“Giving people the power to share, and making the world more open and connected”.  

As a people-focused industry, it’s hard to imagine a business more suited to a platform that provides a rich new channel for reaching and engaging customers in a more meaningful way.   It’s like Facebook marketing was made for restaurants as a natural extension of hospitality.

Finding Your Voice

Before a restaurant can market and interact with customers in a way that drives interest, engagement, and interaction, it’s important to pause for some introspection and brand analysis.   Here are a few questions to ask before set off on your Facebook adventure!

What does your restaurant represent?   

What do you stand for and who are you as a brand?  

There are hundreds of restaurants to choose from - what makes you different?  

Why would someone choose you?   

Who are your core customers exactly?  

Once you’ve established your meaning and position in a crowded market, the ability communicate becomes MUCH easier.  You not only know what you represent, but also the type of customer that would most likely visit your restaurant.  

In marketing, this encompasses developing distinct marketing personas.  So if you haven’t tackled the basics, everything else could easily become activity for activity sake.  Marketing must resonate with your target audience.

Why Facebook Marketing for Restaurants?

Facebook is by far the largest social network in existence, with over 1.7 billion members at the time of this writing.   Its growth has been stimulated by a massive shift in the way consumers communicate and retrieve information.  Our mobile phones have become extensions of ourselves.  They are in our pockets, purses, or within an arm’s reach all the time, even while we’re sleeping! 

According to a Mobile Marketing Association, there are now more mobile phones than toothbrushes. (cite)  With Facebook as the most popular social network, a recent report stated that people check their newsfeed an average of 14 times per day. 

Getting Started with Facebook Marketing

Reaching current and future customers through Facebook can happen through two separate, yet connected routes – creating a business page, and Facebook advertising (covered in a future article).  In the simplest form, a restaurant creates a business page, fills in all the contact, location and hours of operation information, and joins the thousands of other businesses serving your local area.  It’s free, and anyone can do it.    But taking this to the next level separates the professionals from the amateurs, and this entails ongoing engagement through organic posts.

Building an Audience through Organic Growth

Restaurant marketing through Facebook isn’t anything like traditional media.   It’s a conduit for conversation, interaction, and caring for your customers.  It’s not shouting one way from the mountaintop to the masses, but a thoughtful, helpful, and engaging two-way conversation between you and your customers.  

Building an audience and attracting members through Facebook comes through a commitment to bringing people inside your restaurant to inform, entertain, and educate.  It entails stripping away boring, bland business-lingo and engaging with customers in an exciting new way as people.  It involves letting the personality of your business and people shine, showcasing not the business, but the people who drive your restaurant and make it special.

While this can take many different forms, Facebook Marketing for restaurants starts with transparency and pulling back the curtains so people can develop a more intimate appreciation for what makes your place remarkable in an often over-crowded restaurant scene.

EdgeRank

Google has PageRank, where the search giant gives more prominence to sites that contain links from quality sources.   Similarly, Facebook has EdgeRank, which looks at user interaction, types of posts, and time to determine the content that will display within a user’s newsfeed.    While we won’t do a deep dive into EdgeRank here, it was revealed at the 2010 F8 conference that it is comprised of the following ingredients.

  • Affinity Score
  • EdgeWeight
  • Time Decay

Simply stated, EdgeRank is a highly advanced algorithm that calculates a myriad of attributes to publish content in your feed that is unique and specifically catered to each person.   Facebook does this to create a quality experience for all users while making the newsfeed more manageable. 

Imagine how your feed would look if every single post from all your liked pages showed up at once.  You would be bombarded with noise - similar to traditional advertising today.   According to a Facebook engineer in 2007, only about 0.2% of eligible stories make it into a user's newsfeed.  With the increased number of members and business pages all clamoring for attention, this is undoubtedly smaller today.

To cut through the clutter, restaurants must not only know and understand their customers needs and desires, but cater to them by producing content and sharing experiences that bubble up to the surface by keying into interests that drive comments, likes and other Facebook actions.

Delicious Imagery

Images are powerful EdgeRank signals within Facebook, so great care should be taken to post photos that look great and bring customers into your restaurant on a more personal level.  Photos such as your cover image should represent the unique nature of your brand and really capture the essence of your restaurant.  

Food takes center stage, so dishes should be captured in mouth-watering detail.  Images from stock photo sources should never be used, and if needed, a professional photographer should be hired for the main page images.  Thankfully our smartphones continue to take photos with increasing resolution, so important moments can be captured, shared, and published through your page in vivid clarity.

Videos

Like images, videos tell a story that touch us as human beings – stories that are shared with others.  We all have video cameras right in our pockets, which can be used in many different ways to market your restaurant through Facebook. 

Examples:

  • The chef introduces the specials for the week

  • The chef takes customers on a tour of the local farmer’s market as she picks out ingredients for this weeks menu and discusses growing seasons and the various quality indicators.

  • The restaurant owner takes us inside to meet the hard working local farmers and growers who take great care in delivering the most delicious products available.

  • The chef educates members of your page about interesting tidbits about various dishes or ingredients.

As you can see, there are many different ways to bring people inside the kitchen to showcase a restaurant in a very interesting and exciting way.

What would you rather hear about - how beautiful the bounty of Tuscan kale is for this week’s special menu as told by the farmer himself, or a matter-of-fact delivery about a kale salad now on the menu?   Tell the story and touch people’s hearts while stimulating their appetite!

Video and images do wonders to really connect the restaurant to the customer in a way that words can’t even match, which is why Facebook gives them a greater “edge” in the EdgeRank algorithm.   Use this to your full advantage.

And remember!   Videos captured for Facebook can also be shared through your restaurant’s YouTube channel.   We’ll be covering this soon in a separate article.

Facebook Check-ins

Check-ins are free marketing.  But even better, customers come to your restaurant and check in through Facebook, which alerts many of their own friends, who often like or comment, which alerts another set of friends.  Think about this.  This customer has numerous choices where to spend their time and money.  Not only have they chosen you, they are now sharing this with a huge group of people on Facebook.  

Restaurants should encourage sharing and check-ins.   Consider offering something of value in exchange.  Perhaps a free dessert item for group check-ins, or at the very least - an acknowledgment with a simple “thank you”.

Facebook Live Streaming

Facebook rolled out Facebook Live earlier this year, which offers live streaming of video to be viewed and commented on in real-time, or saved for later viewing.   It has become immensely popular, with people and brands utilizing the service to capture and share events.   All of a sudden, restaurants can host live cooking demonstrations to a large and growing audience of fans.  It’s another fantastic way to bring people “into the kitchen” by providing an educational and entertaining experience for the Facebook audience.

Continue to Part 2,  Facebook Marketing for Restaurants with Content and Events

 

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