Social Media DO’s for Coffee Shop and Restaurant Owners

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It wasn’t all that long ago that opening a restaurant or coffee shop required some cash to get the word out. You’d take out ads in the local newspaper, create fliers, and throw a press party to kick things off. Nowadays three free platforms do nearly the same job: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

In a business where word of mouth can make or break you, social media is a valuable tool. It gives you the potential to reach hundreds (thousands?) of people each day with little effort—and mostly for free.

The power of social media for foodservice became abundantly clear with the food truck phenomenon, when cooks with no landlines or set location began alerting food aficionados by tweeting their whereabouts and daily offerings, and being rewarded with throngs of fans showing up to put in their orders.

Brick-and-mortar establishments were quick to follow. Now, openings and other restaurant news are announced on social media well before they make it to a newspaper (or even a newspaper’s website).

Most exciting for your coffee shop or restaurant is the ability to set your content apart from the competition, increasing the likelihood that customers will click on, comment on, or share your posts. Here are a few strategies for making it happen:

Tailor Your Posts

Include a link to your restaurant website or blog in each post, and increase your success with the following tactics:

  • Post in afternoons and in the evening, as well as on weekends for a higher CTR.
  • Use action words – verbs and adverbs — as they are calls to action.
  • Place links one-quarter of the way through your post for a higher CTR.
  • Use engaging photos of your food, staff, customers (with permission), their dogs, etc. (more on this below).

Search social media platforms and hashtags weekly for posts about your business. Repost them to draw attention to your social media presence.

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Use a scheduling tool

Instead of logging into your social accounts a few times each day so you can post sporadically (and avoid being unfollowed), use a third-party service to schedule your posts. HootSuite, SocialOomph and Sprout Social are among the most widely used.

Follow Backs, Contests and Giveaways

Following local food lovers, and commenting on and sharing their posts will likely get you some follow backs. Share their posts when you like what they've had to say. If there's room, add something of value to your repost of the influencer's update. Eventually, these folks will begin to see you as someone who adds value to the daily conversation in addition to your self-promotion.

And from there, an easy way to promote yourself is with contests and giveaways. Offer a free lunch or dinner to a random follower who reposts your message. Hold a trivia contest and give coupons or gift certificates to the first person to answer correctly. People will notice and add you to their follow lists.

Humanize Your Feed

If all you're doing is talking about specials and promotions, followers will get turned off. People will want to hear about day-to-day goings on, customer interactions, fun facts about coffee or other menu items, etc. When a team member says something particularly funny or has a great insight, post that too.

The public's interest in chefs, food and restaurants is only growing. Humanize your social media feeds and your business by posting about the ephemera of daily, behind-the-scenes foodservice life.

Make Good Use of the Hashtag

A hashtag is a word or short phrase (with no spaces or punctuation) that follows the # symbol on social platforms. Hashtags are searchable terms; they can help others find you more easily.

Promoting a new menu item or special event? Create a unique hashtag that your followers, and those who might be searching for you, can find easily. Make use of popular “trending now” hashtags (#foodie, #foodstagram, #arabica, #pastries, #espressofiend, etc.) that are relevant to your business so more people see your post.

Use Images and Video

As the saying goes, you eat first with your eyes. Plus, social media users are four times as likely to engage with a post that contains a photo or video than one that is simply text.

Posting beautiful photos of your coffee, cocktails or food will help draw in customers. Add visual interest with photos of your restaurant, menu and special events. Get creative with:

  • Photo galleries that highlight several photos (menu items, daily specials, staff members)
  • Short videos – 30 seconds or less (testimonials, latte art)

Be Responsive

Check direct messages and replies to your posts as a matter of courtesy. Social media marketing has an immediacy that requires responsiveness.

If you have up-to-the-minute news to share, even better. Maybe you just developed a new drink and you want to offer a special so folks will come in and try it. Or, if you have popular items that tend to run out, update your followers as soon as you do — it may turn them away on a single occasion, but you'll build goodwill and trust among your fans for keeping them in the loop.

Invite Comment

People love to tell you when you’re doing a great job—but even more, they like telling you when you’ve screwed up. It’s not always rainbows and lollipops, but the astute business owner will take the good with the bad and turn it around.

You might consider writing a training manual for how to respond to comments received on service and customer experience (in-person or online). You have the opportunity to fix things right then and there. The problem won’t linger or snowball if it’s made right, on the spot.

Be patient and be consistent. Results may be slow. Social media has a lot of power, but it comes from you delivering great customer service at your physical location and online. But with more social media users signing up every day, you should try these strategies to grow your following and increase your coffee shop or restaurant business.

Related post: Social Media DON’Ts for Coffee Shop and Restaurant Owners