For a restaurant or bar owner, amassing the most followers or likes shouldn’t be the goal of your social media account. Instead, you want to use social media as a reliable, effective, and inexpensive marketing tool to drive customers to your business. This means you need to think about the quality, not the quantity, of your followers and posts.
To create a social media account with quality followers and posts, you need your users to engage with your content. But with so many accounts vying for your customers’ attention, creating content that engages others can be difficult.
With a few proven strategies, any bar or restaurant owner can create more engaging content. Here are six easy and effective ways to engage with others on social media, all while getting guests to your door.
1. Use Images
You’ve heard it before–a picture is worth a thousand words. In our image-driven and wired world, this cliché is more accurate than ever. As any social media expert will tell you, posts with images receive far more engagement than posts with only text. This is true on all platforms, even the more text-reliant Twitter. According to the company’s own data, tweets that included a photo were on average 35% more likely to get retweeted.
While photos are key for your success, not just any photos will do. Some hire professionals with expensive cameras, lenses, and reflectors for perfect lighting. This could be a smart choice. There’s nothing less appetizing than a beautifully prepared Bloody Mary or Barbeque Bacon Cheeseburger that’s poorly photographed. But anyone with a knack for photography and a smartphone can take #foodporn-worthy shots.
If you’re doing it yourself, make sure your photos are as high a quality as your cocktails and entrées. Your dish or drink should be in focus, well lit, and beautifully garnished or plated. Finally, make sure you are thinking as carefully about your background as you are your foreground.
If you aren’t already following a few restaurants, bars, and food bloggers, you should start today. They can show you how to take visually appealing photos and offer inspiration for social media posts.
2. Embrace Pathos
Pathos is one of the three rhetorical strategies we use in everyday conversation, along with ethos and logos. Put simply, pathos means passion. When you embrace pathos on social media, you are thinking strategically about the way you elicit emotions (passion) from your followers.
On social media, this means using positive emotions like humor, happiness, and positivity to increase engagement. It’s basic psychology. People want to feel good. It’s second nature to smile when you see another smile, or laugh when another laughs. If you can elicit positive emotions from your followers, if you can make your followers feel happy, they are more likely to engage with your content in the form of liking, commenting, reposting, or retweeting your posts.
There are a lot of ways to generate positive emotions on your feed. You can make your followers laugh with funny captions, images, or videos. You can make your followers happy by showing others being happy. You can inspire your followers by sharing inspiring stories.
Thinking about your rhetorical appeals might sound difficult, or academic, but it’s not really. Using pathos means thinking about the effect you want from a social media post, and working to achieve that effect.
Keep your social media light, fun, and happy. Also, pay attention to how other restaurants and bars run their social media. If you find yourself reacting positively to a post, think about how the post did it, and try to do something similar in your own posts.
3. Post Consistently
You could have the best content in the world, filled with delicious-looking food and humor, but if you don’t post consistently it’s hard for your content to find its way to your followers.
A good rule of thumb is three posts per week. Three posts makes your content regular enough to increase engagement and keep your restaurant or bar on people’s minds, but not so frequent that it becomes annoying and easy to ignore.
You’ll want to make sure you post at the right time. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from late morning to early afternoon, are the best. For whatever reason, more people are online and scrolling. Sundays are the worst days to post, with Saturday not far behind. Of course, these times may vary somewhat. It’s smart to keep track of what days and times get the most likes and comments from your followers, and post when you can expect maximum engagement.
If it’s difficult to find the time or energy to keep up with your accounts, there are a ton of free social media posts online. These templates are a great way to fill out your social media, especially if you want to advertise specials, events, or new menu items.
4. Host Contests
Social media contests are one of the most common ways to generate medium- to short-term engagement. For something as inexpensive as a gift card, a free appetizer, or branded swag, you can increase your brand awareness and connect with potential customers.
You’ve likely seen the classic follow, like, and tag a friend contest. It’s common because it’s effective and easy. You post a photo of something you want to promote, maybe a beautifully photographed cocktail or a gift card, and in the comments you explain that anyone who follows your account, likes your post, and tags a friend will be entered to win anything from a free meal to a gift card.
The follow, like, and tag a friend contest allows you to increase your brand awareness by letting others do the marketing for you. It also requires little time and effort from your entrants, so the prize you offer doesn’t have to be big to generate engagement, making it a contest you can run every other week, or monthly, or whenever you want to create extra buzz.
A caption contest is another easy method of creating engagement. You’ve likely seen it before too. You post a photo of a cocktail or dish you’d like to promote, but instead of captioning the photo you ask others to caption it for you, offering a prize for the best, funniest, or most creative caption. Other than a bit of wit, this contest doesn’t require much from you or your followers, making it another one you can run frequently.
There are so many different contest ideas out there. Following other businesses will show you many different examples. But here’s one more that leverages the visual nature of social media while promoting a specific ingredient or supplier.
If you’ve got something extra special in the works, like fresh truffles, shrimp-stuffed morels, or locally-sourced and organic meat, post the ingredient on your social media and ask your followers to guess what you’re cooking up. Whoever guesses correctly can win a free meal that includes your specialty dish.
5. Incentivize Guest-Generated Content
One way to get guest-generated content for your social media feed is to ask for it. You can include a blurb on your menu, or promote whatever platform you want to target via table tents.
Including a QR code that can take your guests right to your Instagram or Facebook page is also smart. They certainly can’t create content for you if they don’t know your social media account exists. A QR code makes it as easy as possible for them to find you, removing obstacles like opening an app, typing your handle, and searching for your business. You can find free QR code tools that can help promote your social media and increase your followers.
For some, asking for user-generated content will be enough, especially if you spend a bit of time educating them on the importance of social media. For others, you’ll need to incentivize it. You can do this with any number of freebies and discounts. Perhaps you can offer a free appetizer or dessert to anyone who creates content in your restaurant, or with your food and drinks, and also tags your business in the post. If this isn’t enough, you could offer a certain percentage off of their next bill.
You can also think about what makes an Insta-worthy restaurant or bar. Things like funny neons, walls of flowers, or murals inside and outside of your business can organically create guest-generated content. Invest some time and money into creating one or two key spaces that serve as a fun or interesting backdrop for that perfect selfie, and you’ll be on your way to tons of free social media marketing.
6. Engage with Others
If you want others to engage with your content, you should be willing to engage with theirs. Social media, like all social interactions, works off of reciprocity. The best way to get fans is to be a fan of others.
Becoming a fan can mean different things. Responding to people who comment on your posts can be one easy way of becoming a fan. Prompt, sincere, and respectful responses to others make you look more in touch with your audience, and it makes your audience feel like an appreciated part of your business.
Another way of becoming a fan is finding bars and restaurants you admire. If you follow other accounts, and like and comment on their posts, they’ll be more likely to follow you back and do the same.
You can also learn about social media from others, about specific contests or kinds of content that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own. Social media isn’t a competition of followers and creativity, but an ever-expanding and ever-changing conversation. If you can become a central part of that conversation in your area of expertise, then it’s more likely that others will see and appreciate your efforts.
Becoming a fan of others is also a great way to boost the positivity of your account by posting shouts-outs. If you have a guest or an employee who has recently accomplished something awesome, let your followers know. If they feel inspired, they are more likely to give you a like, a comment, or a repost. Maybe they’ll come into your bar, order a celebratory cocktail, and share what amazing things they are doing.
Quality NOT Quantity
Forget about going viral. Forget about who has the most followers, who gets the most likes, or who follows whom. Ultimately, your social media is about one thing–driving customers to your restaurant or bar.
Once you have them on your social media, you need a strategy to get them to your door. Link pages are the easiest and fastest way to get all of the information your potential guest might need in one easy to find place. With the click of a single hyperlink on your profile, they can be directed to your website, menus, promotions, online ordering, reservations, and more.
You can find free link pages online that can help you engage with your followers and convert them from online lookie-loos to full-fledged guests. All that’s left is to do what you do best, shake up that perfect manhattan or grill that perfect filet.
You may be interested in: 20 Top Tips on How to Better Market a Restaurant