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Social Media For Restaurants — Why It Matters

food pic collageAccording to the most recent Erickson Research Food and Beverage Trends Report, 37% of U.S. consumers use social media for restaurant ideas and cooking inspiration.

Among them…

  • Facebook and Pinterest were used most over the past 3 months (58% and 41%, respectively)
  • 29% said they’ve used social media to share restaurants they’ve tried
  • 34% said they’ve used social media to find new restaurants to try

These figures confirm what food marketers have long suspected – social media matters when it comes to food. 

For restaurants, social media is a great way to interact and stay current with your customers and prospects.  It’s really a reciprocal benefit — marketers can collect valuable insights and consumers get access to useful (even exclusive) information about restaurants of interest.

To show you what we mean, we’ve picked out a few examples to share.  We think these restaurants are doing a great job of connecting consumers to their brands through social media.

chipotle

 

Chipotle
Very interactive with followers, offers games with prizes (i.e. celebrating 20th anniversary with “Adventurrito” Treasure Hunt).  Overall, doing a great job of demonstrating their ‘mission’  On Facebook and on Pinterest.

 

 

red lobsterRed Lobster
Features “LobStar” guest of the week.  Makes it easy to buy gift cards right from their FB page. Features 15 under $15 “Maine Stays” Entrees on Twitter.  On Facebook and on Twitter.    

longhorn

LongHorn Steakhouse
Has Favorite Pics photo contest.  Asks fans to ‘show’ their favorite things about LongHorn for a chance to win a free dinner.  Also, quick response to customer complaints (see July 23rd) on Facebook.

taco bell
Taco Bell
Now they got really creative with this fan-based rockumentary.

 

So here’s why social media for restaurants is so important…

  • Allows customers to share positive experiences they’ve had with you (both valuable feedback and great PR)
  • Informs you of negative experiences so that you can respond to quickly, prove you value them and avoid losing customers.  Most consumers are pretty forgiving once they feel validated and appreciated.  In fact, sometimes these negative events can turn into prime opportunities for you to ‘showcase’ your commitment to your customers.  You may even achieve ‘hero’ status if you have a smart PR person.  (Check out Domino’s  “pizza turnaround.”)
  • Lets you communicate and interact directly (and cost-effectively) with your target market by doing things like…
    • Informing them of deals and menu specials (perhaps influencing unplanned visits to your restaurant)
    • Inviting them to special events you are sponsoring/supporting (making them feel involved)
    • Showing them what you’re about as a company – what things are you passionate about?  Are you doing anything for the community?  For charities?
    • Introducing them to your best employees and sharing their stories (i.e. why do they love working for you?)
    • Offering contests and opportunities for your followers to ‘vote’ on things (great relationship building and page/site traffic generator)
    • Providing access to more ‘exclusive’ offers than what’s available to the general public (rewards loyalty)
    • Encouraging them to share pictures and videos that show what your brand means to them (every brand has a story so why not let your customers help you tell it?)

Beyond these actions, simply listening and observing social media is extremely valuable.  Study your social media sources and pay attention to…

  • How people talk about your restaurant and its offerings  (learn their language so you can better communicate with them via your marketing efforts)  
  • Their behaviors around consumption (uncover opportunities/occasions to serve them better)

Finally, do some competitive intelligence detective work.  Monitor your competitors social media.  What are they doing right?  What can you do better?

For more information about food and beverage trends followed by Erickson Research, contact us.

About the Author

At Erickson Research, a Chicago market research consulting firm, I specialize in probing the minds of consumers and professionals -- revealing what truly matters to them...and why. Find me on LinkedIn.

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  1. Pingback: Why Native Foods Has Mad (Social Media) Skills | Erickson Research

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