The days of relying on street fliers and window signs for restaurant promotion are over. The ease and reach of social media now makes it easy to entice diners, provided you ‘know’ how to navigate your online options. Here are a few tips on how to increase your customer base and incentivize past customers to come back using Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

1. Post high-quality images of today’s specials

You want your customers to crave those Korean chicken wings before they even set foot in your restaurant. So get them salivating by posting photos of dishes on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. Images are the most shared items on Facebook, so start by uploading a hi-res photo of your best-looking dish as your cover image (ideal photo size is 851 x 851 pixels). Consider creating Facebook photo albums for your menu, adjusting for changes and specials as you go. Instagram and Pinterest are also good venues for showing off your plates. Keep your photos consistent in terms of quality and captions, and be sure to post regularly, as consistent posts will help build brand loyalty over time.

2. Offer discounts for customers who “Like” you on Facebook

Everybody loves a good deal, and social media is a high value/low effort way to get the word out. For a quick boost in brand visibility, post a deal offering patrons group discounts if they “like” your Facebook page and/or share the deal with their friends. This is a surefire way to increase foot traffic, and while Facebook is the primary tool to use, Pinterest is also useful for deals and promotions. If possible, engage with pinners like The Coupon Hubby to expand your digital reach.

3. Talk directly to customers on Twitter and Facebook

Bring your customers closer to your restaurant by responding promptly to their comments, tweets, and photos. If they retweet one of your tweets or say something nice, thank them for their support, and don’t be afraid to apologize and/or offer to rectify the situation if they post a criticism. Always respond in a transparent and respectful manner—there’s rarely anything to be gained by getting into an online argument with a dissatisfied customer. Engage them by asking for opinions on, say, a choice between two new menu items. People often feel more attached to a business when they’ve had a say in its future.

4. Target people in your geographic area

As a brick-and-mortar business, marketing to customers nearby is critical for growth and success. Twitter allows you to target specific locations in sponsored posts, so make sure to check off the geo-targeting feature before you pay for any Sponsored Tweets. Facebook not only allows you to target users geographically, but also allows you to target specific demographics of users within a city or zip code. Set your ads to be seen by those who have liked certain pages, and include their friend circles in your targeting.

5. Capitalize on food-related hashtags on Instagram and Twitter

Jumping on popular social media topics can be a great way to increase brand exposure without that much effort. For example, if it’s National Coffee Day and your restaurant offers a speciality coffee drink, post a picture of it on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag “#NationalCoffeeDay.” Doing so makes your photo visible to everyone who is browsing that hashtag. Niche hashtags are also useful, though they reach a limited audience. For example, if you’re based in the SoBro area of Nashville, add a hashtag like “#sobroeats” to your posts. Potential customers could be close by, and they may come across your restaurant while browsing the hashtag.

In all, a strong social media presence is a must in today’s restaurant biz. With ready access to platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, patrons expect restaurants to reach them far beyond the physical location itself. Follow these guidelines, and you’ll see results.

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