The Locavore Next Door: Why Local Restaurants Shouldn't Neglect Social Media

By Carrie Robinson on July 21, 2012 from The Locavore Next Door via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Word of mouth is great.  A personal recommendation from a friend or family member about a local restaurant or business will always carry its weight in merit.  But let’s face it.  Word of mouth can only take a business so far.  Word of mouth cannot always tell you how late a place is open on a Sunday.  Or the newest offerings on the menu.   Or if live music will be available this weekend.  Or today’s happy hour specials.  This is where social media can become invaluable to a local business. 
 
If you want to go to a particular restaurant for dinner but are not sure if they are open, what do you usually do first to find out?  Pick up the phone and call the business in question or Google it?  I can say that I will always do an internet search on a restaurant first thing.  And with all the new growth coming to this area, what do you think people new to the area, people who are planning to move here, and people who are visiting here do first?  Yep, you guessed it.  They go to Google.  And this is where you, as a small local business, can have an advantage or a disadvantage. 
 
Let me give you an example.  Recently I was doing some internet research on a few different restaurants I was considering reviewing for Connect-Bridgeport.   I came across one that actually had a Facebook page.  Great!  Until, well, I started reading their Facebook wall.  People had posted several different questions to the restaurant’s Facebook page.  Not a single one of them had been answered by the page owner.  There were even a few posts complaining about the food and/or service.  Again, the owners of the Facebook page had not responded to these complaints or comments.  I will be honest.  After visiting that restaurant’s Facebook page, I decided against visiting there for my next review.  If they couldn’t even respond to their Facebook fans, then what kind of service could I actually expect if I decided to dine there?
 
Which brings me to another important point- It is not just enough to have some kind of social media outlet in place.  As a local business, you have to maintain them as well. 
 
So what are my tips to local restaurants regarding successful social media?
  • At the very least, start a Facebook page and a Twitter account for your restaurant.  A website is great too, but at least get yourself out there on the social media outlets most used by your potential customers.  You cannot rely on sites such as TripAdvisor or Yelp to get your business’s information out there.
  • You started your Facebook page and Twitter account?  Great!  Now maintain them.  That means replying back when a potential customer sends you a tweet. Do one better and follow back your customer as well.  When a patron comments on your Facebook page, acknowledge them and address their question or concern on your page.  Doing this publicly lets your other page fans know that you are addressing it.  Even if you want to offer that customer a solution privately, comment on the post to let them and everyone else know that you are going to message them to address the issue.
  • If you start a Facebook page, post photos of your dishes, of the restaurant inside and out, of your patrons sitting at your tables, patios, and bars enjoying themselves.  Make your page (and therefore your place of business) more visually appealing.  Post an up-to-date menu.  I cannot stress this one enough.  This is probably the most frustrating thing I encounter when researching restaurants online.  Your potential customers want to know, need to know what is on your menu.
  • Have a special tonight?  Tweet it.  Post to your Facebook page.  Never underestimate the value of a Twitter Retweet or a Facebook Share.  When a follower retweets your tweet, then hundreds of other people are potentially seeing your tweet as well.  The cheapest advertising ever.  Make sure that what you are tweeting and posting to your Facebook is something that your followers and fans will want to share with their followers and friends.  Make it interesting, relevant, and appealing. 
  • This one should be a no-brainer, but make sure your website and/or Facebook page has all the basic information that a potential customer needs to know like hours, where to park, if you only accept cash, and a phone number for your place of business.
  • Every so often, reward your faithful online followers and fans.  Offer them a one day only discount or a free dessert or appetizer with proof that they are a Facebook fan or Twitter follower of your restaurant.  I cannot tell you how many times in my life that I have decided to visit one restaurant over another on a particular evening just because they were offering something extra to their social media fans.
I honestly believe that it is so important for a local restaurant or establishment to keep their customers in the know.  Most people have smart phones now and carry them with them everywhere they go.  Utilizing social media just makes the most sense.  So, why not have your business’s information easily accessible at the fingertip of your next loyal customer?
 


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