Social Media Marketing for Bars and Restaurants
As a bar or restaurant owner, you may not see the point of developing a social media marketing strategy for your brand. Your business exists in the physical world.
You have regulars and foot traffic. Why would you need to venture into the online world?
Even if you only own one small location, a great social media marketing strategy can do a lot for your bar or restaurant.
Wouldn’t it be great if more locals became regulars? If your business became a destination for out-of-towners? Well, you can do both with social media marketing for bars and restaurants.
In 2014, American spending on bars and restaurants surpassed grocery store spend for the first time in history. And you can count on Millennials to continue the trend.
Wouldn’t it be great to get a bigger piece of that pie?
That’s why this article will show you:
- Which social media networks are best for bars and restaurants.
- Which social media marketing strategies provide the greatest return.
- How to engage in social media management as a bar or restaurant.
Every bar and restaurant is different. That’s why you’ll need to come up with a social media marketing strategy that works for you. Here are some things to ask yourself:
- How many social media networks do I have the time and money to run?
- Which social media networks do my customers use the most?
- How often can I post on social media?
- Do I need to hire a social media manager?
- How can I integrate my social media strategy across channels?
- How do I want to tackle social media advertising and what’s my budget?
- How important is social media management for bars and restaurants?
A word of advice. If you’ve only got the time and money to run one social account on top of running your business, go for Facebook. The social network will give you the greatest variety of engagement opportunities, access to the biggest audience, and integration with a ton of free marketing tools.
Here are the top 5 social media platforms that are necessary for bars and restaurants:
After deciding which social networks are right for you, the next step is to fill out your profiles. Here’s a list of information that you won’t want to forget to add across all channels:
- Opening Hours
- Peak Hours
- Locations (Maps)
- Phone Number
- Social Handles
- Parking Options
- Price Range
- Reservation Instructions
- Payment Options
- Daily Specials/ Deals
- Description/ Story
- Website URL
- Special Services and Events
Facebook is important for any bar or restaurant because it’s the easiest place to add all of the aforementioned information. It’s also a place where you can upload yummy photos, secure fans, handle customer service issues, interlink your social accounts, advertise, and create events.
Here are some unique Facebook features you might want to consider using:
- Menu (Daily Special Posts)
- Maps (Multiple Locations)
- Services (Online Ordering)
- Peak Hours (Happy Hours)
- Reviews (+ Reponses)
Here’s an example of social media marketing for bars and restaurants on Facebook:
Facebook ranks Panera Bread as one of the best performing restaurant chains on its site. Why? Because Panera is aware of two things – the trend in clean eating and video ads.
One campaign, centered around the new “clean” kids menu, reached over 7 million people and increased Panera’s brand awareness.
Another thing Panera does well is create attractive, engaging posts that don’t oversell or over promote. Here’s an example:
Pro Tip: Let’s say that you take a lot of photos with customers in them. When you take such pictures, tag the people you know. That way, your event photos end up in more newsfeeds, giving you greater reach. It’s also great to share and promote customer photos.
The expression, “we eat with our eyes,” refers to the fact that we see our food before we put it in our mouths. A fact that impacts our impression of what we’re eating. Get a dish that looks like cat barf and you’re not going to think it’s tasty even if it is.
That’s why so many chefs and bartenders go the extra mile to add garnishes and flourishes to their final product. But with the advent of social media, there’s a new reason to put in some extra effort when it comes to presentation.
A recent study shows that 69% of Millennials will photograph their food and post it to social media before eating. And there are around 80 million Millennials in the American workforce. That’s millions of people with millions of dollars taking millions of pictures of your food or drinks.
Where do they post those pictures? Well, the mother of all social platforms for food images – Instagram. And while you’re at it, don’t just rely on the Millennials. Make sure you’re posting plenty of mouthwatering images yourself.
Here’s an example of social media marketing for bars and restaurants on Instagram:
Forequarter is a bar and restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin. They change their menu daily, giving them plenty of opportunities to post new images of food and drink items on Instagram.
When it comes to social media, Yelp isn’t the first platform that comes to mind. But for the gastronomic industry, it is one of the top social media sites.
Now, you may think that Yelp is just a review site for customers. The most you can do is respond to reviews, right? Not quite. There are also plenty of other social media marketing initiatives for bars and restaurants.
For example, one of the easiest things you can do is claim your page on the site. There’s a good chance that your establishment is already on Yelp without your blessing. Go to Yelp’s Find and Claim Your Business page so you can claim your Yelp page and enter accurate business information.
Here’s an example of a claimed business page that ended up in Yelp’s roundup of the top 100 restaurants for 2017:
Let’s say you really want to engage. Why not consider hosting a local Yelp event? Almost every city in the US has a Yelp Community Manager who is in charge of connecting people with places. They organize and host free events, ranging from multi-course tastings at fancy restaurants, to themed parties at swanky bars.
For example, one burger joint in Florida, BurgerFi, hosted simultaneous Yelp events in locations across the state. Over 200 Yelpers attended the event at their local BurgerFi. The restaurant provided some burgers and fries and got a ton of free, user-generated content for Instagram and Yelp in return.
Connecting with your Community Manager and hosting a Yelp event is a great way to engage with people who are already engaged in the culture of going out.
Here’s an example of social media marketing for bars and restaurants on Yelp:
Pro Tip: And of course, responding to reviews is the most powerful thing you can do on Yelp. Whether the reviews are good or bad, your responses show users that you’re listening. Plus, reviews are a great source of inspiration and a free market research resource.
Running a Twitter account for your bar or restaurant is a great way to get little bits of information out on the web fast. Plus, it’s easy to integrate your Twitter handle with other accounts so you’re serving up a seamless social media experience.
Here are some things that you can do with a Twitter account:
- Use it as your primary channel for customer service issues.
- Post images of menu items that change on a regular basis.
- Send out a quick updates or messages to your followers.
- Create engaging content that gives followers added value.
Here’s an example of social media marketing for bars and restaurants on Twitter:
— Blue Bottle Coffee (@bluebottleroast) December 8, 2017
Blue Bottle Coffee achieves two things with this post. First, they’ve updated their followers about their cup and saucer upgrade. Second, they’ve used the opportunity to provide readers with unique and engaging content.
Logic follows that if Millennials want to know both the source and origin of their food, they might like the same information about their cups. Creating such content steers you away from straight selling – Come in and get a hot cup of joe for only one buck! – and into the realm of creating a brand persona and a lasting relationship with your customers.
And don’t forget another great use for Twitter – dedicated customer service handles. Here’s an example of customer service for bars and restaurants on Twitter:
Pro Tip: If you’re a bigger bar or restaurant, you may need to hire a customer service specialist to handle a Twitter account like Chili’s. Keep in mind that customer service and social media marketing are two separate activities even when the former is conducted on Twitter.
As a bar, your target demographic is a little older than the Snapchat crowd. But for restaurant owners, you may find it interesting to note that Snapchat is the most preferred social media network for teens in the US.
Now, the unique features of the platform make it necessary to put some extra effort into coming up with a successful social media marketing campaign. Snapchat is based on sending and receiving content that lasts for a matter of seconds before disappearing. Not the most friendly medium for social media marketers.
— Taco Bell (@tacobell) May 1, 2013
Most of the content on Snapchat centers on taking pics or videos and making them fun with doodles, captions, or filters. But restaurants are seeing the most engagement when they create Geofilters. These are filters that are unique to a particular location – your restaurant.
Here’s an example of social media marketing for bars and restaurants on Snapchat:
Taco Bell created a giant taco head Geofilter for Cinco de Mayo in 2016 that resulted in 224 million views in one day. Not bad. Snapchat users dining at Taco Bell could use the filter on any snaps they took in the restaurants. The only downside? You have to pay for unique filters.
One thing that needs to go at the top of your social media marketing “To-do List” is claiming your Google My Business Profile(s). Remember, if you’re running a franchise, you will need to claim a profile for each location.
Why is this important? Claiming your profile allows you to show up in your own Knowledge Panel in Google search results. That’s prime Google real estate. Knowledge Panels contain nuggets of information about your business, including links to all your social media profiles.
Here’s an example:
Have multiple bar or restaurant locations? Never heard of franchise SEO and want to know more? Read our guide: Franchise SEO: How to Apply Local SEO to Multiple Locations
Your bar or restaurant exists in the real world, so your social media marketing initiatives should reflect that. Here are 6 ideas about taking your offline experiences online:
1. Create events and make sure people can find them.
Events are a surefire way to draw a crowd to your bar or restaurant. And that’s true whether your event includes live music, trivia, or bad karaoke. The only thing you need to do? Make sure people know you’re hosting an event in the first place.
After you create an event on Facebook, you’ll want to list it on other websites as well. That’s especially true for bars and restaurants that hold regular events or have regular happy hours. Here are some ideas for local event listing sites:
- Eventful – Site for local, upcoming events. Pick your city and post your event.
- Eventseeker – Local event site with ticketing options and a modern look.
- Craigslist – The online classified ads site has a local event listing feature.
- Eventbrite – Helps you set up events and tickets, but it’s a paid site.
- All Events – List an event for your city so users can discover it.
Here’s an example of a Chicago event listed on All Events:
Do you want to create a ticketed event? Then you may also want to consider pairing up with event websites. In the example below, you can see that the Flatiron Bar in New York City is selling tickets for its whisky and cheese pairing event on Brown Paper Tickets.
Also notice that Flatiron’s event is a special experience. Do you run a similar event for your bar or restaurant? Then you may want to take things one step further and consider becoming an experience host on Airbnb. Why?
Millennial travelers are now into experience traveling. For example, with the introduction of Trips, Airbnb added bookable experiences in 12 cities worldwide. The booking website says that 13x more guests use experiences than home rental, the primary function of the website.
The 3 perks of being an experience host on Airbnb?
- You can charge money for hosting your event.
- You can attract tourists to your bar or restaurant.
- You’re hosting Instagrammers and social influencers.
2. Reward loyal behavior like check-ins and user-generated images.
Are you on Foursquare? Apparently, the almost 10 year-old app is not quite dead. Are your patrons checking in on Facebook? Do they click attending for your events?
When customers interact or check-in with your brand, it’s important to reward them for their loyalty. That’s as simple as offering drinks, free entrance, or appetizers.
Another great way to reward customers is to interact with the content they share. Let’s say you notice a great image that was shared by a customer while dining at your establishment. Share it, comment on it, retweet it, or give it a like.
Sharing and liking user-generated content shows that you’re paying attention and rewards loyal customers. Plus, 53% of Millennials say user-generated content influences their purchasing decisions over traditional media or banner ads.
Starbucks runs a user-generated content campaign on Instagram every year called The Red Cup Contest. Usually, winners receive gift cards. All participants have to do is decorate and take pictures of their holiday Starbucks cup. For 2017, Starbucks issued a cup that customers can color in for even more holiday fun.
3. Use video features on Facebook and Instagram.
Video and live stream are where it’s at, whether you do it for Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or all three. Consider the fact that video will account for 82% of all consumer Internet traffic worldwide by 2021. All you need is knowledge about how and when to stream and a creative idea about what to show.
For Instagram, you may want to consider using an app like Boomerang, that allows you to create mini, looping videos.
Pro Tip: If you find that you create a lot of video content, you may also want to create a Youtube channel. Plus, if live streaming is your thing, don’t forget about sites like Periscope.
4. Design space that’s great for selfies and social sharing.
Alfred Coffee on Melrose Place is notoriously Instagrammable. The coffee shop is located on a fashionable street, has a hip offering, and is known for its interior design. Having a space that you design with selfies and photos in mind is a great idea for enhancing your social media marketing strategy.
Here’s an example of Alfred’s famous “But First, Coffee” sign:
People wait in lines to take pictures at Alfred Coffee. Having a selfie-worthy space in your bar or restaurant attracts customers and promotes user-generated content. Also, don’t forget to create a corresponding hashtag like #butfirstcoffee.
That way, you can track, monitor, and engage with your user-generated content. Added bonus? You can also find and engage with influencers.
Here’s another example of a bar that has created a selfie-worthy space:
Bar Pacyfik in Warsaw, Poland, was designed with Instagram in mind. The pink neon lights and recycled Siricha bottles in the bathroom have proven to be a favorite with the Instagram crowd.
5. Spotlight your employees for social media content.
The Sauvage Neo Bistro in New York City has a fabulous Instagram account with many enticing images of their food and beverages. But every once in awhile they also feature their employees in posts. Here’s an example:
Spotlighting your chef, bartender, or server in social media posts has several benefits. In truth, there are too many benefits to list here, but here are a few.
First, you’re giving your brand a human face and creating a genuine persona online. Second, you’re going to increase your reach and engagement.
Think of it like this – everyone on your staff has at least one social media profile complete with followers and reach. They’re already posting about their work. Around 50% of employees say that they post images, videos, and messages about their employer often or from time to time, and 33% post without encouragement from an employer.
Imagined what your employees would post if you encouraged them and provided them with positive content about themselves? There’s a good chance they would share that content and engage, increasing your reach across platforms.
6. Create content around trending topics and ask questions.
Following hashtag trends is a great place to start. For example, #food has generated 240 million posts on Instagram as of late 2017. When you look up #food on Instagram, you can see what sort of food posts are trending.
After searching for #food, licensed_to_distill’s post showed up as a top post. Here you can see that craft cocktails and mixology are trending on Instagram. If you’re a bar owner, you might want to craft a few cocktails yourself for social media posts.
Another popular Instagram hashtag is #foodies, with 71 million posts on Instagram as of late 2017. Notice that it also appears in our example. The hashtag represents a trend in knowing a food’s origin and story. For Instagram Millennials, knowing the nutritional value and the cultural roots of the food is as important as how well the food photographs and tastes.
Matcha is a great example of a trend that foodies find both healthy and interesting. Some restaurants are buying into the trend wholesale with entire menus made from Matcha. Here’s an example:
On top of being trendy, Cha Cha Matcha has great brand coherence across social channels. Using a color scheme, consistent font, and overall image aesthetic may seem trivial but it’s not. As you can see, Cha Cha Matcha’s pink and green treats and design rake in the likes and comments.
Ready to get started with your Business Page on Facebook? Not sure how? We’ve got you covered. Read our guide: 7 Simple Tips to Optimize Your Facebook Business Page
Social media management and social listening are the next level of social media marketing for bars and restaurants. Social listening involves collecting all mentions including a keyword or topical phrase and analyzing them for trends and patterns.
You can use social media management to track your brand, research trending topics, find influencers, and get a better understanding of your audience. Let’s go back to our matcha example. From 11 November, 2017, “matcha” was mentioned over 60,000 times in total on social media:
That’s quite a bit of people talking about matcha online, so you decide to add it to your menu. How can you use your social media management tool to help you out in the meantime? Here’s a sample of the kind of information you can gather:
- Where matcha lovers are posting.
- Which hashtags they’re using.
- Who is trending as an influencer and where.
- What the sentiment is toward matcha and why.
- What people are saying and sharing.
- Who you can tap for user-generated content.
- Where commenters are located.
For the keyword “matcha,” we can see that most posts are coming from Instagram (74%) followed by Facebook (15%). Glancing at the source information makes it clear that matcha is performing far better on Instagram than any other platform. Now, you know where to focus.
Popular Instagram hashtags are #matcha, #matchalatte, #foodie, #icecream, #sweettooth. Just by glancing at hashtags in mentions, we’ve found that matcha lattes and ice cream are the two most popular ways to serve the trendy food. Plus, you now have hashtags that will help you position your content with the right audience.
Notice in the post above that the restaurant, T to Tea, replied to the customer’s comment. Engaging with content is a great way to reward loyal customers, and an easy way to find such mentions is to invest in a social media management tool that fetches them for you.
Plus, you can use a social media management tool to find influencers and conduct market research. You’ll want to follow influencers to find out how your topic is trending and to look for opportunities to engage.
Market research helps you do the same. You can find out how other bars, restaurants, or cafes are promoting matcha (or any topic) online. Plus, you can reach out to other bars and restaurants or individual chefs or bartenders for collaboration and event initiatives.
Here are our list of influencers for our “matcha” keyword:
The sentiment toward “matcha” on social media is overwhelmingly positive at 35%. Only 3% of mentions were categorized as negative. Upon further investigation, you will find that you can recategorize most “neutral” mentions as “positive.”
Social media marketing is the first step for bars and restaurants. But social media management and social listening activities are necessary for any local eatery or watering hole that wants to stay ahead of the game.
Not sure how to get started with social media management? That’s okay, we’ve got you covered. Read our guide: The Complete Starter Guide to Social Media Management
The key to social media marketing for bars and restaurants is to unite your offline world with what’s happening online.
By finding ways to promote, engage, and delight online, you’ll thrive in the real world.
All you have to do is know where to post and how to engage. Plus, by understanding social media management, you can take things to the next level.