If done well, and done with a spirit of fun and creativity, your social media accounts can be some of the best features of your restaurant (besides your food, of course).
The mindset for social media must be slightly different from all other marketing methods. The problem is that many restaurants turn their social media accounts into nothing more than online billboards. However, the real goal is to make your social media accounts immersive online destinations, filled with fun content that people will actually enjoy without being bludgeoned with endless sales pitches.
Here are a few tips to get you started down that path:
1. Use Instagram to Link the Personality of Your Community with Your Delicious Food
One of the most enjoyable things about Instagram is its immersive qualities. The visual richness of the experience makes it perfect for more adventurous, outside-the-restaurant photo expeditions. And one of the first places you should look is your own community.
Does your community have any annual food festivals? Find a way to get involved. Hire or find a professional or skilled amateur photographer to capture your restaurant’s interaction with the community during the festival. And make sure to take gorgeous photos of the festival itself and other vendors. Use your account to promote your community, not just your restaurant. Make sure you hashtag the name of the city or other vendors when you feature them so that everyone can see that you’re using your social media platform to highlight others, not just yourself.
What is the heart and soul of your city? What are its most attractive features?
Do a fact-finding photo essay of your city at important landmarks and bring one of your restaurant’s dishes along with you. Make your dish the theme or even a character in the narrative. Say, for example, you have a Mexican restaurant that is known for its delicious torta. Make your torta the star of your photo essay and title it, “The [Name of your Restaurant] Torta Tours the Famous Landmarks of [Name of Your City].” Stage the torta on a plate in every picture.
Who are the most interesting or beloved people in your city? Do human interest stories about them via Instagram photo essays. (A photo essay would be a series of photos published back-to-back, and the beginning of each photo is titled/labeled in a way that shows that it is a part of a series: i.e. “1 of 5 photos in the [name] Photo Essay.”) Mentioning your food is optional. In counterintuitive social media campaigns like these, the focus is not on you. When you do high-quality features on interesting or well-liked people in your community (usually because they’ve contributed a great deal to the community) your community will love you for it.
2. Create a YouTube Channel and Make Outside-the-Box Food Show-Style Clips
When you’re creating content on social media related to your restaurant, you’re not just using it as a flashing sign trying to talk people into going to your restaurant. You’re offering a separate product–something that people would happily consume just as they consume your food.
This is certainly true for YouTube. After you create your own YouTube Channel, do video ideas that are closely related to your restaurant but are unexpected. For example, film a fun video of your chef trying out some wild (or even silly) recipe that will grab the attention of viewers. Or have the chef make a seasonal recipe that plenty of other people in the community will be attempting to make at that time of year. Film and carefully edit each step of the recipe so that viewers can watch a concise, fast-paced but engaging journey through the chef’s creation of that recipe.
You can also leverage the brand of celebrities and the public’s love for cooking shows and have your chef try out a recipe by a famous chef or food show host (like a recipe from one of Alton Brown’s shows.)
3. Feature Your Staff (At Their Best and Most Interesting)
People love human interest stories, and if they like your restaurant (or are curious about it) they will enjoy getting to know your staff too. Do a photo essay or a short video on YouTube featuring a staff member or one of your chefs. Provide a few interesting factoids about them, tell interesting stories from their lives (even if the stories are not related to your restaurant), and have them explain what their favorite dish is at your restaurant and why. Try to use documentary techniques–voice-over narrative or still images mixed in with video–to help tell the story in a compelling way. (If you’re worried about production costs, see this classic article on how to make a quality movie using only an iPhone and a few apps.)
It’s also a nice touch to simply show great photos on Instagram of your staff members smiling or doing behind-the-scenes work tasks that might be interesting or fun to show in a photo format.
This will show the public that you value your employees, and it will also improve morale among your staff if it’s done in a spirit of fun.