Which Social Media Platform Is Most Appropriate For Your Business?
We've all heard of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other successful social media platforms, but isn't this a bit of a minefield when you are trying to run a successful restaurant business? No restaurant owner, chef nor front of house manager goes into the hospitality industry in order to produce a great social media following. Indeed if you are a chef proprietor or a front of house manager both working long hours, social media is often the last thing on your mind. You understand it's important but perhaps it's passed you by and either you don't fully understand how to get the best out of it, or you just don't have time time to address and participate in it. There's nothing wrong with that admission. Others of course just don't want to be on social media, whilst some are confused about which social media they should be using in order to benefit the business.
Much of the answer in terms of 'which social media platform to use' is determined by your typical customer demographics and your target market. I know of social media consultants who automatically say "Oh you have to have a presence on Instagram... it's THE platform for photos and everyone is using it!" Really? So a restaurant whose average client base and target market is say 45 years of age and upwards are on Instagram? Whilst Instagram IS indeed popular there has been a recent move by the youngsters towards the newly launched, interactive video platform TikTok.
At the end of the day a restaurant has to determine exactly who they wish to have as customers and target that market with some overlap. If you are serving beers, or cocktails, burgers and fast-ish food then by all means target the younger element of the local population and use Instagram etc, but if your target market are those professionals or more mature of a certain age and are likely to have 'disposable income' but who are looking for a more sophisticated dining experience then you aren't likely to see them as active and engaging on Instagram. The over 45's and more mature tend to take to Facebook, and possibly Twitter, although my experiences of both platforms which I use for professional reasons indicate that both these platforms in recent years have become hornets nests of negativity and abuse. (These people rarely buy because of social media but they will be influenced by what they see, so Facebook for example becomes a place of reference and information.)
The younger element have moved away from Facebook, were never on Twitter, and offer no social media platform loyalty nor restaurant loyalty. They chop and change as the trend takes them. More mature customers are more loyal although in terms of the British, they are still adventurous trying out new places, in order to give them a chance. (That's not quite the same about locals abroad...they are much more loyal and much less adventurous.)
That then brings us to the next question. Having decided where your customer base hangs out in terms of social media how much time can any business devote to using it and building up a following? Is it useful or futile? Does it really take hours and hours? What do I post? Do I have to engage with customers? Again the whole subject is a complete minefield. Yes, there are social media consultants who will do it for you, but that adds to your overheads. So how can you best use social media to engage with your customers?
To be honest, there is something much more powerful already available to you than social media platforms...and that's the very customers that are already in your restaurant that day, or those who have already booked. The key to bringing people into your restaurant rests with your front of house and the experience that your customers get when they visit you. Restaurants did perfectly well before social media existed. A great front of house team make customers feel welcome, happy and give them not only an enjoyable experience but a positive memorable experience, so much so that they tell their family, they tell their friends and they make recommendations. It's the referral process and it works BUT...only if you deliver every time. This means that your front of house have to offer excellence at all times. Do that and you'll create much greater loyalty than any social media platform can. By all means use social media but it's not the substitute for a website, it's not your only marketing avenue and as it's third party owned, it should be treated with caution. Third party social media platforms don't care about you and your business, they care about making themselves more and more money.