Eating out safely together as a family will be one of the first things people do as they seek the comfort and nostalgia of life before lockdown. Here's some tips on how to make these customers feel welcome
How to improve your social media marketing
Social expert Hannah Clark, Head of Social at hospitality marketing agency Me:Mo, has worked with many hospitality businesses, from restaurant groups, to Michelin-starred venues, to street food vans.
With outlets re-opening after lockdown, she believes social media can open up a whole world of new customers to you. Here are her top tips for success in social.
Treat your in-person and online customers the same
The community management of social media is really important. My boss always says that a hospitality owner would never ignore a customer who walks in the door and social media should be treated in the same way. If someone has made the effort to follow or engage with you online, then they should be acknowledged.
I’d advise always trying to reply to comments and tags within 24 hours. If it’s a complaint, get in there sooner. Check the channels once a day, more if you can. You can turn on auto-responses so customers will immediately get an acknowledgement and an expected response time. If you simply don’t have the time to respond promptly, you could consider paying an agency or individual to monitor the channels. And be authentic in your responses – show personality and try and keep a consistent tone of voice (even if you have a few people managing the accounts).
“A hospitality owner would never ignore a customer who walks in the door and social media should be treated in the same way”
Cheats for good photography
There’s no doubt that taking good food photography is tricky. But images are important on social media so it’s worth a bit of time to get it right. Lots of people will go to social first to look at what you do, which can create a good (or bad) first impression.
To improve your photos, take shots in natural light where possible or try candid pictures of the chefs in the kitchen or bartenders pouring drinks. Canva app is brilliant for customising photos and making them look more premium. Mojo, for Instagram Stories, is also worth a download. Both apps are simple to use and can significantly improve your imagery.
I always advise being proactive, rather than reactive on social media. Go out and find new followers. Use the explore page on Instagram to find new potential customers to follow. You can search for different hashtags that are relevant to your business and use them in your posts or find new contacts through them. If someone tags you in a post, take a look at who has liked that post. These people could be new customers. Give them a follow or comment on their posts. Get your voice out there.
“23 minutes is the average amount of time users spend on Facebook every day”
Use your followers' images
People love posting photos of their meals on social media, and many will tag the venue where they ate. These photos can be a great source of content for your channels. After checking if they’re happy for you to share it, post it on your channel tagging them and you’ll get more people seeing your profile.
Promotions – are they worth it?
I’d treat promotions on social media with caution. If you do it too often, it can cheapen your brand and customers will come to expect it. However, done infrequently and well, they can be valuable for growing your account. For example, you could say that the first 10 customers who book a table when you re-open get a free cocktail. This kind of deal can create excitement and buzz around your business.
“25-34 year-olds are the biggest audience on Instagram in the UK”
The lowdown on paid adverts
With paid adverts on social media, you can gain some good attention with a little budget. Don’t go into it blindly, though. Do your research beforehand and don’t just put your credit card on there without any upper spend limits!
Think about what your objective is – do you want more followers? More bookings for a particular night? Facebook has lots of guidance on how to run ads. Look at their free training courses through Facebook Blueprint. To start with, you could just try £10/day and see how it goes. Keep an eye on how well the adverts are performing. Don’t keep them running if they’re not working. Adapt and think again.
Which channels are best?
Our hospitality clients tend to mostly use Instagram and Facebook but it depends on your audience. If your target is the younger generation, then it might be worth looking at TikTok and Snapchat as that’s where they tend to be. Just be wary of mentioning alcohol on these channels: there are rules around it because of the young demographic. Twitter is very good for community engagement and as a customer service tool. But maybe it wouldn’t be your first choice to start with.
“Social influencers get a lot of bad press but they can be an asset to a business”
Influencers – should you use them?
Social influencers get a lot of bad press but they can be an asset to a business. If you have any people nearby who have a good following, it’s worth offering them a free meal in exchange for a review or mention on their channels. It could be lucrative for you.
The influencers don’t need to have massive followings. In fact, micro-influencers – with 1,000-100,000 followers – are often a much better bet. Their followers can be very loyal and engaged with what they’re posting, which means more exposure for you.
We worked with a café last year that decided to branch out into deliveries with a new brand during lockdown – Breakfast En Bread (@alldaybrunchers). Every time an influencer posted about them, we saw big boosts to their follower numbers and sales. It really can help you get noticed.
Don’t take on too much and use the channels the right way
Don’t feel you need to have profiles on every single social channel. If you’re pushed on time, just do one and do it well. Try to update it regularly, so customers know you still exist.
If you do have multiple channels, I wouldn’t recommend putting out the same posts on every one. Each channel has a different function and audience. On Instagram, the photos should do the talking. Videos are favoured by Facebook so they will be seen by more people. Whereas Twitter is more about engaging with followers, reposting and talking to peers.
As well as the main photo grid, Instagram has lots of options to share content with customers – Stories (posts that appear for 24 hours), IGTV (for longer videos) and Reels (for 15-second video clips). Stories are great for finding out more about your audience and what they want. Try some polls and questions: ‘We’re thinking of running some specials next week, would you prefer x or y?’ It could be really useful market research (for free!). You can also get away with the imagery being a bit less professional as it disappears after a day.