TripAdvisor. The very name used to send shudders down the spine of the average restaurant owner or marketing manager. But no longer, surely. These days, online consumer reviews are by and large an accepted part of the landscape. Instead of stressing about what to do after a bad review, restaurants should actively go out and use social media marketing to grow, gain publicity and, crucially, get more bookings.
ICYMI: How to deal with TripAdvisor
Over the years, plenty of social media marketing articles have looked at how restaurants can deal with the phenomenon of customer reviews. In Case You Missed It, here are a few top tips:
Claim the good
Consumer reviews are powerful. They are trusted. A recent study showed that 70% of consumers trust online reviews. Many restaurants incorporate their TripAdvisor reviews or ratings into their websites, as well as displaying them at their premises. Highlighting good reviews by previous customers is an effective way of winning new customers.
Address the bad
Review sites like TripAdvisor are public, which means any criticism of you is out there for the world to see. Instead of ignoring negative reviews, respond to them where appropriate. If it's factually incorrect, set the record straight in a calm and non-confrontational way. If mistakes were made, apologise. Look at this as an opportunity to show everyone how good you are at customer service.
Do what you do best
At the end of the day, it's great food and great service that makes a great restaurant. Continuing to deliver these will only result in happy customers. Naggers and naysayers notwithstanding, this should mean better online reviews.
How should restaurants use social media?
Before we get onto social media marketing, here are a few practical examples of how social media can help:
Many customers will enquire about the menu, or other things, via Twitter or Facebook. Dealing with questions online frees up the phone for bookings, which of course can also be made via social media if you like.
Filling up seats on 'slow days'
Large table just cancelled? No problem - put out the word on Twitter that you have seats available. No one at the bar on Tuesday night? Announce an impromptu Happy Hour to tempt people in. Perhaps offer a free drink to the first five people who come in and show the post on their smartphone. Social media marketing allows you to be flexible and react to the needs of the business instantly.
Recruiting the right staff
Using your social media marketing channels you can put out the word about a new position cheaply and easily. You can also proactively target people with the right skills for higher level jobs. LinkedIn, the 'professional network,' is especially useful for researching potential candidates.
Social media marketing for restaurants
Food and drink is a BIG talking point online. Instagram alone has over 27 million food photos posted every day, and trends like the popularity of craft beer are fuelled and encouraged by social media. As a restaurant, bar or cafe, you are serving up exactly what the Internet loves. Here's how to make the most of it via social media:
- It's all about images
Food photos might be even more popular than cat videos. You can't sign into Facebook or Instagram without seeing a photo of someone's meal. Pinterest is a network entirely dedicated to saving beautiful images. Customers love to see and share pictures of appetising food. Restaurants should be pumping out enticing, shareable images of what's on the menu to tempt customers in. And many of them are.
- Don't broadcast, interact
The difference between traditional media and social media marketing is simple. Old media was all about broadcasting - putting your message out there with no response. Think of a TV advert or a poster - you make it, you whack it out there and you hope something happens. But these days, you can be more intelligent. Communicating via social media marketing allows you to start conversations, get customer feedback and valuable business information. So don't just constantly tweet that it's Two for One Tuesday, seek opinions and ideas. Get talking to your customers to find out what they crave, and what makes them tick. Social media can be a free market research tool.
- Give away your secrets
Not the important ones - not your PIN number, or the secret spice mix that makes your chipotle special. But social media users love insight. This is an opportunity to give them glimpses into behind-the-scenes action: perhaps a glimpse of your fresh ingredients, or a shot of the dedicated chef at work. If you have a big project going on, like a refurbishment or a new opening, why not drip-feed teaser photos to get people intrigued and anticipating? Think of social media marketing as a quicker, more agile way of staying in touch with your customers and getting new ones interested.
- Get people doing your marketing for FREE
Now this is the Holy Grail of social media marketing. It takes time, but if you build a loyal, engaged community of followers on social media, you will start to see great dividends. People will repost and reshare your photos, help you spread your news via their own networks, and amplify your activities. It's not just a question of numbers; it's about sharing great content over time, getting to know your audience and building that special bond over time.
So all in all, there is plenty of scope in social media marketing for restaurants. There's no longer any excuse to fret about the Internet, or to hang back from social media. Instead, it's time to dive in with both feet! Don't get hung up about how to react to a bad TripAdvisor review - get proactive and start using social media to fill your seats and make your restaurant famous.