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Social Media’s Impact on New Diner Acquisition

Does social media have any impact on website traffic? Will social media bring more customers to your restaurant?

I’m going to lay my cards on the table at the outset – Social Media has a valuable impact on your ability to get and retain customers. But, it’s not entirely quantifiable. Let’s take a look at how this works.

First, we need to look at how people find you – a primer on marketing funnels – so we can see how social media ties in with the bigger picture of traditional marketing.

The recommendations in this post are based on my own real-life experience of applying different techniques over many years in business, including formerly working as a professional SEO and web marketer when I ran my own web business in the early 2000s.

Marketing Primer

Social Media's Impact on New Diner Acquisition 1
Classic Marketing Funnel

There are a lot of resources on the Internet that discuss marketing in greater and lesser depth than the simple diagram above. A simple search will reveal many different articles focused on every type of business, but the basics are the same whatever you are doing. There are 5 key steps which I will cover in brief below. If you want more in-depth articles on specific points, let me know in the comments or send me a message.

  1. Awareness – The prospective customer needs to become aware of your restaurant. Also called discovery.
  2. Interest – They develop an interest in your restaurant and want to find out more. They will seek further information about you here.
  3. Decision – They then make a decision – whether to buy from you or not.
  4. Action – They then make a booking and come in to eat.
  5. Advocacy – If you have done well, they may later become an advocate for your restaurant and tell others about it. This section also includes loyalty which you can leverage to create advocates.

Awareness

How do prospective customers become aware of your business? In 2019, there are several ways for this to happen:

  1. Word of Mouth
  2. Social Media
  3. Search Engines
  4. Print Marketing (Adverts, Fliers, etc)
  5. Press Releases & Editorial Coverage
  6. Reviews
  7. Physically seeing your Restaurant

A lot of this is now digital and feeds back into how your business is discovered online. Having reviews (good or bad) helps influence search engines to rank your business more highly. Some of these reviews and editorial) help further in the interest and decision stages.

You can see that social media is very important at the outset for helping people discover you. It is a digital form of word of mouth marketing and represents high credibility if others share information about you (which is the sharer’s advocacy). You should also ensure your own social media feeds are periodically updated and of high quality.

Key Takeaway: Social Media acts as the two slices of bread in your marketing sandwich (to use a food analogy). It brackets the entry and the exit points from the customer’s progress from first discovering you to becoming an ardent fan. More on this later, but here are some examples of our Instagram Feeds:

Interest

This is the opportunity you have to wow your potential guests. They have found you – somehow – and you need to make sure your information is something that persuades them to find out more – maybe a phone call, more research, or an email.

Your print advertising needs to be a high standard, though this is more relevant to awareness. Your website needs to be good quality – great images, easy to navigate, etc (see also the SEO section later). Your reviews need to be replied to – good and bad – as this gives a sense that you care. If you appear in directories or independent review sites (e.g. press releases, blogger reviews, etc) then you need to make sure your business is properly presented.

Decision

If you have done your job well, the new guest will decide to visit you. Yay!

Action

They book. They order take away. They pop in for a snack to check you out. Whatever and however they come into actual contact with your business, make sure it’s a positive experience.

Advocacy

If they had a great time, they may begin sharing their pictures and thoughts on social media and review sites, as well as by word of mouth. If they become a repeat customer they may become an ardent fan and fight your corner online. You should think about loyalty systems here to reward and retain customers, but you can leverage social media to show your business in a positive light. Get involved and reply to posts, and share other people’s content as well.

Search Engine Optimisation for Restaurants

With most restaurants, the website is almost static. It’s a calling card, a simple brochure which tells people where you are, how to contact you, shows your menu, some nice shots of food and interiors, and that’s about it. In the marketing funnel, your website is relevant to the interest, decision and action stages, and good SEO helps increase your probability of featuring in the awareness entry point also.

Over time, search engines have got smart about content on the Internet. Anything that doesn’t change drops down the rankings slowly. The search engine thinks the content might be ‘stale’ so shows it to people less often.

Key Takeaway: Update your website content (even a little) periodically to remind search engines you’re still as relevant as you were yesterday.

Key Takeaway: Make sure your website works, is easy to navigate and can be easily tracked down when somebody is actually looking for information about you. The better your website appeals to the potential customer, the more likely they will make a decision to visit you.

One way to help keep your website fresh is to publish new content periodically. One suggestion here is to add a blog and remember to share posts on social media. There are many other points to consider when building a website, but that’s outside the scope of this article.

Your Social Media Sandwich

As you read earlier, social media plays an important role at both the start of the process and the end of the process. It is also relevant during the interest and decision parts of the process where customers check you out. Your own content needs to be good and relevant to the personality of your business.

However, social media also influences your search engine rankings. As people post and share content about you, this tells search engines your business is legitimate and active. This boosts your impressions so you get more visibility. It’s hard to say exactly how much this affects rankings and direct clicks, but my own experiments have shown an approximate 15% variation between running an active social sharing campaign and not.

Key Takeaway: Post regularly. Post good content. Share what others are posting. It boosts your SEO and increases your relevance to your audience during the awareness, discovery and decision stages. Encourage your followers to do the same.

Hashtags

Are hashtags important in your posts? Do they make a big difference?

There is an argument that nobody ever chose to eat at a restaurant as a result of their hashtags, so why should you bother with hashtags?

While this may be true, hashtags help in awareness and discovery. You may appear higher in local searches or searches related to your cuisine. You can also influence your followers (advocates) to use specific hashtags related only to your brand. This helps you track content specific to you and have some fun with it along the way – this helps create engagement which further feeds back into the decision-making process and your content’s influence on search engines. It is a complex web.

One important thing to note is that you should not stuff your content with hashtags because search engines recognise this and can penalise your posts leading to the opposite effect of not being discoverable (awareness). Use relevant hashtags and try not to jump on irrelevant goals ‘just because’. Do you really need to be high up in #foodporn unless you are a Michelin Star or AA Rosette restaurant? Yes, you are a restaurant, but is #foodography specifically relevant to you? Experiment to find out what works, but tread the water cautiously.

Key Takeaway: Choose your hashtags wisely.

Will the Real You Please Stand Up

A few months back, I read this book and found it useful and relevant, even though it was written 5 years ago. The landscape has changed, but the principles still remain true. I recommend it but see my review below and make your own decision.

Will the Real You Please Stand Up: Show Up, Be Authentic, and Prosper in Social Media Book Cover
Will the Real You Please Stand Up: Show Up, Be Authentic, and Prosper in Social Media Kim Garst Marketing Morgan James Publishing 29 Jan 2015 Kindle 188 pages Buy on Amazon

Social media goes from being an interesting diversion to a powerhouse, game-changing marketing tool when you mix in the key missing ingredient, authenticity, and harness the power of the personal connection. Kim Garst is an internationally recognized social media expert. She is currently ranked by Forbes as the #8 Female Social Media Power Influencer in the world.


My Review

Authenticity. It’s all the rage in 2019. In 2014 when this book was written, it was excellent advice which still holds true today.

However, the book cannot help but feel dated by the use of platforms which are no longer in service (I am thinking of Google+ here), but the ‘big 4’ (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest) are still highly relevant.

The book’s discussion of what is authentic is useful, though not overly detailed, and its discussion of heritage vs history was particularly interesting. There were a number of anecdotes of how not to do good social media marketing, as well as some excellent advice on how to be good at it – in terms of engagement, responsiveness, etc. However, much of this is covered in the numerous blogs on social media marketing these days.

The one star that I removed was because the book felt too corporate. A lot of the case studies and analysis were for bigger brands, or for brands which became big. The dynamics of these brands are very different to the small business so the latter half of the book felt less relevant. Especially since the majority of the big-brand case studies tended to do the opposite of what the book outlined as ‘good practice’ in the first part. While this was interesting to see how these global brands do social, it wasn’t very relevant to the small business owner.

Overall a good book with much of relevance for today, though I would say you could get a good part of the learning from blogs and other sources.


What is your experience with social media? Have you found the same or do you have other helpful information you could share?

Thanks for reading this article about the restaurant business. I hope you liked it! If there is anything you'd like me to discuss or write about just let me know in the comments or via the contact form.

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