In 2013, 42% of internet users were using two or more forms of social media. In September 2014 Pew Research Centre reported that this figure had shot up to 52% within the year. That’s a giant audience for you to connect with and if you don’t have a large budget for advertising, this is for free!
Facebook and Twitter do have options to pay for promoted posts and advertisements where you can control how much or how little you pay per day/per click. But we’re gonna talk about ways to promote your business online at zero cost.
1. Check In - Tell your customers to Check-In on Facebook, mention you on Twitter or Instagram or to Check-In on Foursquare. Encourage them to do so by offering prize draws/vouchers/discounts for Checking In at your restaurant. It’s free advertising, you’re brand name or photos of items on your menu are being shown to all of your customers followers/friends on Facebook/Twitter etc.
2. Competitions - Another way to get your customers involved is post across all of your social media channels that you’re hosting a competition. Create a specific #Hashtag for the competition so you can easily go through all the entries. Ask them to make sure they’ve liked your different social media accounts and to post a photo of what they’ve ordered or to post a selfie of themselves in your in your restaurant. Run the competition for as long as you like, then pick the best one. The prize can be a meal for several people, vouchers, free drinks with a meal, you choose!
3. Facebook and Twitter - Post photos, ask questions keep the conversation going. Ask your followers/fans what they’re favourite food is. Listen to them! If Pancakes is a firm favourite and not on your menu, perhaps add it as a breakfast special once a week. Don’t leave questions unanswered. If a customers writes on your Facebook wall or Tweets you asking the opening hours and you already have them written in your bio/description, don’t assume they’ve found the answer to their question. Be polite, answer their question and tell them you look forward to welcoming them at your restaurant.
4. Instagram and Pinterest - Much more visual than Facebook and Twitter, these two are perfect for marketing and promoting a bar or restaurant. A stream of photos from your delicious menu, your colourful cocktails on offer that weekend, keep your followers engaged. Take some time each day to take photos of your food, the staff, table set ups, drink specials. Use different tags to be found easily. Tag your location so anyone looking up the #corkcity tag will know you’re there. Post some simple recipes or ideas from your menus on Pinterest accompanied by step by step photos. Be creative!
5. Yelp!- Get yourself listed on Yelp, users of the website can read and leave reviews on restaurants. As the owner of the restaurant you can reply to the reviews. Almost like a TripAdvisor for the food and beverage industry. MenuPages is another great tool where you can post your menu, deals, details etc and customers can post reviews. These tools are also great for local online search.
6. Video - Video has become very big with the likes of Youtube growing and reaching its’ 10th birthday. Apps like Vine, Instagram videos and a Facebook feature which makes videos play automatically on a users newsfeed have all made the need for online video greater. Most phones these days have great cameras, don’t feel the need to call in a director, producer and a cameraman just yet! Post some short videos to Instagram, Behind-The-Scenes in your kitchen, the lead up to an event you’re holding. If you can afford to spend a bit more time and energy on your videos, record your own “cooking show” for Youtube or compile some customer testimonials. Any of your videos can be posted on Facebook or Twitter afterwards.
7. Blog - Start blogging! Have a News or Blog section on your website and start by writing one blog a week. Give your customers some behind the scenes insights to your restaurant. Involve local food bloggers and have them write guest posts. Give your readers tips and tricks to cook for certain dishes you serve. Compile some of the testimonials or reviews you’ve received on the likes of Yelp or Facebook.
8. Loyalty - Place a clipboard with some basic fields – such as name and email address – beside your tills or small feedback cards on your tables. Gather customers details and use a programme like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact to send out exclusive offers to “members”. Our Point of Sale systems also offer a customer loyalty programme where you can design your own loyalty cards to swipe at the tills to offer discounts etc promote your loyalty programme online and offline.
9. Keep It Local - Is there a hotel/B&B nearby? A local tourist attraction? Work together with other business owners in your locality to offer packages or discounts. If someone is staying in the B&B down the road, there could be a set menu, special rate meal for two or offers if they reserve a table at your restaurant.
10. Customer Service - Last, but definitely not least is good old excellent customer service. If you and your staff treat every customer as if they were the most important customer you have ever served it will go a long way. Word of mouth will spread about how friendly and welcoming your establishment is, loyal customers will come back and tell friends.