6 Best Practices to Drive Social Media Engagement

Social media presence is key for your company’s brand awareness and online marketing. But it’s about more than just getting people follow you on these platforms. The real impact from your social media efforts comes from comments, shares, retweets, likes, and favorites. From engagement.

How do you encourage followers to not just passively observe your social media activity, but instead to interact and participate? Increasing your social media engagement can be achieved by following these six simple best practices.

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Let People Know Who You Are

Setting the tone for your social media presence is a key part of effective branding. When people feel a sense of intimacy and understanding of your “personality” on social media, they’re more likely to engage with your posts.

When followers become familiar with your style of posts and sense of humor they’re more likely to engage as they know what to expect from you and are confident in aligning themselves with your profile. No like, share, or comment is private – everyone is aware that their activity is being broadcast to their followers. Unless someone is confident that they like your brand and are happy to publicly align themselves with it, they will be reluctant to engage.

Lead by Example

If you want to get your followers to interact, the best way to do so is to lead by example. Like, comment, and share things which are relevant to your branding and your company.

Start conversations, participate in discussions, follow back. It is important to be part of a community and be proactive in engaging with members of that community. With social media engagement, you get out what you put in.

It is also critical to respond to any question, comment or mention about your company. This is a huge part of customer service and branding in the digital age.

It’s Not All About You

There’s a difference between someone liking or following your social media page and them engaging with it. That difference is the value of your posts. If your posts offer something of value to your audience they are more likely to engage with it.

The quickest way to turn people off is to only post promotional content. Remember – it’s not all about you. The best content to post is termed “adjacent content.” This is anything which is related to your brand and your product without being directly about those things. Think tips and tricks, life hacks, recommendations – things which will provide value to your followers. For example, a hairdressing salon might post a gallery of the best celebrity hairstyles of the season.

“Value” doesn’t necessarily mean information. It can provide humor, escapism, or a trip down memory lane. Anything which contributes positively to the reader’s day.

Give Your Brand the Human Edge 

Social media is meant to be casual. Your social media channels are a great place to humanize your brand, even if you’re usually quite formal and professional. It’s the best place to build relationships and trust, and to show off your corporate social responsibility.

Snapshots of behind-the-scenes, profiles of employees or clients, and pictures of social functions or charity and volunteer efforts are all excellent examples of this.

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Time It Right

There’s not a huge amount of time between posting something on Facebook and it disappearing into the darkest corners of a follower’s newsfeed, never to be seen or read. Timing your posts for maximum engagement is critical.

This is where social media strategy and metric measurement are so vital, as these are the best ways to determine what time is the most effective for you to post content.

Remember the Basics

The final thing to keep in mind when driving engagement on your social media channels is the basic tenets of what makes an engaging post.

It is common knowledge that users engage far more frequently with statuses which contain images. Always include an eye-catching image to maximize viewing and engagement.

Similarly, framing your statuses or posts as questions drives more engagement. This encourages people to think about and answer the question. Questions such as “who would you like to visit this place with?” are particularly useful due to the increased audience created from followers tagging other friends in the comments.

Follow these six best practices and you’ll see your social media engagement rates skyrocket.

8 Fresh Ideas for Restaurant Social Media Content

Anyone who has ever controlled a social media account – be it a personal one, a professional one or one that’s just for fun – will know the difficulty of coming up with fresh content. You want to offer value, variety and a little bit of X-factor, an aim that can sometimes turn this social media side-gig into a full-time profession. What’s more, social media followers are a fickle bunch, and the magic formula for getting those likes rolling in is an elusive one.

Thankfully for restaurateurs, social media content is everywhere. It’s just that you may not be recognising it as such. Why not try one of these fresh ideas for your next Facebook, Twitter or Instagram post?

1. Display your skills

Do you have a brilliant chef, mixologist, or barista whose talents seem wasted behind the counter or kitchen wall? Why not turn their professional aptitude into performance art? Get your chef to dramatically flick some stir fry, your mixologist to flair bartend, or your barista to design a bit of cappuccino foam that Michelangelo would be proud of. Capture the action on film, put it up as either a video or GIF on your accounts, and prepare for virality.

2. Take it to the people

A new and exciting menu alone can be enough to get the punters rolling through the door, but what if your guests had a say in what was included? Use social media to poll your followers on new menu items – this gives them a feeling of investment and can turn a trickle of patrons into a torrent, particularly if you keep the results a secret and unveil them at a special event.

3. Shoot your food

Let’s face it – when plated up correctly, your food wouldn’t look out of place on the catwalks of Milan. And if there’s one sure-fire way to get your followers excited at the prospect of visiting your restaurant, it’s showing them what they could be piling into their mouths. If you feel comfortable with a camera in hand then set an afternoon aside to shoot with your chef, but for maximum impact, it may be worth getting professional help with this one!

4. Social only specials

Why is it that people would follow you exactly? They’re generally not putting their hand up to be advertised to, as sad as that is. No, they’re looking for a little something back. Offer your followers value by posting social only specials – deals and offers that are only valid if a guest follows one of your accounts.

5. Photograph your guests

Nightclubs have been pulling this one for years, and that’s because it works. Hire a professional photographer to shoot inside your restaurant, then upload the finest photos to your Facebook page the following day. People like looking at themselves having a good time – that’s just science – so getting a professional quality shot from your fun night out is quite the perk. Your album should prove to be an absolute tag-fest.

6. Profile your team

Who are these mystery men and women who work at your restaurant? A regular staff profile will help to shine a light on these oft-overlooked cogs in your business machine and will make your patrons feel more welcome and comfortable by surrounding them with familiar faces. And a word to the wise; if your restaurant has a pet to profile you’ll be all the more successful.

7. A behind-the-scenes tour

You might be surprised at exactly how interested people are regarding the inner workings of your business. A behind-the-scenes look at your back of house will give your followers some unique insight into how your business works, and will once again help in giving them that feeling of investment.

8. Showcase reviews from guests

Word of mouth is the most powerful form of marketing around, and you can make use of that fact by publishing guest reviews on your social media channels. Highlighting reviews – particularly the good ones – can encourage other diners to share their thoughts too, generating more publicity for your establishment.

In such a creative and exciting industry as hospitality, the content options are almost limitless. But if you’re stuck on what to deliver to your fans next, these ideas can form the perfect starting point from which to launch your continued content strategy.

7 Creative Ways to Publish Social Media Updates

What is worth posting on social media?

A question as old as time itself, if we presume, like your Facebook timeline, that time began 10 years ago. The answer to that question changes markedly depending on who you ask. To a 14-year-old, the answer might be the purchase of a fresh juice. To a 40-year-old technophobe, there may be large question marks hanging over whether to post about the fact they just got married or some other huge life event.

Horses for courses.

Social media for organizations is a slightly different kettle of fish. There is a need to stay active on social media in the interests of your brand. As such, some social media managers may soon find themselves running out of things to post about.

Never fear – we’ve got you covered. Here are seven creative ideas that will help fill your organization’s social wall.

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Employee and Company Milestones

Is Debbie in accounts celebrating three years with the company? Has it been a decade since you moved into your current building? These milestones are perfect social media fodder.

Showing a human side to your business, giving otherwise unseen company cogs a bit of time in the sun, and celebrating company achievements are all great ways to give a follower a reason to care about your organization.

Listicles

A top 10 list of something related to your organization’s industry is a fun posting option. “Top 10 (industry) Instagram accounts to follow” or “Top 10 (Industry) books that everyone should read” are fun ways to generate involvement from your audience. You’re also providing your subscribers with valuable information, reassuring them that following you was a good decision.

Funny Happenings (Even If They’re Mistakes!)

Humanising your organization by posting about funny goings-on – an office prank, a silly miscommunication, blonde moments – will make your brand far more relatable. By being self-aware and open about your mistakes your audience will think of you less as a corporate machine, and more as a friendly and fun brand that they’d quite enjoy doing business with.

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Your next social media post could well be more of a calculated move. If you feel as though there is an industry mover and shaker who your audience would get value from following (ideally not a direct competitor), mention them in a post. Most social media platforms will send them a notification that they’ve been tagged, and this may prompt them to return that particular favor.

Run a Competition

Who likes free stuff? Everyone likes free stuff. Running a competition is a sure-fire way to gain more exposure – particularly if the competition requires a “like”, “retweet” or “share” in order to enter. The prize doesn’t have to be particularly grand either. Something exciting but of middling value (a meat tray, a month’s gym membership, a pair of shoes) can provide a spectacular return on investment for those willing to give it a try.

Highlight Unexpected Holidays

A fun option that doesn’t require any unique content, simply mentioning that it is “International Talk Like a Pirate Day” or “National Something on a Stick Day” (March 28th for those playing at home) can be a great way to generate conversation on your social media account. This comprehensive list should be all that you need to fill in those blank spots on your social media posting calendar.

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Ask a Question

A tactic best used sparingly, why not get some value from your social media accounts yourself by asking questions of your audience?

You could ask for thoughts on a new product or service, or try to get an idea of the sort of corporate event that your audience would likely attend. Platforms such as Facebook incorporate a handy polling feature that allows you to collate and review data super easily. Get your social accounts working for you!

When it comes to social media posts, variety is the spice of life. If you restrict your posts too much, your audience will disengage and lose interest.

But if you’re creative and keep your followers on their toes, the sky’s the limit for your social accounts!

The Best and Worst Restaurant Social Media Campaigns We Can Learn From

When it comes to social media marketing campaigns run by restaurants, there are some absolute stunners we can learn from. There are also some absolute stinkers. Here’s what you can learn from the A-league to get your restaurant hitting some social media marketing home-runs.

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The Stunners

Tweet for Cheap Pizza: Domino’s

UK Domino’s has harnessed the power of Twitter like no other with their Tweet for Cheap Pizza campaign. The premise was simple: the price of the day’s star pizza dropped depending on how many people tweeted with the hashtag #letsdolunch between the hours of 9 and 11.

This campaign is genius on multiple levels. Firstly, they engaged a massive audience and increased awareness of their signature hashtag. These Twitter users and their followers now are acquainted with #letsdolunch, which Domino’s can leverage in the future.

The incentive for tweeting directly paid off – tweet and you’ll get cheaper pizza. It encouraged huge amounts of participation – the more people who tweeted the better the deal would get.

The time that they ran the promotion was perfect, too. The promotion ended right before lunch time when people are making decisions about where they’ll eat that afternoon, placing Domino’s right at top of mind for thousands and thousands of prospective customers.

Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger Love Songs: Wendy’s

Wendy’s gave us a masterclass in user generated content with their Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger Love Songs campaign. When they launched their new product – the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger – they noticed the large amount of love it was receiving from fans online.

They took this user-generated content and turned them into ultra-shareable, hilarious, ‘love songs’, presented in video format. The video is one of the largest growing aspects of social media, with increased presence on Facebook and increased YouTube use.

This campaign teaches us the value in monitoring your social media, listening to your audience, and leveraging the already existing support for your brand.

iPancake: Denny’s

Denny’s piggy-backed on the hype of the upcoming release of the iPhone 5s. Their tongue-in-cheek parody posts featured on all of their social media channels for a cohesive and all-encompassing campaign.

The shareability of Denny’s social media efforts was in the pitch-perfect humour and of-the-moment timing. Social media is about keeping up with what is happening right now, and audiences are more likely to engage with posts which are relevant and pop-culture related.

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The Stinkers

McDstories: McDonald’s

If there’s one lesson to take away from this epic fail by McDonald’s, it’s that you need to think about your potential hashtags from all angles and think about how they could possibly go wrong. Like Susan Boyle’s team should have when they used the awkward album launch party hashtag #susanalbumparty.

McDonald’s were too busy patting themselves on the back for coming up with a campaign, which would encourage fans to share heart-warming stories of Happy Meals. They didn’t realize the beast they had unleashed until it was too late. Twitter was alight with horror stories.

Haters gonna hate – don’t give them an opportunity with an ill-thought out hashtag.

TGI Fridays’ Fake Facebook Page

Back in 2009, TGI Fridays reminded us that you should never make promises you can’t or won’t keep.

They set up a Facebook profile for their imaginary number one fan – “Woody” – who said he’d buy burgers for everyone who liked his page if he could gain 500,000 fans by a particular date.

Fridays got more than they bargained for, reaching the target well within the time frame, only to delete the page with no explanation and no mention of those promised burgers. All they got for that dud of a campaign was a bad reputation and some angry, angry fans.

Social media marketing works when it’s authentic. You can’t buy follows and likes, and TGI Friday’s attempt to short-cut the process of gaining a Facebook following proved that to us early on.

IHOP’s Sexist Tweet

Like DiGiorno’s tasteless tweet about domestic violence, IHOP’s tweet was met with the ire it deserved. The tweet in question was a picture of two pancakes decorated to look like a certain part of a woman’s anatomy, with the caption: “flat but a great personality.”

Tone deafness is a real problem for social media marketers who aim for humor and miss the mark completely, instead landing squarely in “offensive” territory. They’re a firm reminder that humor is great as long as it’s not offensive. In most cases, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

Amazing Restaurant Marketing Strategies We Can All Learn From

Developing and implementing successful marketing strategies for restaurants can be difficult. The one thing we can all agree on is that thinking outside the box and thinking creatively is the most effective way to make a splash, especially if it leverages social media.

Let’s look at some examples of effective and powerful restaurant marketing strategies, and see what we can learn from them.

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Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q Photo Competitions

Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q (SCNB) is a North Carolina stalwart in the restaurant game known for their innovative marketing strategies.

SCNB are champions when it comes to running photo competitions. It’s a simple premise – customers upload photos of themselves to the SCNB Facebook page, the photo with the most ‘likes’ wins. The winner receives either SCNB goods or $500.

There’s always a theme which is topical to the time of year, for example, during the college football season entrants were asked to pose with a box of chicken under their arm like a football. Around Valentine’s Day, SCNB ran a “For The Love Of Bar-B-Q” photo competition, where entrants posted pictures around that theme.

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The genius of SCNB’s photo competition marketing strategy is three-fold. Firstly, they’re attracting attention not just from the people who enter the competition, but from all of their friends whom will be voting.

Secondly, they’re generating social proof through getting people to upload pictures of themselves with SCNB products. With Valentine’s Day competition they took it to the next level with customers professing their love for the SCNB product.

 

Thirdly, they have leveraged a holiday which wouldn’t normally even be associated with a fast food chicken and barbeque restaurant. They don’t restrict themselves to seasons or days not usually associated with their industry.

Chipotle’s The Scarecrow

Ethical fast-food chain Chipotle are ahead of the pack when it comes to harnessing the power of the internet and content marketing.

They created a short animated film called, The Scarecrow (with a matching mobile app game). The film paints a bleak picture of animal treatment and processed foods while promoting locally and ethically produced foods.

What differentiates The Scarecrow and this marketing strategy from older techniques is that it’s not obviously a Chipotle production, and it doesn’t have a glaringly clear marketing sell at the end such as “COME AND EAT AT CHIPOTLE.”

While it seems to go against traditional marketing theories, this move by Chipotle is actually 21st-century genius.

Audiences today don’t like being directly advertised at. This subtle branding was about who Chipotle are and their values and consumers today love that. Consumers nowadays like to align completely with a brand. Chipotle offered something for people to align with. Corporate social responsibility is a really effective way to attract new customers and foster loyalty in today’s marketplace.

This video went viral. If it was a blatant piece of advertising, it probably wouldn’t have. There’s a lot to be learned from this campaign and its success. It shows an understanding of today’s audience and how they interact with marketing strategies.

Starbucks’ Tweet-A-Coffee

coffee-206142Starbucks’ Tweet-A-Coffee marketing campaign worked like this: people could send a friend a $5 Starbucks gift card by simply tweeting their Twitter handle and the @tweetacoffee handle.

The genius part of this campaign went beyond the simply increased awareness generated by the tweets. The genius was that for it to work the user’s Starbucks account and credit card had to be linked to their Twitter account. This is one of the cleverest ways of enlisting people to a contact list.

Not only did Starbucks sell over $180,000 of coffee through this promotion, they also got the names and contact details for 54,000 customers.

Getting customers to interact with your restaurant’s social media can be difficult, but it’s great for business. If you can create an incentive for customers to follow, tweet, like, or share your social media you’re one step ahead with your marketing game.

Aim for something like the tweet-a-coffee campaign, where everybody wins. The customers like the novelty, the ability to do something nice, and the ease of it. The restaurant gets the benefits of a hoard of new members on the contact list and social media.

Outside the Box Marketing Ideas for Coffee Shops

Standing out in a world full of constant marketing can be difficult. Especially when you’re a coffee shop in a world full of cafes, coffee carts, and Starbucks who are all competing for the same customers.

Marketing your coffee shop in a way which makes people pay attention isn’t always easy, but promoting your business just that little bit differently may be all you need to get those customers flowing through the door.

Here are some outside the box marketing ideas for coffee shops to get your creative marketing juices flowing…

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Say it with a Video

With faster internet speeds and unlimited data allowances, people are happily watching video content these days. Take the visual nature of social media to the next level by posting clips of your coffee shop in action.

Whether it’s a quick pan of the room on a busy Saturday morning, punters enjoying a special event, or a behind-the-scenes of your kitchen at work, it’s a super effective way to give viewers a feel for your café. You can build your brand identity through videos by portraying the vibe, personality, and feel of your café.

Tailor your videos to the platform – short clips on Vine, food montages on Instagram, behind-the-scenes shenanigans on SnapChat, and social videos with patrons on Facebook.

Start a Referral Program

This is like Loyalty Card 2.0.

Instead of the classic “Buy nine coffees, get the 10th free”, offer rewards for referring a new customer to your café. This is a great way to build a client base and reward loyal customers.

Take it even further by running it online. Encourage a patron to post a picture at your café and tag five friends. If the tagged friends come in the original posters get a reward. This not only brings in new patrons, it leverages all the powerful marketing tools of social media.

Funny Sidewalk Signs

Chalkboards with funny statements are so hot right now. It only takes writing “funny café…” into the search bar before Google auto-fills “signs.” Everyone loves a humorous sidewalk sign.

It’s a great reminder that everything you do offline can end up online, and that’s a great thing. Entertaining or amusing your customers is a wonderful thing, especially if they find it great enough to post on social media. It’s the best kind of advertising you can get – it holds more sway with potential customers, and you didn’t have to put any effort into it!

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Let Your Customers Pick the Daily Special

Now, this may not work for every coffee shop or café, and your chef might hate you for it, but if you can manage an online campaign where your customers pick the special of the day (even if it’s a couple of days in advance), you’re going to get some great marketing mileage out of it.

Set up a hashtag and let your customers vote for what they want the special to be. Give them some choices. Even if it’s not food items it could be “2 for 1 coffee”, a free muffin with every coffee, or half price coffee, then everyone can vote which promotion they’d prefer.

This works in multiple ways. Firstly, people love to feel like they’ve got some control and that they’re being listened to. Secondly, the awareness of your special offer will be huge, as every follower of each voter on social media will see it.

Personalize Cups, Wrappers, Receipts…

We all a love a little smiley face and “have a great day” on our receipts – adding a personal touch gives us warm fuzzies. It makes the customer feel good toward your business.

Getting this so on point that the customer feels compelled to take a picture and share it on social media is an art, but it’s worth giving it a shot. Even if it’s as simple as spelling a really difficult name correctly, this can be amazing PR for your business.

Starbucks nailed it with their White Cup Contest which got customers to draw on their white cup and upload it to social media. Find your own version of the white cup contest and your name (and your coffee) will be on people’s lips.

Etiquette and Best Practices for Social Media Managers

No matter what the aspect of life, proper etiquette can be a hard thing to pin down. When something new comes along, without a hard set of etiquette rules, people can find themselves in all sorts of awkward situations. And while this blog could simply be a long-winded excuse as to why I stole six doughnuts from the confusing new doughnut shop (THEY LOOKED LIKE FREE SAMPLES – HOW WAS I TO KNOW THEY WEREN’T?), what I’m actually going to talk about is social media.

Social media is a tricky beast. New rules seem to pop up every day. Some are put in place by the platforms, such as Facebook’s insistence on minimal promotional content from brands, and others seem to spring organically from users, like the fact that replying to an online message with ‘K’ is nowadays seemingly a declaration of war.

It’s murky water, this social media business. But, with social media becoming a larger and larger part of people’s lives, a few solid rules regarding etiquette and best practices seem to be slowly forming, particularly for brands and organisations.

So, as a social media manager, what do you need to know?

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Avoid Automation

Many social platforms give social media managers the option of setting up all manner of automated actions. Whether it be commenting on Instagram posts, instant follow-backs on Twitter, or private message responses on Facebook, they can seemingly save you a tonne of time. Which makes it a shame when I say;

Don’t automate.

The aim of social media managers is to give your followers a personal brand experience. They’ve been so kind as to subscribe to your updates, the least you can do is treat them as a person rather than a number.

In this age of tech, your followers’ SPAM detection alarms will be blaring if they sense that you’ve sent them an automated reply to a private message, or if you comment “100” on a picture of their Nan’s funeral. It’s not worth annoying them for the sake of saving five minutes.

Deliver Quick Responses

This is so important that Facebook now has a measure on non-personal accounts for how responsive to messages a profile is. Responding to messages in good time makes a huge difference to your followers’ relationship with your brand.

If they get instant feedback, they feel like an important contributor, and therefore more connected with your organisation. If they get ignored, particularly when they leave negative feedback, they’ll feel quite the opposite.

Be sure to designate someone to take on this role. If you get a large volume of messages daily, a system of prioritizing the messages will need to be developed.

Ration Your Hashtags

Hashtags increase visibility and reach, particularly on the minimalist social networks of Twitter and Instagram. So the more hashtags you manage to squeeze into a post, the better, right?

Not necessarily.

Hashtag use is a balance. I #think we can all #agree that #using too many #hashtags #can #become #distracting. So, rather than filling your post right up to the 30 hashtag maximum on Instagram, choose just a few of the most effective, and use them sparingly. Rather than just copy and pasting the same 25 hashtags on every post, select only the ones that directly relate to that specific Tweet or Instagram pic. Your audience will thank you.

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Work on Promoting Yourself, Not Attacking Competition

If you’re performing your due social diligence, you’ll be following most of your competitors’ accounts. It can be super tempting to get snarky at them. Maybe they’re promoting their product as the best around when you know full well it’s not.

But you need to resist the urge to bite. In fact, it’s best to do quite the opposite.

As Michael Corleone muttered in The Godfather II, on social media you should keep your friends close but your enemies closer.

Generate a bit of banter with your competition. Be the good guy. Heck, they may not be such bad people themselves! The online world has a habit of picking up on goodwill and spreading it. If they see two brands who should be sworn enemies having a giggle, it can do wonders for your online reputation.

Social media etiquette is still not bound by a hard set of rules, but the fog is slowly lifting. By taking a few of these practices on board, you’ll be far less likely to pull the social media equivalent of unintentionally stealing six doughnuts.