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Facebook Marketing for Restaurants: Produce

(Part 2 of 3)

Those restaurants that have already experienced success on Facebook share one thing in common: they effectively use the network to provide significant value to their customers. That value may be in the form of standard monetary offers, exclusive access to events, or just the occasional video of a cat playing the piano. Yet, they all provide content that resonates with their guests, in the appropriate format, at the right time.

The unfortunate truth is that value is subjective. In part one, you identified, researched, and observed the behavior of your audience. After following the guidance in this article, your restaurant will have a road map for creating and packaging suitable content that will resonate with your restaurant’s Facebook audience.

Messaging

Facebook is like any other communication channel, save one key distinction: your restaurant doesn’t actually own its message. Brands that discount the significance of two-way communication and viral spread, end up telling tales of social media woe. When you craft a message for Facebook, you should obey the dictates of traditional marketing, including the need to drive attention, awareness, desire, engagement and advocacy. At the same time, you need to add the value of real-time PR and customer service. A few basic guidelines can help you to communicate effectively on Facebook.

Be Valuable

To keep a fan base engaged on Facebook, your restaurant’s content needs to provide a high level of value. It is important that your page covers the utilitarian basics, including store locations, hours of operations, and menu items. With 77% of Facebook users expecting discounts for “liking” a brand, providing access to special rewards is a plus1. For those brands choosing not to discount, exclusivity is another powerful motivator. Offering priority updates, access to exclusive events, or the opportunity to influence new products can all improve your restaurant’s relationship with its ideal guests.

Another important aspect of value is preference. Understanding what content your audience is interested in receiving, at what frequency, and in which format, is critical for effective messaging on Facebook. Fortunately, the network makes it very easy to glean this information. Test often, and elicit ongoing feedback from your fans to ensure that your restaurant continues to provide value.

Timely

A primary faux pas on Facebook is slow response. The network has flourished because of its ability to connect a broad audience in real-time. If your restaurant has chosen to participate on Facebook, users expect your brand to abide by its common etiquette. Because your restaurant is not the sole owner of your message, influence is directly tied to the speed at which you reinforce the positive and address the negative comments of your audience.

Be Authentic and Transparent

Facebook requires a level of openness to which many restaurants are not yet accustomed. Traditional brands have a history of refuting negative feedback and making decisions behind closed doors. The new era of branding requires that feedback be unfiltered and decisions be made in public, incorporating the preferences of its customers. Facebook’s open environment makes it all but impossible to bury the negatives or over-hype the positives. It calls for the voice of your restaurant’s brand voice to be humble, honest and attentive to your guests.

Be Consistent

Much like email marketing, campaigns that succeed on Facebook have set audience expectations. Add a few anchor activities that are a weekly staple of your program. Don’t post the same schedule of content over and over again, but do create a pattern of certain kinds of interaction and posts from you. Between these dependable pillars, you have the freedom to vary content, without disrupting the necessary level of familiarity with your fans.

Pages

Beyond the wall posts and direct messages, Facebook Pages provide another level of opportunity for your restaurant. Pages come with a number of useful features, and Facebook continues to add and improve on these capabilities. Not satisfied with the standard features alone? Then there’s an app for that. Think the number of applications available for iPhone is impressive? Facebook has 550,000 applications, more than twice the number in the Apple App Store2. If you still don’t find the perfect tools for your restaurant, Facebook enables you to build custom page tabs and applications.

Standard Facebook Sections

A generic Facebook page comes with plenty of capability to start promoting your restaurant. Upload photos and videos with ease. Consider adding snapshots from your brand’s various locations and events, your latest broadcast commercials, and the mouthwatering glamour shots of your signature dishes.

Accept customer feedback via Facebook’s Discussion functionality. Encourage your audience to offer suggestions on your products, their in-restaurant experience and the effectiveness of your advertising and promotions. Even more importantly, foster conversation between your members. You may be surprised at how your loyal customers voluntarily praise your brand and even refute negative comments.

Facebook’s Event functionality is another powerful feature for restaurants. Easily promote your various happenings on the Events tab, send direct invites to your connections and manage the guest list directly from the application.

3rd Party Apps

Facebook’s mammoth applications library makes it simple to expand the capabilities of your restaurant’s page. Add reviews, accept comment cards, enable click-to-call reservations, run group buying offers, and embed countless other features. Vendors like Involver and Wildfire offer business application packages that provide a polished Facebook user experience for a nominal monthly fee. Many of the restaurant industry’s most influential players have also developed free applications for Facebook. You can include reviews from Zagat and Yelp, accept reservations via OpenTable, and add guests to your Fishbowl email list.

Custom Facebook Apps

As with regular web pages, restaurants can build custom pages and applications displayed by iFrame on Facebook, including games, contests, landing pages, referral apps and more. All of these apps can be designed to interact with a Facebook user’s profile and glean behavioral information. Popular restaurant promotions like Burger King’s “Whopper Sacrifice,” Outback’s “Bloomin’ Onion Giveaway,” and Jack in the Box’s “Rich Fan” are examples of custom applications. The Facebook Developers Forum is an excellent source of information to get you started.

Places

Facebook Places may become an important aspect of your restaurant’s social media strategy. While in its infancy, Places brings location-based services (LBS) functionality to the largest social network in the world. While alternative LBS networks like Loopt, GoWalla and BrightKite have a significant head start on Places, they are having a difficult time achieving a critical mass. In fact, only 6% of adults that use the Internet also use one of these LBS services3.

While late to the party, Facebook enters the market with 200 million mobile users, compared to just 4 million on its largest competitor, Foursquare4. In fact, usage of existing LBS networks actually experienced a drop that coincided with the announcement of Facebook’s latest venture5. Add an incentive engine, and preliminary agreements with 24 major retailers, and Facebook is poised to take LBS mainstream6. When users “check in” to one of your locations, the check-in is posted to their friends’ news feeds, providing you with free advertising.  You can encourage this behavior by offering check-in deals:  sweet for you, and for your guests!

Testing & Monitoring

It’s been around for almost 7 years, and Facebook is still maturing as a marketing channel. The Facebook audience is more fragmented than the audience of any other media. Thus the research, benchmarks, and best practices necessary to make informed decisions are not always readily available.

Facebook introduces a number of new data points that need to be incorporated into your restaurant’s metrics, like tab views, application installs, shares, and news feed impressions. The value equation exceeds the simple views, clicks and conversions of other online advertising and crosses into return on engagement. Beyond ROI, there are a few additional measures to add to your brand’s analytic paradigm.

Influence

Facebook provides the means necessary to deepen your restaurant’s relationships with its customers. But what does that mean, and how do you assign value to the activity? Consider ways to track the effects your restaurant’s interactions on Facebook are having on your users on and off the network.

Engagement

A proper content plan is all about driving your audience to continually interact with your restaurant. Put metrics in place to monitor the level of engagement the content has with your audience. Do they return often? Are they leaving comments, installing applications, or clicking external links?

Sharing

Is your content providing the necessary value to be shared by your fans? Is the content well received by their friends?  Monitor how often your content is viewed, and compare that against your fan base to see how relevant your content is for your audience.

Sentiment

What is the general opinion of your restaurant on Facebook? Have your campaigns been able to improve perceptions? When you respond to guests, how successful are your responses?  Monitor the sentiment towards your restaurant on Facebook to get a sense of where you shine, and how you can improve — offline, as well as online.

Facebook has recognized the importance of these new metrics to its enterprise users and has made significant enhancements to its analytics capabilities for both Pages and ads. Its Facebook Insight application is capable of measuring the standard interaction data, as well as more advanced metrics like post quality, media consumption, and engagement rate7.

The next level of analytics integration is adding your restaurant’s Facebook data to your existing online analytics system. This process gives you a more complete view of the benefits driven by your Facebook campaigns both on and off the network. More than 150 companies are providing software and services that simplify this process. Here are a few tools to get you started:

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