In today’s digital era, it’s easy to assume that businesses of all types and sizes have some kind of web presence. Surprisingly, that isn’t the case. In fact, nearly half of all small businesses and restaurants have no real web presence at all. They might have a basic Facebook page and people who might mention them on social media, but that’s not enough for a restaurant in the 21st Century. If you want your restaurant to be successful and stand up to its competition, you will need to come up with a strong digital marketing plan. Here are some strategies that will help you with that.
Focus on Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization or SEO is the practice of creating content in a way that makes it more likely to show up on search results. In the past, this meant peppering content with keywords and phrases that would grab Google’s attention. These days, that approach is likely to get you ignored by Google’s algorithm, so you’ll need to put a little more effort into your SEO. The best way to do this is to simply create good content that people want to see. Creating a blog certainly helps, as does focusing on local search results. Focus your attention on your restaurant’s home town and the surrounding areas and make them part of your keywords and phrases in blog posts as long as your content still seems natural and not like it was written for a robot.
At this point, the trend of posting an expertly staged picture of your meal in Instagram has become almost a cliche. Everyone knows at least one person who can’t take a bite of their food without first showing it off on social media, but there is a purpose to it if you own a restaurant. The best foodie photos can make any meal look incredibly appetizing, and that is exactly what you want for your restaurant’s marketing campaign.
While the occasional Instagram or Pinterest post from one of your patrons can certainly net you some free advertising, consider having some high-quality foodie photos taken for your website or social media pages. You can hire a professional photographer for this for the best possible results, or you can learn how to take photos yourself. If you want to take your own photos, this Gizmodo article is a great resource.
Encourage Online Reviews
When people are looking for a new restaurant to try, they often turn to the Internet and start reading online reviews on Google or Yelp. Yelp in particular has become very popular and powerful for restaurants and other small businesses, so it will help to keep an eye on it and see what people are writing about your restaurant. If you find a particularly insightful and well-written positive review, don’t be afraid to link to it on your blog or website. If you have a negative review (and you will; it’s impossible to please everybody), do your best to listen to the criticisms and use them as a reason to improve your food or service. If someone is being particularly mean or petty and they’re saying things that aren’t true out of spite, you can always post a level-headed rebuttal with your side of the story. In any case, online reviews can make or break your restaurant, and they should be encouraged at all times. They could very well be the first thing that potential new patrons read about your restaurant and what encourages them to take a chance on it.
Monitor Social Media
Although websites and blogs are great for showing off your restaurant and what it has to offer, social media should never be ignored. Posts about your restaurant on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest have the potential to be seen by millions of people, so make sure that they paint your humble restaurant in a positive light. Post to your restaurant’s social media accounts regularly to make sure that you’re getting the word out about any new menu items or special promotions, and make sure to delete any outdated content or anything that could be detrimental to your marketing efforts. If you can’t do all of this by yourself, don’t hesitate to hire a professional marketer to take care of your accounts. It can turn into a full-time job in itself, and hiring a freelancer or a digital marketing agency for this purpose might be one of the best investments that you can make.
Showcase Your Employees
One of the things that independently-owned restaurants have over franchises and chains is that they offer a friendlier and personalized experience. It feels like there is more of a connection between the restaurant staff and the patrons with an independent restaurant, and you can take advantage of that by showcasing some of your staff members on your website. Post bios and photos of your lead chef, the servers, or even yourself. It can make your restaurant seem like a much friendlier place, and it does more for its reputation than you might think.
Post More Videos
Nearly half of all social media users spend about an hour watching videos online every day. Even though there should be a limit to how many videos you post on your restaurant’s Facebook wall or on your website, the occasional video can be a great way to show potential new patrons what it’s like to eat at your establishment. Keep your videos short (about 60 to 90 seconds is usually enough), try not to make them too intrusive for users who have their videos on autoplay, and don’t be afraid to hire a professional if you aren’t confident about your own videography skills.
Don’t Give Up
Finally, don’t give up on marketing your restaurant. The right digital marketing strategies can mean the difference between a successful restaurant and one that closes its doors within a year. Keep advertising what you have to offer on your website and social media, and don’t forget more traditional advertising methods such as print, TV, radio, or even email newsletters. Anything that gets the word out about your restaurant is helpful, especially for those who look for new places to eat using Google and Facebook.