None of us were really “educated” on the use of social media. But if you are a business entity, particularly a restaurant in a small city that uses the internet heavily, it is now a must that you create your social media presence. It will really boost your popularity among your target audience and of course, increase sales. Consider social media as your marketing tool.
1. Create a social media account or accounts. The first step to having a social media presence is, of course, creating an account. If you are here in Bacolod, you can have a Facebook page or an Instagram account–these two are widely used by Bacolodnons so your restaurant will surely gain mileage. Plus, it is easy to share content from these platforms. That’s free advertising working for you.
If you don’t create an official account, it is easy for anybody to make an account for you because of those check-ins and if people will click on the link, the contents are not structured. These unofficial pages look like a child’s poster when he got access to stickers, markers, and crayons — kalat. And since you don’t have control about the content, anybody can post anything under the sun, even if it’s something embarrassing or derogatory. Make your own account and include pertinent details–your menu, address, tel. nos., hours and day of operation, amenities, and modes of payment. Potential customers will really appreciate that.
2. Update your accounts regularly. When people would like to eat out, they would most likely check your page before going in order to be reminded about your specialties and maybe learn about your current promos or new dishes. If you haven’t posted in a year, they might think that your restaurant is already closed.
3. Answer queries as quickly as possible. People like instant results, including answers to queries on your page. Try to answer them as quickly as possible and as politey as possible, even the most ludicrous ones. Start with a greeting and end with a thank you. That will give your restaurant a nice personality.
4. Hold online promos. Hold regular online promos. A free meal will get you a good attention and it doesn’t cost much. You may want to do it monthly so that you don’t lose your market’s awareness.
5. Invite bloggers or social media influencers. You may also want to hold blogcons where you may talk about your menu, introduce new dishes, tell the bloggers about great dish combinations, or how to particularly enjoy a certain “complicated” dish that needs some preparation. You may pay them or give them tokens as they will spend time with you, take photos, edit them, and of course write about you. You can then expect that they will FEATURE you in their blogs and social media accounts. But they will not be expected to give a REVIEW, as that would no longer be objective.
6. Sponsor posts. If a blogger features you, you may sponsor his or her posts on Facebook or Instagram. These platforms are designed to “hide” posts unless they are “boosted”.
7. Invest in good photos. You cannot communicate taste and smell through photos. But you can communicate colors and arrangements. Needless to say, if your food posts look amazing, then customers will “want” to try it or have it again (if they did already). These kinds of posts will potentially earn more “likes” and “shares” and thus result to more mileage.
8. Offer free wifi connection. If you have free wifi connection, internet savvy customers will most likely take photos of their meal and post them immediately, while checking in at your place or tagging your restaurant’s page. That’s the best “word of mouth” advertising there is, done digitally. It’s fast and free (except for your monthly internet bill).
9. Make your interiors Instagram-worthy. But there are restaurants that opt not to have wifi connection because it is their aim to get their customers to socialize and “talk to each other”. While they cannot stop those who have mobile data, at least, the internet connection did not come from them. One such place here in Bacolod is Quino’s Cafe. But while Quino’s does not have wifi, they have a really nice interior, lovely nooks and crannies, that people love to take selfies and groufies and post them online. Of course, their food is good, so people keep coming back and keep posting about them.
10. Make your own gimmick to connect with customers. One restaurant here in Bacolod that became really successful not just in Bacolod but among international diners is Rau-Ram Cafe, formerly known as Saigon Cafe. Back in those days when they had a cafe in the owner’s backyard, the staff would take photos of their diners and post them on Facebook, every single day. Diners gamely posed and it was like the “in thing” back then for your photo to be posted on their page. While this doesn’t seem to work much now, as other restaurants also followed this “style”, you can create your own gimmick in order to connect to your customers.
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If you, as a small restaurant owner, do not know how to make or maintain a social media account, hire a freelance or full time social media specialist who will handle your accounts. Just make sure that you’re one of the admins and the account is connected to your email. It would also help if you sit down for a tutorial. Keep a copy of all passwords, too. The social media account should not be co-terminus with your staff. It should continue even when the staff has left the company. Just hire a new one to take his or her place.
Also, maintain the quality of your services and products. While it is easy to promote on social media, the downside is, it is also easy to spread complaints. That is the reason why some restaurant owners shy away from social media–they are afraid that they can be easily destroyed by a single bad review. But it is better to be present and deal with the problem than just wake up one day that one page or user already tore you down. That is why we have the following sub-topic about handling complaints and bad reviews.
Handling Complaints and Negative Reviews
No matter how hard you work to give your best, there will always be something that will go wrong from time to time. Perhaps your staff doesn’t share your passion in serving only the finest. Or your chef had a bad day. Or you just had the misfortune of entertaining someone who never gets pleased. While you take steps in real-time to make amends, you will have to be more careful when you do it online. One public Facebook rant can be a fiesta buffet for gossip and negative comments.
During the Dine Victorias event here in Bacolod last December 2016 organized by Victorias Foods Corporation, Adolf Aran of Courage Asia Management Consultancy said that the owner should handle the issue immediately. Steps should be done to assuage the angry customer. Sometimes, all it takes is a sincere apology plus a gift certificate to calm down an irate customer. But it is best if the owner of a small restaurant will deal with the issue personally because it tells the client that the owner cares about its customers.
Aran also adds that owners or managers should never engage irate customers in a “word war” in public posts. The issue will just escalate and it will most likely be to the detriment of the business owner. Chef Jam Melchor, also a speaker in Dine Victorias, echoes the same sentiment in his food business–he personally deals with complaints so that the issues do not escalate anymore. Without saying it, I think both of them are endorsing “humility” in dealing with complaints.
If there are bad reviews on your Facebook page, Aran advises not to delete them. It is natural to have bad reviews. Instead, owners can learn from their mistakes and improve their operations. Good reviews will naturally come. They can also ask customers who had good experiences with them to write good reviews so that those negative ones will be “buried” eventually.
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