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Why Your Restaurant Should NOT Have a Social Media Campaign

By Brad Shorr

Social media is an overused and overhyped form of Internet marketing. The odds are against a restaurant trying to use it for business purposes. Sure, there are exceptions, but for the most part, restaurants will be much better served focusing their attention and marketing budgets on other things.

The Drawbacks of Social Media Marketing

First, let's quickly examine the obstacles your restaurant will face in a social media marketing campaign. I can think of five big ones:

1. Social media, by nature, is a social medium. People do not like to be sold to on social media, so you're coming to bat with one strike against you.

2. Social media is noisy and overcrowded with businesses. With so many restaurants actively using Facebook and Twitter, standing out from the crowd will require an enormous effort - and that's not even the exponentially larger ocean of non-business chatter users wade through all day.

3. Speaking of effort, companies always underestimate the amount of time it takes to build an engaged social media community - and the more platforms a restaurant tries to play in, the more time and attention it takes. There are very few economies of scale/efficiencies in marketing on multiple platforms.

4. Social media is to a great extent a real-time medium - meaning to effectively build a community, you have to engage users (e.g., respond to comments, answer questions) on the spot. Few restaurants have the luxury of a staffer who can be available to monitor social media activity all day.

5. There are other, far more promising methods of Internet marketing - methods that generate more reservations and foot traffic than even a strong social media campaign can produce.

Better Alternative to Social Media Marketing

Most restaurants have somewhat limited budgets, so getting the best return is imperative. This means Internet marketing activities should aim at attracting new patrons and building loyalty among existing ones. Here are two ways to accomplish these things better than via social media.

1. Local SEO

When people are looking for a new place to eat, they go to Google and do a search. Local SEO makes your restaurant website visible and prominently visible when people are searching for what you offer. Processing billions of searches daily, Google is a must-have source of new patrons. There are many elements of local SEO, but one of the most important is obtaining positive customer reviews on sites like Yelp and Zomato. These customer reviews are very persuasive to potential new patrons, and reinforce feelings of loyalty in the reviewers, making local SEO more than just an SEO technique.

2. Email Marketing/Text Message Marketing

Using email and/or text messages to communicate with patrons is widely used and generally well accepted as long as subscribers can opt in to the program. Emails/texts have a better chance of being read and acted upon than social media posts that may or may not be noticed in the streams of followers. Email/texting works well to communicate loyalty programs aimed at building repeat business, and also for special offers that appeal to new and existing patrons. Again, multiple marketing objectives are well supported.

If restaurants were to focus on just these two Internet marketing campaigns and do them well, they would most likely stretch their budgets to the limit and maximize the return - no reason to spread resources further out.

Maintain a Passive Social Media Presence

Despite everything I've just said, maintaining a passive presence on social media, primarily Facebook, probably makes sense. Since people "like" restaurants and other brands they enjoy just out of habit, you may as well be there to be "liked." In addition, new patrons may look at your Facebook page as a way of checking you out; not having a Facebook page could raise a red flag.

With that in mind, a simple Facebook page with high-quality photos and an easy-to-read menu, along with driving directions and some well-written, descriptive content will make for a good social media "business card." And if you get the urge to delve more deeply into social media, you will have a foundation on which to build.

Brad Shorr Brad Shorr is the Director of Content Strategy for Straight North, a full service marketing agency that focuses on SEO (, PPC and web design. Brad has over 25 years of industry experiences and has written numerous articles for sites, such as Forbes, Moz and Salesforce.

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