Food is social. That’s a fact that will not come as a surprise to restaurant owners and food retailers. But what they might not know is how to make it a social experience online, and how to move the activity from the Internet to the corner booth.
1. Let’s make a deal
Countless studies have shown that people connect with restaurants and food retailers online because they’re looking for discounts. There’s no reason giving these offers can’t benefit you as well.
A little effort, a long way: Make them do some marketing work for you to receive the promised promotion. For example, you can ask them to tweet about their favorite dish at your restaurant in order to receive a coupon. For a grocery store, you could ask that they share with friends why they like the store brand better than the name brand.
Spread the good word: Encourage your happy customers to write reviews of sites like Yelp, Chowhound, or whatever new site has popped up in the last 5 minutes. For their efforts, give them a free dessert or discount on their next visit. Or, to keep it closer to home, you could have a contest where customers write reviews on your Facebook wall. The funniest review has dinner on the house next time.
Checking in? Offer a free appetizer or discount for diners who checked in on Foursquare or Facebook. They get a deal and their friends see they were at your establishment.
2. Make them feel like an insider
If people feel like they are invested in a brand, they’ll become ambassadors for it.
In the loop: Give them glimpses of what you’re working on before the general public has a chance to see it. Post photos of the chef working on a new recipe or shots of a store remodel in progress.
Making decisions: Invite your followers into your decision-making process. Invite them to have a say on new dishes by setting up a taste-testing event.
Inside access: Host an online chat with the chef or food buyer. Better yet, if you’re up to it, offer tours of the kitchen so diners can see the chef in action.
3. A picture’s worth a thousand words
There’s a revolution going on in the world of social media, and the photograph has been named king. Photo-sharing sites are growing exponentially and people are posting content at an amazing rate. A lot of what’s being posted is food and recipes, making it easy for you to jump on board.
Go where the people are: With the popularity of Pinterest and the expansion of Instagram, these are great places for you to jump in. Share photos of your best dishes and products, and get involved with other users who are doing the same.
It’s an experience: Share photos that showcase the experience you offer. Show the ambience of the dining room, the chef at work in the kitchen and diners enjoying their meals.
Don’t do all the work yourself: Invite diners to share photos of their meals and experience. You could even make a small contest out of it by choosing a favorite shot from the week or month.
A final thought
Keep in mind that it’s about more than just the food. It’s about being social and creating an experience people want to be a part of. When you approach social media correctly, you can easily turn diners and shoppers into walking advertisements for your brand.