Everything moves a mile a minute in the world of social media, so staying on top of trends can be tricky. What’s the best platform to post on? Should I share videos or images? What’s a thread? It can all get a tad overwhelming, especially if you’re a restaurant that wants to stay relevant and engage with new guests.
Social media has become an important tool for attracting diners, and almost half of them find their next restaurant on a social media platform. Therefore, it’s important to have a presence, but it’s also easier said than done.
OpenTable understands the importance of being social media savvy, so we asked our resident social media expert, Seeta Ashra, how restaurants can embrace the latest trends to get audiences engaged.
Video content leads the way
Video continues to be one of the best ways to engage on social media. Seeta says that video content resonates with audiences more than ever, and she’s not wrong. Around 50% of social media users prefer video to other types of content.
This is especially true on platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels. “People love really close-ups of videos, especially when it comes to food content. Diners love to visualise, and it’s worth creating short clips of your dishes”, says Seeta.
She continues, “The best part should be within the first three seconds to engage your audience straight away.” Whether it’s a satisfying egg yolk or a chef’s interview, videos below 30 seconds with voice-overs are performing exceptionally well for restaurants right now.
Influencer marketing isn’t necessarily a new trend, but it continues to be popular. It can be impactful, especially for smaller restaurants looking to reach a new audience. Collaborating with high-profile influencers allows restaurants to tap into a new diner base with reviews from people who are trusted and respected.
Seeta also advises investing in paid promotions to amplify posts and grow your following. “You’ll sometimes need to spend money for that initial boost, but it’ll be a game-changer for your brand,” she points out.
Such investments in influencer partnerships and paid ads can offer immediate gains while also laying the groundwork for long-term customer relationships. “Leverage influencers and paid initiatives to generate buzz and spotlight unique menu items, giving a sneak peek into the dining experience,” Seeta elaborates.
For smaller dining spots with limited ad budgets, this strategy offers a cost-efficient method to boost visibility and draw in a specific audience. Seeta underscores the need for a well-thought-out approach that comprehends the multifaceted nature of social media marketing.
A unified strategy that syncs with the restaurant’s brand and appeals to the target audience can make a significant impact. Through influencer collaboration or meticulously planned paid promotions, you can drive genuine engagement and expansion for restaurants, big or small.
Sync with the seasons
Planning your content calendar to match current trends or even the weather can strike a chord with your audience. Whether it’s a big holiday or a quirky calendar day, staying updated is key.
But context is king. Understand when and how your content will be consumed. Seeta says, “If you had plans to post about al fresco dining and it’s pouring with rain, skip it. Your audience won’t relate.”
She also stresses the need for flexibility and real-time responsiveness. “Strategise your content, but be ready for curveballs,” she suggests. “Aligning with current trends or even weather conditions can make your content really click with your audience.”
Being alert to your surroundings and willing to pivot is essential. The goal is to deliver content that’s timely and contextually apt.
Use AI, but don’t just copy and paste
It’s impossible to explore social media trends without mentioning the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). “It will play a significant role in the future of restaurant marketing on social media”, says Seeta.
There’s a range of AI-inspired effects trending that restaurants can utilise, including the ability to create engaging videos featuring favourite dishes or showcasing the dining experience in innovative ways.
Tools like Chat GPT and Jasper.ai are becoming popular with marketers to help them draft outlines or ideas for social media content, menus and promotional campaigns. LinkedIn is even letting people create AI-written posts within the app.
“That doesn’t mean you should rely on AI in its entirety”, says Seeta. “It can help generate ideas and structure content, but the human aspect needs to remain. Otherwise, diners will soon pick up on the lack of authenticity in posts”, she continues.
UGC rules the roost
UGC (aka user-generated content) is incredibly popular with restaurants. In fact, a 2021 study revealed that 80% of restaurant-goers say UGC highly impacts their dining decisions, from choosing a restaurant to selecting a dish.
But not every restaurant has a collection of UGC to use, nor an in-house team to create photos and videos that look organic. This is where UGC creators come in.
Seeta says, “Diners love taking pictures of their food. Embrace their eagerness and encourage them to tag your restaurant when they’re posting pics of meals on their social media accounts.” Doing so will help you show up in searches on social media and give your spot more organic reach from diners who truly love your spot.
In 2023, UGC fills a gap in the restaurant marketing landscape. Restaurants can authentically connect with potential diners, showcasing real experiences and enticing new guests through relatable content.
Quickfire Social media tips for better results
Understand your platform
Different platforms cater to unique demographics. Facebook tends to be more for an older crowd that loves still images. TikTok and Instagram are about dynamic, eye-catching content. Seeta advises you to experiment: “How will you know what clicks unless you try different content types? Some people still just post images, and it’s a hit.”
Engage! Engage! Engage!
It’s not just about replying to comments, either. “Start conversations, be a bit more expressive and let your personality shine”, Seeta says, “Define your tone and don’t be shy. Use CTAs to keep that audience interaction going. And when it comes to formality, it’s fine to be a little informal every now and then.”
Future-Proof your Strategy
You might have all your audience on one platform, but Seeta says, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket because platforms like TikTok are the future, especially with Gen Z coming up. They’re the next big spenders, so get ready on the platforms they use now.”
Invest in top-notch content
Don’t skimp on quality. Seeta’s a big advocate for this. “Hire a freelancer if you must. Stockpile that content and then roll it out gradually.” You’ll see a payoff as your reach and follower count skyrocket when you’ve got a pro in your corner working to create engaging social media content.
There are lots restaurants can do to up their social media game. It’s no longer a “nice to have” but a vital part of a restaurant’s marketing strategy. From embracing video content to engaging with your audience in a meaningful way, these trends offer a roadmap to success in the digital landscape.
As Seeta wisely points out, “People use social media to find restaurants and look at menus. If the social media page isn’t up to scratch, people won’t visit.” The time to take social media seriously is now, and these insights provide the tools to do just that.