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How to Use Social Media Strategically

In a sea of social media, here’s how to pick the right platform.
social media icons on an iphone
With the surplus of social media platforms, it can become overwhelming for restaurants to strategize an approach.
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In a world where a restaurant’s online presence is key to its survival, it’s getting harder to stand out in the crowd. Meanwhile, restaurants are caught in a perfect storm of stressors as they face rising competition, increasing fees and ongoing inflation. 

Social media is one of the most meaningful drivers for customer acquisition and loyalty for restaurants. With the surplus of social media platforms, it can become overwhelming for restaurants to strategize an approach. The allure of potential customers puts mounting pressure to be present on all of them.    

This is where restaurants make their biggest mistake. Despite the pressure, they do not need to be on all social media platforms. Most recently, the mass brand migration to Threads proved preemptive when the new platform lost half of its user base within a week of its launch. 

The bottom line is: restaurants are often strapped for time and resources, and running an excessive amount of social media pages is not the best use of time. To avoid a wild goose chase, businesses need to make strategic decisions about which to pursue.

Choosing the right platforms

Restaurateurs should stay as up to date as possible on emerging platforms, observing how other brands are utilizing them, and, more importantly, who the key demographics are for each. In other words, it’s smart to pay attention to who interacts with each social media platform, what age group/profession they belong to, what location they’re in and what type of content they respond to. Before dedicating to building a presence on different platforms, restaurants must consider the following to inform a successful social media strategy:

  • Who are the target demographics for their business?
  • Which platforms are their target demographics showing up on?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each platform in terms of content output?
  • Which platforms complement the brand’s messaging?
  • How much of the restaurant’s resources can be devoted to social media management? 

The answers to these questions will help teams strategize around the resources they can dedicate to their social media presence.

Use cases for the major platforms

There isn’t a magic formula to understand which platforms drive the most foot traffic. That said, some restaurants manage to do it just right. The following examples showcase how both national chains and smaller brands make use of their socials to maximize their visibility. I’ll be discussing some examples for the 5 most widely used platforms: Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter and Threads.

  • First up is Instagram, which is most helpful for restaurants that thrive on the visual appeal of their food. It’s a platform driven by photos and videos, and its millennial-Gen Z demographic loves personality from their brands. Bernie's is a restaurant in Brooklyn whose menu is nostalgic, upscale and impeccably presented. They showcase both their food and staff on Instagram, putting their people front and center. They also reshare customer photos and videos to make people feel like they're part of the 22k strong Bernie's family. 
  • TikTok is entirely reliant on videos, appealing to a younger, Gen Z demographic. It’s helpful for brands with more playful or humorous voices that keep up to date with trends. Ggiata, a deli in Los Angeles, has a young marketing team that hops on different TikTok trends, collaborating with their staff in the front and back of house to create engaging, on-brand content for their social media audience. Recently, they’ve seen a lot of success hopping on trends like “How I think I look vs. How I actually look.”
  • Facebook is very effective for small, local restaurants with an older clientele. Restaurants like Manny's, an old school family-run deli in Chicago, use it to foster their communities through photos of customers, events and menu specials – creating a dialogue with the community they've built for over 70 years.
  • Twitter (now X) is historically a place where chain restaurants thrive. It’s a great platform for event promotion, announcements and special product launches across locations. For more established brands with active and engaged Twitter audiences, it’s also a great place to crowdsource their marketing with reshared posts from customers. Tony Boloney's, a multi-location concept, does this excellently by resharing customers' comments from all of their locations. They’re also able to announce events quickly and efficiently, since their marketing team is running different events, promos and specials at each location. 
  • Finally, Threads, despite its recent troubles sustaining a user base, continues to be a platform to look out for. We’re already seeing brands like Chipotle exploring Threads’ capabilities with its National Avocado Day campaign: Get In the Pit. Chipotle is  currently operating the campaign similarly to how brands historically used Twitter, for quick giveaways and reposts.

All-in-all, social media is one of the most important tools for any restaurant when it comes to appealing to their target audiences. The examples above are just a small sample of how franchise and local restaurants can use their respective platforms to organically build and develop communities.

So, the next time someone asks if your restaurant is on Threads, resist the temptation to make a business account right away! Instead, invest your limited resources into platforms that will give you the most return on your investment – driving revenue, customer engagement and loyalty in the process. 

About the Author

Emily Schultz is a brand marketing professional in the food and beverage space. Previous to BentoBox, she was the social media manager at Bon Appetit Magazine. She loves a dirty martini, shrimp cocktail, and helping restaurants succeed.

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