When it comes to going social, some of the best and brightest pioneers are restaurants. The sharing-driven nature of social media mixes well with the visual world of the restaurant industry. We’ve all seen people snapping photos of their dish to share on Facebook or Instagram (and maybe indulged once or twice ourselves). In fact, there’s a dizzying array of ways that consumers can interact with and endorse restaurants on social media, including check-ins, photos, recommendations, tips, lists, and much more. So really, the question at this point is why wouldn’t a restaurant be using social media to help them achieve their business goals? And yet, there are some pretty great businesses that would do well to use social media that are not seizing the opportunity.
Social media provides many channels through which a restaurant can garner reviews. For instance, Foursquare has Tips that users can leave, Facebook has Recommendations, and of course sites like Yelp and Google Local are completely built around the review mechanism. Frequently, marketers like to point out that these systems give restaurants the ability to both remedy any problems with customers and get their side of the story out for everyone to see. Seeing as conventional wisdom holds that finding a new customer is as much as ten times more expensive than keeping one, this sounds like a remarkably cheap way a business can prevent customer loss.
However, there is a more tangible benefit to businesses beyond that. A recent study by two prominent Berkeley economists discovered that as little as a half-star difference in a restaurant’s Yelp score would swing their business up by about 27%. In the restaurant industry, where margins are often very tight, this could mean making or breaking a new location. By taking the right steps to get customers to review the site, a restaurant could see a nice return on their investment.
Branded Search Prominence
Social sites also aid in ensuring that your restaurant shows up when someone is using what’s called a ‘branded search’. Social media can help resolve this in several ways. As part of a larger content strategy, social media can serve as a channel to help spread content optimized to improve the rankings of pages for branded searches. This leads to more people linking to that content and social signals being attributed to it. Those links and signals help that page rank in the number one spot when someone is searching for the terms that content is optimized for.
Another tangible way social sites help with a restaurants bottom line is by increasing the likelihood they’ll appear in non-branded searches. It does this by functioning as part of a larger content strategy, just like with branded searches. A company will create content that is optimized for non-branded keywords they wish to rank well for, then use social networks to share and facilitate the spread of that content. This, in turn garners social signals and additional links to the content, if properly positioned and created. Likewise, this helps to move the page up the rankings, driving more traffic. That traffic can then be called to join their social sites, creating a positive feedback loop for the restaurant.
The last way that social sites can increase the business that your restaurant receives is through social discovery. Social sites like Foursquare or Urbanspoon have core components that help their
users discover restaurants they might like. These choices are influenced by user reviews and activity the restaurant receives on those networks. By increasing the likelihood someone will interact with your business in that way, a restaurant will see more business.
Beyond social discovery tools, restaurants can increase awareness of their business through interacting on social sites. User interaction on social sites appears in the feeds of those users friends, creating a ripple effect for a restaurants awareness or content. Likewise, responding to those comments increases the likelihood of exposure for a restaurant on a social site.