#Socialrestaurant: Digital marketing tips from industry experts

Going social? The debate covered how to create authenticity with digital innovation

Time management and consistency are vital elements in an effective digital strategy, according to digital marketing experts speaking on the first day of the Restaurant Show 2014 (6 October).

In an OpenTable live panel debate on creating authenticity with digital innovation, speakers Sam Lynas, marketing and digital director, Sauce Communications, Pollyanna Vincent, senior partnerships manager, UK and Nordics, TripAdvisor for Business and Simon Heusser, director of consumer marketing, OpenTable, gave a series of tips to help restaurants improve their image online.

Find what makes you unique

Lynas explained that the first step to digital marketing success is to find your authenticity; what sets you apart from competitors. For this purpose, restaurateurs were advised to think about their values, but also to survey their customers to determine how they are perceived. 

“Aligning your values with your customers’ values is what creates authenticity,” he said.

Manage your time

Once you know what your story is, you need to develop a strategy to improve the way people see you online, which involves time and consistency. “For time management purposes, Google your restaurant’s name and focus on the first four or five results - they are the channels that are really having an impact on your customers,” advised Heusser.

He added that it was a good idea to dedicate half an hour a day to engage in those channels, by posting pictures and responding to reviews for example.

Focus on what you can control

Some platforms give restaurants complete control over their online image, and these are the ones operators should focus on. “Start with the restaurant itself: Deliver a great experience every time, advertise awards in your venue, tell your story there,” Heusser said.

The second most obvious platform is the restaurant’s own website. “People check out user pictures, but they also want to see beautiful professional pictures and hear the restaurant’s story on their website,” Vincent added, pointing out that updated pictures and accurate descriptions were vital.

Facebook, Twitter and email campaigns are next on the list, as they are completely managed by the restaurant itself. For these platforms, Lynas recommended being consistent in the tone used, reminding the audience that these tools were developed for consumers, not businesses, and therefore called for a more informal, ‘human’ tone.

Monitor, engage, respond

For platforms such as TripAdvisor or OpenTable, where restaurants are not always able to control their image, it is important to monitor what is said and posted by customers.

“Set up alerts with your restaurant’s name to get notified when people talk about you, but differentiate between opinions and facts,” said Heusser.

As frustrating as bad reviews or pictures can be to a restaurateurs, the panel agreed on the fact that it’s important not to take them personally.

“One bad review or image won’t make a difference - you need to give credit to diners, who are able to see the bigger picture,” said Lynas. 

Vincent explained that customers look at six to 12 reviews on average before making a decision, and that “a well-crafted response to a bad review often makes people change their minds about the restaurant”.

Answering with your own name instead of your business’s name can also add a human aspect to your response, improving authenticity.

Be consistent

The key to creating authenticity online is consistency between reviews, tone and information across all channels.

“Diners in the UK are more likely than in other places to browse between different websites and social media platforms before making a decision. The more consistent the message is, the more authentic the story will be,” Heusser said.

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