27 March 2019
One week ago, Malou participated in a conference organized by CESACOM, a French communication school. The topic of the discussion was focusing on being or not being Instagramable. Some important figures were present such as Coline Desilans, journalist at Le Bonbon, Anne-Sophie Martorana, interior architect, and Patrick Colpron, manager of Instagram’s TopParis accounts. Together, we debated about the role of Instagram in restaurants’ communication strategy. Is it essential to the survival of a restaurant? Can it be the main driver for growth?
1 Parisian out of 2 goes to the restaurant at least once a week. 80% of them go online to research a restaurant. They face different choices: Google search engine, online comparison platforms (TheFork, Yelp, TripAdvisor…)… But also, social media. Facebook and Instagram are the main ones. They are the first choice of restaurants looking to gain new clients.
However, it is difficult to appear on internet users’ feed. It is already saturated due to the important amount of contents created by other individuals or businesses. Numerous examples prove that it is difficult, but not impossible. With time and effort, results can be envious. We can take the example of Big Mamma. The restaurant frequently posts aesthetic pictures of its warmth interior decoration or even of its delicious Italian food. Big Mamma is now considered as THE Italian of Paris. People do not mind waiting in queues outside of the restaurant to experience this Instagramable place. PNY is also a good example of another restaurant who built a successful communication strategy thanks to social media.
But how can you successfully impose your brand on social media when it is such a competitive market? How to target efficiently? Are social media enough to fill a restaurant during each service? What is the role of social media in a restaurant’s daily life? All these questions are answered in this article.
Community management strategies are essential to the success of restaurants
Restaurants’ owners often say it, it is necessary today to be present on Facebook and Instagram. And the reason for this is that food is one of the most favored and followed topics on social media. In 2017, 208 million #food were used on Instagram. It is believed that 1 person out of 5 shares at least one picture of their meal each month. To show what we eat became part of our identity as much as music and fashion are.
The restaurants’ owners take full advantage of this #food trend. They never saw their social media accounts as much visited as today. It is estimated that 300 000 French people check restaurants online at least once a day.
But how to optimize your online visibility on social media? What are the strategies and trends to develop?
Stay on your guards
It is known, in order for an account to gain followers, it needs to be dynamic and frequently publish contents on its feed (meaning several times a week). So, it is normal to lack of inspiration at some point. One advice: check what your competitors do. To make attractive content on Facebook and Instagram, it is necessary to follow the best trends around you and apply them to your strategy.
It is also important to keep track of social media’s new tools. Social media constantly creates new tools to keep its online community interested. The Facebook Group (Facebook and Instagram) always add new features that are rapidly and easily adopted by its online users. These new tools stimulate imaginations and help to generate new types of content.
We can take the example of stories: this format was originally introduced by Snapchat and a few years after, Instagram started developing it, followed by Facebook. The result? Stories develop themselves 15 times faster than posts. It became an habit for online users to watch or create some. Today, stories are more used than posts.
It is thus necessary to stay on your guards and keep an eye on what is around you. Even stories’ format already changed since its apparition. You can add some music, create some surveys… What was trendy yesterday might not be tomorrow.
Another example showing the importance of staying up-to-date on social media trends: videos. Recently, videos are the main focus of internet users. Their views have increased by 80% between 2017 and 2018. Once again, this format (different from Instagram’s initial idea of an only picture platform) allows users to develop their creativity to produce all kinds of videos.
Not only checking competitors and internet users is important to develop your own strategy, you also need to adapt your strategy to present trends in order to gain the most of out them.
Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses
Obviously, we do not mean to copy competitors’ strategies but to inspire yourself! It is necessary to adapt strategies to your own goals and brand image. For a community management strategy to be efficient, your first step should be to know exactly your restaurant’s identity. What are its weaknesses? What are its strengths? What does this restaurant have to offer? What differentiates it from its competitors? Why would people choose to go there instead of another place? These are only a few examples of questions you should ask yourself before creating an account. It will help you define the right strategy to develop.
This is the reason why copying someone else strategy will not work for your own restaurant. Not only results will be average but also you will still be drowning facing your competitors’ strategies. Finding inspiration is necessary but your strategy should always be your own. The MOB HOTEL is an example to follow.
Most hotels and restaurants on Instagram choose to put their offer in the center of their strategy. The MOB Hotel decided to do things differently. It considers itself more as a movement than a touristic place. This living space advertises its values before its interior decoration or its restaurant. The hotel only publishes original pictures reflecting the atmosphere felt when being there. And it worked! Thanks to its inspiration and differentiation, it now has more than 14 500 followers on Instagram.
Such strategies are meaningless without a close analysis of their outcomes. Social media is the perfect place to try, test and take risks. The expression “To learn from your mistakes” perfectly represent the idea of strategies on social media. But it is still important to know what is working and what is not.
Thankfully, Instagram and Facebook allow you to have access to all this information. You can adapt your strategies thanks to these numbers. You can repeat successful strategies and avoid the ones that did not pay off.
Community management, yes, but not without a broad communication strategy
Yes, it is necessary to put in place a community management strategy in order for the restaurant to be successful. However, this strategy would be useless without a broad communication strategy. Just having an account is not enough to face competition, to target the right people or to fill your restaurant at each service.
80% of French people look online to find a restaurant. They can find relevant information on different platforms such as Google, traditional media, online comparison platforms, social media, websites… Most people do not randomly go in a restaurant anymore. They prefer to gain detailed knowledge about the different choices they are facing. So, it is important to multiple contacts and to link online sources to each other.
1. The first reflex: working on your organic SEO on Google!
Before even thinking about creating an account on Instagram or Facebook, it is important to develop an SEO strategy. Social media is considered as a verification step for users. After proceeding to an online search on Google, they will check out the Instagram and Facebook pages of the restaurant just to verify the quality of the business.
So before creating an account, you need to think about your restaurant’s keywords in order to appear before your competitors on Google thus, having more chance to be chosen. Some online comparison platforms such as TripAdvisor, The Fork or Yelp are also very used by people looking for a restaurant. To have a complete and detailed account on these platforms also needs to be a priority.
2. Community management and influence marketing as a whole
The next step is to develop a community management strategy. To be efficient, it needs to be paired with an influence marketing strategy. In other words, it means that restaurant owners have to work closely with relevant influencers on Instagram.
A collaboration with food or lifestyle influencers that appear to have the same values as your restaurant enables reaching a broader target. Furthermore, Instagram becomes a tool to win clients instead of just displaying your offer. If an influencer ends up having a great time in your restaurant, he will share his experience with its community. He will create posts or stories about it. Influencers main characteristic is to have a close and trustworthy relationship with their followers. This is the reason why they become ambassadors of the brands they partner with. To have contents on different influencers’ account allow the restaurant to expand its online visibility to millions of potential clients. It is the case of Pizzou, a 100% French pizzeria with which we worked with at its opening. One month after the launch of the place, we organized a party with only influencers invited. Results were immediate. The next day, the restaurant accounted for its best revenue since its opening.
3. Be visible on traditional media
Finally, traditional media should not be put aside. They still are relevant means of communication. A public relation strategy will grow the notoriety and credibility of your business.
Conclusion : which evolutions for tomorrow?
Numerous restaurant owners think it is important to be present on social media and they are right. However, they tend to think that having an account is enough. It is necessary to also develop a community management strategy linked to a broader communication strategy. Organic SEO, public relations, influence marketing… All are important steps to work on.
In order to do so, it is important to keep track of these platforms. Facebook and Instagram always change: trends come and go, and competition is harsh. To follow and use new features help you stay up-to-date with your community and differentiate yourself from competitors.
To conclude, even though today Facebook and Instagram are considered the two major social media, let’s not forget that Snapchat, the creator of stories, used to be compared to them. Today, people over 25 years old do not even have it downloaded in their phones anymore. Also, Facebook used to be bigger than Instagram. Today, it left its place to Instagram to focus on being a more professional platform. And did you hear about TikTok yet? It is a new social media growing at a fast path among the youngest. So, what will it be in 3, 5, 10 years? Hard to know. What will be the new tools available for restaurants? You will only have these answers if you carefully benchmark competitors and keep an eye on new trends!