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Social media marketing for restaurants and bars

Marketing for your restaurant or bar can seem like a mystery but it’s one you can solve. To help, we’ve invited hospitality industry expert, Melissa Libby of Melissa Libby & Associates, to share social media best practices for restaurants and bars as well as success stories to help you get inspired!

PosterMyWall live class: Social media marketing for restaurants and bars

Owning a bar or restaurant can be a tough job. On top of serving up great food and beverages you need to schedule and manage staff, order supplies and ingredients, maintain operations–and market on social media. 

To make this easier for you, we brought in a pro for this week’s PosterMyWall free class: Melissa Libby, president of Melissa Libby and Associates, a PR and social media agency that specializes in restaurants and bars. During class, Melissa answered questions on how to use social media to draw more customers to your bar or restaurant.

Whether you’re looking to enhance an established social media strategy, or launch a new plan entirely from scratch, watch the replay above or keep reading for a summary of Melissa’s recommended strategies. You just might walk away with a few tips you can use to elevate your own social media strategy. And don’t forget to download our bonus content, which includes a downloadable template for your own social media calendar.

Why is social media important for restaurants and bars?

Social media is one of the best things to ever happen to owners of restaurants and bars. It’s affordable, so you don’t have to be a huge business to use it. It also enables you to reach your potential customer directly, which helps build a relationship and entices them to visit again. And it gives you the opportunity to show the world who you are, and what your establishment has to offer. 

How to choose social media content for your restaurant? 

Every establishment is different. Melissa says that the kind of content you should post depends heavily on what sort of restaurant you’re running and who your target audience is. But there are some general guidelines that every restaurant can follow. 

Pick three to five priorities every month, and curate your posts according to those priorities. For instance, if you own a sports bar, you can choose beer, sports, and chicken wings as the three priorities you want to focus on during a given month. 

Once you’ve selected your priorities, you can make sure all of your posts fall into one of these three priorities or “content buckets”, as Melissa calls them. Post about the many amazing types of chicken wings on your menu. Post about the big game you’ll be showing next Sunday. Add some pictures of a cold, frosted mug of beer to entice your customers. 

On the other hand, if you’re a Mexican restaurant, you might choose Margaritas or your homemade tortillas as one of your buckets for the month. 

Creating these buckets helps you focus and make sure that everyone gets your message, regardless of whether they see one of your posts for the month or all of them.

How often should restaurants post on social media?

While there’s no magic number here to determine how many times a week or month any business should post on social media, it’s always important to remember that quality trumps quantity. If you cannot put good quality content up five days a week, don’t post five times a week.  

“Two to three strong posts a week can do the job. They will get to the right people and are enough for you to manage either on your own or with someone’s help,” Melissa said. Melissa also suggests that you experiment with your posting schedule until you figure out when your audience is most likely to be online. 

What’s a social media calendar and why is it important? 

A social media calendar is a plan that maps out what you will post online–and when each piece of content will be published. It’s important to create a calendar because it forces you to plan ahead and helps you schedule a block of time to think of new ideas. Plus, working ahead rather than scrambling at the last minute to think of an idea helps elevate the quality of your posts. 

Just think of how much stress you’ll save yourself by taking an hour at the beginning of the month to plan for the whole month!  When you plan, really think about what you want to post. What holidays and celebrations are coming up in the next month? What specials do you want to promote? Do you want to talk about Easter brunch? Think about all of these questions, then use your answers to decide what content to add to your schedule. 

Scheduling your posts on a calendar not only helps you regulate your posting, it also helps you avoid repetitive content. When you’re making a calendar, you’ll know not to put two appetizer-related posts next to each other. And you’ll post about Trivia night far enough in advance that people can make plans to attend.

(Our live class bonus content includes a free social media calendar template that you can download and customize according to your own strategy. You can color code your priorities, flag your seasonal posts, or categorize your content according to each platform you’re posting on.) 

How do you decide what type of content goes on which social media platform?

Melissa’s recommendations are:

If you’re looking to post content that’s meant to be consumed and acted upon quickly, post on Twitter. For instance, if you have a special deal that people can take advantage of within 24 hours, you can Tweet about it to spread the word more quickly.

Instagram, on the other hand, is very heavy on visuals. So that’s where you post your prettiest pictures and videos. And of course, now there are Reels and Stories as well. This is the place to post all of your beautiful food photography and boomerangs.

Facebook allows you to add a little more text to your content, so that is where you post anything that needs a more robust caption. 

But overall, where you post depends heavily on where you have the most followers. If you have a bigger following on Instagram, most of your content should go there. “For social media, you’ve got to go where your people are,” Melissa said. 

How do restaurants create social media content?

It takes work. You need to improve your photography and videography skills. There are also apps that can help. “Use PosterMyWall,” Melissa said. She recommended the wide range of graphic templates available on PosterMyWall that you can customize according to your own brand and needs. 

Melissa showed some examples of Melissa Libby & Associates’ own work. This graphic her agency created for an Atlanta-based tavern shows how you can incorporate a sports theme into your campaigns. 

How do you make sure your social media captions are relevant and engaging to your bar and restaurant customers?

“The number one thing you need to do is be authentic,” said Melissa. Don’t speak in a fake way. Don’t try to sound like another establishment you admire. Just be yourself.

You can get inspiration for your captions by what’s going on in the world. Think about the holidays and events coming up, the changing of the seasons–basically anything that you think represents your restaurant’s brand

If it’s a rainy day, you can use that to your advantage by advertising your seasonal soup special and steaming hot chocolate. If you’re looking to attract adults, a nightclub-like vibe might work for you. If it’s appropriate, you can even play around with some innuendos.

Melissa shared the example of this simple yet effective caption by Johnny’s Hideaway. It’s authentic, clever, and interesting to read. 

How can my bar use user generated content?

User-generated content is content created about your bar by your customers. Melissa tells her clients to encourage their patrons to create user generated content. “I absolutely love user generated content! It’s like a third party endorsement,” she said.

User-generated content adds an element of fun to your feed, without making your content look staged or commercial. The best part is, getting access to user generated content is much easier than you think. All you have to do is search through social media to see if any customers have tagged you in their pictures. 

Find some worthy content, then repost it on your own account and acknowledge the original owner of the post. Repost images of customers enjoying your food or having a laugh at your bar. Like Melissa said, there’s no better content than the kind that shows happy customers.

Another way to encourage customers to generate content is to run a fun contest and encourage people to tag you. For instance, you could encourage people to post pictures of their favorite way to eat the food you serve. Let them know you’ll be reposting your favorite pictures. Offer a fun incentive to generate more content, like a 15% discount or a free appetizer for the best entries. 

A great thing about reposting user generated content on your social media feed is that it encourages customers to post about you even more, because it shows that you really are interested in your customers and their experience. 

What other social media tips does Melissa have?

Here are a few final tips from Melissa:

  1. Know your audience! Especially if you’re starting out in the hospitality industry. Don’t be afraid to just go up to your customers and ask them what social media platforms they use most often, or even how they found out about your establishment. 
  1. Make sure your content is authentic, relatable, and reusable. You can use PosterMyWall to resize your graphic according to the platform on which you want to post.
  1. Don’t discount the power of a strong and engaging visual. A good photograph or video can do wonders for your online presence and your brand. 

Hop on the social media bandwagon today! 

Marketing your restaurant on social media can seem pretty daunting, especially if you’re a beginner. But don’t worry. Social media is easier to navigate than you think it is. Just plan ahead, know what your customers want, and stay true to your brand. 

Bonus: Don’t forget to download our free live class bonus content, including Melissa’s social media calendar template.