With the seemingly endless supply of social networking sites out there, if you’re busy running a restaurant, you probably don’t have interest in dealing with all of them. But when you consider the influence that word-of-mouth advertising has on the restaurant industry, and combine that with the fact that social media nowadays drives many of today’s word-of-mouth trends, the importance of having a presence on major social networks becomes pretty obvious.
Furthermore, the power of Google, when it comes to both discovering and researching restaurants, can’t be underestimated. Studies show that over half of adults search for restaurants on the internet, and the majority of those searches are done through search engines. So while Facebook and Twitter are more widely used than Google+, this social network represents a great opportunity to improve your restaurant’s online visibility.
Google+ is a social networking site that many say was created to compete with Facebook. You can use it to post photos and videos, comment on other posts, add friends and connect with companies or other organizations. You can also use the site to group your network into circles (i.e. a circle for work, one for family, another for friends, etc.). Google+ also has a video chat feature called Google Hangouts.
Using Google+ to Drive Sales
As we mentioned, while Google+ doesn’t have the social clout of Facebook, Google itself is a search-engine giant. It controls the way that many consumers find information, including where your restaurant is, what it serves, when it’s open and even what your food looks like. For restaurants in particular, who rely on being discovered by new customers on a regular basis, Google+ is more than a way to connect with people: it’s also a gateway to being searchable. Being active on Google+ can boost your SEO and literally put your restaurant on the map when people are searching for a place to eat.
Here are four ways to make Google+ work for your restaurant:
1. Create a Following.
For brands, creating an online following is probably one of the most important goals when leveraging social media. Users flock to social media in hopes of connecting with people, brands and local businesses that they love. As such, it’s important to build a following and to treat it like an interactive community, not simply a list of people that you “share” marketing material with.
Your Google+ community should be privy to company info, offers and events that others outside of your circles don’t receive. Beyond customer discounts, get creative with your approach: stage Google+ events, disclose secret menus, organize private mixers, set up contests, etc. By keeping these perks exclusive to your Google+ community, you provide an extra layer of value for your online followers, and it will encourage people to return to your page (and hopefully your restaurant) more frequently.
Make sure to leverage the diverse communication options available to you on Google+ specifically. Always include a picture; this is especially important for a restaurant, since photos tend to garner more engagement and since the appeal of your product (food) depends so much on its aesthetics, not to mention that Google+ supports very large, high-resolution images and will allow some photos to stretch across an entire page. You can also leverage hashtags, which allow people to more easily search for trending terms and allow you to index and catalog your own posts more easily. To learn more about creating compelling Google+ posts, click here.
2. Utilize Google+ Circles.
One feature many consider an advantage of Google+ over Facebook is “circles,” which allow you to create different lists of followers. These circles help you segment your market and focus marketing efforts on specific targets that might respond better to certain types of content than others.
For example, you can segment your customers into two age groups, with a 20-to-35 circle and a 35-to-50 one. You can then send specific promotions to different circles: you can send happy-hour promotions to your younger crowd and early-bird specials to your older one.
This customization allows you to better target your marketing efforts to individual groups. While tailoring your posts to different segments takes a little more effort, it should prove much more effective than sending out generic promotions that you hope appeal to everybody. The more irrelevant content people see from you, the more likely they are to either remove you from their feed or overlook your content enough that the feed flags your posts as irrelevant to that customer.
3. Be Findable in a Pinch.
Many restaurant visits are impulsive, last-minute decisions, so it’s important to do what you can to be easily found or on the top of customers’ minds when they’re hungry. By adding your restaurant as a local business or “place” on Google+, you become findable by customers who are looking for a good spot to eat. This means that the information on your Google+ listing will be available to users who use Google search, Google Maps, Google+ and the mobile versions of those products.
Providing users with an easier way to find businesses is Google’s most valuable offering, and restaurants on Google+ should optimize this feature by fully completing their profiles. Thoroughly completing your profile makes it easier for hungry customers to find your contact info, your location or your menu in a pinch. Learn more about how to properly fill out your Google+ Business Page here.
Google+ is a great example of the importance of creative social marketing in the restaurant industry. Your restaurant’s survival will rely heavily on word-of-mouth recommendations and a strong online presence. Utilize Google+ to share buzzworthy discounts, post eye-popping food photos and to increase your searchability in order to get more customers in the door.