Social media marketing is quite easy for establishing a strong base—just create your profile and post regularly. But to really get your message out to a broader audience, there’s an intricate ecosystem involved, and it involves taking out your checkbook.
One of the most difficult things to do in any business is pay for any kind of marketing effort. Results aren’t as tangible or secure as any kind of capital investment—“Why should I pay for a Facebook ad when I can put that money toward new patio heaters?” one might ask. At the same time, we now live in a world where so much of marketing can be free. “Why should I pay to advertise on Facebook when I can post for free?” is another common question.
Paid marketing, however, is a necessary evil if you are truly serious about getting the word out to new potential customers. The key word here is new. Let’s take a closer look at the kind of difference paid marketing can have over the free alternative…
We’ll use Best Burgers as a fictional example. Best Burgers is a successful fast-casual spot with several locations across Los Angeles. They have a strong local following that hounds over—you guessed it—burgers. Best Burgers is now expanding to San Francisco and wants to make its presence known up north. Here’s the first path Best Burgers can take:
The free path
Do these marketing tactics sound familiar? They’re certainly among the most commonly used. They also all fall under one central theme and huge hindrance: they mostly reach the people who are already in the know or actively looking.
"Give them a reason to click, and you will have an incredible tool to increase conversion"
Think about it: When you post on your social media page, the only people who see it are those who are already following you. Sure, you may get a few people to share your post, but for the most part you’re speaking to a pretty closed-off network. Sure, there’s a chance that your post may ‘go viral,’ but relying on that one-in-a-million chance may not be the best payout for the time and energy that it takes to manage a proper social campaign.
Think about other traditional marketing methods for a restaurant new to the area. Best Burgers may have a grand opening sale with great discounts to attract local foot traffic. They may invite local food writers in to review the place and share with their subscribers. Both of these examples are aimed to attract new people who were previously unfamiliar with the Best Burgers brand. This same mindset should be applied across your marketing channels, social media included.
So here’s the road less traveled, especially by smaller restaurants that don’t believe they have the budgets required to advertise on social media:
The paid path
For those dedicated enough to take the paid path, be sure to make your sponsored posts relevant and not too in-your-face. It’s one thing to have a beautiful burger photo with a heading like ‘Love Burgers...well SF is in for a treat’ rather than ‘Best Burgers coming to SF!’ Give them a reason to click, and you will have an incredible tool to increase conversion.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.