Want Success on Social Media? Less Selling, More Sharing


By Donald Burns, Foodable Industry Expert

Stop by. Come on down. Today’s special is blah blah blah. Social media is packed with restaurants trying to get the attention of hungry guests hoping that they will stop in for some food and drinks. If you haven't noticed, there are more restaurants than ever all sending the same message: Look at me.

Why should guests look at you on social media? Are you standing on your soapbox competing for the attention of a market that has become desensitized to the standard sales pitch?

If you want to really harness the power that social media offers you, are going to need to stop selling and start sharing.

The secret of social media is embedded in the principle of reciprocity. Social media is set up on this foundation. You follow them, they follow you. Pretty simple, right? It’s sad that the majority of restaurants don't get that concept. Social media is about being social. It’s about communication. Lest we forget that communication is a two-way street. When you forget and take out the social from the equation, you become just media.

What’s Your Story?

The power of storytelling can be epic to getting your guests interested in what’s behind the brand logo. Apple has a pretty famous logo. Look at the movies that have come out since the passing of its founder Steve Jobs and look what they are about. Do they focus on how they come up with the logo and how good their products are? No. They tell the story of Steve Jobs and his rise, his fall, and rise again to lead Apple from near bankruptcy to a global powerhouse.

What’s the story behind your brand? It there a family recipe or a tradition that might not be common knowledge? Do you source local ingredients? Why? Have you been a partner in your community or just post about what’s going on in your restaurant? What are your core values? What is the essence of your restaurant? There is power and substance in the questions we ask ourselves about our message. If you want a better brand message, then you need to ask better questions.

It’s About Engagement

So, if one secret to social media is being more social, then it helps to be that person. Reach out and like other people's post who follow you. Take it even one step further and share that story about GMOs if it resonates with your brand. Likes, retweets, hearts, and emojis are the currency of the social media world. Sometimes you need to pay out and invest some first before you get a return on your investment.

Engagement and influence are critical keys to understand. You can have thousands of fans and follows, however if none of them react or do anything when you post, you’re just creating noise. So, stop focusing on quantity and start focusing on quality of your tribe.

Lady Gaga may or may not be an artist you listen to, however her fans are loyal to everything she posts. She doesn't call them fans, she calls them her “little monsters”. That creates a unity among her fans because they feel in the inner circle. You need to care about your guests, before they will care about you. Remember, great communication is always both ways. Sometimes you need to take the lead and get that conversation started.

Find a Better Trigger

If you read enough marketing books and listen to enough webinars from the marketing masters, you find a common thread to all great marketing. It’s about emotional triggers.

Most restaurants play on the hunger emotion. While it does still work, it usually is only triggered when the person is hungry. If your social media post is up at the right time and the right setting, then the emotion is triggered and the guest heads to your restaurant. There are a multitude of other human emotions that your marketing can use besides just hunger to trigger reactions.

How about: community, family, humor, love, happiness, joy, prestige, power….

Power? Yes. Play to those guests who want to be seen and crave the spotlight. In the classic movie “Wall Street,” Michael Douglas is a ruthless corporate raider who says to a person on the phone that, “Lunch is for wimps.” What if you are a high end steakhouse and you created this post:



Power with a dash of humor thrown in. Never count out playing the humor emotion — just look around the social media world and you’ll see this is the number one emotional trigger used in posts. Don’t even go down the path of cat memes! That is a world of its own.

You can even play on historic events and give them a little creative twist for your brand like this one:



Here another inside tip: You can make these kinds of posts yourself with an app! No need to hire a big graphic design firm. In fact, the two pictures about were both created with an iPhone app called Typorama.

Jennifer Smith, Account Director at Restaurant Social Plus (a company that educates and manages restaurant social media) takes all her clients through a emotional triggers exercise.

“We want to tap into the emotions behind the brand. Psychographics play a big part in being effective in social media marketing. We have a framework for the campaigns we build for clients and each one is tied to at least one emotional trigger, sometimes many more,” she said.

This is a business of emotions. If you think you’re just selling food and beverage, you’d be mistaken. What you really sell is an emotion with a side of food and beverage. It’s the fundamental marketing principle of features vs. benefits. You don’t sell the steak; you sell the sizzle.

Build Trust Before Selling

Use your social media platforms to build an authentic connection with your guests. When you build trust, you also create loyalty. Loyalty is priceless. It is the emotional connection to your brand that discounted prices or deals down the street from a competition cannot take away. It’s the reason people will wait for an hour or more for a table. It’s the reason people will make the journey across town to dine at your restaurant. Loyal guests treated correctly become raving fans and here is the best part...raving fans will help you market your brand!

So, back off the pushy “all about me” social media button. If you can change your focus to the guest first and sidle a little bit with your sales message, you’ll see that social media can be your best marketing tool.