As a restauranteur, you work hard to fill your seats with customers who will want to keep on coming back for seconds.

As a restauranteur in the 21st century, you know that social media can play a role in making that happen.

You just might not be sure how.

Could simply sharing a clever post on Twitter every other day really bring in customers?

No, it can’t. But a well thought out social media strategy – built on a social media planning calendar – can.

Here are 3 social media platforms (as well as tips for each platform) you can start using today to promote your restaurant.

1. Facebook for restaurants

Having a Facebook page for your restaurant is a non-negotiable. You have to have one. While other platforms are growing in popularity (Instagram, Snapchat), Facebook continues to be the most popular platform on the planet.

It’s also an alternative search engine for your customers. Some folks might go online to find your restaurant. Others choose Facebook.

So what should you do to maximize your Facebook strategy?

  • Cover image: This 851×351 piece of real estate should get people inspired to come to your restaurant. Use professional photos of your food, or capture an image of patrons having a good time enjoying a meal. Feel free to change your cover image regularly (perhaps each season).
  • Use images to your advantage: Facebook is a highly visual platform. For some businesses, this poses a challenge. For your restaurant, this is a godsend. Food is extremely visual. Include lots of images of your meals with your Facebook updates – they’re more than likely to be shared by your followers.
  • Use promotions: Use social sweepstakes and contests, and offer group deals, to your Facebook fans. Unlike Twitter, which performs more like a news aggregate platform, Facebook is a place where folks hang out. Give them a reason to linger on your page a little longer.
  • Use geo-targeting: The most effective Facebook strategy will include some paid advertising. Before you roll your eyes, you should know that Facebook ads can be unbelievably effective, particularly if you employ Facebook’s niche targeting features. Target your ads based on location, behavior, recent actions or more. The granular level in which you can target ads is really quite phenomenal.

2. Using Twitter to promote your restaurant

twitterWith just 140 characters at your disposal, Twitter can be a frustrating platform for restaurateurs to use. However, its knack for making tweets go viral make it a potential goldmine for your business.

Here’s how you can make the most of your Twitter profile:

  • Create landing pages that you actively promote with tweets: For example, let’s say that you want to promote a new dish on your menu. A tweet can make that happen; however, what link will you direct people to? Is it a general menu page? Your reservation page? Why not create a custom landing page that makes that new dish the centerpiece? This type of seamless flow makes it easier for customers to make a conversion.
  • Use images: Brand-based Twitter users often neglect the impact images have on Twitter. Image-based tweets get shared up to 6 times more than tweets without pictures. As with Facebook, just turn to your beautifully prepared dishes for material.
  • Hashtags: Facebook tends to corner the market on nearly every aspect of social media, except for hashtags, where the use of that “#” is essentially pointless. Not on Twitter. You can use hashtags to get your content in front of larger audiences (especially if you use a trending tag), but you can also use hashtags to represent a particular marketing campaign you’re running.

3. Instagram and restaurants

instagramInstagram might just very well be the best social media platform for promoting a restaurant. This is a visual-only platform, meaning, so long as you’re confident in your photography chops, you can build an audience of die-hard devotees who’ll not only become repeat visitors to your restaurant, but who’ll promote your business on your behalf.

So how can you make the most of Instagram?

  • Hashtags. Hashtags. Hashtags: Here’s the thing about Instagram, it doesn’t have that 140-character limit Twitter has. That means you can really go to town with your hashtags. Use both trending hashtags (#NationalCheesecakeday, for example) as well as niche hashtags (#AtlantaEats, for example). In fact, don’t be afraid to throw in other geo-targeted hashtags like #Atlanta, #ATL, or even #TheBigPeach.
  • Get customers involved: By now you hopefully know you should post awesome pictures of your menu items on Instagram (just like you should for Facebook and Twitter). But why not take it one step further? Encourage your customers to upload their favorite menu items. You can then repost these images and use them for further marketing ventures.
  • Personalize your restaurant: Social media is an extremely personal and social place. Why not dedicate a portion of your Instagram marketing to showing your audience the people behind the scenes? Highlight your wait staff and cooks. Consider starting an employee appreciate series. These types of posts help promote the values of your brand and show your restaurant as a cool, fun place to spend some time.

Marketing your restaurant is a never ending process that could turn into an extremely costly endeavor.

But social media helps to simplify this process. And while paid ads are an integral part of a social strategy, you’ll find that a well thought out social strategy will more than likely deliver the type of return on investment you wish all other marketing channels offered.

As a restaurateur, you need your business to get on social media. But before you send out a single post or sign up for every platform under the sun, take a look at the 3 platforms we outlined above, and see what kinds of strategies you could put into place.

Remember, social media without a strategy is just a bunch of digital noise.