The restaurant industry is growing at a tremendous rate, with ad spending in this space outpacing the overall ad market, according to Ad Age.

And with more and more folks using social networks like Facebook, if you want to reach your audiences, you have to play the social ad game.

But it takes so much more than just tossing a few dollars toward a campaign to make a splash. Here’s how your franchise can grow each of its locations with paid social ads.

Understanding how to approach paid social ads

Most QSRs don’t look at paid social ads as their main course; rather, they use it as a special ingredient, for tactical purposes. That’s because paid social advertising is often transaction focused – designed to compel consumers to click through to your site to make a purchase or take another type of action – things that a customer usually doesn’t do on a QSR chain’s website.

But that doesn’t mean QSRs have to lose out on the returns that paid social ads can deliver.

Use the local data of social to create personalized experiences

social-media-networksSocial networks like Facebook have built their entire platforms on the concept of local.

Think of how often you “check in” on Facebook. These check-ins not only tell Facebook where you’re located at that exact moment, but they also tell the social network the types of actions you take and establishments you frequent.

As a QSR brand, this type of information is invaluable. Facebook’s analytics can help you target audiences that have recently visited or “liked” one of your competitors. You can then create an ad that compares your price points to that brand.

Analytics can also help you target audiences based on actions they’ve made. For example, you can target local audiences that have recently checked in at a golf resort with an ad that uses some type of spin on golf.

Capture your local audiences in real time

Mobile devices have made it possible to target your audiences in the moment, and social media is king of the real-time strategy.

Your audiences – across all of your locations – constantly check their phones while in line at the market, while at a stop sign, while at the bar, and so on.

This is the perfect opportunity for you to target your audiences in the now. This can be tricky for multi-location QSRs that manage their marketing from the corporate HQ level, but it is possible.

Let’s say, for example, you create a campaign that will advertise promotions based on the weather. You can then implement automated advertising that will trigger your ads when certain parameters are met.

An example would be your ad for ice cream might trigger in Atlanta when the temperature reaches 90 degrees, while your ad for hot chili will trigger in Boston when the temperature dips below 32.

You can create excitement for this ongoing campaign by adding language to your ad, such as: “Each time Atlanta hits 90, enjoy 10% off any ice cream flavor of your choice.”

This type of personalized advertising can help you build an army of seasonal devotees who are eyeing the mercury waiting for the chance at a discounted offer.

Advertise your online ordering

papa-johnThe food industry is currently shifting towards online delivery for QSR chains. While you might think of pizza QSRs as the leader of this field (Papa Johns), other niches are getting in on the game as well, including Five Guys Burgers and Fries. They offer easy online ordering, which is one of the reasons why they’re leading the way in the burger category for QSRs.

They then promote their offer through social ads that are timed to fill the social media streams of qualified audiences when these audiences are most likely to convert (say, before the big football game, or just before dinner time).

As you develop an online ordering system to promote, keep in mind that technology is constantly evolving. Beyond internet ordering, you may want to add (and promote) the ability to order via Twitter, smart TVs, smart watches, text messaging and more.

Know what your audiences crave

qsr-beverageDoes your QSR sell desserts or all-day breakfast? Either of these types of menu items are widely popular with online audiences, making them ideal categories to invest in with your advertising.

But even if your QSR doesn’t offer either item, beverages play a very important role for consumers deciding which restaurant to visit.

The key here is to use price-point advertising to attract patrons. This includes value meals, two-for-one deals, and short-term price promotions.

According to a recent Technomic report, more than 1/3 of ad spending for QSR restaurants contains pricing points, with some advertisers enjoying a higher than 50% return for that portion of ad spending.

Speak the language of social audiences

While paid search and paid social follow similar rules in terms of crafting ad copy, designing landing pages, and harnessing analytics, there is a fundamental difference in how you approach your strategies.

Social media audiences are far more inclined to demand entertaining content vs. audiences searching on Google.

They’re also less interested in advertisements that look and sound like, well, advertisements. Regardless of the social ad strategy you implement, remember to hold onto a fun, conversational tone and you should see some impressive results with your investment.