How smaller restaurants can get started on social media

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Owners of smaller restaurants can bring in guests at the touch of a social media button. Various platforms enable instant and direct client-to-business contact. Currently, more than 1 billion people are active on Facebook, 271 million on Twitter and 200 million on Instagram, according to the respective sites. A good connection with even a fraction of these social media users can boost revenues, increase traffic and improve a restaurant's reputation. Like every good business plan, social media platforms take some strategy. Here's how small restaurants can start connecting with guests on social media.

Picking a team
Before jumping into things, restaurant owners will have to decide who'll be in charge of social media. One or several administrators should oversee the profile, content, photos and interactions. The right person for the job should currently use the platforms and know how to use them to promote business. His or her job will be to create accurate and engaging posts that'll drive traffic to the company's Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

It's important to carve out some objectives for a social media site, suggested FSR magazine. Business leaders should take into consideration that each platform works a little differently and may require separate tones. This should typically align with the brand and overall message of an establishment.

Setting up accounts and campaigns
Once a team of social media strategists is assembled, it's time to get started. The setup depends on the platform but is pretty straightforward. Here are some pointers for getting started on three of the largest social media sites:

1. Facebook
To make a Facebook account, the user must already have an active account. If that's squared away, the person can get right to it and start by uploading a profile picture, cover photo and the title of the company. Coca-Cola's page has a picture of a glass bottled soda, a cover photo of people drinking it and below the company name the description reads "Food/Beverages." In the "About" section is a blurb about Coca-Cola's humble beginnings. Cleverly included is a link to Coke's home page. Under the "More" tab is an organized list of options. Visitors can easily jump to promotions and contests, events, videos and more, which could be why the company currently has 89 million likes. It's easy, attractive and interesting. Small businesses can look to Coca-Cola as an ideal example of what to strive toward on their own pages.

2. Twitter
Setting up a business's Twitter account, unlike Facebook, doesn't require the user to have an existing account. This means that the person in charge of a company's social media can head straight to the site, create a business username and password and start tweeting with the world. Many places just choose their business name so people have a clear understanding that it's them. Like Facebook, a profile consists of a cover and profile image and a short description. Fast food chain Arby's has its cowboy hat logo as the profile picture and a background photo with the words "We Have The Meats." They're to the point and even a little witty. Many establishments find that they have to create quick witted posts because they're limited to 140 characters. Abbreviations, links and quotes are the way to go on this platform. 

3. Instagram
A particular social media favorite of restaurants is Instagram. Small business owners can set up this channel by creating an account and uploading a profile photo and a brief description. This service is great for the food industry because it gives people with various photography skills the ability to upload mouth-watering pictures of their proudest dishes. Various filters and borders can transform a seemingly average photo into a gorgeous presentation.

Social media engagement
Once one or all of the social media accounts have been created, they must be nourished. How a smaller restaurant uses its Twitter, Facebook and Instagram will make a world of difference. The founder of The Girls Mean Business told The Guardian she found her social media successes a few ways. Claire Mitchell shared that she'd post general questions, insights from users and advice from followers. An occasional inspirational quote kept things spicy and could be the reason her company's "likes" went up to nearly 14,000 as of last June. 

Maintaining relationships is a major part of social media, Forbes magazine emphasized. Contributor Drew Hendricks pointed out that social media is not a soapbox, meaning a restaurant can't expect to put content out into the world and not have to follow up on it. Companies need to reply to their social media fans frequently and consistently. Even negative feedback can be disarmed with the right communication on Facebook. Business leaders should respond to negative feedback with urgency and respect. This'll show other clients that the restaurant is humble and willing to do anything to make a guest happy. That being said, it's never a good idea to communicate with someone who's posting inappropriate or irrelevant content. A Facebook showdown can make a business seem unprofessional. No one wants to undo all of his or her social media efforts with one bad post. Restaurants should keep it clean and friendly, like they would in the restaurant.

Barometer of success
These social media sites have the potential to make a big difference for smaller restaurants. If they stay on top of their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter game, they can bring in more guests, increase sales and improve overall reputation.

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