By FoodStorm | July 19th, 2016
Whether you run a catering business, a restaurant or café, you’re most likely well aware of social media’s indispensable role in marketing your brand’s profile. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are four of the most popular platforms in the world, and give you access to a global consumer base.
However, just using these apps does not necessarily mean your social media campaign will produce results without effort and time. The social media marketing landscape is changing – there are an increasing number of platforms but slowing engagement rates – and businesses need to be proactive and work smarter to achieve strong results with their social marketing campaigns.
Several years ago there were just three big social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Today, there are dozens of social media platforms with significant numbers of users, including Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Snapchat. In a few more years there could be hundreds, spanning across a range of areas such as the Internet-of-Things and virtual-reality-based devices.
As such, the key to success is focusing on building relationships and communities rather than gaining users on one specific platform. Popular platforms can be dinosaurs in just a matter of years, so be agile and ready to engage on different services, not just the one or two that are currently the most popular.
Brands are posting more content on social media than ever before. At first glance, this seems to be working; top brands more than doubled their Facebook fans and doubled Twitter followers from 2014 to 2015, and their average Instagram followers was five times higher in 2015 than in 2014.
However, figures for content marketing also revealed that while output rose, engagement fell by 17% across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
Despite these problems, social media marketing remains a viable and vital marketing tool for businesses in the catering and restaurant industry. Indeed, many consumers expect to be able to engage with your business through at least one social media channel. The answer is to be more proactive in your efforts, which can mean working with influencers, taking the initiative to talk to fans and followers, as well as featuring them in your content.
Being a proactive business person can include partnering with influencers. Identify powerful social media users in your niche sector or industry, or in a complementary industry, and partner with them in cross-promotional efforts. Start researching the types of partners you would like to work with online. Start by looking at your target audience and your customer base, and from there narrow down the types of people, organisations or key identities you would like to work with.
By definition, every key influencer should have a powerful online presence. They can be customers who are well placed to become brand advocates, suppliers, complementary businesses, local businesses in the same area, or social media influencers in a particular non-profit group or organisation that aligns with your business values. Other possible partners include journalists and bloggers. You can start by simply retweeting or sharing their content before directly contacting them with a pitch for a story about your business.
Once you have connected with these partners, work with them to create campaigns that are likely to go viral. You could simply share content about each other on a regular basis, but you could discuss hosting competitions or giveaways. Working with other partners allows you to undertake your campaigns much more quickly, and to a greater online audience.
Free social media management software such as Hootsuite and Buffer will save you time and effort by making it easier to manage all your social media platforms in one central dashboard. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, you can use these in conjunction with more specialized tools such as Narrow.io and Twibble to meet all your management requirements.
Once you have found the right management tools, learn features beyond the basic functions. This will help you truly maximise utility from the tool, including automating absolutely most functions, and fully understanding analytics functions to better respond to changing follower trends.
Proactivity includes anticipating what your target audience will find interesting, relevant, and share-worthy. Images, interesting content, debates on topical matters, competitions, freebies, and requests for input are all ways to get people talking and sharing. Make your social media account worth of following, track impact, and constantly refine what you share and post. Consider your social media accounts as community-building tools that help you engage with your strongest brand advocates.
Share content across different channels simultaneously, and make sure you are adding hashtags, using optimal formatting, and sharing content in ways that’s best for the specific platform. Cross-channel promotions allows you to reach users who might be more comfortable with just one specific platform, and it enables you to leverage all of your current fan base to maximise shares and content engagement.
One cross-campaign idea is appealing to a higher purpose. These type of campaigns often have a social or community element to them, which makes them more appealing and more likely to be shared by your followers. For example, you can use social media channels to highlight the fact that 5% of all proceeds of your catering sales this month will be donated to a local cause, or ask followers to vote for their charity of choice so your business can make a donation. Higher-purpose campaigns are a great way to get your followers across all platforms talking and sharing, and thereby increase your online reach.
Remember, you are not on Facebook or Twitter just to provide content. As your follower base grows, you can use your fans to evaluate new product or service ideas by asking them for input. You can even ask for general feedback, such as their opinions on your menu, branding efforts, presentation, and any other aspect of your business you believe could be refined or updated. Remember, social media marketing is interactive, so don’t hesitate to join the conversation and participate.