The restaurant industry has generally seen an increase in online orders since the start of the pandemic. Although this is a welcome development, it also means more competition. It means more restaurant businesses now have an online presence.
So, how do you attract more customers to your restaurant in the competitive market? One way to do this is by building social proof.
Social proof in marketing leverages the fact that consumers trust the actions and opinions of other users to make decisions. So, when you incorporate consumer reviews and satisfied customer testimonials into your marketing collateral, you can generate more conversions.
How do you build social proof for your restaurant business? Here are four strategies:
1. Encourage Customer Feedback on Review Sites
Around 94 percent of diners say they would choose a business based on online reviews, including those on review sites. Therefore, positive feedback on review websites builds a prospective customer’s trust. It can also influence their purchasing decision.
However, your current customers don’t owe you a review. So, you must persuade them to give these product reviews to you. For this, you can follow these tips:
Leverage review incentives programs like discount offers or free appetizers. This will help encourage happy customers to share their experiences.
Promote your Google+ Mybusiness, Yelp, or Tripadvisor profile on social media: Provide the links to the review sites on your social media bio. This will make it easy for customers to submit user reviews of their experiences. If you can add a QR code – even better.
Verbally encourage customers to submit their feedback on review sites after their meal. However, ensure that your services are worth their bucks to avoid getting bad reviews.
But after you generate positive reviews on these online sites, you need to showcase them on your other marketing platforms. The more people know about your positive feedback on review sites, the better.
So, you can post some of these reviews on social media.
Restaurant owners can also use plugins to pull customer reviews from platforms into their websites. But they have to make sure that the plugin and new content do not negatively impact their SEO efforts. That’s why having good web hosting for SEO is important. You want sufficient storage and bandwidth to handle all the new content, and hopefully, the traffic you’ll be getting.
2. Leverage User-Generated Content
User-generated content (UGC) is another type of social proof in marketing you can use for your restaurant business.
User-generated content includes text, images, videos, and audio created by users based on their experiences about your business. The assumption is that if customers create good content about your brand, it must mean they liked their experience with you. So when you showcase UGC, you can attract new diners and enhance customer loyalty, too.
The good thing about UGC is that since it was created by real customers not affiliated with your brand, it’s seen as authentic and, therefore, effective. UGC can help your content strategy as well. If you’re running out of ideas for content, you can post UGC instead (with your customer’s permission, of course).
But how do you get UGC for use as social proof in marketing in the first place?
Some of your individual customers are probably already posting about your brand on social media. You just need a mechanism to gather the social media posts in one place. So, create a branded hashtag and encourage your customers to use it when sharing their content about your restaurant. So when you search for the hashtag on the social platform, you can find that UGC.
You can also run contests or giveaways to encourage current customers to share their experiences with your brand. For instance, you can announce a food photography contest. You can say the best picture of your dish gets to be featured on your marketing channels. You can also offer a free meal to the person who shot the picture.
If you find good UGC, share it on your own social media account. Don’t forget to tag your customer. Also, include your UGC in your email newsletters and other marketing channels.
3. Highlight Awards and Accolades
Awards and accolades are two of the things you can use to establish your expertise and authority. They include notable mentions by industry experts like influencers, magazines, government institutions, etc. If you showcase these awards and accolades, consumers will see you as the best food option.
The thing about awards and accolades is that they’re not something you can generate on your own. What you can do is participate in events that can lead to you being recognized (e.g., a cook-off in your city). You can also invite people who hold sway in the restaurant industry to give feedback on your food.
If those yield excellent results, then you can set up a dedicated page on your restaurant's website for these awards and accolades. Include photos and descriptions of those awards, and the positive press coverage you received.
Make sure you showcase these awards and accolades on your other marketing platforms.
4. Showcase Number of Social Media Followers
Social media followers can be another form of social proof. How? Well, just look at the statistics. Around 30 percent of millennials actively avoid a restaurant with a weak Instagram presence. This probably also holds true when it comes to other social media platforms.
In other words, some consumers see a strong social media presence as proof of a restaurant’s credibility. For them, if you have a strong social media following, you have a big customer base and are probably worth dining in.
But before you can showcase this type of social proof in marketing, you need to build your social media following in the first place.
You can do this in many ways. For instance, create mouth-watering photos of your food. These types of posts won’t just help you gain more followers and, therefore, prospective customers. They can help you acquire likes on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media profiles.
You can also run contests to encourage potential customers to follow you. Once you’ve shored up your social media following, create posts that highlight this accomplishment as part of your social proof strategy.
You can make the same announcements via email. Don’t forget to encourage your email subscribers who haven’t followed you to do so.
Building social proof is essential to attracting potential customers and retaining existing ones in the restaurant industry. You learned four ways you can build social proof for your restaurant business.
Encourage feedback on review sites and promote it, leverage user-generated content, highlight awards and accolades, and showcase your social media following.