Everyone knows social media is important. Today, using social media intelligently can be the difference between making it and breaking it as a restaurateur. But where should you begin, and where are you going to see a return on your efforts? Right off the bat, here are 7 things to think about and incorporate into your social media plan.

Determining Goals and Outcomes

It’s simple enough to begin posting things to various social platforms. What’s more difficult is coming up with a coherent strategy of what and why you are posting.

What are the primary goals you want to accomplish using social media? Do you want more people to follow you? Are you specifically targeting new reservations. Or are you just looking for a place to communicate with and provide ongoing service to your customers? Settling on real goals and objectives will get you off to a great start with social media. It’s also one that many people tend to skip.

Content is King

Everyone will tell you that the secret to social is creating and sharing 'great content'. Ok, great. So what is 'great content', where does it come from, and how are you supposed to create a steady stream of it while also running a restaurant?

Unfortunately, there's no single correct answer. But there's an easy mental check you can perform to let you know if something qualifies as 'great content' for your specific audience.

First, create a basic profile in your mind of three different types of people you'd like to be connecting with on social media. Now, to the best of your abilities, step inside each of their minds, and take a look at the post you're planning. Are you happy you found that post? If yes, post it! If not, ask yourself why and rethink.

Make it Shareable

The most shared and reposted content will be that which is genuine, valuable, and helpful to its readers. Concentrate on creating content that will be shared again by your visitors in their own respective circles.

Conversations Not Billboards

When it works, social media has a community feel to it, with consumers and producers posting back and forth in equal parts. The famous 80/20 rule says you should devote 80% of your posts to sharing content from relevant sources and influencers, and reserving just 20% for posting about your food service venue. Don’t treat social media like a billboard to post updates only about yourself. Survey your followers. Collect feedback. Post valuable things from elsewhere. And be willing to let your own voice speak through your social. After all, it's yours!

Video Killed the Copywriter

Getting a bit more specific, let’s talk about video. The majority of brands and companies, especially smaller ones, will admit that they wish they were doing more with video. But the time, resources, and effort required to produce quality video can be a serious blocker. Well here’s a statistic to inspire you.

HubSpot recently published this blog article stating that video posts get 48% more attention than regular social posts. And with the proliferation of new video-specific platforms like Vine, Vimeo, and of course, YouTube, video is becoming more and more shareable.

Stop Dividing Social from Your Website

Historically, there’s often been an unnecessary wall between social media and primary websites. Don’t let this happen to you. Forbes recommends adding a prominent set of social media icons to your website’s homepage, to make sure patrons and visitors are being piped into your social channels as well. This is a no-brainer, and takes just a couple minutes with a social icons plugin like this.

Send Traffic from Social to your Site

Now that you're linking from your website to your social media accounts, it probably makes sense to do the same thing in reverse. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and most other social platforms have space in your profile to link to your website.

But, if you're feeling ambitious, you can take it up a notch and try automatically syncing your social media content straight to your site. There are tons of free social media widgets and plugins out there that will let you add Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social feed to your site. There are even plugins out there that let you combine multiple social channels into a single stream.

What role does social media fill in your restaurant? We’d love to hear about tips, tools, and tricks you discovered, and see examples of what’s working for you. Tell us in the comments section, and maybe we'll share your content on our own social channels!