Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar to you – a group of friends is walking downtown trying to determine where to grab lunch. There are two places nearby they’ve heard are amazing; almost simultaneously, they pull out their smartphones to look up the restaurants. They’re both within walking distance, both have interesting online menus, both have a good star rating. How do they decide?
Oh look – both restaurants have a Facebook/Instagram/Twitter! Wow – Look at Restaurant #1’s burgers! And they make their own BBQ sauce? Yes, please!
What does Restaurant #2 have on their pages? Woah, seriously? An “I Can Haz Cheezburger” meme? What is this, 2007?
Spoiler alert: They went to the first restaurant.
Social Media is an indispensable tool in getting new customers and keeping them as usuals, but there’s a flipside too. If used incorrectly, your posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter may actually turn people away from your restaurant. These posts tend to have similar pitfalls and are all-too-easy to dodge if you know what things to avoid. That’s where I come in. Let’s get into it, restaurateurs!
Here are 5 things to avoid when posting on social media:
Let’s start off simple. Grammar issues are one of the most common mistakes made on social media posts, but they really don’t need to be. Simply taking a few seconds to reread your post will save you a lot of trouble in the long run. The ones I see most often are misuses of capitalization, they’re/their/there, and your/you’re. We’d be here all day if I tried to explain the ins-and-outs of these, so I’ll just link you to some helpful guides:
To be fair, I doubt most people would reject a restaurant for a small grammar mistake, but it may make them ask the question: If they can’t even pay attention to their words on a social media post, what else don’t they pay attention to in their restaurant?
Now obviously you’re busy – very busy, in fact, you’re running a restaurant! So if you don’t have the time to worry about small grammar mistakes give Grammarly a try. The basic version is free to use and it’s very helpful in catching the little whoopsies we all make at some point.
Also, pro-tip: One exclamation mark and/or question mark is perfectly adequate for any situation. You know what I mean???!!!!??!!!
Nothing says “I don’t care about this” like a stock photo of random produce on your social media pages. Stock photos have a very specific look to them; staged, static, and impersonal. I assure you your followers can pick out a stock photo immediately.
Just like grammar mistakes, it makes potential customers wonder how much effort you actually put into your restaurant if you can’t even get a quality photo of your food. They won’t even know what your food actually looks like, because you used a stock photo, and everyone knows it. For usual customers, it sends the message that you’re not proud of your food, and that’s not fun for anyone.
The thing is, these terrible stock photos are never necessary. Perhaps people are still stuck on this idea that any food photos must be done by a professional with stage lighting and food stylists; and while those are wonderful to have, it’s not your only option. The cameras on the average smartphone are more than capable of taking a quality food pic; I bet you could snap one right now while reading this! We have another blog with useful hints on how to take drool-worthy photos, but you can also find some great pictures taken at your location on Instagram with a quick location search – just be sure to give credit!
If you absolutely must use a stock photo – go for the quality shots and post them in moderation. Pexels and Unsplash are both great resources for wonderful and free-to-use stock photos. Also, make sure the picture you choose is relevant and doesn’t mislead customers in any way. If you’re using a stock photo to advertise your Apple Cider Martini don’t post a picture of a generic cocktail. That’s not what a customer will get when they order the martini and it will be awkward for them and you. Try for a nice shot of apples and cinnamon sticks instead.
Memes and Bitmojis
Listen, I get it. Memes can be a lot of fun and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t laughed at my fair share (yes, that includes the “I Can Haz Cheeseburger” cats). But then again, when I have laughed at them it’s been on sites like Tumblr, Reddit, and other sites that are far more casual; not a restaurant’s professional page. On business pages, memes look like the online version of the not-so-cool teacher trying to connect with the “youths” by making a Titanic joke or using a slang word; it’s a little desperate. Memes only make sense to small groups of people and are generally very short-lived. Add this to the low-quality or tacky appearance of many of them and posting a meme on your page starts to be a real gamble.
The only restaurants that can get away with it are very casual bars or clubs that attract a primarily younger set, and even then, it’s a good idea to keep it to a bare minimum – maybe announcing some goofy contest or costume party. If you would like to give it a shot, try putting the meme’s language with a quality photo first. Example: “Find someone who looks at you the way you look at our Duck Fat French Fries” with a mouth-watering pic of those fries and see how people respond. Most likely, you’ll receive better engagement than with a blurry meme.
As for Bitmojis, well, let’s just say I am not a fan of Bitmojis. At all. Do I have a Bitmoji of my own? Yes. Was I bored out of my mind and three drinks deep when I created it? Maybe.
For those of you who don’t know, Bitmojis are little customizable avatars that are inserted into scenes/situations in “stickers” that can be posted onto Instagrams, Facebook photos, etc. Recently, I’ve been seeing them more and more slapped onto what are otherwise perfectly good food photos (which is a huge part of my bitterness) and sometimes even on a restaurant page’s header or profile picture (nooooo). Just like with memes, they can come across as cheesy – employ with great caution!
A good rule of thumb? If you’re not sure if a Meme/Bitmoji would work out, just don’t do it. Post a good food photo instead. That’s what you’re really trying to showcase anyway.
Menus and Flyers
This one trips up a good number of restaurant-owners. After all, menus and flyers are full of new and useful information, so why wouldn’t they be good on social media? Well, let’s think about the average Facebook user (and your potential customers). Perhaps they’re on their 15-minute break, or their lunch, or they just got home from a long day and are going online for some relaxation or entertainment. Who in that position is going to take the time and energy to read through a whole menu or flyer? They might take in that you have new menu items or an event coming up, but generally, a lot of wording isn’t going to get them excited. They’re tired and ain’t nobody got time for that; they’re already scrolling past it right now.
There is a place for menus and flyers, it’s just not on your social media pages. They belong on your website’s menu and events pages, local magazines, and pinned to the notice boards of the local coffee shops. Instead of posting a black and white copy of your updated menu, post a picture of a new menu item with the caption, “We’re expanding our menu with tasty options like our Garden Burger and Sweet Potato Fries [pictured below] and that’s not all! Check out our full menu here: [link to website menu].” For events or flyers, you can create an engaging post with a link to your website’s event page and even pin it to your Facebook & Twitter page (making it always appear on the top of the page). The colorful image gets their attention, the short and sweet caption keeps them from getting bored and scrolling past, and your website gets some more clicks. Win, win, and win!
Personal politics have never belonged on restaurant pages. Not only are most political opinions irrelevant to running your restaurant, they can make your page a tense and exhausting place to be. You don’t want that. No one’s going to your page to debate someone, they’re just there to drool over your Eggs Florentine or your Fried Ice Cream. Give the people what they want.
Now, I don’t think I need to explain that things have been especially tense lately; to the point that anything from raising money for the homeless to hosting a Tofurkey dinner can be seen as a political challenge to one group or another. So no, I am not saying you can’t post anything that can be construed as somehow political, just be very conscious of what you are posting and how you are posting it.
Only post something if it is something your restaurant is actually participating in. An example would be a yearly fundraiser where 15% of all proceeds go to a women’s shelter. A no-no would be using your restaurant’s page to throw support to a candidate. Do it on your personal page, join groups supporting that candidate, tattoo that candidate’s face on your body, I don’t care; but don’t put in on your business’ page! Your restaurant page should make everybody feel welcome.
When you do post about a fundraiser/value, keep it positive.
Do: “We’re switching from plastic to paper straws. Less Plastic Waste = Happier Planet!”
Don’t: “We’re no longer providing turtle-killing straws; if you disagree, you’re monsters.”
Sure, plastic waste is an issue but, dang, don’t be an instigator. If anyone does decide to make it a thing in the comments, you can always hide, delete, or ask them to move it elsewhere. Do not engage. Just be cool. That’s all there is to it.
Congrats – you’re one step closer to being a social media pro! If you want further tips and tricks on what to go for and what to avoid, there’s plenty more on our blog.
But, if you’re too busy to manage your pages or social media is simply out of your league; we’re here to help, too.
Did you know?
We've been managing social media accounts for restaurants since 2012. For almost a decade, we've partnered with restauranteurs who are serious about using social media to generate business. Whether you're a good fit for our service or not, let's schedule a call and we'll give you free personalized advice on how to improve your social media presence. Either way, you'll walk away from the call more confident about your ability to promote yourself online - completely for free.