How to Use Social Media to Build Awareness Before You Launch
In 2019, an online presence is crucial to any business. When customers can find you easily, check out your menu, get a sense of the space, and book reservations, opening day is sure to be successful.
However, your online presence and social media strategy should be in place long before the doors open to customers. Building recognition, sharing your brand, and creating suspense before you launch will lead to a packed house on opening day. Aside from outstanding food and service, to guarantee a successful opening, you must create awareness and buzz to ensure new and returning customers.
Start early and have a plan
Restaurant owners often focus their planning efforts on opening day. Sometimes they forget that aside from working with vendors, the chef, and the staff, creating a social media presence is a critical part leading up to launch. But it takes time. It’s essential to start early, often months in advance, and never improvise your marketing strategy, especially your social media plan. A calendar is beneficial for many reasons:
- Keeps you organized and proactive
- Allows you to stay focused and customize posts while keeping in mind the benefits of each platform
- Tracks performance
Alison Arth, a hospitality consulting professional, stresses that when you start social media accounts before launch, customers will become invested in the process. She says to “document and share the progression of construction, menu item testing, staff training, and anything else that will help your audience get to know you, your team, your space, and your brand. Giving your guests the opportunity to take the pre-opening journey with you will create a sense of ownership and build familiarity with your brand before the restaurant has even served its first guest.”
Create social media accounts that are in line with your brand
By now, you have most likely honed in on your brand. The restaurant space, the food and drink, and menus are all consistent and communicate a unique image of your business and a promise of consistency to your customers. Your social media accounts should be an extension of this overall image. Use the same color scheme and imagery when creating your profiles.
Reach out to local industry experts, and offer sneak peeks
Realistically, experts and consumers cannot have an informed opinion before you offer them a taste of your food. While you might not be ready to open the doors, invite local food bloggers and food critics for a special dinner and tour of your space. Partner with other restaurants or make a guest appearance at another local hot spot. Cater a charity event or cook for a non-profit near and dear to your heart. These are all opportunities for natural digital media amplification.
To build excitement with your customers, you need to know who they are
Who is your audience? Hopefully, you already know your target customers. If not, take a step back and figure this out to reach the right patrons. If you do, use every available analytics tool to reach your base. Who are these customers? What social media do they use? What do they want and what do they like? Where do they spend time?
Use unique content and digital tools to attract customers
Consumers use social media for a variety of reasons, and ultimately, when they like what they see, they want to take action in the form of a purchase or reservation. Make it simple for customers to see your menu and to make reservations before opening day. Keep them excited with fresh photos and videos of the restaurant space, staff, the food, and beverages. Offer promotions and contests. Customers who feel invested and a part of your business are likely to leave great reviews and become repeat guests.
Don’t risk losing new business or revenue. Whether you hire a social media professional or decide to DIY social media, creating a comprehensive social media plan before launch will bolster your reputation and increase the hype surrounding opening night. Starting early, building a buzz, allowing customers to feel like they are part of the process, and giving them the tools to find you on opening night are the keys to social media success.