Creating an effective online marketing campaign isn’t always a simple task — especially for restaurant owners that are used to focusing the majority of their time and energy on what’s happening in the kitchen. In recent years, a number of hyperlocal platforms have stepped in to make it easier for independent restaurateurs to develop websites, manage social media, and cultivate better relationships with their customers online. Here are five tips from experts in the hyperlocal industry about what restaurant owners can do to improve and expand their presence online.
1) Build mobile websites. Restaurant owners that spend big bucks on designer websites with moving buttons and Flash content are doing themselves a disservice if those websites don’t work on mobile devices. Sixty nine percent of mobile phone users access the web daily from their smartphones, which is why restaurant owners should focus on creating simple websites that run quickly on a variety of mobile devices. These websites should be easy to update, and they should integrate with popular restaurant platforms like OpenTable and Seamless.
2) Offer a call to action. Hundreds of online visitors may click on a typical restaurant’s website each day, but what turns those online visitors into real customers is a definitive call to action. The most successful calls to action use limited-time deals and discounts — usually posted on a restaurant’s website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed — as a way to encourage people to get on their feet and get inside a restaurant’s doors.
3) Post menus online. The number one thing that diners look for when they search for restaurant information online is a current menu — just ahead of a telephone number, address, and photo of the establishment. Menus don’t just need to be posted on a restaurant’s website, either. Restaurants can post their menus on Foursquare, YP.com, and the dining section of any local newspaper websites to extend their outreach even further.
4) Solicit anonymous feedback from customers. Oftentimes, restaurant owners don’t fully understand the quality of service that their staff provides. Was a customer’s experience amazing or dismal? Was the food top-notch or so-so? Hyperlocal platforms that provide restaurants with anonymous ways to collect honest customer feedback — either through text messages or online — can help merchants figure out what they’re doing right and where their restaurants have room for improvement.
5) Take advantage of social media. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter should be a major part of any local restaurant’s online marketing campaign. Restaurant owners looking to take full advantage of Facebook should post photos of their dishes and ask customers what types of specials they’d like to see. On Twitter, restaurants can tweet links to the photos they post on Facebook and occasionally post cooking tips as a way to demonstrate their expertise and keep followers engaged.
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