It doesn’t matter whether you’ve just opened your first restaurant or you’re celebrating your 20th anniversary: you can’t afford to neglect social media nowadays. Facebook has over a billion active users, and Twitter has a little over half of that number. Restaurant owners can’t afford to miss out on this valuable revenue-boosting tool. Here are ten ways to earn more money for your business by using social media.

Create Social Media Profiles

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Aaron Allen, a restaurant consultant, advises restaurant owners to establish a presence on social media. Open accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, if you haven’t already done so. Display links to your social media profiles in a prominent place on your website, so visitors will not need to hunt for them. Allen also recommends adding feeds from these profiles to your site; these feeds can show people engaging with your brand, which will encourage others to try out your restaurant.

Sign Up for Foursquare

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Foursquare is a popular mobile device application that people use to find where to hang out based on recommendations from friends and experts. They check in at locations registered with Foursquare and share that information through their social media feeds. It’s free to register your restaurant on Foursquare, and once you’ve signed up, you can promote your business by posting special events and discounts. Customers can also earn badges through Foursquare, which spurs people to visit your restaurant.

Create a Mobile Application or Website

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Mobile device applications are programs designed specifically for smartphones and tablets. They can be an important marketing tool in today’s hyper-connected world. Your mobile application could let customers make a reservation or order takeout. It could also alert your client base to discounts or menu changes. The app could also let them “check in” virtually to Foursquare, post pictures on Instagram, or share comments on Twitter or Facebook.

Offer Coupons Online

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Your restaurant might already have coupons posted online, but you might want to consider offering a deal on Groupon or similar sites. These social media sites offer discounted services, which attract new customers to the business. However, the cons of such deals can outweigh the benefits. Whichever site you choose to host your deal gets a significant chunk of the profits, and you might be sacrificing your loyal customer base for people who are just after a low price. Content marketer Carla Dewing advises restaurants to limit the length of online deals and upsell other products that will keep customers coming back.

Leverage Instagram

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Instagram might be a way to bring customers into your restaurant. Restaurant consultant Aaron Allen suggests leveraging the popular app to boost your restaurant’s business. He notes that restaurants can hold contests using Instagram photos and reward patrons with freebies or give customers a behind-the-scenes look at the kitchen to create a personal bond with customers. Allen emphasizes that Instagram is an excellent advertising tool that allows you to instantly engage with your clientele.

Host a Social Media-Related Event

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Bring more customers through the door by hosting a social media-related event. Marketer Vincent Ng proposes hosting a tweetup, which is a meeting organized on Twitter. Tweetups allow people with the same interests to meet face-to-face, so why shouldn’t that shared passion be your restaurant? Ng points out that the tweetup doesn’t only attract attention on the night of the event, but raises a business’ profile days before the meeting takes place. You could also create a Facebook event for all of your restaurant’s fans or followers, which will bring in both loyal customers and those who are curious about your brand.

Write a Blog

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A blog can be a critical tool in your social media arsenal. It gives you a platform to share stories about your restaurant as well as publicize deals or menu changes. Blogs also give your customers a chance to communicate with you by posting comments on what you write. An article in Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business Review comments that blogs can improve your website’s search engine ranking and visibility. You do not need to spend a great deal of money on creating a blog; there are a number of free or low cost services available.

Communicate Through Email

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You might think that email is an old-fashioned tool for communicating with your customers. Email advertising campaigns can have quite a high return on investment if used properly. They are an excellent way to inform people about special events, promotions and special events. Just don’t use too many pictures, or send out emails too frequently. Marketers at the British PR firm Contently Managed suggest timing emails carefully; sending out a list of drink specials at 9:00 am on a Tuesday morning won’t attract as much notice as it would if you sent the same message at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. Also, customers can use email to communicate with you. They can send a message to reserve a table or ask questions about your restaurant.

Host a Podcast

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A podcast is a series of audio, video, PDF or ePub files that users can download or stream. This platform lets restaurateurs share news about their business such as special events, changes in the menu and promotions. Recording and distributing a podcast might sound expensive and complicated, but the exact opposite is the case. In addition to a computer and internet connection, you need a microphone, a recorder/mixer, a soundcard, and audio software. If you want to interview people during your podcast, you’ll need a telephone connection. With the exception of the computer and the internet connection, all of the equipment can be purchased for less than $100.

Hold a Contest

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Hosting a contest might also sound like an old-fashioned idea. However, social media puts an innovative spin on these friendly competitions. Restaurant owners can run a contest for every social media platform upon which they have a presence: they can run a “Twitter Follower of the Week,” a “Facebook Fan of the Week,” a “Pinterest Pinner of the Week,” etc. The contest could be as simple as having your followers posting family-friendly pictures of themselves enjoying your food, and others vote for their favorite photo.

This post was contributed by Rachel Levy Sarfin. Rachel is a contributing author to a Toronto catering company called Feast Your Eyes. She enjoys reading restaurant blogs and cooking.

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