Today’s restaurateurs are lucky — gone are the days of massive spending to advertise their offerings to draw in new customers. Instead, many eateries rely solely on the power of social media to pique hungry people’s interest. And, for the most part, using social media as a way to advertise is free.

Of course, this method only works if you know how to post and share so viewers will want — or feel like they have — to visit your establishment. To make this task simpler, here are some of the most significant social media do’s and don’ts for your restaurant.

Get Started

You have to start somewhere — without a social media presence at all, you’ll have to begin the process by setting up the necessary accounts. Instagram’s a great place to start, as is Facebook. Through both mediums, you can connect with customers through geotagging, and you can respond to their comments and questions via direct message.

As you’re setting up accounts, it’s vital to input the necessary information about your restaurant ASAP. Share your daily hours, as well as your location. If you have more than one, you have multiple options for dealing with this. While some companies will list all their addresses, larger chains will have a single corporate social media page without any directional info. You can also set up an Instagram account or Facebook page for each location, too.

Beyond that, customers love to be able to access your menu through your social media, so link to that. Don’t forget to add photos of the place, the food, and visitors who have had a good time dining with you. Then, it’ll be onto the posts.

Strike the Right Balance

When it comes to social media, many businesses struggle with what to share. Some go entirely promotional about the restaurant and what it has to offer. Others aim to boost engagement with their brand. They share eye-catching photos, funny sentiments, conversation starters… but none of them blatantly promote any deals, discounts, or offerings.

The biggest “do” here is to strike a balance between promotional and engagement-centric material. Customers will be motivated to eat at your restaurant if there’s a deal, contest, or discount.l. Intersperse deal-centric posts with content that’s engaging in other ways. You might re-share a customer’s photo of your food looking particularly tasty. Or, you could tweet or write a Facebook status that starts a conversation. For instance, a coffee shop might ask followers how they prepare their coffee in the morning, or a burger joint might ask customers to discuss the strangest topping they’ve ever had on their patties. Get creative, and you’ll get lots of people talking.

Keep Your Schedule in Mind

Another mistake restaurants make is the time at which they post. Why would a nighttime tapas bar share pictures of savory-looking appetizers at 8 a.m.? Tailor your posts to when they will inspire the most action. So, that same tapas bar might post a photo at the end of working hours to entice customers to come in for dinner and drinks that evening.

To that end, do post during times when your customer base will be online. During the week, working hours will see fewer people logging on — they’re working, after all. In general, you’re better off posting in the evening, so they catch you either at night or first thing in the morning.

Rely on Location-Centric Ads

Social media allows you not only to share pictures, thought-provoking sentiments and discounts, but you can also purchase traditional online advertising. Take Facebook as an example — through your proprietary page, you can advertise to the site’s users at designated times. You can also choose the area in which you want to promote your eatery. As Facebook users move around during the day and log onto the site, they’ll see ads for your restaurant when they’re close to it. It’s clear how this will be helpful for your business — it’s a definite do.

Live-Stream Your Restaurant

Another unique feature that comes with Instagram and Facebook is the ability to live-stream from behind the scenes of your restaurant. The secret for making this work is to have a plan before you start recording. Otherwise, it could get awkward or boring quickly, since the video is live — and that kind of vibe would make live-streaming a don’t.

As you come up with a plan, try to get into your customers’ heads. What would they want to see from your restaurant online? Maybe you can do a live instruction video on how you prepare a particular dish. Or, you could show viewers what the kitchen looks like and what specials you have on the menu that evening. If you want to think outside the box, take an excursion to visit the farmer who supplies your ingredients, for example — this would be engaging content, and it would entice people to eat your locally sourced, very fresh fare.

Handle Online Reviews

Finally, your restaurant will be up for review by those who come to visit. They’ll log onto sites like Yelp, Google, Facebook and other socially focused sites to leave a rundown of their experience with you. In other words, you’re handing your reputation to the customer, and they can say whatever they want about your business online. That should spur you and your staff to perform well each day — 53 percent of customers will find your eatery through such a site, after all.

The biggest must-do with online reviews is to respond to all of them. To a glowing review, you should say thank you and invite the guest back. When someone shares a negative story, reply, too. Apologize for their bad experience, and explain your point of view if necessary. Other potential customers will be reading, so you want to make sure you handle the situation with finesse.

One big misstep to avoid here is creating fake reviews to boost your business’ standings. Those using such review sites can spot the genuine ones — a slew of similar, highly positive reviews will raise eyebrows.

Get Social

These do’s and don’ts will undoubtedly boost your restaurant’s social media standing. No matter where you choose to share and post, stay true to your style — no one knows the restaurant better than you. With the right strategy, you’ll be able to boost customer loyalty at your restaurant in no time. And, with your intuition guiding you through posts, promos, video-streaming and review responses, you should be just fine.

Author Bio: Nathan is a technology blogger and writer. He is also the editor of Finding an Outlet.

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