A study by the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University addressed the use of social media as part of a restaurant’s marketing plan. Some of the findings are interesting:

  • The 5 most often sited goals for restaurants using social media…
    • Increase Brand Awareness (23%)
    • Increase Loyalty (21%)
    • Bring in New Customers (21%)
    • Increase Customer Connection to Brand (19%)
    • Increase Revenues (16%)
  • The top 3 customer types restaurants focus on…
    • New Customers (47%)
    • Current, but Not Loyal Customers (31%)
    • Loyal Customers (22%)
  • The top 5 ways restaurants measure the impact of their social media efforts…
    • Number of Customers (31%)
    • Followers (21%)
    • “Likes” (19%)
    • Amount of “Chatter” (13%)
    • Coupon Redemptions (10%)
  • Of those responding to the study, independent restaurants are more likely to use social media (75%) than chains (59%).
  • The 30-39 year old age demographic is the most sought after by restaurants using social media (45%), followed by 40 to 49 years (about 32%).

The top four social media platforms used by restaurants, in order of their popularity, are Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and blogs. The study concluded that Facebook is the optimal social media platform for restaurants, based on flexibility and reach. Independent restaurants, coincidently, have a higher propensity to use Twitter and Foursquare compared to chains.

The researchers interpreted the results of their survey to indicate that most restaurateurs do not have a specific goal in using social media, but are simply jumping in, hoping for a positive outcome. For social media campaigns to be effective, they need a well-defined strategy with clear goals and objectives that are in synch with your restaurant’s overall marketing objective. Establish a set of measurable results, and test your social media strategy. Find what works and from there you can experiment for even better results.

Just as important to note, this area of social media is constantly evolving, with new players entering the scene all of the time.  Pay attention to your customer and the different demographics that come through your door.  Don’t be afraid to ask what is relevant to them and where they have seen good examples of local businesses reaching out on social media.  There will be some trial and error, but if you can leverage this powerful new channel to cater to your audience in new and exciting ways, it is definitely something to take advantage of, and doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon!

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