No matter what your product, business, or service is, creating conversation from customers is something everyone has in common. With the daily use of social media tools such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, online review sites, and more, customers are constantly being informed by their peers for direction in purchase-making decisions. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust referrals from people they know, and 77% of consumers are more likely to buy a new product when learning about it from friends or family. Restaurants need to begin investing money in their marketing budget that will have a long-term impact on what conversations are happening offline. The core of restaurant marketing is learning to leverage the power of word of mouth.

Connect the Dots

fPeople who can interact with other people create more of a connection to your brand. Because we have so much access to other channels, you can share information and collaborate more than ever before. Even though social media lives online, real people exist (in theory) and manage each and everyone one of those accounts. Don’t miss the chance to make an emotional connection with a potential customer. For every follower and like you receive, use the support to your advantage by trying to connect with them on a “real level”. Across all ages, 55 percent of consumers trust user-generated content over other forms of marketing. Additionally, only 15% of people trust recommendations from brands, while 84% of people trust recommendations from people. As you continue to engage with customers, additional support will follow through personal communications to friends, families, and other people who trust their opinion. Connections with true customers end up resulting in less marketing dollars out of your pocket since the word-of-mouth will continue to flow.

Power of Influencers

Social media influencers have taken over the social media space. Influencer marketing will continue to grow, but marketers will be forced to determine if a professional influencer is truly an authentic influencer. According to a survey described in Medium, 30% of consumers polled said they were more likely to buy a product recommended by a blogger and valued those bloggers’ opinions more than the those of celebrities. Finding influencers within your niche (local food bloggers are huge sources of trust for customers!) and connecting with those influencers will put you ahead of others. It will also be marketing dollars well spent in an area that could attract new and repeat customers. The discussion of food isn’t going away anytime soon for your customers. In fact, food related hashtags are the third most popular category on Instagram with the basic #food being the most popular descriptor.

Knock, Knock

When you think back to a few decades ago, marketers used to knock on doors to demo and show a product in-person to their customers. The reasoning behind this was to give customers the chance to interact and “experience” what they had to offer. It also converted sales on the spot instead of customers having time to decide. The “let me show you” concept is making its comeback. Customers want to sample products or have a taste of where their money is going. For restaurants, this means having pop-up shops at a festival where customers can try your most popular dish or meet the chef behind the brand. It also might mean teaming up with another local organization to do some kind of sponsored event (check out the Donut Dash 5k!) that features your restaurant in a non-restaurant setting. These types of events and experiences put your restaurant’s brand out there in the eyes, ears, and emotions of your customers to encourage them to come see what they’re missing or might not have experienced before by eating from your restaurant.

True Engagement

One of the most popular forms of “word-of-mouth” marketing is restaurant goers’ food photography. Paying attention to how your customers are interacting with your restaurant’s food – particularly through photos posted online – is a way to connect on an individual level with your customers. More importantly, it gives you, the business owner, access to your own product from a customer’s perspective. The action of taking a photo of your meal and posting it across various social media channels has become such a normal activity that it can almost be defined as authentic. Getting the public to share food images on social media – they post 3.5 million food images daily – drives traffic to restaurant websites and reduces the need for restaurant owners to buy ads in traditional media. As a result, other customers (that haven’t patronized your restaurant) feel more enticed and encouraged to learn more about you through their friend’s photo, instead of any content you may post yourself.

Consultant Jack Dent said: “I think that foodservice businesses should absolutely invest time and resources into social media. It’s a huge opportunity to engage your current community and attract new customers. Word of mouth will always be king for pubs and restaurants, social media is essentially word of mouth on steroids.” Word of mouth has a new definition this day and age, but it will continue to grow. You must continue to stay connected with your customers and adapt to any and all changes that might give you leverage in connecting with customers on a more personal level.

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