The 10 commandments of Twitter for your restaurant

They used to say word of mouth was the most important marketing tool, but thanks to social media, you may have to wash that mouth out with soap. These days anyone with a keypad and a connection (and, often, not a mental one) can say whatever they like about your restaurant; the difference is that now you’ll hear all about it. To help you navigate these dangerous waters, our resident Tweeter gives you tips on how to handle social media for your brand.

1. Don’t hire a rookie

Yes, a 21-year-old graduate will be social-media-savvy and cheaper to hire than a seasoned marketing and media expert, but tread carefully. Your Tweeter should be able to handle the responsibility of representing your brand to (potentially) millions of people, know the ethos of your business, and manage prickly customers and complaints. If possible, have someone experienced and knowledgeable handle your account.

2. Master the basics

If you need help getting started with Twitter, visit their handy support page. But your Tweeter should, at the very least, possess basic comprehension skills, pay attention to detail and be able to spell and punctuate. Also, a few goes-without-saying tips that we’re going to say anyway: don’t use all-caps, don’t swear and don’t be inappropriate, i.e. talk about sex, race, religion or make jokes about disabilities etc. Research shows that the most successful tweets are short and hold something back, enticing followers to click to find out more. Also, follow people who follow you, and retweet (RT) funny, interesting and complimentary comments.

Photograph by Hank Mitchell

Photograph by Hank Mitchell

3. Always reply

When someone tags you on Twitter with a comment and you don’t reply, it’s akin to ignoring a person in real life. Responding is not only the polite thing to do, but it will give you a good opportunity to interact with your fans or critics – which is the whole point of social media marketing. Indeed, unlike conventional (read: outdated) forms of marketing, where the desired end-result is money spent, here the interaction itself is the point. And don’t try to get rid of your new pal with a standard response. Rather ask questions and listen carefully, much like you would during a conversation at a party. Don’t be surprised, however, if you receive no response at all – even when you’ve gone the extra mile. Not everybody has manners.

4. Be unfailingly polite

Even if someone is being appallingly rude, irrational or annoying, be calm and polite. You will be dying to point out the error of their ways – and there will be many – but this will only serve to make you seem petty. Thank people for their feedback, take responsibility for the problem, and try to move on.

5. Be patient

Be aware that some followers will, instead of making the effort to check your website or Facebook page for information (it’s all there, right?), ask inane questions on your profile, such as “Can I book a table?” and “What’s your corkage fee?” – only probably with fewer characters and no punctuation. They will do it persistently and you must reply patiently and politely every time – because, for them, it might be the first time. Take a deep breath.

Photograph by Matthias Ripp

Photograph by Matthias Ripp

6. Be useful

Don’t only tweet about how amazing your coffee/burger/crème brûlée is. (Leave that to your fans.) Your followers like to hear about specials and see the odd picture, but try to keep a balance with other shareable or useful content like tips and recipes, or food-related content from other places.

7. Be human

Of course it would be easier to copy and paste a stock response, but people can smell insincerity from a mile away. Don’t be afraid to laugh a little at yourself, make humorous (but never inappropriate) comments, and show that there are humans with hearts behind the brand.

8. Don’t be too human

As important as it is to convey your restaurant’s personality and human touch, you don’t want to overshare. Drunken tweets, emotional ramblings and selfies are best left to Rihanna.

9. Don’t feed the trolls

I know I said in point 3 that you should always reply, but you might be unlucky enough to garner the attention of a foul troll who will post blatant lies and just make stuff up. You’ll have to use your discretion (and legal resources, in extreme cases), but do not get into a nasty public spat. Do not give trolls your energy, time or tweets. Try not to lie awake at night wondering why. As do all bullies, eventually they will lose interest and move on to someone else.

10. Pay attention

Check your notifications at least twice a day, listen to what people on your timeline are saying, and keep up with trends. Look out for hashtags and make use of opportunities related to popular topics like sports matches and TV shows. It’s also useful to follow top brands and other restaurants to see what they’re doing successfully (or unsuccessfully).

Follow @Eat_Out on Twitter.

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