I won’t argue that going out to eat isn’t an interactive experience. As much as our family patronizes restaurants, we certainly do our share of meeting restaurateurs and waiters. Often we do search the Internet for local specials and menus to steer us in the right direction for satisfying cravings, so if you own a cafe, a deli, a bistro, or a full-fledged bar and grill, it’s time for you to get social online.

Do you have a website for your restaurant? If so, great! Having an online placecard where patrons can find menus and directions is important if you wish maintain high visibility among crowds of hungry Web surfers looking for a good place to eat. Given the dynamic nature of the business, however, it may not always be convenient to constantly update your site whenever new events and specials arise. Supplementing your online presence with active social media profiles keeps your patrons informed of changes and encourages an interaction that builds trust among your diners and people discovering your eatery.

How can you use social networks to promote your restaurant? You’ll find there are many options, all of which can be handled personally or by any Internet savvy staff:

Post daily specials on Twitter: What’s the soup du jour? Has the dessert cart changed? You can keep patrons up to date on menu changes as they happen with the real-time functionality Twitter offers. One good example is a frozen yogurt bar in Virginia Beach, which informs followers of daily flavors.

Also, using Twitter’s search function to determine if anyone is taking suggestions on places to eat in your area gives you the opportunity to toot your own horn. Reply to Twitter users and offer a special to entice them to visit.

Offer coupons through Facebook: Like Twitter, Facebook is accessible on handheld PDAs through specialized applications, making it easier to promote your business. Set up a fan page for your restaurant and encourage patrons to join. You’ll then have a captive audience to whom you can offer dining discounts and free appetizers and desserts. Once word gets out you may find your fan base growing.

Upload video of commercials on YouTube: If you advertise on television, why not post your commercials online? YouTube is the second largest search engine behind Google, and these days people are turning more to the Internet than their sets to watch TV. Create a YouTube page for your restaurant and offer TV ads and even short videos enhancing the dining experience. Show people what they’re missing when they don’t visit.

Digg up great reviews: Have you been praised on Yelp or TripAdvisor? Definitely you’ll want to link those reviews from your Web site, but you want people to know what your patrons have to say. Utilizing social bookmark functions like Digg, Delicious and similar sites help give exposure to the great reviews, and may prompt readers to research you on their own…or even come over for lunch!

Your restaurant may be a great place to eat and socialize, but the more you use social media to let diners know, the better for your business.

Source by Kathryn Lively

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