What social media for bars & restaurants is REALLY about

There seems to be ongoing confusion as to just how social media should be used by bar and restaurant owners, managers and marketers. I sent out a tweet yesterday that had no end of responses and retweets where I explained what social media is not. In this post, I want to elaborate on this further and explain what it is.

Before I do that though, I can’t help but wonder at what point did it become a natural choice to try and spam as many people as possible with messages written in capital letters with poor grammar and non-existent punctuation? It can’t be just the fact that there is a built in audience on social media and that if you shout to enough people, “someone” will hear it and take action, because if that was the case, newspaper circulation wouldn’t be in decline and by the same measure if you as a business owner ever saw a crowd of people in the street, you would run up to them and scream: “$2 DRAFTS 5-7PM, $1 PBRs, NCAA GAME TONIGHT, YEAHHHH!!!!!”,  but you don’t. At least I hope you don’t.

No, I think the answer is a mixture of laziness, misinformation and pure speculative marketing. Conversely, those businesses that actually use social media transparently, informatively and appropriately can often attribute sales and success to it. So why isn’t everyone doing it that way? Let’s break down what “doing it the right way” actually means.



First off, social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram etc were not designed for use by business. Not for a second. They all sprung up to serve the needs of ordinary folks like you and me. Business use came second to this initial goal of making life easier or more interesting for a customer.  To capture the hearts, minds and dollars of our customers, we must therefore appeal to them. Not advertise to them, not spam them, not shout at them, not call them namesnot confuse them by linking different social media accounts together. No. We must appeal. That means we share with them politely, sparingly, and appropriately, the best things about the bar or restaurant. A picture of a certain dish that is a customer favorite, a video of the band that rocked there over the weekend, a picture of the beautiful enclosed patio, a video of your specialty cocktail being mixed. Need I go on? Educate, don’t alienate. Your customers are smart and if you provide the dots, they’ll join them themselves.

Now I’m not saying you can never tell people what price things are or how they can buy from you, but I am saying that the difference in engagement between the two styles of posts can be staggering. Check out these two images as an example:

The first, a sales related post (note the engagement numbers)

and the second, from the same Facebook Page, shared 48 hrs apart with no sales pitch:


Which would you rather have? Remember, every time someone clicks “Like” or they comment or share a post, more than 150 more people (their friends) see it too. So think of social media posts as viral messages that serve to educate your fans and their friends.



What is a bar or restaurant only an entertainment hub. Places you go to eat, drink, enjoy the company of others, listen to music, play pool, the list goes on. So why would social media be any different. Your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram pages are extensions of your brands and should be treated that way. Keep your business “top of mind” with your customers by entertaining them during the day with clever posts, funny pictures, add-your-caption posts and entertaining content consistent with your brand. That extra minute a day that your fans spend being entertained by you could make the difference when it comes to making a dining decision so don’t take this suggestion lightly.



Engagement breeds engagement breeds business. Make your Facebook and Twitter posts open ended occasionally to solicit a response. Think about it, if you post a statement, you’re not giving anyone a reason to reply or click “like” or comment. You know what happens when you occasionally ask your fans to “Click Like if…..”? They click Like! It’s not rocket science, just don’t wear it out. Social media interactions are like a bank account, you can;t keep taking out, you have to put something on every now and again, so engage with your customers. Run promotions thatattract entries and viral shares. Keep to Facebook’s Promotion Guidelines when doing so and you’ll help increase customer loyalty and “top-of-mind” buy in from your fans when you do run a monthly or weekly contest.

So there you have my three E’s of what you should be doing on your social media channels. Anything different, I’d consider carefully if its in the best interest of your customer. Keep them happy and they’ll keep you happy.



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