The restaurant marketing game has changed. Social media has proven to provide a tantalizing visual feast to potential guests. Today, over 47 million images on Instagram bear the hashtag “foodie.” Beyond hosting food photos, Facebook’s integration with OpenTable also allows restaurants to provide reservation directly from their business page, increasingly breaking the barrier between brand and guests.

In light of these trends, can restaurants today afford to not be on social media? According to a 2016 Restaurant Industry Report by Toast Tab, 78 percent of guests find restaurants based on recommendations from their friends. The same report also stated that social media ranks as the second most popular way for guests to find new restaurants.

These trends correspond to the fact that today’s diners are more sophisticated than ever. In a highly dynamic and saturated environment such as the restaurant industry, it will take more than a signage to attract the new age diner. Within the first week of 2017, fast food restaurant chain, Wendy’s already took the Internet by storm when their saucy tactics against a Twitter follower went viral.

Social media sure seems like a sexy way to convince and convert. But for many restaurants that are starting to toil with the idea, there comes a point in time where the question arises—is hiring a social media manager necessary? The answer really depends from restaurant to restaurant. Here are some factors top restaurant managers consider to help them decide.

Find one’s niche

​Content is what drives social media marketing success, and in order to engage with the digital audience, restaurants first need to identify their niche. With so many contenders dominating the restaurant scene, restaurants that can show what makes them sizzle will win at social media, regardless of a social media manager. A restaurant’s niche will set the stage for its social media persona, from the tone of voice to the type of content that it wishes to offer. Before hiring a social media manager, it is best that these decisions are made by the restaurant management first.

Set clearly defined social media goals

Fail to plan and plan to fail. The saying runs true for any line of business. And building up a restaurant’s social media presence is no different. Anyone can set up a social media account. But it takes successful planning as well as a set of clearly defined objectives for a restaurant to truly achieve social media success. Do a quick search on the best social media accounts for restaurants. Is the goal to increase brand awareness towards the restaurant? Or is the restaurant looking at improving customer service through social media? Different tactics would apply in both scenarios. Instead of looking at what a social media manager can offer restaurants, restaurants first need to look at setting clearly defined goals which are aligned to the overarching business objectives. Clarity is key.

Get into the granular details

​It may sound like a long and arduous task and some may prefer to wash their hands off the details. But here’s where digging deeper will ensure that social media will give restaurants a quantifiable return for their money aka Return On Investment (ROI). With clearly defined goals, restaurants will have a better grasp on what they would like to achieve on social media. Restaurants will then need to think about how they can value-add or engage their audiences on these platforms. Does the team currently have the skills and resources it needs to fulfill those goals? What types of content will they be planning to produce? How frequent should they be looking at publishing content and how will this content be produced? Figuring out these details will make the difference between hiring a freelancer for a specific set of skills and a full-fledged social media manager to manage a restaurant’s social networks.

Finding the right fit for the business

O​nce a restaurant has established the need for a social media manager, the next part comes the hiring process. What should restaurant managers look out for in their search for the right fit? A candidate for the position does not need to have experience in the restaurant industry. While it’s definitely a bonus, a fresh perspective can bring wonders to creativity, diversifying the kind of tactics and possibilities that a restaurant can achieve, digitally. Social media managers spend a lot of time creating and adapting relevant and quality content for each social network. The suitable candidate should possess the qualities of a successful content creator—innovative, creative, and willing to experiment with new ideas! Ideally, the candidate should possess copywriting, design, photography and videography skills. A quick review of the candidates’ social media profiles and interactions with others can also give a hint at these traits. If the candidate is currently working on a social media campaign, review the work online and look for signs that he or she will be the right fit for your brand. Ultimately, the right social media manager is a mix of a marketing analyst, a news junkie, and a customer service representative for your restaurant.

Nadiah Nanni is a Content & Marketing Enthusiast from ​Oddle,​ the leading cloud-based platform that facilitates order management for the restaurant industry. Since the platform launched in 2014, Oddle is heating up the food delivery space, with over USD13 million worth of orders transacted. Nadiah believes in empowering all restaurateurs to grow their business through an all-in-one online ordering system. For more tips and tricks on taking the restaurant business to the next tier, reach out to her at m​​
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