McDonald’s has been in the news a lot lately, but not for the reasons you might think. McDonald’s Canada has embarked on a social media campaign that highlight’s the ubiquitous restaurant’s efforts to be more transparent. On the company’s YouTube channel is a series of videos that reveal such secrets as the ingredients in the iconic “secret sauce,” an examination of the ingredients of the chicken McNugget, and a documentary style look at the steps photographers take to style a Big Mac for an ad (it’s actually pretty interesting):
With the series, McDonald’s is embracing one of the most important aspects of social media for businesses: transparency. The campaign also implements another best practice: it answers customers’ questions. The topics featured in the series are actually extensive answers to questions that customers have posed about ingredients and preparation.
Whether or not you’re a fan of McDonald’s is beside the point. What’s interesting is that this brand appears to be embracing social media in a big way.
What are some other best practices restaurants can use with social media?
1. Be a good host. We’ll say it again: Social media works best when you interact with your fans and friends. This means communicating and sharing information about your restaurant — seasonal menu specials, special deals, etc. — but also posting information that you think your customers will find interesting, entertaining or helpful. For example, you might promote a special event that is taking place near your restaurant: “Stop by before the big game and have a beer with us! Imports are just $3 from 4-6 p.m.” Or, “Don’t have a ticket to the big game? Come watch it with us on one of our 10 big-screen TVs.”
2. Be authentic, be transparent. People, i.e., customers, will want to be your fan/friend if you provide honest information about your restaurant. This includes leaving negative reviews on your Page and, ideally, responding to them. Quickly. If you offer honest responses to criticism, and perhaps even offer an incentive to a customer who is willing to return despite a “bad” experience, you’re more likely to regain trust than if you just ignore — or worse, delete — criticism.
3. Be timely. These days there are analytics for everything, including the best times to share information on Facebook and other platforms. According to bit.ly, the link shortening and tracking business, Facebook’s optimal posting times are between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. during weekdays; Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. is when the most eyeballs are on Facebook. If you have a special that you want to drive traffic on your restaurant’s slowest day, post strategically (and don’t post the info on the weekend)!
4. Try using contests, promotions and “whisper codes”. Most businesses have experimented with Facebook contests and promotions. But have you ever tried using a whisper code? It’s pretty simple and pretty much what is sounds like. On your Page — either with an App or just on your Timeline — post a word or sentence that customers can say to servers in exchange for a discount or free dessert or appetizer. Ideally you will set this up so customers have to Like your Page before they can get to the code. You could also post it on your Timeline. Some restaurants offer a new whisper code every month. If you want to learn more, we wrote extensively about whisper codes last week.
5. SHARE what makes you special! People who visit and engage on restaurant Pages aren’t necessarily there just to look for deals or leave comments. They want stories about chefs and recipe creators, ingredients, and, of course, recipes.
6. Frequent food photos, please! Show off your culinary masterpieces on Facebook. Everyone knows that posts that include photos get more engagement than text-only posts. The photos don’t have to be fancy — an instagram shot will do– but they should highlight whatever it is that makes your restaurant special. If you frequently change your menu, or have seasonal specials, frequent photos are a must. And haven’t you noticed? Folks who are on social media just l-o-v-e taking photos of their food and cocktails!
Has your position regarding transparency evolved over the last couple of years? How do you handle negative comments?