There are a host of things that restaurants can do with Twitter to engage with fans and allow those fans to spread the word.
First of all, you need to be great. If you are great, people will do the work. If you’re not even engaged with Twitter and you are great, it’ll be working on your behalf. I’ve seen people get a lot of lift, build a lot of community when they weren’t tweeting very well.
Tactical Restaurant Twitter Recommendations
Have a twittername that references your establishment. Don’t use a person’s name. People talk about establishments all the time. If your twittername represents the establishment, people will use that when they discuss you. When they do that, their followers will see that and it will lead to clicks and other followers. If your twittername references a person, it doesn’t lend itself to discussion about the business. People have to try to work it in. And that’s not at all what you want to do. You want to make it easy for people to spread the word. The more work people have to do, the less they will.
Tweet as a person. The most effective restaurant twitterers are those who tweet in a personal voice. They interact with people. They spread their opinions. They talk about stuff other than their restaurant. They talk about other places they like to go out to eat at. This seems to be a little in conflict with the twittername recommendation but it is not. When restaurants tweet just as an establishment, they tend to just broadcast. There is no opportunity to form a personal connection. Put your restaurant in the twittername so people can refer to it but put your twitterer’s actual name in the bio.
Fill out your twitter profile bio. Your bio is often going to be the determiner whether people choose to follow you or not. Give them as much information as they need. Put your website URL in there. Give a synopsis of the business you are. Be descriptive. Make it compelling. Make people want to come in. Put up an avatar. Don’t leave the Twitter bird there. At least put something up. I like either the restaurant logo or a picture of someone (the chef, the owner, or whoever makes a great impression). For the name in your bio, put the name of your restaurant, not your name. (Had a caveat pointed out to me regarding the Twitter bio name that I think is quite valid. Some integration apps (like Tweetpo.st) translate your twittername to the name in your bio when they push your tweets to Facebook. If someone has one of these services in place, you want the reference to your restaurant to still be your restaurant when it is posted on Facebook.)
Don’t just broadcast. Respond to people. @ people in your stream. Check your @ mentions? Check your DMs. If people are talking to you, respond. Acknowledge.
Search. Use some kind of search. Use http://search.twitter.com, have a column in Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, etc. or have a saved search in Tweetie. For these, you can search on different variations of your name to see where mentions are made when it is not your twittername. You can also specify geographic limitations of there are other restaurants named like you around the world (within 50 miles, etc.). See whose talking about you and interact. Fix problems, connect with fans & take advocacy to the next level. This is especially important if your twittername isn’t your business name. Search on that. You can also use services like TweetBeep or TweetAlarm. They email you when they find results matching your search strings.
Follow back. People want recognition.When you have fans that are tweeting about you and have followed you, follow back! Why not follow back? People want to be acknowledged. Don’t you? It makes them feel good. If someone is a big enough fan to be spreading the word about you, push them over the edge. Follow them back. @reply them. Make them feel good. Turn that advocate into a rabid fan. I don’t get the businesses who don’t follow back. If you’re just broadcasting, people will be less and less interested in you over time. As the novelty of Twitter continues to wear off, the only thing that is going to keep people engaged is engagement. If you’re going to be on the platform, might as well do it right. Interact. More on why to follow back.
Twitpic. For restaurants, pictures sell. Especially if your food looks great. If you’re using quality ingredients and your plates look wonderful, use it! Tweet out pictures of dishes as they go to the table. Twitpic your ingredients as they come in. Twitpic in the middle of prepping food. Lots of folks like to see what is going on. If your food isn’t anything amazing, twitpic other things. Twitpic guests, events, anything that is interesting. Food photo tips.
Use twitternames. Whenever you talk about another business or twitterer, use their twittername. Spread the love. They’ll see the mention and feel good. As you spread the love and recognize others, more and more will come back to you.
Keep your twittername short. With only 140 characters, make it easier for people to reference and talk about you. Shorter is easier to remember too.
Now what do you actually talk about?
- Talk to your followers. Respond back.
- Talk about what is going on at the restaurant.
- You can talk about specials.
- Twitpic dishes and ingredients that will move people.
- Talk about other things you are interested in.
- Talk about other local restaurants you like, other local businesses you like, other food you like.
- Thank people for coming in.