Guest blog: Restaurants and Facebook

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Social media marketing consultant Lucy Thornton explains what Cornwall’s restaurants can learn about Facebook for business from the Great British Bake Off

lucy thornton

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 1.1 billion users, 76% of whom log in at least once a day, spending on average 20 minutes per visit. Its size and dominance in the digital world makes Facebook a tempting tool for businesses.

But with over 50 million Facebook business pages, there’s a lot of noise to contend with.

Here are just some ideas on how you could use Facebook for your restaurant business, learning lessons from the hugely popular cooking show The Great British Bake Off (GBBO).

The baking programme launched in 2010 with little fanfare, and has since become one of the most watched programmes on the BBC, with over seven million people tuning in to the 2012 final. Its success is attributable to more than just delicious cakes – the ingredients that go together to make it one of the BBC’s surprise hits teach us a lot about Facebook marketing.

1. Have a clear focus – one thing you can be sure to see on an episode of the GBBO is cake. The cake may be large, small, simple, decorative, sweet or savoury, but there’s always cake. There may also be biscuits, quiches, scones or pies, but cake is ever-present. The millions of fans would rightly feel disconcerted should a curry or a pasta dish sneak into the technical challenge one week.

Lessons for restaurants on Facebook – what is your page all about? Your customers want to read about local produce, recipes, events in your town, the head chef, speciality dishes. Posting a review of a crime thriller you’re reading would be totally unexpected and unpopular (unless the murder weapon was a cake slice….). List at least five topics relevant to your audience and stick with them when posting to Facebook.

2. Inject some personality – set in a tent and presented by a previously unknown baker, Paul Hollywood, and 1970s TV cook Mary Berry, GBBO didn’t set out to be a celebrity reality TV show. And yet it has turned Mr Hollywood into a star and renewed our love of Mary Berry, through their strong personalities, on-screen discussions and memorable comments.

Lessons for restaurants on Facebook – don’t be afraid to show some personality in your posts. Who is the team behind your delicious menu? Share photos of and interviews with the chef, the sous chef, the restaurant staff, even the farmers and shop-keepers who supply your produce. Ensure any posts support the values of your brand, whether you’re serious, organic, fun, Cornish, natural, traditional, modern etc.

3. Be predictable – when a new series of GBBO begins, its avid fans know what to expect. They know to tune in every Tuesday at 8pm on BBC2 for an hour long episode of baking triumphs (and perhaps the occasional disaster).

Lessons for restaurants on Facebook – be consistent in posting content. A flurry of activity followed by silence for three months will lose you fans quicker than you can say “Let’s bake”. Try and set a schedule of posts (ideally one per day minimum) and stick with it. Free tools such as Hootsuite  make it simple to write your posts in advance and schedule them to publish at a later date, making the management of your page much easier.

4. Offer extra bonus material – as well as the weekly one-hour long episodes of GBBO, viewers are also treated to occasional ’masterclass’ programmes, led by Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. In these educational one-off specials, fans are shown in detail how to achieve success in baking some of the series’ signature dishes.

Lessons for restaurants on Facebook – as well as updates on seasonal specials, new dishes and local suppliers, what could you also offer to your Facebook fans to reward them for their interest in your business? Coupons work well, but you could also offer free recipes to download or a monthly Q&A session with the head chef, where fans are invited to submit their questions to the page for inclusion.

5. Make a visual impact – despite being presented from a tent in a field, GBBO features a polished kitchen that many of us aspire to own in our own homes (or is that just me?). From the designer appliances to the colourful bunting, heavy stoneware and pretty pastel kitchen utensils, GBBO gives viewers a serious amount of kitchen eye candy every week.

Lessons for restaurants on Facebook – you don’t need a £1.8k Smeg fridge to communicate quality. Photos of the view from your restaurant’s balcony, the latest delivery of fresh vegetables, or the chef’s knife sharpener, all shout attention to detail. Photos are more likely to be shared than anything else on Facebook so take advantage  and always include an image (ideally measuring 600 pixels x 600 pixels) with your posts.

6. Encourage interaction – presenters Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins interview contestants as they undertake each challenge, asking questions about their techniques, their previous experiences and how they’re feeling. Mary and Paul also often chat through the bakers’ biggest challenges with them in the summing up of each episode.

Lessons for restaurants on Facebook – how could you engage your customers and Facebook fans? Invite them to submit ideas for a new seasonal dessert, or ask their thoughts on the perfect September Sunday afternoon. Social media is not a one-way street – it works best when facilitating discussions, which is also a great way to build loyalty.

7. Be everywhere – you can’t walk past the magazine aisle this month without a GBBO presenter staring at you from the cover of a glossy publication. Even the contestants are already appearing in newspapers and magazines, and news sites are awash with previews and interviews with insiders from the programme.

Lessons for restaurants on Facebook – would it be obvious that you have an active business page on Facebook if I were to walk into your restaurant today? You could be creating the most insightful social media content ever, but if no-one knows about it, you could be wasting your time. As well as including links to your social networks on your website, add them to your menus, email signatures and printed promotional materials.

8. Reward fans – the much contested GBBO crown is awarded to just one baker after 16 weeks, but every episode sees one person presented with the prestigious title of ‘Star Baker’ for excelling in the week’s challenges.

Lessons for restaurants on Facebook – how could you feature your fans on your Facebook page? ‘Fan of the week’ is a simple app that automatically showcases one of the people who has liked your page; another way is to invite people to submit their favourite recipes and feature one a week or one a month on your page. Or you could reward fans with special offers or early-bird discounts.

9. Be informative – the success of GBBO has contributed to a sharp rise in sales of baking goods in supermarkets. This is largely due to the availability of inspirational recipes, how-to guides and top baking tips shared on the GBBO website and on the show.

Lessons for restaurants on Facebook – the content you post needs to be informative, interesting or inspirational. Helping your fans out will build trust and also generate repeat bookings, so be sure to include helpful posts. Where is the best seat in the restaurant to enjoy the view? Which car park offers the most affordable nearby parking at busy weekends?  Be generous with insider tips and advice.

10. Keep it varied – one week you can expect to see GBBO contestants baking shortbread, followed by custard slices, and the next episode they are battling with scones and lemon meringue pies. Different and varied recipes mean there is always something new to enjoy on GBBO (although always themed around cake!).

Lessons for restaurants on Facebook – just like your menu, where new dishes cause a flurry of interest from regular diners, a new look to your Facebook page is an effective way to boost engagement. Use the large cover photo at the top of your page to show off your latest special dish, or the seasonal produce currently featured in the menu. Aim to change your cover photo at least once a month.

Bonus tip – previous episodes of GBBO are available online, there is a comprehensive list of contestants who took part in the last three series, and it’s possible to see who won every challenge set since 2010. How do you tell the history of your restaurant through Facebook? The timeline feature, in the right side-bar of your Facebook page, makes it easy to build your credibility and the heritage of your business over time. Simply post ‘milestones’ as status updates to show key moments in your business’s history.

What do you think? What is your experience of using Facebook to market your business? Let us know in the comments below.

About the author:

Lucy Thornton runs Perfect Balance Marketing, a marketing consultancy specialising in social media and digital marketing.

If you are involved a Cornish business and would like to submit a guest blog to Business Cornwall, email us here.