Think about the last time you went out to eat. Did you wander down the street and go into the first place that looked good? Maybe you did… but more likely, you probably already had a place in mind you read about on a foodie blog or in the paper. Or, you asked your friends and family for a recommendation. Or maybe you loaded up Urbanspoon and let a shake of your phone seal your dining fate. Nowadays, people are increasingly conducting research to make more informed decisions on everything from buying a house to eating dinner.

So if diners are paying close attention to restaurant’s online presences and social media marketing efforts, what happens if you aren’t using social media to its fullest potential? Here are 3 easy ways to make sure you’re getting the most out of your efforts:

1. Make Connections

Sure, social media marketing is a great tool for restaurants to reach their audience. It’s easy to tweet your daily specials, list them on your Facebook page, and talk about your upcoming events – but that’s not all people want to hear. One of the best ways to use social platforms to your advantage and get the most long-term ROI is to make lasting connections with your fans and followers. Don’t just tell them about your specials, ask if they enjoyed them—or what deals they’d like to see. Social platforms are also a great way to manage customer service and take the pulse of how people feel about your restaurant and service, to make sure it’s the best it can be.

2. Make It Visual

The web, social and mobile platforms have begun to put serious importance on visuals. Content consumption is fast paced and to the point – the saying a picture is worth a thousand words has never been truer. Brands are seeing a severe decrease in engagement with text-based posts. Luckily, eating is a sensory-focused activity, and food is one of the most photo-worthy subjects in existence. Take your restaurant’s social media marketing plan and make it visually intriguing by showcasing the vibrant colors of your seasonal salad, or even a behind-the-scenes look at how your signature dish is prepared. And don’t forget to consider lighting and color: natural light works better than a flash, and warmer hues make food look more appetizing than cool ones.

3. Make Their Experience

Okay, you’ve got great visuals, lots of conversation and reviews are climbing. But it takes more than knife skills in the kitchen to win over consumers in social media. Make sure to encourage customers to get off their computers and come into your restaurant. You can incentivize them to make the online-offline connection by offering online only, in-store redeemable coupons. Or you can invite them to participate in a contest, and stop by to enter. Whatever you do, make sure to highlight the experience of what your restaurant has to offer.

These are just a few keys to successfully marketing your restaurant on social media. Want more insight? Contact us for ways to help you stand out on social. In the meantime, what do you think is the most important factor to online reputation success for restaurants?