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Eating out is a wonderful indulgence. No prep time. No dishes. Instead, the pleasure of being waited on in warm and inviting surroundings, free from household mess. At this time of year, people are primed for this indulgence. New Year’s resolutions have been abandoned, Dine Out Vancouver is in full swing, and Valentine’s Day is only a few weeks away.

You’d think this would be good news for restaurateurs, and it is, but there’s also a catch. Everyone is stepping up their game. Three courses for $18 are on offer at some Dine Out Vancouver establishments. Promises of delicious Valentine’s Day desserts and romantic music tempt many to make reservations for February 14th early. And, OpenTable has just released a list of the 100 Best Restaurants in Canada for 2015. Those who are on that list are getting lots of media attention, and are catching diners’ eyes.

So, with this fierce competition, how does a restaurateur ensure that his or her establishment stands out from the crowd? Well, beyond the obvious of providing delicious food, great service, and enticing offers, it all comes back to social media. Specifically, social media integration.

Appetizer: The Social Media Button

The majority of restaurateurs have realized that they need social media and a website. Yet, what they must figure out is how to integrate the two as effectively as possible. Let’s begin with social media buttons. They need to be subtle. Not too big. Not too colourful. A tastefully greyed out button on a website can be likened to the understated elegance of a white tablecloth.

Also, location matters. It is key that social media buttons are placed with care on a restaurant’s website. Let’s take Instagram and Pinterest, two of the most visual social media channels out there. Restaurants should have a presence on them. That’s a given. However, their icons should be placed near photos of signature dishes, creative cocktails, and attractive images of the restaurant itself. When the user clicks on those icons, they should not take him or her to the restaurant’s home pages. Instead, they should make it easy for the user to repost or pin the images on his or her own Instagram wall or Pinterest page. That way, the restaurant’s pictures will get shared with a whole new network of people.

Let’s now look at OpenTable itself. Restaurateurs need to give people the option of making a reservation online. And, that process has to be easy. I’ll be honest. I don’t want to call and make a reservation. I want to do it on my iPad. If I’m deciding between two places and one restaurant’s website has OpenTable or another reservation service ready and waiting for me to use and the other doesn’t, I’m going with the first option.

Entrée: Keeping It Active

So, yes, social media buttons on a website should make things easier for the user, and increase the chances of more exposure for the restaurant and people coming in the door. However, it’s crucial that those buttons connect to social media channels that are in active use. If a restaurant hasn’t posted on Google+ in the last six months, then perhaps it’s not a good idea to promote it on the website. In fact, if a restaurant has at one time or another been on every social media channel imaginable, but hasn’t maintained all of them, it may be time to focus in on just a few. A restaurant needs to do a great job connecting with customers, posting photos and videos, and giving people a reason to come and check them out.

The same rule applies if a restaurateur wants to put a live Twitter feed on his or her site. That’s a great idea if the restaurateur and diners are tweeting regularly. It may inspire others to come to the restaurant, try the feature drinks and entrées, or check out the weekend entertainment. However, if the restaurant’s feed is featuring tweets from six months ago, a potential customer may think nothing new and exciting is happening at the establishment, or that it’s closed down altogether.

Dessert: The Analytics Aftermath

What are diners looking at? Are they sharing and pinning one particular photo on the site? Are they watching and rewatching that video of the head chef cracking eggs one-handed? On the other hand, what isn’t getting attention? Is no one really reading the blog post about how to make a gluten-free, vegan ‘pepperoni’ pizza? A restaurateur needs to have the answers to these questions, and it is only through analytics that they can be found.

Effective social media integration and analyzing website and social media activity can be time-consuming. Why not let Think Profits Inc. help? Our digital marketing professionals can help you to make your website and social media channels the very best they can be. Give us a call today.

What do you think? Is your website helping to whet the appetite of potential diners? How effective is your social media integration?