Using Social Proof To Increase Restaurant Traffic
You know your restaurant is the best thing since toasted brioche, but how can you convince potential customers to feel the same, especially in our COVID-19 reality? Social proof will help!
What is Social Proof?
Although it sounds like some sort of ID card, social proof is a psychological phenomenon whereby a person is persuaded to choose one option over another because it’s endorsed by more people.
For example, there are two burger vans serving the same menu. One of the vans has a line of customers while the other is neglected. The theory of social proof predicts that you’re more likely to choose the busier burger van with the line. This may seem illogical, but it is an inbuilt response. We trust the opinion of others.
To help you take advantage of this human impulse, here are some suggestions on how to incorporate social proof into your restaurant marketing strategy.
Reviews and Ratings
The importance of online restaurant reviews from customers cannot be understated. Reviews are the ultimate in social proof. Research shows that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. So how can you increase the number and impact of your restaurant reviews?
Register with Review Sites
Star-ratings matter! According to ivespcro.com, 92% of people will visit a local business if it has at least a four-star rating. By registering with review sites like Yelp, Open Table, and Zomato, you’ll open the door to a wide range of customer reviews.
Having a Google My Business Account is also essential if you want to show up in Google’s “Local Pack.” Inclusion here means that when someone searches for local restaurants, yours will show up alongside your review score. Ultimately, it’s good for your restaurant SEO to be registered with as many review sites as possible, but these are the most essential.
There are many ways to encourage customers to leave a review of your restaurant.
- Offer a discount on their next meal if they leave a review.
- Give out a survey via email or on their receipt.
- Include a review request on your menus.
- Add a review pop up on your website.
- Display any review certificates you have (e.g. from TripAdvisor) on your premises.
Create Simple Landing Pages to Request Reviews
Having a restaurant website that is easy to navigate and mobile-friendly is a must. No matter how much a customer loves your place, if they need to click through to an unresponsive or fiddly website to leave feedback, they won’t bother.
If you’re sending out review-request emails or directing customers to a URL for a review, consider creating a specialist landing page. You can use a free website builder to put together a simple, conversion-optimized single page site for this purpose. Without the distractions and usability issues of a full website, you’ll encourage more responses.
Show Off your Reviews
There is little point in collecting shiny reviews if no one sees them. Though your star ratings will appear in an online search, you want potential customers to see your reviews through organic means as well. So try:
- Posting reviews to your social media pages.
- Including them on your physical marketing material.
- Featuring your best reviews on your website Home page or landing pages.
Example: At the bottom of Amrutha Lounge’s landing page, they feature a snapshot of their TripAdvisor reviews and links to customer photos on their Instagram account.
Endorsements and Collaborations
Whatever cuisine you specialize in, there are limitless opportunities to collaborate with others and improve your reach.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that customer reviews are the only valuable form of social proof. If other industry professionals and institutions endorse your restaurant, you’ll add authority and validity to your business. There are a few ways to encourage pier-to-pier social proof.
Get Featured in Industry Publications
Foodies love to talk about food! There are hundreds of magazines, blogs and columns in which you can get yourself featuref. Find them by using these keyword search formats:
- [food style] + [publication type] (e.g. Thai fusion blog)
- [food style] + [publication type] + [location] (e.g. Italian food column New York)
- [restaurant type] + [publication type] (e.g. gastro pub food magazine
- [restaurant type] + [publication type] + [location] (fine dining blog)
Most publications will provide details of how to submit content for review directly on the website. Spend a little time working out their style and what topics they cover before sending a complete article or pitching an idea.
Post About Events
If your restaurant is involved in a promotion or event, such as The Foodies Festival, make sure to let people know about it by posting an update on your social media.
Celebrities and social media influencers hold sway over public opinion. Of course, we can’t all have A-list mentions, but it’s always worth reaching out to local celebrities. You could invite them to an event, interview them for your blog, or offer them a free meal in exchange for their opinion. The worst thing that could happen is they say no, and you don’t lose anything with that!
Social Media Interactions
Social media is the modern-day answer to “word of mouth.” When users see their friends and colleagues have recommended a restaurant, they’re far more likely to visit themselves. The influencer market is booming because of it. Here are some ways you can encourage restaurant social media interactions.
Respond to Mentions
When a customer takes time to mention you online, make sure you acknowledge them. Not only will this leave a positive impression on them, but you’ll also show others in their network that your business is responsive and engaged. Here’s a great example from Twinings Tea:
Encourage UGC (User Generated Content)
Some customers love sharing images of their meals with their followers. But you can encourage more people to share by making a competition out of it.
Below is a UGC competition run by the Italian restaurant Carmine’s. They offered their customers the chance to win a 3-course meal in exchange for posting a picture of their favorite Carmine’s plate with the hashtag #MyCarminesFavourite.
The campaign works because it taps into people’s desire to share food-related content online and our love of freebies.
Using Social Proof: The Crunch
Social proof is a powerful psychological tool that all restaurants should apply to their marketing. Because restaurants are local businesses, they’re particularly well-placed to benefit from this approach. So to get more out of your marketing strategies, do the following this year:
- Find and register for a range of review sites.
- Encourage positive reviews with unique landing pages and a range of in-store strategies.
- Celebrate your reviews on social media.
- Reach out to others in your industry.
- Get published on relevant blogs, magazines, and columns.
- Get endorsed by local celebrities.
- Encourage more interaction on social media.
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About the Author
Hannah Vicarage is a creative B2B content writer working with ukwebhostreview.com. Her mission is ‘to unjumble the jargon’ and help businesses make SEO work for them.