The Yukon is a trendy, intimate bar in Toronto's west end, complete with a tin ceiling, a vinyl record collection, and a creative drink menu to match. It’s a popular venue for college students and hip young professionals. We reached out to owner Pete Tien to get his take on getting in with the cool kids.
Things have changed drastically for restaurant owners within the last decade. The dining masses have demanded a new eating experience. They take to Google maps to discover restaurants nearby, use online reviews to research restaurants, mobile apps to order food for pickup and delivery, and take to social media to gripe and praise their culinary experiences.
This is truly the age of the Digital Diners: tech-savvy food-lovers who expect the places they frequently visit to keep up with them. While Millennials are the demographic that is driving these trends, their behaviors are sweeping the older and younger generations as well.
To ensure your bar or restaurant is capitalizing on Millennial behavior, it’s essential to find them where they hang out: on social media.
Tien knows a thing or two about building relationships with his crowd and shared what he’s learned from engaging with his patrons on social media. Be sure to take advantage of Tien’s Tips- you can incorporate all 5 of them today!
1. Don’t Forget about the Basics
Tien began by researching the online presence of his competitors, and was surprised to find that many restaurants were missing the most basic elements.
When first setting up your social media accounts, be sure to include your complete address, hours, website, and any other important details. If your Instagram of an innovative cocktail piques a potential customer’s interest, don’t assume they know where to find you, make it easy for them to get the information they need.
Tien’s Tip: Make sure you are set up in the right categories on all of your social pages. For example, your restaurant’s Facebook Page should be listed as a “Place”. This way, customers can “check-in” when they visit.
2. Interact with Fans and Influencers
As Tien knows, social media provides incredible opportunities for connecting with like-minded people. Not only do these interactions introduce your establishment and brand to a whole new network, it can also help create an online community for your establishment.
Use your social media channels to leverage existing networks from influencers in your area. Who are the major players in your neighborhood that have lots of followers and constantly engage with the people you want at your bar or restaurant? Connect with them.
Tien’s draft beer suppliers are great people that The Yukon enjoys working with, so the restaurant’s Instagram and Facebook pictures often link to these local breweries and partners, which gives both businesses additional exposure. A new audience for you, plus new partnerships for them equals a win-win situation.
Tien’s Tip: Reach out to businesses that you work with and tag them in posts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. They’ll likely respond - introducing you to their audience.
3. Use Hashtags and Location Tagging
Using hashtags to draw viewers (and potential customers) to your brand can be incredibly helpful. Do some digging. What are the most influential hashtags in your field? Where relevant, add these hashtags.
The Yukon has found that #craftbeer is a powerful hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, attracting new likes and followers, meaning more brand exposure and potential patrons.
Geolocation-tagging can also reiterate to viewers where your establishment is and will allow hungry Instagrammers browsing by area to find your feed of delicious food and drink photos, possibly choosing your establishment over the competition.
Tien’s Tip: Understand the point of hashtags. They are used to filter by search or to create a custom stream of information. Try to use relevant hashtags to capture new likes and follows and stay away from made up or ambiguous hashtags such as #mondaysareforhamburgers, instead try #torontoburgers. You can create your own, such as #TheYukonLunch, just remember to populate it on a regular basis to create a feed within your feed.
4. Be Aware of Your Timing
Tien advises that timing should be an essential part of your social media presence, explaining a two-pronged approach.
First, respond to online engagement in a timely manner. Why? Because it shows that you care. When you’re liking, retweeting, answering questions and engaging online, act as if the person you are responding to is in your establishment in person. You’d never leave a customer waiting for service or ignore a question or concern, so remember to be as prompt and courteous in your online interactions as you are in real-life.
The second element of timing is to pay attention to when your customers are engaging with you. The Yukon’s followers tend to be active on social media just after work hours around 5-7pm, then again from about 9-10pm. As Tien does, pay attention to your customers’ behavior: Post when they are paying attention. Tien says, “Your post has a finite lifetime”. So make that time count!
Tien’s Tip: To find when your customers are online, check the timestamps on Facebook comments, Twitter replies and retweets, and notifications under ‘Activity’ on Instagram.
5. Stay on Trend
Last of all, Tien suggests to craft your posts based on what’s happening around you and in your customer’s lives.
In a world of constant screen time, take the opportunity to leverage what’s on people’s minds. What’s popular and timely? What’s hot? Use the answers to these questions to post and promote your news, events, and specials strategically. Tien uses references to the recent NBA All-Star Game in his city, or holidays like Valentine’s Day to create a dialog with customers while informing them of what’s happening at The Yukon.
Once a conversation has been initiated, you can take things to the next level and become more interactive by using technology trends such as crowdsourcing to drive promotions and contests. For example, Tien plans to launch a “Name our New Drink!” contest, encouraging people to tag their friends and get involved.
Tien’s Tip: Take a look at the profiles of your most active customers and take note of what they are posting and interested in. Brainstorm ways to combine their interests with your promotions to engage your audience and ultimately, increase sales.
Ready to learn even more about social media? Check out Touch Bistro’s Expert Guide to Restaurant Social Media to take your restaurant’s online engagement to the next level.
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