If your goal is to increase your social media presence for your restaurant, encouraging your guests to share their experiences (user-generated content) can help create a buzz, exponentially increasing your reach online and driving foot traffic to your door.
Let’s face it, over the past decade, social media has been influencing where (and what) we eat; in fact, studies show that 45% of U.S. diners said they’ve tried a restaurant for the first time because of a social media post made by the restaurant itself.
But, even more eye-opening, nearly 3 out of 4 people say they have used social media to make decisions about where to eat or shop based on comments and images shared by other users.
One way to create user-generated content for your restaurant is through food bloggers and influencers; in fact, many restaurants regularly invite local influencers to try their food in exchange for sponsored posts on Instagram, TikTok, or other networks.
But the reality is that hiring influencers to create content has a cost, so this is often saved for special initiatives, such as the launch of a new menu item.
Editor’s Note: We pay for the meals we eat at the restaurants we review on PXVRestaurants.com and Phoenixville Online, such as our write-up for Uncle B’s BBQ in Phoenixville. If there is ever a case in which we are compensated or are invited to a free tasting, it will be disclosed at the top of the post.
The truth is … most of your guests are not food bloggers.
But that doesn’t mean they aren’t influencers.
According to research, “user-generated content” is 2.4 times more likely to be viewed as authentic by consumers rather than content created by the brand.
Moreover, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know.
Obviously, whether you’re a chef, restaurant owner, bar manager, or restaurant marketer, encouraging your guests to create user-generated content and share it with their friends and family should be high on your priority list.
What is user-generated content?
Less than a decade or two ago, most of the content we consumed was created by professionals. Now, thanks to smartphones, nearly everyone has the ability to create high-quality content, and, thanks to the Internet and social media, they can share it with others online.
In a nutshell, user-generated content (UGC) is any content that is created by people (users) rather than the brand. This content could be text, videos, photos, reviews, etc.
Data shows that UGC has become the most trusted, memorable, influential, and freely abundant source of content that marketers can use.
In fact, a recent study reveals that 79% of people say user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decisions. This is up from 60% in 2017. Further, only 13% say content from a brand is impactful, and a mere 8% say influencer-created content would highly impact their purchasing decisions.
Basically, UGC, which is created at no additional cost to you, is potentially more impactful than any content you create or pay to have created. It is a way for small restaurants and brands to scale and compete against larger ones with bigger marketing budgets.
How can your restaurant benefit from UGC?
There are many ways that your restaurant can benefit from user-generated content. In addition to the word-of-mouth marketing you benefit from, user-generated content is essentially a library of free content that you can repurpose* for your marketing efforts. For example, you can:
- Share the content with your followers. Retweet tweets; add Instagram stories to your “Customer Love” highlights.
- Repost customer photos regularly (ex: #FanPhotoFriday).
- Create quote graphics from reviews and testimonials to post on your social channels.
- Embed reviews and social media posts on your website.
- Display user-generated social media content on a TV in your restaurant.
*Always ask your customer’s permission before sharing or using their content or reviews for your marketing efforts. This can be as simple as sending them a DM or asking them in the comments. Also, always credit the original poster by tagging them. This also has the additional benefit of showing your followers that the content is authentic and wasn’t created by your brand.
Remember, the more you promote the content that your users generate for you, the more you will incentivize your followers to create and participate.
Other less obvious benefits to USG are:
- It can help you better understand your customers and what resonates with them.
- It can help increase customer satisfaction by allowing you to have conversations with your customers.
- It can help increase your search engine ranking and online visibility.
- It can make your brand more trustworthy.
- It can help create a community, bringing you and your audience together and making everyone feel like they are part of something special.
Examples of brands that won big with user-generated content.
If you are still slightly skeptical about the potential for user-generated content, here are some successful campaigns to help inspire you:
What was really interesting about the Applebee’s campaign is that there was concern that amateur photographers might not show the restaurant’s food in the best light (literally), but the executive director of marketing communications reaffirmed the belief that consumers prefer content generated by their peers rather than brands.
How can your restaurant encourage more user-generated content?
Now that we have convinced you of the value of user-generated content let’s talk about ways to encourage people to create even more of it!
Create “Instaworthy” food and beverages.
One of the best ways to encourage guests to take photos is to provide them with food and beverages that bring the “wow” factor, for example:
- Beautifully crafted cocktails with elaborate garnishes.
- Designs in the head of a thick draft beer or coffee.
- Elaborately sized or decorated dishes, such as large sushi boats.
- Sauces and sides that make your plates more visually pleasing.
- Adorn your top-selling dessert with edible garnishes made from wafer paper.
Create an “Instagrammable” atmosphere.
- Create a branded “photo op,” such as a mural or cool sign that creates an iconic background for photos. Include your social handles and hashtags.
- Include unique hashtags on your tables and menus to encourage customers to post photos and videos of their experience.
- Hold unique events to help encourage photos, such as breakfast with Santa at Christmastime, leprechauns on St. Paddy’s Day, themed staff dress-up days, etc.
- Give away prizes or incentives for sharing photos or writing reviews.
- Add “good vibes” quotes to your menus, receipts, to-go bags, etc.
“People like to use social media to “spread good vibes.” And they really like quotes. So if you write something positive and wit on the food packaging you use, you will get more user-generated content,” says Kimberly Orrego, a marketing specialist at Alltopreviews.
Get your employees involved.
Incentivize and encourage your employees to give people an “inside look” at your company and culture. This not only helps you attract and retain talent, but it will also help your audience connect with your brand and show them that your values are real. Other ways your employees can help are by:
- Offering to take photos for guests and reminding them to use your hashtags and tag your restaurant.
- Remind guests to leave reviews and testimonials.
- Have them ask guests if they can take a photo of them (or with them!), share it on your restaurant’s social accounts, and tag them. This takes all the hard work away from the guest, and in all likelihood, they will share it to their profiles, increasing your shares and reach.
User-generated content is one of the easiest and most effective types of marketing that you can use for your restaurant. While these tips can help you get more UGC, results won’t happen overnight. The key is to be consistent and, more than anything, ensure that your restaurant’s food, service, and overall experience meet the highest standards. If you do this, your customers will be happy to help you spread the word.
Are you a restaurant in Phoenixville looking to create a stand-out social media presence and take advantage of user-generated content as part of its plan? Get started by claiming your listing in our Phoenixville Restaurant Directory and encouraging your guests to leave reviews!