The Pros and Cons of Social Media

Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook can be powerful tools to help you promote your restaurant — but if you’re not careful about how you use them, they can hurt your business instead. Here’s a look at some of the pros and pitfalls of engaging in social media on behalf of your business.

Pro: It can help you expand your audience quickly.

According to Pew Internet Project, 67% of all adults in the United States are active on social networking sites — so if you want to attract more diners, you can reach out to them through Twitter by searching for relevant keywords, such as your city. You can also place targeted ads for your establishment on Facebook to people within your location, encouraging them to “like” your page.

Con: Once you’re online, you’re expected to engage constantly.

While building a social audience can help boost your brand, you may find that once you’ve done it, your audience is placing pressure on you to respond more quickly than you’re able to. A recent survey found that, of people who use Facebook to address customer service issues, 22 percent expect a same-day response, 13 percent expect a response within 2 hours, and 16 percent want a reply within half an hour. If you’re using Facebook to correspond with customers, make sure that any issues are addressed quickly to prevent customer dissatisfaction.

Pro: It can help you bring more personality to your brand.

Social media offers a chance to do more than promote your daily specials — it’s a chance to let your personality shine. For instance, the owners of Hoss and Mary’s Tasty Grub, a quick-service restaurant in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, use their Facebook page to share photos of unique sandwiches, share stories of their life together, and give kudos to their best customers. Their quirky updates have helped them gain more than 3,000 fans. Photo-sharing services like Instagram are also ideal for spotlighting food-based businesses: Take a picture of your just-baked muffins to get your fans’ mouths watering.

Con: Saying the wrong thing can kill your brand.

Remember, what you say on social media is public — so don’t say anything that doesn’t fit with the brand portrayal you’re looking for. Witness the recent Facebook meltdown of Amy’s Baking Company, a restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona: When its Facebook page began attracting insults after an unflattering appearance on Kitchen Nightmares, the owners attacked and lashed out at their commenters. Their comments went viral on Reddit, Mashable, and countless other sites — making their restaurant famous for all the wrong reasons.

In most cases, it makes sense to invest at least a little bit of time each week to building up your social media presence — but always be cautious about how you’re using the services, making sure that they fit with your brand image and your business goals. By using social media wisely, you can make it an influential marketing channel for your growing business.