Local restaurants and bars are in a prime position to take advantage of the exploding social media phenomenon, but very few actually have a grasp of how it works and how it can benefit their business in ways traditional advertising never will. Lots of local businesses have a presence on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, but they’re thrown together with little thought, and maintained very poorly. It’s not their fault, they’re not in the business of internet marketing. Why should they know how to do it? Whether your restaurant or bar currently has a social media presence or not, the following points are some things to consider when you inevitably dive into the digital local communities online.

It’s Fans Pages, Not Friends Pages!

When a restaurant or business account is created for Facebook, you should always create a Fan page instead of a regular Facebook account. Fan pages are created for speaking to an audience, no matter how broad, at once. Sending messages to all of your fans is easy and your fans don’t have to see who you became friends with every other minute because people simply become a fan.

Another great thing about Facebook Fan pages is the range of visitor statistics avaible to you. You can see how old your visitors are, which part of the country they’re in (particularly important for local businesses) and a lot more. This feature is not something that comes with a normal Facebook page, and it’s not something you should ever go without.

Making It Count: Tweets & Status Updates

I can’t stress this enough: Be timely with your updates! Tweeting the morning breakfast specials to your followers at 9 in the morning isn’t going to bring anyone into your diner, but tweeting those same specials earlier, say 6 in the morning or even the night before will give your fans and followers enough notice so they can plan their mornings accordingly. Nobody should have to miss a delicious muffin because they got the tweet too late. Nobody wins!

Brand Awareness Still Matters

One pitfall of many businesses in social media is the inability to connect with their audience. Whomever maintains the Twitter or Facebook account can sometimes have trouble finding ways to keep people engaged and might think it’s a good idea to be more casual. That’s all fine and good but don’t forget that you’re still representing a business and should stay appropriate. In other words, don’t say anything you wouldn’t want one of your customers to over hear a waiter saying. If you’re not sure how to approach this, it might be a good idea to stick to updating your specials, events and any special deals for your online audience.

Your Own Spotlight

Believe it or not, people want to come to your Fan page. They want to look at your wall, see your pictures or videos if you have them. Twitter has features like Twitpic and you can utilize other services like Daily Booth to give your audience a snapshot of what it’s like at your restaurant or bar. Remember, you’re representing a business so don’t put anything up that you have second thoughts about.

The above is a simple set of guidelines for getting started on Facebook and Twitter for restaurants and bars. There’s really no limit to how far you can push the social media envelope so once you conquer the above points, venture out on your own. Break some new ground and keep reeling in those paying customers.

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