Restaurant operators understand that developing an online presence and social media following is part of restaurant marketing, but it can be difficult to see the ROI of online marketing.

Likes and social engagement feel good, and they’re an important part of building a brand, but they don’t always have a huge impact on an operator’s bottom line. Here are a few tips to convert your social media following into loyal customers.

Start with a Plan

Before you go too far down the social media rabbit hole, it’s important to identify which platforms you will use consistently and who on your team is responsible for posting and maintaining your presence on each platform. Be realistic about the role and all that it requires, from capturing enticing photography to crafting compelling captions, plus answering guest questions and engaging with other accounts. A successful social media manager can help your business drive sales through their work, so that role has definite value and should be treated accordingly.

Own Your Contacts

The connections you make via social media only exist on the apps of their origin. For example, if you have 5,000 followers on Instagram, that’s the only place you can communicate with them. You don’t own your contacts the way you do when you have an email list. For that reason, it’s smart to first convert your social media followers to e-newsletter subscribers. Offering trackable incentives to join the mailing list or using Instagram contests to gain subscribers are both good ways to help social followers take the next step toward becoming actual customers.

Make Conversion Easy

Take a look at the profile pages on each of your social media apps. They should have clear information about how to contact your restaurant and book a table or order takeout. Your address and phone number should be in an obvious place. Consider setting up an auto-responder for messages that has useful information, helping guests find the answers to their questions when you are unable to be responsive in the moment.

Get Creative with Incentives

Though it is a necessary part of marketing work, social media should also be a bit fun. Think about creative incentives you can offer exclusively through social media. This allows you to track how effective the promotion was and determine if it was worthwhile. Show your brand point of view in your incentives; don’t just offer a nominal discount. Do customers get a free dessert for talking like a pirate? Now we’re get somewhere! Make it fun and memorable to combat the fatigue people face when scrolling through their social media every day, and customers will be more likely to connect with you.

Limited Time Offers

Social media is the perfect tool for communicating limited time offers (LTOs) because social content is fleeting by nature. Use Instagram and Facebook stories, Twitter, and even TikTok to share special, exciting limited time offers, creating a sense of urgency for guests to come in and give them a try. Consider partnering with social media influencers to help promote these LTOs, giving them trackable promo codes so you can see how well the promotion went.


Traditional advertising can be a big gamble, but social media advertising, in contrast, can offer a targeted approach to connecting with potential guests who you know are using social media. By narrowing your target audience by location, age range, and other demographic factors, you can get very close to your ideal audience all while setting the terms of your spending a few dollars at a time.

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