We got the scoop on the latest social best practices for the restaurant industry from social media consultant Joshua Swanson.

Get the goods on how you can make your social content stand out during Swanson’s education session, Under the Hood: Mechanics of Social Media, on Monday, May 23 at NRA Show.

How are algorithm changes going to impact the restaurant industry?

I think people in the restaurant industry need to understand that the minute Facebook went public, social media changed forever. The focus went from good user experience to banking on ads to make shareholders happy when they went public. These current algorithmic changes are 100% a result of Twitter and Instagram also becoming ad platforms instead of just social networks. It’s so they can collect data and be better than the other platforms.

How this affects restaurants is that just posting isn’t good enough. You have to understand how your business can use their existing ad networks to make money. It’s beneficial to dive into Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram advertising, or even just picking one of those platforms, in addition to being good at organic content to drive actual business. I’m seeing great results with my clients.

In terms of organic content, what’s working best?

User generated content. Not all of us are beloved, well-known brands. When we celebrate our guests by reposting or repurposing customers’ content to help us tell our story through their eyes, that works really well. You have to go out there and find people who are already talking about your restaurant in social and find fun, creative ways to engage with them. They’ll become more than just your customer; they’ll be your business advocate.

How would you recommend smaller folks find the right content to leverage?

Hyperlocal native searches are great. Google your restaurant’s name with “on Instagram” and find your place on the Google map. You can comb through all of Instagram posts that have ever been tagged with your location and identify opportunities for user generated content. You can do the exact same thing on Facebook. On a broader scale, if you’re trying to position your place as a fixture in the neighborhood, you can use your social content to tell more stories about what is happening in and around your restaurant. You can participate in the ongoing conversation about the city you live in and get specific about where you’re searching to become the hyper local voice of celebrating and telling stories specific to your location.

I also recommend building influencer lists. I’m a huge advocate of influencers. I know there are hyperlocal influencers that are really important all over the place, so the opportunity is there. If you get those influencers to be part of your story and get them to generate content for you, you can align yourself with their great reputation.

What social trends do you see making big changes in the kind of content consumers want?

Video and live streaming video are making a big splash. Everything is going in the direction of media creation. I see the written word being phased out. If you look at the history of social networks, you’ll see that every single network has turned their focus to media like video versus the written word. All you see are gifs and videos and collages on Twitter, or live streaming on Periscope.

With so many new options cropping up and the Big Three changing quite a bit, how do you suggest restaurants analyze which platforms are right for their needs?

I’m an advocate of being really, really good with one social platform. With over a billion people on Facebook and millions on Instagram and Twitter, each platform has a huge audience and you can just be great at one. Learn about filters, video, and Snap Stories or try to get on City Stories on Snapchat. Focus on one thing and do it really, really well because it will benefit you. Before that, take a step back to determine who the target demographic is. Sit in your restaurant and profile and survey guests to get a feel for who is coming to your restaurant. Try to figure out which local businesses are sending people to your restaurant. There will be large commonalities. Find the appropriate social network for that audience. If you’re a quick-service restaurant located next to a high schoolers, then Snapchat might make sense for you. If you’re in fine dining, Snapchat is going to be a big waste of time because the users are so young. If you’re a steakhouse, you want to think about Facebook because the fastest growing demo there is over 55. Find out who your best patron is and choose one social network where they are at.

How can social be used to recruit talent?
Culture building. Whenever I’m hiring, I email my team that I need about 5 culture posts. Posts of my team having fun, going out for coffee, learning and being challenged to push the limits of digital marketing so our feeds are filled with these culture posts. Then I post openings and people see how they can have fun here. Social is a great tool for culture building and will help sell your business to future employees. They want to have fun but they want a higher purpose and you can do that by showing they can build solid relationships with people and that it’s not just about burgers and fries. What’s the mission statement? Showing that off with social content can help with recruitment.

What basic tools or skills should everyone have to create the best content?

Every restaurant manager should be taking iPhone photo tutorials on YouTube. That should be built into their job responsibilities. If you want to move up, you have to be really good at iPhone photography. If you think about it, imagery is the most important piece of marketing collateral on social. If you had 4 or 5 restaurant managers who aren’t marketers but they are great with photos, you will be head and shoulders above the competition. They see marketing as part of running the restaurant well. Those managers know how to take great photos and create great content. If someone takes photos, they take lights over and help them take great photos. They keep tabs on great new apps and it’s all part of the culture. You have to be able to take an hour and start with YouTube videos and just practice. Pay $5 for the latest cool app. It’s a small investment, but there’s nothing more important than restaurant marketing.