In the warm rays of the dawn of online advertising, marketers were very excited by this new world. The rising numbers of online users meant that it was possible to reach large amounts of people all at once, and companies wouldn’t have to rely so heavily on the concept of ‘word of mouth’.
And, for all intents and purposes, online advertising lived up to its promises. Publishing content online definitely does put companies and businesses in contact with exceedingly large audiences. However, while content is king – the first commandment of any online marketing approach – users are garnering very specific tastes regarding the type of content they want to receive.
Simply put, many users see marketing material as just that – words put out there with the sole purpose of creating sales. Because of this, many online users tend to struggle with truly trusting what they read. But, when it comes to content written by existing customers and peers, perspectives change and guards are dropped.
Recent reports show that 92% of consumers trust reviews and recommendations by friends and fellow consumers more than they do paid advertising. In fact, less than half of global consumers trust the advertisements they see in mainstream media.
This level of trust is invaluable to restaurants, and it is completely possible for them to capitalise on it. Referred to as User Generated Content, or UGC, restaurants have the ability to incorporate consumer’s thoughts and opinions into their marketing content in order to inspire confidence and greatly improve their online connections with their customers.
What is User Generated Content?
User generated content is the digital equivalent of a coffee shop, supermarket aisle, or a garden fence; any place in which gossip can be freely shared. But, while word of mouth used to travel somewhat slowly by comparison, the word of mouth generated through User Generated Content travels instantaneously on a potentially global scale.
Specifically, User Generated Content can be anything from blogs and forum discussions to social media posts, chats, and reviews. However, what sets UGC apart from marketing blogs and social posts is that fact it originates from the very target of online marketing material; consumers.
By prompting engagement and creating the proper forums for that engagement, restaurants can kill two birds with one stone. On the one hand they can step back and stop exhausting their content creation ability, instead leaving it to their users to create said content. And, on the other hand, they can entrust that their content is honest and accurate and, importantly, will be seen as such by consumers.
Now restaurants don’t just have to ask prospective customers to take them at their words regarding their food quality and their service. Instead, they can refer them to their existing customers.
How Can Restaurants Embrace User Generated Content?
Restaurants happen to be in a very good position when it comes to promoting UGC. Food is a big part of people’s lives and it thus becomes an obvious subject for a variety of comments, reviews, and social posts.
While people might find it impossible to post a good experience at the post office, for example, posting a beautifully prepared meal to Pinterest or Instagram is both interesting and easy.
So, in order to encourage this sort of online behaviour, restaurants can do the following:
1. Embrace Social Media
A restaurant doesn’t have to base itself on online ordering and delivery in order to be what you might call a ‘digital restaurant’. It is possible to present traditional service and still take advantage of modern restaurant management and marketing tools.
One such tool is social media. Regardless of a restaurant’s values, it is always possible to use social media as a promotional tool. If, for example, a particular restaurant is keen on preserving its history of family dining, it could create a hashtag encouraging family dining. Families could take group photos of themselves at the restaurant and then post them with a hashtag along the lines of #familyfoodfun
2. Hold Competitions
People absolutely love winning things, which is why UGC competitions work so well for engagement. And, with regards to restaurants, competitions present a fantastic opportunity for having customers create a great deal of UGC.
Customers could either create visual content in the form of photos taken in the restaurant or video reviews posted online, or they could create written content in the form of suggestions for new menu items or a return of older menu items for limited runs.
3. Integrate Menus with UGC
As we’ve mentioned, people have an inherent trust when they receive information on a particular product from their friends or peers. In fact, Reevoo reports that 70% of customers trust their friends’ opinions over marketing content.
Because of this, it makes sense to integrate the opinions of customers into as much marketing material as possible, starting with arguably the most fundamental form of restaurant marketing content; the menu.
By placing user recommendations next to certain menu items – even if only on digital forms of the menu – it inspires the inherent confidence that people have in their fellow consumers.
4. Encourage Online Reviews
Though customer reviews can work as extremely effective marketing content, many prospective diners don’t see them that way. Instead, they see honest appraisals of the food and service of the restaurants they are thinking about visiting.
This works exceptionally well for restaurants because, as we just mentioned, reviews are excellent forms of marketing material. Customers trust the words they read and the restaurants are able to market themselves effectively while not having to grind out content around the clock.
This is precisely why restaurants should encourage their diners to review them on sites such as TripAdvisor or Google Places.
Take Your Restaurant Forward with UGC
If you own a restaurant and are interested in increasing your marketing efforts, User Generated Content is definitely the way to go. Paid advertisements are losing their persuasive abilities as customers are clamouring for content created by their peers.
You can completely revamp the effect of your online marketing through clever social media management, online competitions, UGC menu integration, and the encouragement of online reviews. That’s not all, you can even integrate your offline marketing strategies such as print magazine adverts and leaflets to spread the word and create buzz about your online activities.
As a restaurant owner you know all about giving customers what they want, so UGC should be as important to your marketing menu just as your house specials are to your actual menu.