Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, blogs, or mobile apps, in the restaurant business the use of social media has become almost as instrumental as a culinary or hospitality degree.

Lynne Viera, founder of Rival Marketing and how2heroes, recently wrote about the importance of going beyond a website on Zester Daily. “The digital world offers restaurants a golden opportunity to build their brand and differentiate themselves,” she says. “They can make us feel like an integral part of the equation, instead of just another paying customer.”

These days, people expect to be able to “like” their favorite restaurant on Facebook or “check-in” during their lunch break. And what’s more—they want to do it all from their cellphones.

Marcus Samuelsson recently featured an article on his site, “How Social Media is Changing the Food World,” by Liz McCarthy. “I can take a snapshot of what I’m eating using my iPhone, upload it instantly using the Twitter app, and maybe add a hashtag (#tacos and #beer, anyone?) to guide the rest of Twitterverse to my Tweet,” she wrote.

And she isn’t the only one. Viera wrote, “Chef Brian Poe of Poe’s Kitchen at the Rattlesnake in Boston says Twitter followers helped him develop the restaurant’s signature Cinnamon Sugar Infused Vanilla Homemade Ice Cream.”

Chef Michael Leviton of Area Four takes full advantage of social media tools. He recently posted on Facebook about a “Shark Week” themed cocktail, adding a picture and an enticing description. Chef Leviton also posted the news on Twitter, reaching a second audience of followers. By using Twitter as another medium, he was able to contribute to the “Shark Week” trend. The cocktail’s pop culture relevance was a great way to advertise a hot menu item and reel in the customers.

Jumping feet first into Twitterverse can be overwhelming; but chefs now have so many options when it comes to reaching out to their clientele. Articles like Viera’s offer user-friendly tips, and self-proclaimed social media experts provide open forums for advice and information. Chris Tompkins, creator of The Social Media Chef, is a fantastic resource for chefs looking to improve (or initiate) their communication skills.

So why exactly should you jump on the media band wagon? It may be a new-age approach, but the goal is the same as it ever was: More exposure leads to more butts in seats, so use the tools at your disposal.

To get you started, here are some basic guidelines:

  • To make the most out of social media, it’s important to use a combination of channels. Creating a Twitter account, linking your Facebook page to your restaurant’s website, and starting a blog are all ways to maximize the opportunities given by social media tools.
  • Customers need to feel connected to your business, so capitalize on the free publicity as a way to build on that connection.
  • Update regularly. It is essential to not only use these tools, but to update them on a consistent basis.
  • Whether it’s a funny photo from the restaurant, a new recipe or product, or an invitation to join you for dinner, diners want remain “in the know.”
  • Social media a good way to maintain a loyal customer base while catching the attention of first-timers.

To read more about the use of social media in our culinary world, check out these articles: