Around 80 percent of restaurants use social marketing to drive traffic and engage customers, but they need to become more sophisticated.

The food service industry has made it to the social media party and is ready to make its presence known, according to recent data from Ipsos MediaCT. The “New Channel Effectiveness in Restaurant Marketing Mix – A Study of Daily Deal Marketing Success” report revealed 80 percent of restaurants in the United States are involved in social media marketing. In fact, this medium was the clear leader compared with traditional approaches like email marketing and offline advertising.

The findings from the study affirm that Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other sites are more than a flash in the pan. But figures prove the mass majority of restaurants already use these channels and marketers must see fresh potential in their presences if they intend to stand out and surpass competitors.

80 percent of restaurants in the United States use social media marketing.

Strategies that primarily focus on promoting offers and reporting about upcoming events must pick up the pace and develop personality. It’s crucial to remember why people go on social sites: To interact with others and be entertained.

Provide prompt service

Brafton recently covered a Lithium Technologies report that found over half of customers expect brands to respond to social comments within an hour. If restaurants don’t have people at the helm of their social handles, they could miss chances to answer questions or settle complaints quietly.

Even though restaurants make most of their money offline, they risk losing sales online if they neglect social forums. Around 38 percent of surveyed consumers say their negative feelings about brands grow when their social feedback is ignored.

Entertain your guests

38 percent of surveyed consumers say their negative feelings about brands grow when

social feedback is ignored.

A principle that every successful restaurant understands, companies must find ways to entertain guests. This extends to providing positive experiences on social networks as well. Consider TacoBell’s use of SnapChat. The company sends followers stories using hot sauce packet memos to create a narrative, and its social marketing team has gained recognition for responding to customers’ drive-thru selfies.

Chipotle is another example of restaurants going beyond basic social engagement. The burrito chain invited patrons to participate in a cross-channel treasure hunt, offering winners the offline prize of weekly burritos for 20 years by answering daily quiz questions correctly online.

Although these are both examples of quick-service restaurants, full-service and fine-dining can find appropriate value-adds for followers. Exclusive reservation services, sneak-peeks of new restaurant items or interviews with staff members can help patrons feel personally connected to the brand and give them reasons to return to its social pages for updates.

To succeed in an increasingly saturated marketing landscape, companies can’t afford to rest on their laurels. They must refine strategies and offer unique value to keep target audiences engaged and inspire loyalty that drives offline conversions.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.