There are a lot of reasons for your restaurant to have a presence on social media, but in today's online landscape that doesn't just mean having a Facebook or Instagram account — at least not if you want to get views.
According to a recent Insider Intelligence report, the video-driven social media app TikTok has surpassed Snapchat and Twitter in global user numbers. The report also predicts that TikTok will reach 755.0 million monthly users by end of 2022. Perhaps even more important, TikTok also reports strong user engagement.
Related: What is TikTok? A guide for restaurant owners
Why TikTok for restaurants?
TikTok isn’t just about getting your restaurant's name out there. It's about being in a relevant space where your customers are looking for restaurant recommendations. In a recent TechCrunch article, Google's senior vice president Prabhakar Raghavan, who runs Google’s Knowledge and Information organization, said, “In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search. They go to TikTok or Instagram.”
Not only that, a recent national survey that looked at TikTok's influence on restaurant and dining behavior found that 36% of TikTok users visited or ordered food from a restaurant after seeing it on TikTok, according to MGH, a social media marketing agency.
Of course, what works for a restaurant on its webpage or Instagram may not work on TikTok, which allows users to create, post and watch video content that varies in length from several seconds to 10 minutes. Take a deep dive into TikTok basics here, then follow these restaurant marketing tips to boost your business through TikTok.
1. Focus on visually striking dishes.
TikTokers love eye-catching food and drinks, and featuring your standout menu items is one tried-and-true way to go viral. Think sculpted cotton candy like at Polar Playground in Huntington Beach, Ca., or soft serve in fish-shaped cones as at Taiyaki NYC. And even if you don't have anything "cute" on your menu, you may plate a dish with a specially carved radish rose, or you might serve a notable menu item, like a quad burger that can raise eyebrows. And whatever you do, don't forget that TikTok is all about fun.
2. Highlight a unique aspect of your restaurant.
As a medium, TikTok lends itself well to telling stories. And every restaurant has plenty of stories to share. You could focus on elements from your restaurant's history. Or, you might highlight what makes your restaurant unique — the view or your funky drinkware, for example. A sense of humor can also be a good way to get attention for seemingly straightforward menu items, like this oversized chicken sandwich from TheRedChickz. Just be forewarned, sometimes TikTok popularity can catch a restaurant by surprise with an explosion of business, as MDK Noodle discovered after their Korean candy appeared on “Squid Game.”
3. Create a how-to video for food or drink.
Viral TikTok recipes are a trend, and they can be a great way to get an internet eye on your restaurant. In fact, restaurant copycat recipes are a TikTok phenomenon of their own. Big chains get in on it too, like Sweetgreen, which shares its recipes on TikTok, alongside other lighthearted content. Think of each of these ideas as another tool in your how-to-win TikTok playbook.
4. Piggyback on a viral sound, meme, or trending topic.
When you use a viral sound or meme in a TikTok video, the algorithm tends to favor your content and chances are better that your video will pop up for more users, especially those who've already interacted with that sound. If you have the marketing budget, you might try creating your own sound or meme and get others to jump on your bandwagon. If it's true to your brand, jumping on whatever's trending on TikTok can help you get on other TikTokers' radar.
5. Partner with a TikTok influencer.
TikTok is popular because it's easy to gain traction even if you're not (yet) TikTok famous, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have an audience. That's where partnering with an influencer can come into play. Influencers come with their own audiences and an innate understanding of how to capture people's (and the algorithm's) attention.
There's no need to go the big-time celebrity route, like Charlie D'Amelio for Dunkin' Donuts or Mr. Beast with his ghost kitchen burgers. Instead, pick an influencer who has a style that works well with your restaurant's brand or maybe someone local to your market, and listen to their ideas. You might be an expert on your food, but they should be the expert on making it big on social media. It's the perfect TikTok restaurant marketing mashup.
6. Post an advertisement.
Maybe you just want to get an ad up there. TikTok can help with that, too. You'll have to pay, of course, but you'll be able to precisely target your desired demographic. You can get your ad in front of potential customers by controlling for variables such as gender, location, age, interests, and other things. And you'll be connecting with a highly engaged audience that isn't afraid to buy what they see on the site.
A few more TikTok restaurant tips to follow:
Make sure you're signed up for a Tiktok Pro account so you have access to analytics that will give insights into engagement and performance.
Use location tagging as it ups the chance of TikTokers finding you on their "for you" page as it tends to prioritize location.
Use hashtags to drive views. These hashtags can be specific to your business or your post, but they should also hone in on terms your users might be looking for.
Post consistently and stick to it. If you can post once a day, that’s great – but for many brands, it’s not feasible. Remember every video doesn't need to be a masterpiece. Think short, fun and digestible.
Interact with other TikTokers. When you get a message requesting you to feature something on your TikTok, like how to make your famous salad dressing, make sure to tag and mention the request and creator in your TikTok video. This will help drive customer loyalty.
Consider your audience (local vs. national). If you have locations in a city where tourism is a big part of your restaurant's bottom line, then focusing your posts or ad campaign nationally might make sense as people will put your restaurant on their must-visit bucket list. But for more region specific restaurants, having a more local focus may make more sense so you can cultivate regulars.
Most importantly, have fun with your TikTok channel. The youth-fueled social networking site keeps things light-hearted, and you should too.
When you're looking to connect with your customers through TikTok, it's important to think about who your customers are — in addition to who you want them to be — and cater your TikTok content to that audience. You likely already have ample customer info gathered through your POS data, so be sure to use it to fuel your TikTok marketing ideas. Social media is just one more avenue to find and connect with customers in order to build a relationship, both online and off.