US Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association

*Article by USVIHTA member Terri Brown

tbrownmarketingarticleConnecting online with diners on a level that isn’t based on coupons and limited time menu offerings is easier said than done. By educating and entertaining potential customers with valued content, restaurants can connect with their guests on a deeper level creating long-lasting relationships.

A recent study by Demand Metric shows content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing while creating three times as many leads per dollar spent—two great reasons to focus on your content. Use everything in your creative arsenal including graphics, text, audio and video across your social platforms including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and more. Then lure guests in with your message. For example, if you own a restaurant, share insights freely and consistently to become a brand people trust and connect with more than just through delicious food and excellent service.

When considering the content of your message, think creatively. Here are some best practice tips to engage your reader and some common pitfalls to avoid:

  1. Stick to one message: Too much information will kill your audience’s attention span. Standing out in the crowd is challenging. You have just seconds to catch the attention of your target audience as they scroll through a hoard of posts, tweets or images, so give them one thing to remember. Get their attention, then leave them with a tidbit that makes a lasting impression, and do it quickly. If you clutter up your messaging, you’ll lose them.
  2. Find your voice and be true to it: When you have an opportunity to be timely to take advantage of a trending topic, like the unstoppable juggernaut of Pokémon Go, you need the clearance and confidence to act. The art of newsjacking, or capitalizing on the latest trending hashtags or celebrity news, can boost your visibility tremendously, but stay true to your brand. A few years ago, Oreo brilliantly stole the show during the infamous Super Bowl blackout with their “Dunk in the Dark” tweet. It was fun, super-relevant, and reaffirmed the playful brand voice that a global audience had come to expect from the famous cookie brand. Watch for trending topics your potential customers may be following, and be ready with content that is relative to your brand as well as the topic.
  3. Stay away from industry terms and acronyms: People use uncommon industry or insider terms to make themselves sound knowledgeable, in-the-know. This can turn off your audience if not done appropriately. Unless you’re talking to serious nutrition gurus or gourmet critiques, leave acronyms like DV, RDA or COP out of the conversation. FWIW (For what it’s worth).
  4. Avoid sensationalism: If you’re lucky, you have three seconds, sometimes less, to grab a viewer’s attention with your content. Your message had better be entertaining, unique and emotional. Videos and photos need to start with all the magic you can give them. Consider carefully whether headlines using words like “secret,” “now,” “shocking” and “best tip ever” are good for your brand. Avoid scams like “watch it now before it’s banned from the Internet.” This is guaranteed to lose your target’s trust!
  5. A video is worth a thousand words: While content marketing in the form of a written article on your blog or useful tips on your social media channels is an inexpensive way to attract new customers, we live in a world that suffers from short attention spans. Visuals and moving images will help attract readers and keep them engaged. It doesn’t have to be an over-the-top, polished video. On the contrary, a “real” video filmed with a stable smartphone or other HD camera makes for a more believable message and can create a closer connection.
  6. It’s not about you: Don’t create content just to fill a space to fulfill your quota of posts. If it’s not relative to your audience and your brand, helpful, interesting, informative or entertaining, don’t do it. It’s about your audience and what’s important to them. If you want to talk about a new food trend, talk in personal terms about what this will do for your current and future guests, even civilization in general. Take the time to understand what’s important to your customers. If you come off too corporate, you’ll alienate your audience. Think about content in your own feed. If it’s too stiff, overly salesy or just dull, you can’t swipe fast enough.

When taking these tips into consideration, remember: Content marketing is all about taking the content you were going to share one way, let’s say in an email blast, and transforming it to attract and engage people. Doing so can help you stand out, make friends and become the preferred restaurant for your target audience.