The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly put pizzeria operators of all shapes and sizes in a unique position. On the one hand, it has introduced diverse operational challenges, from supply chain disruptions to the sudden and complete loss of any revenue that would have come from events such as the NCAA Basketball Tournament and in-restaurant dining and drinking. On the other hand, it has presented an unprecedented opportunity to stand out as an attractive dining option at a time when executive orders have reduced your competition, turned grocery shopping into an adventure, and forced much of the public to become a completely captive market.
But whether your business’s COVID-19 experience has been good, bad, or—most likely—a mix of both up to this point, it’s crucial to consider how to best communicate with both current and potential customers on your social media platforms in the present and future pandemic environment.
Modify—But Don’t Abandon!—Your Editorial Calendar
Whether you have one restaurant or ten, continue to plan out your social media content as best you can.
Editorial calendars help accomplish this by ensuring you have a consistent post frequency and map out important dates and topics. This document is always considered a living tool, but even more so when tomorrow could bring different news that directly impacts your business. So, while on a good day your editorial calendar may have been planned, written, and scheduled a month in advance, during more uncertain times it’s okay to work on a week-to-week basis and change or update your content within the structured calendar to keep up with the situation.
Here are seven things to remember when crafting an editorial calendar, regardless of what’s going on in the world:
- Establish current goals, from boosting revenue on certain days to reaching customers in specific geographic areas.
- Diversify content and media assets, from which menu items you feature to how often you post photos, text-only, video, etc. on each platform.
- Incorporate national holidays including the typical ones like the Fourth of July and Memorial Day, but also those that are especially relevant to your menu and location, like National Cheese Day (June 4th) or your state’s official day celebrating statehood.
- Prioritize seasonal menus and limited-time offers that can showcase your knowledge of local ingredients and entice deal-seekers respectively.
- Share news and events, including both your own and those going on in the local community, to position yourself as a community supporter and ever-present pre- or post-event dining option.
- Market your vibe by sharing images not just of your food but also your employees, restaurant interior and exterior, etc.
- Don’t forget user-generated content! Sharing or even asking for content—such as reviews, photos and favorite menu items—from customers is a great way to leverage unique, organic content.
Taken together, the overarching message is that your social media channels should always offer a diverse mix of content, whether there’s a global pandemic going on or not.
That said, your content should also always reflect the current state of affairs and be put into an appropriate context for your customers. So, applying everything above to the current climate, here are three COVID-19-specific content recommendations:
Prioritize Food and Customer Safety Above All
While you likely began sharing news of your cleaning, food prep and delivery procedures long ago, it’s essential to continue to do so as long as and long after your state’s stay-at-home order ends—especially given how wary much of the public may be about returning to dine-in restaurants in the near future.
While it might seem like overkill, regularly posting links to all of the procedures you’re following and measures you’re taking is something that your customers will expect and appreciate. And remember, you can mix this content up just like you do with everything else—for example, sharing images of your employees wearing their personal protective equipment, videos of your managers speaking directly to customers, etc.
When you do this, be sure to include relevant hashtags that incorporate your message into the larger digital conversation. For example, #StayHome or #SupportSmallBusiness will insert your post into that hashtag stream while showing your customers that you support those initiatives.
Promote Good Deeds and Philanthropy
You might be hesitant to share your good deeds and philanthropic efforts, fearing that they appear too self-serving, but there’s no shame in showing that you care about and value your community.
So, yes, you should absolutely use your social channels to share a press release about your big donation to the local food bank; shout out or offer special promotions and discounts to the first responders, hospital workers, teachers and other local heroes that you’re thankful for; and showcase images or videos of any surprise pizza deliveries or donations you’ve made.
You might even consider using social to make your customers part of your efforts. For example, donate a dollar of every order to this or that cause on a certain day; offer customers the ability to donate your pizzas to their recipient of choice, as Little Caesars’ recently did; or launch a contest, a la Pieology Pizzeria, to recognize “everyday heroes” in your community.
To make the most of this content, remember to engage with your followers by sharing their content to your page as well. For example, if a customer posts about participating in your donation program, share their post to your account. This type of engagement is important in general, but it’s especially valuable when most communication is taking place on a digital network. Customers enjoy the warm, fuzzy feeling of seeing their supportive post on the restaurant’s page.
Keep Pushing Takeout and Delivery
It’s crucial to recognize that delivery and takeout are largely responsible for the fact that pizzerias have fared far better than other types of restaurants during the pandemic. Regardless of when you reopen your doors, you should keep promoting these options while you monitor your dine-in numbers.
A few ways to keep doing so through diverse content include:
Show Your Teams. People love seeing other people, whether it’s at their door with a large, hot pizza or on social media with a smile. So now is the time to show off your delivery teams, delivery station, or chefs behind the scenes. A few content ideas include spotlighting some of your delivery crew or pizza-makers in an email to customers or in a fun social media feature, along with some first-person quotes and background information on how long they’ve been working in the food industry. Keeping this content friendly and light will entice more people to want to order from your restaurant!
Provide Discounts. Providing coupon codes or discounts is a smart way to incentivize your customers and show them that you’re providing convenience in order to keep their business. This could be anything from free delivery to one free drink, or even 10% off your entire delivery order. It’s best to send these coupon codes via social media, email, or through a loyalty program in your app so that you keep your customers coming back for more rewards and more tasty food.
Along with your promos, you should also be sure to constantly promote your loyalty program and delivery services through paid ads on social media, explaining their ease of use, benefits and payment options, always with mouthwatering pictures of your food!
Encourage Social Interactions. While establishing your social media marketing plan, be sure to create a simple hashtag to go along with your mobile orders, takeout, and deliveries. Share it on your social media accounts so that customers know just what to do when they get their Friday night dinner.
You should also be vigilant about sharing your customers’ social posts to remind them you care about their opinion and support on social media. Additionally, you should always interact with comments, shares, and mentions as they relate to your food and services. The more your brand engages, the higher the chances are that more people will want to tag and interact with you.
The take-home message: social media is more important than ever right now, and by putting these best practices to work you’ll keep delivering the content that your customers crave.
Kristin Dyak, Digital Marketing Director, The Cyphers Agency
Kristin Dyak is Digital Marketing Director at The Cyphers Agency, an independent, full-service creative agency offering advertising, public relations and digital services to diverse regional and national clients. She has developed and executed all levels of digital campaigns, from establishing a brand-new social channel presence to promoting targeted audience engagements and calls-to-action, for a wide variety of restaurants, from national chains to regional multi-unit brands. To learn more, visit www.thecyphersagency.com