David Hayden is a decades-long bar & restaurant industry vet. He started off as a server way back when (a job he got by wearing a suit and tie to his interview for a line cook position), and since then has done just about everything you could do in the industry, including writing a book called Tips2: Tips for Improving your Tips.
But starting 15 years ago or so he settled into a niche: helping bars and restaurants with their digital presences, specifically their websites (he's designed hundreds), branding, SEO, and social media. In this conversation we mined his vast knowledge of social media for tips on how bars and restaurants can successfully run their social media accounts.
His Kansas City-based company, Hospitality Formula, helps clients across the country, but the client he works most closely with is an arcade bar called Up - Down, which has locations throughout the midwest: Des Moines, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Nashville, St. Louis, and Oklahoma City. He runs the social media presences for each and every location, and does so to great success.
Below you'll find his insights about social media and branding, tactical advice on how, when, and what bars and restaurants should post, as well as some philosophical musings about branding: who is your brand? What kind of music would your brand like? (Hint—if you don't know the answer to that question, it's time to do some branding work.)
Why do so many bars and restaurants fail at social media?
This is no secret: because there are a million other things that come up—a server doesn't come in, there's a fire in the kitchen, a customer just threw up in the bathroom.
With all that going on, it's little wonder social media gets pushed to the backburner, as David explains:
(Here's a link to info about the Stephen Covey Urgent/Important matrix David mentions in this clip—it can definitely be a helpful tool.)
How to get up and running with an awesome social media presence: all the tips you need in under 2 minutes
Here David lays out what a bar or restaurant should do if they're looking to kick start their social media program:
- Post consistently. If you're just starting to take social media seriously, David recommends a Monday, Wednesday, Thursday schedule (at the very least).
- If you can, put $10/day into that Thursday post from Thursday evening through Saturday evening.
- Be honest about your availability: it probably makes sense for you to find someone on your team to take the social media reins. And in David's experience, that person will be thrilled to make a few extra bucks and get the experience.
Advanced how-to: How David uses micro-targeting to advertise posts to exactly who's interested (clicking that "Boost Post" button is absolutely useless)
As you can hear in this clip, David knows his audience to an insane level of specificity and can define that within Facebook ads manager:
Facebook fans don't matter anymore. Focus on engagements with your posts, and that means posting what people actually want to see!
It sounds obvious when you say it, but when you post, you've gotta make sure you're optimizing for engagements. Here David describes Facebook's shift away from page likes, what not to post, and gives an example of what you should try to post, complete with all-Canadian references to the Tragically Hip, and the McKenzie Brothers.
"The holy grail": honestly and consistently conveying your brand to your guests.
Here David goes philosophical on branding and then gets tactical on how to do it.
Spoiler: you need to be able to talk about and know your brand inside and out. If your brand was a person, what music would they like? What clothes would they wear? What would their favorite swear word be?
If you don't know the answer to those questions, then you need to sit down, have some conversations with either yourself or your management team, and figure it out.
And after finishing up his philosophical musings, David describes why a consistent, well expressed brand is the holy grail:
Hot tips: employee recognition posts and a slick way to drive page visits (and thus expand your audience)
Tip 1: David explains why employee recognition posts can be a serious engagement driver:
Tip 2: David describes a maneuver he recently used following a "Grown up Prom" event that helped him expand his qualified audience for his advertising:
👉 Are there any topics you'd like us to cover in this interview series?
If so, please send us an email and let us know. Our goal with these interviews is to provide helpful, tactical information for all aspects of business for bars, restaurants, and taprooms with rotating selections.
Thanks for reading!