Before hiring any social media manager or company, try this for your bar / restaurant (or any retail establishment). Hire a photographer to be on location during your busy times, who will capture the action in the venue and post to social media. The problem I hear about from my clients and other bar/restaurant operators is not about HOW to post on social media, but WHAT to post. Hiring a social media agency or manager does nothing to generate exciting, original posting content! The best content for any retail business social media accounts are the cool, fun things that happen inside the venue – but you have to capture them live! In addition to my bar/restaurant/beverage consulting firm (that includes social media consulting), I own a photo/video event services company that shoots over 400 events per year. I’ve developed quite a few techniques for utilizing photographers, and best practices for restaurant/bar content capture and sharing. Here’s a guide for getting a good program in place to create a dominant social media presence for a venue:
- Personality is most important in hiring photographers. To get good photos the photographer has to be able to make customers feel comfortable and want to have fun when taking pictures. No creeps! Nobody boring or low energy!
- Search your staff first for a photographer. There’s a lot of creative types in the service industry. Someone who knows the venue, staff and customers is ideal. A regular may be a good photographer or know one, so ask them!
- Make sure the photographer fits your customer profile. As closely as possible you want the photographer to be in your ideal client demographic, so as to better relate to your concept and your best customers.
- Make sure the photographer is available and happy to work during the peak periods of the business.
- Have the photographer check in with venue private party coordinators and the hostess to learn about birthday parties and other special customer events in the venue for good photo opportunities.
- The work flow should be for photographer to sweep the venue engaging customers and capturing images, then go to an unobtrusive area to edit and upload images. This should be a location where they can still see most of the room in case something exciting occurs that should be captured. This alternating work flow allows time for quick editing, instant uploading and prevents overkill of the photographer being on the floor too much, annoying people and running out of good images to capture. I suggest 50% of time on the floor 50% off, and running time can depend on what’s happening, size of crowd etc. Don’t bother scheduling photographers on slow nights, it’s a waste.
- Before hiring the photographer, ask them for photos of groups having fun and photos of food and drinks. If they don’t have much to show, have them come in on a night and shoot a live audition. Work with them and watch how they relate to customers, then look at their work. Personality and speed are more important than super high quality photography. The photos and video need to be attractive and eye catching, but don’t have to be masterpieces. For example food does not have to look like a restaurant chain advertisement; yummy is good enough. Skills shooting in a dimmer light level is important. Wedding photographers are great candidates for this as they know how to engage with clients but often they work Saturdays which is most venues’ best night. But winter is off season in northern areas so that creates some opportunities.
- The photographer needs to wear a lanyard with an ID badge so customers know it’s a representative of the venue and not some creepy picture taker!
- Make sure the photographer can also shoot video with their camera and is comfortable doing this. Video is equally important to photography in social media.
- Have a quiet area of the bar or restaurant where customer wanting to do testimonials, happy birthday messages or other positive short videos can be captured. These are priceless!
- Only use photographers with an active social media presence. They need to walk the walk not just talk the talk. They must demonstrate their knowledge by having a presence on every social media channel where your business is active.
- Have a conversation about the image the business needs to portray online to drive sales. Make sure the photographer “gets” what type of photos and videos should go on line and which should be deleted. Emphasize quality over quantity! For those who are interested I offer an extensive list of criteria and a training guide I use for event photography and videography.
- Have the photographer post instantly, with no management review process. Social media sharing thrives in the moment. There’s no time for a manager or owner to go through all the images, so it’s key to have a photographer with good judgment (see #12). If the photographer can do some filters and special effects quickly that’s great, but let them know speed is priority 1. Management should look at their accounts daily and take down anything that is not appropriate. This should be rare with the right shooter and training criteria.
- For instant posting it’s best for the photographer to have a camera with Wi-Fi or other connectivity built in. For example I use a Canon EOS with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi built in so photos go right to my smart phone for fast editing and posting. Forget posting the next day – that’s an obsolete approach.
- If the venue has a larger TV matrix system several TVs can be dedicated to uploaded photos from the current day and past days – an ever changing collage of photos. The social media explosion is proof positive that people love to look at photos of themselves and their friends!
- Give the photographer hashtags or other tags and keywords that can be included with photos, that fit your marketing needs.
- You need heads up, talented, dependable, good personalities for this job, so don’t cheap out!
- The best restaurant social media accounts I’ve seen have a lot of owner personal involvement. If possible, ownership should be personally captured interacting with customers, hosting short videos and posting everything to active personal social media sites. This is the gold standard.
- Whenever possible, the photographer should caption the images when posting, with AT LEAST the venue name and taggable names of the people in the photos or video. This is key for sharing and viral action. How this is done varies from channel to channel. Customers giving their names should be entered automatically in a contest for a generous prize so they have a chance to win something for sharing their names. If they don’t want to that’s fine, don’t push it.
- Every customer should get a simple business card with a link to view the photos and download or share.
- Don’t just shoot customer and food/beverage photos. Remember the staff is a huge part of any good venue’s appeal. If the photographer has a good personality the staff will engage and you’ll get a lot of fun photos of staff with each other and with customers. Let the staff tag themselves. Don’t auto tag them as many staff members are worried about stalkers, their full time day job etc. I’ve seem many programs fall apart due to mishandling staff involvement. Owners tend to assume staff members want to promote themselves online at their hospitality jobs, and will BE the social media department for the venue. This is wishful thinking and I’ve never seen it happen. Staff can be a part of a program run by the venue; they will never be your prime social media drivers. FYI short cut takers.
- Have the photographer do head shots for all staff they can use on their own. Everyone needs one! Also have the photographers shoot general room shots, empty and full, along with B Roll video of the venue. These may or may not be good enough for advertising, media or private party brochures, but it’s a free throw to get some generic shots when the photographer is there anyway.
- Have more than 1 photographer in rotation, and have a back up every night. Work with an agency if you have to. Marketing through social media is just as important as any other job. You wouldn’t have no hostess, don’t miss a busy night with your photographer. That will be the night something amazing happens and you’ll miss it!
- Have a sign posted as people enter the venue that they may be recorded or photographed and entry constitutes agreement to share their image. I have some good ones just ask me if needed. If anyone contacts you objecting to their image being on social media, take it down right away, and ask them to confirm by email that their complaint has been resolved.
- Make sure bands and entertainers sign a waiver allowing their images, audio and video to be used for venue promotion.
- The photographer needs to sign a contractor waiver and agree they are responsible for their own equipment and anything that happens relating to them while at the venue. It’s best if they have insurance but most do not.
- Run your plan by a local attorney to see if there are any restrictions or risks in your local area that need to be considered.
If you have a photographer shooting and posting photos and video on every busy night, I am 100% sure you will have the best social media presence among your competitors. Very few are going the extra mile to do this right, so it’s a huge potential competitive advantage.
I’m happy to help design your program just contact me here. Happy shooting!