User-generated content develops intimate engagement with patrons

BYOB, CDR, DSC, F&B, FOH, HMR, MSR, NRA, PPP, QSR, RGM, SRS. There are many acronyms relating to the restaurant industry. Now you can add another one: UGC (user-generated content).

So what exactly is UGC? It’s online content created by the people, for the people. This can include photos, videos, tweets, pins, testimonials, blog posts, reviews and more.

UGC is important to your restaurant business because it comes from an unbiased third party, making it more credible in the eyes of the public. This ties into a psychological concept known as “social proof.” Basically, this means that people make decisions based on the decisions of those around them.

UCG also is more cost effective when compared to your own website, paid advertising, email campaigns or publicity. After all, it’s basically free.

The only drawback is that you have no control over UCG. Or do you? While you may have no control over what’s actually written, you can influence what will be shared by providing an optimal customer experience beforehand.

Social media sites are a powerful tool for building your brand. If you don’t have a presence on the most popular sites — Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr — you are missing out to your competitors, who likely already have strong followings. You should also create content that’s extremely shareable.

For restaurants, Instagram is an important social media platform. That’s because food first appeals to our visual sense. There are many ways to make your food presentations pop. Add brightness and freshness with a coulis for plate decoration. Garnish the plate with gherkins or show off a great melted cheese by using raclette cheese.

With that in mind, you may want to incentivize your patrons to share their photos on social media. Create a contest or offer giveaways to promote social engagement.

Word of mouth has always been important to people when it comes to choosing a restaurant. Today, it’s word of mouse, or online reviews, that can make or break an eating establishment.

Whether the UCG is positive or negative, it increases the reach of your brand. How you handle negative comments can also impact how your brand is perceived. Remember, disgruntled patrons, are more likely to post about their experience than satisfied customers. It’s your goal to create such a great dining experience that your patrons will want to share it with others.

UCG is all about creating community. It’s an opportunity for you to engage with customers and prospective customers and build on that community once they are in your establishment.