Every restaurant, bar, pub, and show club wants to leverage social media. These media are free services; the people who choose to follow your business want to hear from you; and when done well, they can replace a lot of expensive, targeted advertising. Even better if your message makes your clientele tell others to follow you: valuable savings, exciting events, exclusive shows, and a sense of belonging turn triers into regulars. Assuming that is the case—that you don’t spam them with pointless noise but only post conscientiously, with “news they can use”—then social media will be a win-win investment for any business owner.
Unfortunately, all of your competitors are aware of these benefits and opportunities; and they are flooding Twitter feeds, Facebook timelines, and email inboxes with their best efforts and offers. Couple that with the fact that many users of social media only check occasionally, and your problem as an advertiser becomes one of distinguishing your announcements and offers from the rest.
Setting aside good copy writing and compelling visuals and links (a topic, perhaps, for a future article) the single best way to make your message stand out is, in a word, timing. This article presents what I feel is an optimal schedule of post timing for common attractions in the service and show industries, to maximize viewers and thus guests.
Note: I am assuming your principle target market is nine-to-fivers, not swing-, split- or third-shift workers or service industry employees themselves. I feel, however, that once you’ve grasped the basics I present here, you will be able to apply the timing principles to clientele with different work hours.
Specials include food, drink, and possibly value-adds like free parking or valet service.
Some establishments vary specials frequently, and it is those that will benefit the most from social media. If you, however, have locked into a routine that is rarely changed, treat it more like a regular event (below).
When do you think about where you might like to go for lunch or dinner? Obviously, around lunch or dinner time! So this one is, on the surface, a no-brainer: post around 11 AM for lunch specials and around 5 PM for dinner specials. That’s when people are checking smartphones and making plans with others.
But that is just the low-hanging fruit. Look to how the major chains advertise on television, for even more good timing tips. Do you serve breakfast (or brunch on the weekends)? Then post the specials at around 10 PM on weekdays and perhaps a bit later on weekends—you know when your guests end their Friday and Saturday nights… or mornings!
First, I would suggest that you include drink specials when you post your food specials; but use good judgement! If your clientele favors a pint or martini with lunch, then by all means include it with the 11 AM post. If you’re more family-oriented, include drink specials only with the dinner specials post, perhaps only on Fridays and Saturdays.
If you run a show club and open for happy hour, or if you are a dining establishment that has live music during or after dinner, the 5 PM timing is also good for you, but absolutely include drink specials when you post to promote an evening’s event. So, odds are good that you will have food, drink, and the event in a single post at that time.
Note: I am a resident in a state where there is no happy hour, per se: drink specials must be honored from open to close to reduce binge drinking during rush hour (kind of makes sense, no?). If your local laws differ, then by all means be sure to post about an hour before a limited-duration happy hour.
There is a vast variety of events that can be hosted at service or show venues: live music, a band line-up, pub trivia, singles nights, ladies nights, poker clubs. The list is as diverse as the creativity of venue owners and the cultural richness of your region.
Many events have common timing objectives, however. You want the punters to know about them as soon as possible; you need to remind them as they get closer; and you want to catch the eye of someone who is at loose ends and is looking for fun. That said, regularly occurring events behave much like daily specials: more than one or two posts about each event will be perceived as pushy or desperate.
I characterize a major event as a one-off event booked well in advance for which people typically plan and budget. Tickets usually must be bought, sometimes early to be sure they don’t sell out; babysitters must be scheduled, sometime early to be sure they won’t be out; and reservations must be made for dinner, to complete the big night out.
These are the best times to post information about major events:
- When the event is booked: Get the news out as early as possible. As for the time of day to post, most nine-to-fivers do not actually check their feeds during the work day (unless planning for a get-together that very day, as with specials above). So post either in the early morning as people check in before starting their day, or just after work hours as people get home and catch up, but not both! Whichever works with your schedule. For example, a show venue might post before locking up in the wee hours; a restaurant might post before the dinner rush (if applicable, as an addendum to the night’s specials post).
Note: For the date timings below that do not specify a time, pick the time of day as with this date timing.
- The day before tickets go on sale: Your fans will want to be ready at the sales web site or window, ready to reserve their access. Don’t make them miss out!
- Two hours before tickets go on sale: Get folks excited and remind those who forgot to get ready. In many cases, this will entail an early morning post, as ticket outlets often open for sales around 10 AM. Don’t sleep in!
- One week before the event: Everyone with advance tickets already knows, sure; so use this post to both inform and build anticipation. Perhaps offer a value-add to the post: a link to a popular or evocative song by the (headlining) performer(s); a recent addition to the line-up; or even a joke, if you can manage humor. Don’t let anyone seeing the post think, “I know, I know! STFU, already!” **clicks Unsubscribe**
- The day of the event: Work out the time of day that best suits your principle demographic for the event, asking yourself when they will be checking their feeds for something to do tonight. Generally, I recommend around 5 PM (in conjunction with your specials post, as I mentioned above).
- Near the end of the penultimate act: Nothing will excite the curious browser as much a picture (or short video) of your venue heaving and shaking the rafters! As a bonus, you’re not likely to be spamming your attendees… and if you are, if they’re staring at their smartphones instead of the act… well, take note of that and bring it up with whomever is in charge of bookings at the next meeting.
- NEVER again: Yes, I said it: posts about how great the show was or how packed you were will more-likely cost you goodwill than behave as a morning-after kiss to your attendees. Nope, nah. Not worth it. Post, perhaps, to the band’s page or feed to thank them; and let any knock-on views see you not as advertising but as conscientious.
No two major events are the same, and so no hard-and-fast timings will work for every situation. Adjust the above accordingly, while always keeping in mind that your posts should be of value to your guests and you should value your guest’s time more than their dollars!
Much like food and drink specials, regular events can become repetitious to the point of irritation, if not timed effectively and used sparingly.
In general, include the pitch and details of the event with your 5 PM specials post, both so that the otherwise unoccupied folks can be reminded and so that those who might be put off by the event will know to pass you by that evening. While the latter might seem detrimental to the night’s takings, trust me: a new or fledgling customer that would find such activity an irritant rather than a compliment will be unhappy that you did not inform them of it as you enticed them with your chef’s latest masterpiece or $1-off well drinks.
Finally, if a regular event has established a following and become virtually a part of your business identity, consider splitting it off into its own page or feed, and encourage folks to join that one before and after the event for several weeks. When the new page or feed has gained traction, limit posts on your primary feed to very irregular reminders, for customers whose interests might have changed over time.
Succeed With Grace
In closing, much of the above advice focuses on a general principle: use social media to bring value to your guests, not to bring revenue to your establishment. The former will guarantee the latter, so long as you respect the most valuable assets that your customers have: time and attention.