Facebook's Custom Audience Tool Is Big News For Restaurants

With over 1 billion total users and nearly 600 million daily users, it's likely that the majority of guests who eat at your restaurant are also active on Facebook. Chances are, if you’re reading The Daily Meal you’ve already created a Facebook Fan page for your own restaurant, where you post updates on a (semi) regular basis with the hopes that they’ll attract and retain a base of highly loyal Facebook fans. You’re right to focus on Facebook as a key marketing channel. With a larger Facebook following, you can drive traffic into the restaurant (the new offers feature makes this much easier), increase RSVPs to events, and engage existing customers to stay top of mind.


But if you’re like many of the restaurateurs we’ve spoken with over the past few years, the 1000’s of new fans you expected when you first got started probably haven’t flooded your page in the way that you’d initially hoped. As it turns out, converting satisfied restaurant guests into “like”-happy Facebook fans isn’t quite as easy as it seems, and successfully maintaining an active presence on Facebook can be a very time consuming process, with little guarantee of success (let’s face it, not many restaurant operators can accrue over 3.4 million fans like Applebee’s).


Fear not. Even if you’ve struggled in your previous attempts to build a solid online base of Facebook fans, a soon-to-be introduced Facebook advertising feature called “Custom Audiences” may just be the killer marketing tool that changes the way you build an audience on the world’s largest social network. Get ready to turn your reservation waitlist into the most powerful tool in your Facebook marketing arsenal.


What are “custom audiences” and how are they relevant to my restaurant’s Facebook page?

If you’re unfamiliar with Facebook’s Advertising tool, the way it works is fairly simple: it enables marketers to create and target the ads we all see on the right side of our newsfeed based on information we’ve told Facebook, such as our likes, interests, age, employer, and more. Brands can choose to show ads encouraging Facebook users to “like” their page (your goal in this case), or click on a link and visit their website. Similar to Google, most advertisers choose to pay on a per-click (or like) basis. Fairly straightforward, right? Although the current tool has fared decently for many different types of products, it’s been relatively limited in its’ ability to target ads to the individual level. With Custom Audiences, that’s all about to change.


Custom Audiences are a series of new options that enable you to target ads to individual people based on several different identifiers:


• Phone number
• Email address
• Facebook user ID


If you’re in the restaurant business (and even if you’re not), 2 of the 3 bullets above should jump off the page at you – specifically “phone number” and “email address”. Do you take reservations over the phone? Are guests required to provide you with a phone number to hold their table? If so, you’re already quietly amassing a list of paying customers that you can target with an ad to “like” your page on Facebook post-visit (and if you don’t already require a phone number to hold a table, you should start tonight!).


As for email addresses, do you take reservations via OpenTable or a similar online reservations service? The ability to export reservation email addresses for your own marketing purposes may seem useful enough in its’ own right, but in the context of Custom Audiences, the usefulness of these lists should be looked at in a whole new light. Compiling a long list of emails and publishing a weekly newsletter is no longer the only way to reach these people a second time; now you can simply upload their emails to Facebook and target them with ads to “like” your page.


The examples I provided above are just two locations where you already collect customer contact information that could be used to target potential fans directly on Facebook – you likely have many more. Custom Audiences are a potential game-changer for restaurant marketers building their presence on Facebook because they enable you to target people you already know to be customers – the people who are most likely to become your “fans”. Although the Custom Audiences feature is not yet publicly available to all Facebook advertisers, it’s currently being tested by a select group and is rumored to be made available for everyone to try by the end of the year. Do you plan on giving it a try?


In the comments below, please share your experience building a presence on Facebook. Do you think Custom Audiences could be a game-changer for restaurant marketing, or are they just one more way to waste time on Facebook? I look forward to hearing your thoughts!




Matt Hendrick leads the marketing team at Copilot. Follow him on Twitter at @Copilot.