If you are an average consumer of social media, you likely have a few of your favorite local restaurants in your feed. And since “you eat with your eyes first,” visual stimulus in social media is an important and effective marketing tool for restaurants. Do you find yourself getting painfully hungry when you see an image of delicious burger on Instagram or a perfectly described daily special on Twitter?

That’s one of the many reasons marketers for restaurants find social media such an effective tool. David Yusen, director of marketing and public relations for Heavy Restaurant Group (Purple, Barrio, Lot No. 3, The Commons, and Cast Iron Studio), handles all of the company’s corporate social media. “I almost feel guilty, because I get to promote what I like. It’s stuff people want. It’s food, it’s drinks, it’s good times. Social media is so visual and fun, and everything we do fits into that, so it makes my job that much easier,” he said.

Woodinville Fried Chicken Wednesday.

Woodinville Fried Chicken Wednesday.

Betina Finley, who runs SocTok, her own social media marketing strategy company, does social media for Moksha and Le Grand Bistro Americain, among other local clients. She agrees about the importance of visual medium for marketing restaurants. “You want to give people as many opportunities as possible to see your food and the atmosphere you present. Personalizing it is important too. If there’s a party, or some sort of event going on, you want to be able show that too, so you can demonstrate that you do more than breakfast, lunch, or dinner,” she said.

Social media provides HRG with two main functions – promote what the different brands are doing, whether it’s events, new menu items, restaurant updates, discounts, etc, and to add another channel for guests to interact with the brands.

Yusen runs Facebook pages and Twitter profiles for all of HRG’s restaurants through the corporate office, but the company directive for Instagram is that each individual restaurant runs its own account. Yusen said he wants customers to have get a “slice of life” from each of the individual restaurants, and Instagram is the perfect platform for that. “We want to show our guests what we’re doing, show them what’s going on behind the scenes. Here’s the soup of the day. Take a photo of the bartender and say ‘Hey, Mike’s behind the bar tonight, come grab a drink from him.’ Every Tuesday the staff at Purple Kirkland does a wine class. We do menu testing and development. We want to show our guests stuff like that.”

But having an extra avenue for communication with customers can be a challenge. Like any company with a social media voice, HRG gets its fair share of praise from customers, but there are complaints and negative reviews to deal with, too. But Yusen embraces the ability to connect with those who need a problem fixed in the restaurants. “When we can join in the conversation and interact with guests, people really enjoy it. When a brand reaches out to a guest and says hello or acknowledges them, there’s value in that experience,” he said.

Do you follow local restaurants on social media? Who does it well? Share your favorites in the comments.