Pubs and social media: can the pub sector grow by riding the digital wave?

Image of pub for post by social media agency Clarity Comms on pubs and social media

Pubs and social media: can the pub sector grow by riding the digital wave?

When we talk about pubs and social media we get that oft-repeated line that pubs are the ‘real’ social media, that people need to get back into the real world, to socialise with their mates rather than virtual friends. The reality is, of course, that we use social channels to enhance physical interactions.

The pub sector is an important part of the economy and its contribution to tax revenues is equally vital.  Yet the pub sector remains in long-term decline with pubs continuing to close at an alarming rate. Is it time the sector embraced social media to build communities and engage with drinkers?

When it comes to marketing, the industry is very traditional in its approach. What can it learn from its consumers? We set out to investigate how pub drinkers were using social media. Is social media a tool for planning and talking about the humble pub? We used social monitoring tool Pulsar to take a look.

We thought that this would be a popular topic so we ran the search over two periods in August 2014. We analysed the volume of conversations, where they were taking place and what the focus of the conversation was.

Social media and pubs: tracking social conversations

So are people using social to talk about the boozer? Of course they are. We tracked 104,006 conversations over the seven days. This means that on a monthly basis there are approximately 450,000 conversations about pubs. Clearly then the notion that social media and pubs are mutually exclusive is nonsense. The conversations are taking place on Facebook and Twitter as shown below.

Image showing channels used by consumers to discuss social media and pubs

Twitter accounts for 57% of the mentions compared to 43% on Facebook. We also looked at where these conversations were taking place. We found 9,003 mentions that we tagged to a location. This was under 9% of all conversations. This shows that despite the prevalence of location services either on smartphones or tracked through browsers, the vast majority of consumers DON’T enable these functions.

Table showing top 10 cities for post on social media and pubs

London topped the chart of top cities for pubs and social media with 34.2% of all location-based conversations. Manchester was a distant second with 6.7% followed by Glasgow, Liverpool and Bristol. Birmingham under-indexed coming in at 25 on the list below Brighton, Cardiff, Hull and even Harpenden!

The topic of these conversations is also of interest. Can we establish intent from social mentions? We think so. We applied filters based on three scenarios: going to the pub for food, going to the pub for an event (hen do, party, leaving do, etc) and going to the pub as a starting point (before going to a gig, a movie, etc). The overall results are shown below:

Chart showing consumer intent for post on social media and pubs

A total of 45,161 mentions revealed some form of intent about the consumers plans or night out (during or after the event). There are some positives here for pubs: 78% of the intent-related mentions feature the pub as destination for food or a night out.

The remaining 22% saw the pub as the start of an evening that carried on elsewhere, for example a meal elsewhere, or a visit to the theatre or cinema.

Pubs and social media – what have we learnt?

A cursory look at pubs and social media shows that drinkers are talking about their plans and their experiences of pubs. Consumers are also engaging with pubs via Twitter with plenty of pubs now visible on Facebook, Twitter or on both channels.

There are plenty of high profile or awarding winning pubs such as The Church in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter who are working hard to build their social communities. There are also smaller chains making great use of social media. Yet much of the sector’s forays are tentative, probably a sideline for a team member and not a core part of their marketing strategy.

If the sector is to reverse its decline it has to meet the needs of the 21st century pub goer. Drinking and eating are activities that lend themselves to social media, and the pub sector will need to embrace it more fully, more strategically and more creatively, to reach and engage with digitally-savvy punters.


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