Social media and restaurants: making social work in hospitality
Dining out is and inherently social activity so what’s stopping restaurants from embracing social media? Many in the sector will have seen the data on social, internet usage and the power of TripAdvisor. But what does social media marketing really offer for restaurant owners? Can it deliver a meaningful return for businesses? More importantly, does it put bums on seats? The answer to all of these is yes.
Here are some key tips on how to make social media marketing work for restaurant and hospitality businesses:
Think it through
The first thing then is to consider the why. Strategy is everything. You wouldn’t open a new venue without significant research, thought and planning. Social media is no different. Is the channel right for your specific customers? If so, what can you do to enhance your customer relationships?
The flipside of strategy is evaluation. Digital and social channels are hugely measurable. You can track everything from engagement (comments, shares, retweets, etc) through to changes in behaviour. This can include increases in positive reviews or intent (changes in use of phrases such as “book” or “visit”) as well as clicks to your site or booking pages.
Measurement is vital, so set objectives and monitor performance. However, don’t divorce these from the core business. Customers generally share very good and very bad experiences.
Set your goals
What do you want social media to deliver for the business? Social can deliver a range of benefits such as:
- Reach: Social media can help you promote your business, your new menu launches, PR stories and charitable work. You can also find new customers through Facebook and Twitter advertising. These require investment but can deliver great results.
- Brand building: one of the big benefits with social media is that it’s a conversation and a chance to drive long-term dialogue with your customers. Engaging with them and getting them to talk about their experiences also promotes you to new audiences.
- Filling up those seats: hospitality is a perishable trade. Empty seats are lost revenue. Use social to promote availability from those last minute cancellations. Tease your new menus. And give your social fans access to tastings and other events.
Michelin starred restaurant Story uses its Twitter feed to communicate last-minute availability.
Listen to your customers
Even if you have yet to set up your Twitter account or a Facebook page there will still be conversations taking place online: on TripAdvisor, on food blogs and from consumers tweeting about their experiences. You should be keeping an eye on all of these channels and be prepared to talk to customers whether its good or not so good feedback. There are plenty of free tools out there to get you started.
Put in the effort
Harnessing social media can deliver for any business. Success requires effort and commitment. It’s no good starting off on Twitter or Facebook, then losing interest. Social media channels need to be championed within the business and given time to develop so that you find the niche that works for your brand. You also need to be consistent, managing expectations when you start conversations with clients.
To sum up
- Think strategically,
- Don’t do social media begrudgingly
- Recognise that it’s a long-term commitment.
- Take missteps in your stride.
Done well, social media marketing helps you develop stronger relationships with customers, increases your commercial success and connects you to your customers.
Of course it’s underpinned by your core offer. If you run a great bar, restaurant or hotel, it can only enhance what you’re doing.
Hospitality is inherently social, and people love talking about food and drink online. Your social media marketing should get them talking about you.
* A version of this post first appeared on the Big Hospitality site.