Social Media (SM) is now part of the weave of everyday life for billions of people. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare are an ingrained aspect of the way billions of people see and interact with the world. As aids to commerce, their potential is only just being realised, but we do know that they can be cheap, and incredibly effective for a broad swathe of industries. And few sectors are as susceptible to the magic of Social Media Marketing (SMM) as hospitality. After all, “social” is a word that captures the essence of the industry!
This article discusses the merits of various social media platforms, and gives useful tips on how to use SM to boost your venue’s business.
To SM or not to SM? No question…
Some hospitality providers resist embracing SM out of a fear that it’s a wild, anarchic space in which they can get hurt by their detractors, with or without justification. This argument suffers from a false premise; the truth is that whether you engage with the SM or not, your customers undoubtedly will, and they’ll be out there, praising you or pillorying you, come what may. Being involved in the SM enables you to know what they are saying about you, and to take steps to turn it to your advantage.
A Social Media Marketing expert speaks
Bepoz spoke to Sarah Turner of 4 Pines Brewery, in the Sydney suburb of Manly, who told us SMM is an integral part of the Brewery’s brand, and a crucial element in the success of the Brewery. The Brewery’s principal channels are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vimeo. In addition the Brewery operates its own Beer Club, to which patrons can subscribe and learn about new brews, events at the Brewery and so on.
All these channels, Sarah says, are important, but the stand-out is Facebook. “As well as its huge membership, Facebook is the most conducive to interacting with our customers. We can engage in meaningful conversations with our followers, a very powerful way of building our brand.”
What about strategy? Does 4 Pines Brewery have a formal strategy?
Says Sarah, “In the beginning our SMM campaign was very organic, and we didn’t really have a clear idea of what we were setting out to achieve. But over time, two things happened. Firstly, we began to risk over posting, and cross-posting – where different members of the team would post the same material. Clearly some discipline was required if we were to keep our messaging clear and avoid swamping our followers with low-value material.
Secondly, we found the medium itself was teaching us how to best use it – what sort of material was liked, and what people scrolled past. So yes, we began to develop a more orderly protocol around SMM. Our postings are far more focused and less serendipitous than in the early days, and we have a designated SM manager who controls the pace and volume of our postings and makes sure all follower posts are properly responded to.”
So was it easy to set up a SMM strategy?
“Our business has a very obvious weekly cycle – there’s the weekend, and then there’s the rest of the week. That sets the pace of our SMM strategy, sustaining our brand awareness during the quieter weekdays. Pretty much everything follows from that.”
Where should you direct the focus of your SM campaign? The ubiquity of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram means you do have to give it a focus of your attention.
As well as the mainstream SM, a number of specialist recommendation apps deserve your attention. An example is Foursquare which, after some years’ assiduous development, is now an effective recommendation tool for entertainment and hospitality seekers. Expect to see it and others like it featuring increasingly in people’s entertainment choices.
Social Media enables you to use their platform to interact and communicate with consenting members. While this may closely resemble, and have many of the benefits of advertising, you should strongly resist the temptation to use it that way. The power of these media derives in large part the consent to engage given by their members. That consent will be revoked if you reward your followers with overt advertising. Your goal should be to “inform, entertain, impress”. A busy hospitality venue has plenty of opportunities to capture images and videos that meet these criteria, and that reinforce the impression that they are a fun place to be.
Of course one thing a hospitality venue wants to do is alert its followers to forthcoming events. Advertising? Yes, but it escapes the censure of the follower because:
- The information content is high and legitimate because it alerts the follower to an event he or she might well be interested in.
- It’s couched in a feed which is leavened by other socially engaging material.
Your followers expect what they see to change, and do so fairly frequently. What you feed your followers must sustain the reward they receive for their decision to follow you. But the temptation to supply quantity at the expense of quality is one you should resist. If your followers see a stream of tepid posts just taking up space on their Facebook page, for instance, they will turn off. Post interesting stuff. Leave it there (not past events, of course!) until you’ve found some more interesting stuff to replace it. Never post “scroll-by” material. Scrolling-by is a hard habit to break.
Pictures, videos or text? Well, in a business about people, it’s no surprise that venues find that a high image and video content achieves the best results. Supporting text should be concise and well-written, however informal the tone.
Remember it’s a conversation
One crucial way in which SMM differs from advertising is that SMM really is a “conversation”. And like any good conversation, it benefits when both sides know they are being heard. You should look for any opportunity to remind your followers that you hear them. Consider consulting them over things like menu changes, or whether to add a pool table at the expense of some drinking space.