Social media remains ‘missed opportunity’ for hospitality businesses

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Social media

Customers have come to rely on Facebook and Twitter as a convenient way of connecting with businesses
Customers have come to rely on Facebook and Twitter as a convenient way of connecting with businesses
More than one in 10 hotels, restaurants and pubs now generate up to half of all sales through social media, leaving the rest of the industry ‘missing a trick’ when it comes to maximising the potential of the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

That’s according to a new report from Barclays, based on a survey which found that nearly a third (29 per cent) of hospitality businesses across the UK directly attribute up to 25 per cent of all their sales to social media.

But in spite of this, the majority (60 per cent) of respondents only see ‘some’ or ‘limited’ opportunities in using social media tools to engage with would-be customers.

“The industry is missing a trick,” said Barclays’ head of hospitality and leisure Mike Saul. “Social media has blurred the line between personal and corporate communities - something that has been encouraged by consumers who now expect to be able to interact in an immediate and very personal way, not just with friends, but with their favourite - and not so favoured - brands.

Negative to positive

“This can create a very powerful feedback loop – if operators can successfully tap into these networks, both good and bad reviews can be used to their advantage. If a flight or dinner reservation is delayed for example, it’s easy for consumers to vent their frustration to the online world – the trick is being able to respond helpfully, turning a negative experience into a positive one. 

“Getting the strategy right is key.”

With estimates suggesting that over half of UK consumers now own a smartphone, and almost one in five have access to a tablet device, consumers have come to rely on networks like Facebook and Twitter and review websites such TripAdvisor to not only provide peer-to-peer recommendations but also as a convenient way to connect with businesses.

New customers

Supporting this view, more than two thirds (68 per cent) of those hospitality businesses currently using social media have reported that they have had a ‘positive’ or ‘very positive’ experience, attracting new customers, and receiving positive recommendations.

But the research goes on to show that a significant number of operators who ‘use’ social media, are not maximising its full potential; 44 per cent of business owners do have a presence on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, but admit they rarely use it.

Concerns over the amount of time social media takes to manage, the risks of negative publicity, and the technical skills required are putting operators off using these networks and platforms. Although more than half (58 per cent) of respondents believe the role of social media will increase in the sector over the next 12 months.

Building loyalty

Saul added: “Social media is everywhere, and for many businesses it not only influences and directly generates sales, but provides a personal link with consumers, building loyalty and driving repeat footfall. This is vital when consumers are increasingly cost-conscious and discerning about where they choose to spend their hard earned cash.

“Just having a presence on social media is not enough – there needs to be a strategy driving it. Consideration needs to be given to how the information generated through social media is used, and we’re already seeing canny operators merging such initiatives into their wider marketing campaigns, targeting potential customers in a more focused manner.

“However, the industry has a long way to go - social media has a lot of potential and ignoring it would be a mistake.”

Barclays’ research interviewed a representative sample of 126 UK hospitality and leisure operators, across the hotel, travel and leisure space. 

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Our business is to manage the social media for managers who don't have the time to do it themselves

Posted by Ellie Bennett,

I set my company, Truffle PR, up just after Twitter had launched. Originally we provided PR services with a side of social media but with the growth of social media, particularly platforms such as Twitter which every consumer seems to make use of on a daily basis, our business organically grew within the social media sector.

We've made it our job to post updates on behalf of our clients, and to engage with established and new customers using a range of techniques including geo-location software for our venue-based clients. Through simple conversation - ensuring all the while that the content and interactions we push are on brand with the company - our clients have experienced a growth in footfall from customers who, had it not been for Twitter/Facebook/etc, would never have heard about them. Now they have a customer base that is ever-growing.

It's such an exciting time and Truffle wouldn't exist had it not been for these new B2C relationship platforms!

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Social Media Strategy & Engagement- Let Us do it for you

Posted by Penny Scambler Edmonds,

The Connections Companies have invested heavily in understanding social media in hospitality to attract people to businesses. The growth in on-line communities has been rapid over the last 2 years however Owners and Managers have found it difficult to see the synergy with existing marketing methods and time to become familiar with social networks is always limited. "The Customer comes first in my restaurant" we hear them cry. Yes but have they checked in and did they tell everyone what a great lunch they had at your Restaurant? Steering, Engaging and educating Managers has become a large part of our business which has been forced to adapt to a socially engaged world.

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Most businesses do not understand the Social part

Posted by Ross Boardman,

There are usually three types of social media users:
1 Because the web guy says everyone is using it
2 The broadcasters
3 People who get it

Sadly too many businesses, especially in the restaurant industry, don't get it. Take some time to look at the average use of twitter or facebook by a competitor. Are the vast majority of their messages about them?

To get it right you should be looking to air information that is over use to your followers. Ideally 95% should be this way. If you post only 5 tweets a day, that means you can tell them about your menu change once every 4 days.

Take a look at profiles like satbains1 or HardensBites for people who seem to get the balance right

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