Social listening does exactly what it says on the tin. From Twitter to Instagram, via Facebook, TripAdvisor and various platforms in between, it’s the conversation every operator should be part of to ensure their finger is on the pulse when it comes to customer feedback. Done well, it allows operators to track and respond to conversations about their brand, while offering the ability to monitor what customers are saying about competitors.
Current estimates put adult Facebook users in the UK at a staggering 79% of the online population, almost half (47%) are Twitter-happy and 41% are on Instagram. In its most recent Restaurant Marketing Report, TripAdvisor stated that, in 2017, 85% of consumers referred to reviews on its site before making a restaurant booking. That’s pretty compelling. But how do operators ensure customers read what they want them to know? A great review comes from a great experience – and it starts with what’s already online.
Social media channels are an easy route for operators to research a wide and very relevant audience – from tech-native millennials to the growing army of silver surfers. In addition to encouraging reviewers to post great reports and attract attention with photos, it’s important to listen to what they’re saying. The best part is this valuable feedback is free!
Firstly, operators must establish who their regulars are – ask staff and study sales data to ascertain whether the brand is a particular draw for families, older couples or groups. It’s then simple to monitor any particular group online and listen to the conversation. Searches should be specific: include relevant demographics, brand name, cuisine, specialities, promotions and location.
Following some of the most prolific profiles within your target market will reveal trends that can inform larger business decisions. For example, seeing what customers like on Facebook or photos they interact with on Instagram will highlight popular themes that can influence how you operate. This exercise shines a guiding light on market desires and how best to respond.
I’m well aware that the sheer volume of data can seem too daunting to even attempt to cut through but, as operators know, the ‘ostrich manoeuvre’ is never sensible. Online conversations are happening and it doesn’t make sense to bury your head in the sand, ignoring these key insights. To navigate through the noise, keep research questions specific to help focus results.
For example, if the sales data and the serving teams both report an upswing in groups of females with an increase in orders for healthier options, perhaps the next social listening session should ask: “What do women aged 25-35 want from a restaurant?” This should direct the research to the right online groups and key search terms, revealing trends, customer favourites, motivations and buying habits.
It’s not difficult but, initially, it takes time and effort to understand customers. However, once the groundwork is done, a small amount of time each week will keep the operator in the know and the brand at the forefront of the right customer’s mind.
Eloise Sheppard is managing director at Call Systems Technology and Restaurant magazine's guest technology editor