This article was first published in the December 2011/January 2012 issue of Florida Restaurant & Lodging Magazine.
Social media may be one of the newer kids on the Internet marketing block but it has rapidly taken off over the last year. Just about everyone, from your neighbor to your parents, has a social media profile.
But social media is not just for individuals who want to share pictures of their pets or post random comments. Businesses are using it to their advantage too.
According to the latest research by StrongMail, 57% of businesses plan to increase their spending in Social Media in 2011, second only to Email marketing (65%) and ahead of Search Marketing (41%).
Hotels and Restaurants Can Benefit Greatly from Social Media if Done Right
Hotels and restaurants are some of those businesses realizing that they too can use social media to market like never before. But most are unsure how to best utilize the different social media networks and how to focus on the ones that will work for them.
If that’s you, you’re not alone. But first things first – let’s talk about the three social media platforms that are ideal for hotels and restaurants and how you can use them to generate revenue to your place of business.
So What Is The Social Media Trifecta for Hotels and Restaurants?
There are several types of social media platforms on the market but the key is finding the right mix for the hotel and restaurant industry. We’ve done the leg work for you upfront and determined the following three to be ideal for the food and lodging industry:
Each one of these social media sites can stand alone or be integrated to work together for a more powerful marketing punch. They will help you brand your company, provide a platform for meaningful dialogue between you and your audience, and set your business apart from the competition that may have yet to harness the full potential of an effective social media campaign.
Number One: Facebook Fans Provide Free Word of Mouth
Many people are familiar with Facebook, but for those that aren’t - Facebook is a social networking service and website that requires people to register before accessing the site. After they register, they can create a personal profile, add other people as friends, and exchange messages, including automatic notifications when they update their profile. Additionally, Facebook users may join common-interest user groups organized by workplace, school, college, or other characteristics, and they can categorize their friends into lists.
While individual users sign-up for personal profiles, businesses set up fan pages to help promote their brand. Then, by word of mouth, internal promotion on Facebook (i.e. suggestions, shares, recommendations, messages, and ads), or through outside promotion, the business encourages current and prospective customers to visit and “Like” their page. It is really a type of cooperative marketing that the world has never seen before.
People who are fans of a hotel or restaurant will use the Facebook feature to "Like" the page. When they do this, the action appears on the person’s "Wall." Friends of the individual who "Liked" the page will see that activity as well, which may cause them to check out the restaurant or hotel Facebook page themselves and “Like” it too.
Even if they do not visit the Facebook page right away, it will at least signal to them that this company is trusted by a friend of theirs, thus making it a very positive “word of mouth” marketing tool for restaurants and hotels. With the number of “friends” that most people have on their Facebook account, the fact that someone “Likes” a business can be seen by hundreds of people.
Facebook is free to use and many hotels and restaurants have seen massive success by using this form of social media.
Number Two: Offer Promos on Twitter & See What People are Saying About Your Brand
Twitter is an online social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, informally known as "tweets". People can also follow their brand of choice in the hopes of receiving the inside scoop on specials, promotions, tips, news, and more.
To meet their audiences’ needs, many restaurants and hotels have started using Twitter to Tweet about new menu items, travel deals, promotions, and to solicit feedback from customers. From the consumer’s angle, it also gives them free-range, whether happy or disgruntled, to publicly give their stamp of approval or voice their complaints.
Twitter directly connects businesses to the heartbeat of their consumers. By actively listening for mentions of your brand name and staying in front of potential and current customers, you are in a better position to manage your online reputation and provide better customer service to your clientele.
It’s that kind of customer engagement that makes Twitter an invaluable tool for businesses, in particular hotels and restaurants.
But you and your fans are not the only ones listening. The competition is also out there lurking to see who they can scoop up with a more impressive deal. And since Twitter breaks down the walls of communication and cuts out the marketing middleman, it’s important that your business establishes itself as a popular and favorable company on Twitter so potential customers will turn to you for their primary needs and services.
There are a lot of great benefits and potential leads that you can get from using Twitter, so make sure you use your status updates to alert followers about your most recent blog posts, business news that could affect customers, industry tips or trends, and of course retweets from others who have mentioned your business in a positive light.
You never know who is out there monitoring and following your brand name and Twitter can be the first step towards a life-long business relationship.
Number Three: Foursquare Check-Ins Give Customers Instant Access to Deals
Foursquare is a location-based social networking website that allows people to "check-in" at venues using a mobile website, smart phone, tablet, text messaging or a device-specific application by selecting from a list of venues the application locates nearby.
The location is determined by GPS hardware in the mobile device or the network location provided by the application. Each check-in can award the person "badges" for best check-ins such as the “Swarm” badge for attending a large event (i.e. conferences) where 50+ people are also checked-in, “Pizzaiolo” for pizza connoisseurs who have had slices from 20 different pizza places, and “JetSetter” for people who have checked-in to at least 5 airports. The badges then decorate their Foursquare profile for those looking for bragging rights.
More importantly, people also check-in on Foursquare to receive a deal or promotion they can redeem for a discount on food or hotel lodging.
According to a Mobile Marketing Associate survey, nearly one of every four adults is using mobile location-based services. Hotels and restaurants can leverage Foursquare to drive in more walk-in traffic. Advertising deals and promotions always help bring people in, but a check-in is like an electronic coupon that gives people an instant discount just because they publicly arrived at your place of business.
Checking-in works both ways - your customers get a deal plus you get added exposure when they publish their check-in to their social media feeds such as Twitter and Facebook, which puts your brand name in front of an ever larger audience. When people get an incentive, they are more likely to spread the news and view your business more favorably.
The Time to Start Your Social Media Campaign is Now
It is likely that if your business does not implement and manage an effective social media program now, you will have a harder time gaining an online community for your target market in the future.
Social Media Marketing is critical for online business success, especially for restaurants and hotels. This type of marketing medium was simply made for hospitality. Don’t wait or it may be too late.
If you’re currently not engaging in social media, contact Xcellimark to get started on building your brand, creating an online community of brand loyalists, and generating more traffic to your restaurant, hotel and/or website. The time to get started is now.