How to grow your hotel or restaurant business using social media

Is social media the holy grail of business growth? Not necessarily, no.

Can you grow your business through effective use of social media? Absolutely, yes, if you're applying time, strategy, objectives and fabulous content to the cause.

How do your patrons hear about you?

Do you ask guests that question when they book, or when they're settling their bill? How do you record that information and does everyone interacting with your guests know to ask and know to store that detail?

There's not as much faith in the validity of answers to the 'How did you hear about us?' as there should be. Businesses the world over have been asking this question for years on forms online and in print. They've taken to throwing in red herring answers to gauge the validity of responses: I've observed brands add 'TV advert' to the list when they've never even done this form of marketing.

But when you're talking, actually verbally talking, to a customer you're more likely to get an honest answer. They might honestly not remember how they heard about you, but that's more valuable (believe it or not) than them giving you a fake answer. 

How many of your patrons find you through social media?  

If you're not asking or storing the above information, give it a try.

Each social media platform has an analytics offering, so you can see which content is most effective at driving user interaction or website visitors. If you're practising social media advertising, you'll have a good understanding of how effective that is at generating interest in tasting events, leisure break special offers, lunch trade, cookery demos and the like. 

Your Google Analytics data (or a.n.other analytics platform) will tell you how much of your website traffic is coming from social media and the specific channels. If you've set up conversion goals, you'll have quite a clear view of how that traffic is converting into browsers or bookers.

For your patrons who are active on social media, how can you maximise their activity to your gain?

4 ways to interact with guests via social media

  1. Facebook check-in

    Facebook isn't referred to as 'Brag book' for no reason. Avid Facebook users who want their friends to know what amazing thing they're up to next, invariably 'check in' to every venue they visit.

    When a guest checks in at your location on Facebook, they're instantly telling their friends about your venue.

    You'll receive a Facebook notification. Why? Because this is a prime opportunity for you to interact with them, to show that you care about their visit and showcase of your venue.

    Like their post. Welcome them and wish them an enjoyable visit. Depending on the timing of their post, it may be more appropriate to thank them for visiting, ask them if they have any feedback, or encourage them to leave a review (more on that below).

    Keep an eye out for their responses and those of their friends. The more interaction on their Facebook activity, the more likely it'll appear in the Facebook newsfeed of their friends, i.e. a potential new audience for you.

  2. Photos of their experience

    If a guest posts a photo of their food, their hotel room, the interiors or exterior of your hotel, they'll hopefully tag your venue in their post. Just like a check-in, you'll receive a notification giving you the opportunity to respond.

    Depending on the social media channel, it might be that they use a hashtag of your venue name rather than tagging your social media profile in their post. For example, on Instagram it is common for users to create a hashtag of a venue name; we often come across posts where our client Eynsham Hall appears simply as #eynshamhall. So do an occasional search to find these posts too.

    How can you use this photo? As before, like the post(s), thank them for sharing a photograph of your venue, dishes, interiors, etc. If the photo is particularly well shot, or captures an angle or offering you don't have official photos of, share their post so your full audience can see it. Include a comment and a thank you acknowledging that a guest took the photo, tag them if you can. On Facebook this would be a share. On Twitter opt for a Quote Retweet. On Instagram use an app like Repost.

  3. Reviews

    Peer reviews have existed for almost 20 years. Believe it or not, TripAdvisor was founded 18 years ago. The power of peer to peer opinions, versus reliance solely on the professional editorial perspective of a hotel, restaurant or drinks reviewer, has exceeded all expectation. Despite the polarisation and subjectivity of public opinion versus the arguable professional view of a journalist, customer reviews have captured the imagination of a global population.

    It's your time to harness that!

    In a social media context Facebook is the obvious and primary portal encouraging users to leave restaurant and hotel reviews. If a user has checked-in, they'll likely be prompted to review their experience a little down the line. Smart, huh.

    As a Facebook page profile owner, you can encourage your fans to leave a review on the platform too. Amongst your regular social posts, weave in the occasional post to encourage users to leave a review if they haven't already. Equally create posts that showcase some of your recent reviews. You might even create Facebook ads asking people to leave a rating and supporting feedback.

    Why? While the at-a-glance user will clock your star rating, others will take time to read what people really love about your venue. You, on the other hand, need that feedback if you're to understand your customers' wants and needs. And if you're genuinely focused on improving your offering or improving how you communicate it and how you reach the right audience, feedback - both good and less good - is invaluable.

    This also leads to the need to respond to guest reviews. Prospective customers will read these responses too. Whether you respond, and how you respond, are both telling in how much you care about feedback and how you handle it. And in a prospective guest's mind it's representative of the kind of welcome and service a guest will receive face to face. It goes without saying (I hope!) that it doesn't matter whether a guest is interacting with you on social media, on email or at the bar, they expect (and get) the same level of service. Rightly so.

    Where do you want customers to leave reviews? You don't have to source them on Facebook, you can turn that tab off. You might only want them on TripAdvisor or on Google Business, but you can still use Facebook to encourage patrons to review you on other platforms.

    Then remember that if a guest has booked through a third party system such as OpenTable, they'll automatically be invited to review their visit on OpenTable after the event of their visit has occurred.

    There are so many options - just be clear where you want the reviews and encourage them in that place. Then invest the time in responding to them too!

  4. Communicate, don't broadcast

    If you've nailed your social media strategy and you understand which audience hangs out on which channel and what kind of content they love, you'll know this already.

    While social media in its infancy seemed to provide a plethora of 'free' advertising platforms to showcase your offering, events and packages, that was rather removed from the essence of them being created for online 'socialising'.

    Social media requires you to be social if you want the exercise to be successful. This applies to the posts you create and to the interactions you have with fans or followers on those posts.

    If people take the time to comment on a post or tag a friend in it, take the time to thank them. This could be by reacting (like, love, etc.) to their comment or by actually responding. People often ask questions and seek additional info in the comments, so keep your eyes peeled for notifications and respond to them as quickly as possible. It's a great way to add more details about an offering.

Ready for social media to boost your business?

Let us know how you get on applying these tactics. In all honesty, that's all they are. They're part of the bigger picture. 

Need more help with your social media? We provide support both on a consultancy or retained social media management basis. But in the first instance let's talk about your challenges, it could be you need just a few tips to get you on your way.