Tuesday, 2nd January, 2018

Harnassing the power of social media

Social Media plays a big part in the marketing of a business and as a visual led industry, food service is embracing the shift towards an online presence. A common problem amongst restaurants is embracing the shift towards social marketing, particularly due to the busy nature of the takeaway and restaurant industry.

However utilising the reach of social media to encourage likes, retweets and comments is more important than ever before, as social media is used by billions of people.  Popular photo sharing site Instagram says it now has 800 million users - up 100 million since April 2017.  Meanwhile, Twitter averages 330 million monthly users, and Facebook has a huge 2.07 billion monthly active users – in 2012 it surpassed 1 billion users, the first social network to do so. 

According to data analysts Statista in 2017 71 % of internet users were social network users with figures are expected to grow. 

Connecting and Engaging Customers

The latest Nisbets Pulse survey recently delved into how the industry overall chooses to promote their business and what they consider to be the most effective methods of marketing.  Word of mouth (WOM), social media and a business website are the three most impactful with 34% seeing WOM as the key influencer.

This is backed up further by the impact of customer review sites, specifically TripAdvisor, where a staggering 72% of those surveyed felt that the site had had a positive impact on their business. Clearly, a satisfied customer is a very powerful influencer for a business, as a user generated endorsement is seen as authentic and an independent insight. For this to happen it is obviously important for a business to have an online presence where they can positively drive interaction with customers and share their own news and brand messages. 

Facebook appears to resonate with the industry with 52% of respondents preferring to use this platform to market their business, followed by 20% using Twitter and 18% using Instagram.  Facebook’s popularity is further evidenced within the results of The Nisbets Pulse Survey which revealed 81% of respondents feel that it is the most important social media channel for marketing their business. Facebook is still the most widely used social media platform globally and is great for a business that wants to encourage interaction with customers as well as sharing content. Posting competitions and encouraging post shares will build exposure and engagement.  With 68% of those surveyed having between 250 and 10,000 in their social media audience, it’s evidently a tried and tested approach for a catering business.

Given 93% cite that social media has had a positive impact on their business, the content posted online is extremely important and sharing a business’s views with regards to food trends, menu development, sourcing and other topical issues is an ideal way to engage with an audience. 

Brand Loyalty

Jo Mathers, managing director at Limegreen Communications, a PR company with a number of clients in the hospitality sector says: “Mobile technology and social media have revolutionised the way people are interacting with brands and this has been really apparent in the hospitality industry. 

“Social media gives companies the chance to engage with and communicate directly with consumers, in a much more intimate and personal way, even before they step foot inside their restaurant.”

“Customers can now enquire, book, review, check-in and receive recipe tips direct from the head chef. They can see, touch and virtually taste all that the brand has to offer - and what’s more, this can be shared instantly with their friends. Complaints and reputation management can also be handled quickly, directly and smartly.”

It’s true, sometimes the pull of a good review is enough to encourage customers to your establishment.  Casual dining restaurant Zizzi recently conducted research into the online consumer and found that 18-35 year olds spend five days per year browsing food images on Instagram, with a worrying 30% avoiding restaurants if their Instagram presence was weak. 

On launching two South American restaurants in the East Midlands recently, Limegreen Communications engaged with social media influencers to draw people in and engage with customers ahead of the openings.

“Word of mouth is nothing new,” adds Jo. “But recommendations from high profile bloggers, posts within friendship groups and honest comments can reach thousands and sometimes millions of people through Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook.”