I went to a very interesting talk recently by Rob O’Donovan about social media and why it is particularly relevant to catering and hospitality.

The key messages were;

  • Our customers are out there
  • Our competitors are out there
  • Social Media offers a consumer research opportunity, you won’t get this anywhere else
  • And social media can provide customer service

Not taking part in social media doesn’t mean customer comments will go away; comments are still going to be there, it just means you will not know about them or be able to address them.

Vibrant and buzzing restaurants

Rob used a good analogy. He said it was like a restaurant with no one in it, if you look through the window and nothing’s happening it doesn’t entice you in. However if the Restaurant is full and buzzing then you want to go in – social media is like that, success means hooking consumers in. It comes with a warning message of DON’T DO IT if you are not committed other wise you’ll be the empty restaurant!

A good myth he debunked: Is it advertising?

No, it’s not a platform to send out a one-way message and expect nothing in return. Social media is about vibrant communities and engagement. It has all the exciting aspects of a conversation and is about consumer interaction. It’s not about quantity; it’s about consistency and quality.

Talk to your customers

Another question answered was what’s the ROI (return on investment) value. Social media is not about numbers, it’s not about being ‘big’ and ‘broad’, its about reaching the right people in a unique two-way conversation and most importantly, an opportunity to have a conversation with your customers and discover their interests.

Social media is all about content

It’s all about creating your own intellectual property (IP) and content your customers want, not selling to them. It’s important to use a consistent tone of voice, and a language to reach the audience. Social media is not something you can get off the shelf, it needs to be authentic and adapt to the time of year, events, time of day, seasons and the community.

Social media as CRM

The hospitality industry should consider social media as another piece of CRM (customer relationship management) system, customers who sign up want to hear from you and engage. People have so much in their email in-box’s they tend to just delete – whereas if they sign up to your social media they have said they want to hear from you. Remember social media allows you to track interest and send a distinct message and recognise what your customers are interested in.

Why we can’t ignore social media

The challenge is it’s 24/7 and customers expect an immediate response and want to engage with it on their terms, not yours. I expect Argyll and Bute Council wished they had thought about this before they banned 9-year-old Martha Payne’s “Never seconds” blog about her school dinners. Food for thought…. So make sure you embrace social media for all it can offer.

My earliest food memories are of my mum’s baking; coconut pyramid cakes were my favourite.

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