Social Media Interview with Hospitality Magazine: Part 1 of 2

Hospitality Magazine recently interviewed us about some best practices for restaurant and hospitality to use social media.  Here's the first part of the interview.  Check out next week's blog for the remaining part of the interview.

HOSPITALITY MAGAZINE:  What should cafes/ restaurants/ bars do at the very least to attract and retain more customers with social media?

REFERRAL CIRCLE: At the very least, you should be talking to and engaging with your guests.  You're likely already developing a relationship by interacting with them in store.  Social media is simply an extension of this relationship.  Before anything with social media is conducted, you need to learn about your guests and understand where they want you to interact with them.  When it comes to social media, this may include things like email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or even a blog about your business.  Once you learn where your guests are and how they'd like to interact with you, it'll allow your social media marketing to be as successful as possible.  So, the bottom line is... "at the very least, learn how they want you to engage them."

Once you do learn where your guests are lurking on the Internet, there's two sides to social media: "Creating Content" and "Monitoring Social Media."  Let's start with monitoring your guests.  Depending on the size of your establishment and your type of guests, you may or may not already have "buzz" in the social media community about your restaurant.  When you do come across chatter about your establishment, interact with the people talking and add value to their conversations.  You should be building a relationship with your guests and gathering their trust.  If you do come across any negative comments, ALWAYS remain positive and take the opportunity to apologize and resolve the situation.  The comments you make to this guest might be seen by hundreds more, so this is an opportunity to make things right and gain trust with your guests.

The other aspect is to create content for your guests.  This can be done in many ways, from Twitter to Facebook to blogging to email marketing.  All of these work, it's just a matter of finding what mediums work best for YOUR business.  A good start is to collect email addresses from your guests and engage them over email.  From here, you can encourage them to interact with you on your Facebook or Twitter page or even refer their friends to your establishment.

HOSPITALITY MAGAZINE:  What should restaurants especially tweet or Facebook about?

REFERRAL CIRCLE: This will mostly depend on what you're trying to promote and in what context you're engaging with your customer.  Here's a couple of suggestions that might help:

 - Responding to a guest who is already talking about you
 - Thanking guests for referrals and visiting your establishment
 - Posting specific promotions you may be running
 - Posting special events you're hosting
 - Posting any news that may be of interest to your guests

Another good tip is to express your brand personality in this communication to your guests.  Social media is often a more casual way to interact with your guests. Take advantage of that.  Think about how you'd like your friend or another establishment to talk to you on these channels, and use that to guide you.  Be creative, stand out, have fun!

HOSPITALITY MAGAZINE:  Should hospitality businesses embrace Twitter and Facebook over other forms of marketing such as having an e-newsletter, website and online booking systems or should they try and cover everything?

REFERRAL CIRCLE: Trying to cover everything is bound to be expensive, time consuming and wasteful.  Before any new marketing is started, you should be talking to your current guests and find out what services they are using.  Pick the most popular one, and focus your efforts there.  This will get you the biggest return on your investment.

Also, social media may not cost anything, but it has a hefty price on your time.  Consider hiring a consultant to help you get started.  They can likely do things more quickly, and a good consultant will teach you how to maintain things after the initial set up.

Overall, hospitality businesses have shown that social media has been helpful for their marketing.  It can offer a very good return on investment if the proper time is put into it.

Tune in next week, so read to read rest of the interview!  What other suggestions do you have?