Blog Post / July 23, 2020 / Best Practices

Social Media Marketing in the Hospitality Industry Following COVID-19

by Luke Smith

As of January 2020, there are over 3 billion people around the globe actively using social media, with no signs of slowing down. It’s projected that by 2023, the number of users will rise to about 3.43 billion. And as of early June, months into the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly half of all American adults have reported an increase in their social media use.

The most popular social media platform is Facebook, with over 2 billion active users. Other popular social media outlets include Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat.

Simply put, social media is here to stay and it appeals to a wide variety of audiences. In the hospitality industry, where it’s so important to connect with people and to help them feel comfortable, a social media strategy should absolutely be a part of your overall marketing plan. But why? And how can you create an effective strategy that takes advantage of the 32% increase in social media engagement since the pandemic began?

Why Should You Get Social?

People might already be doing a lot of work for you on social media without you even realizing it. If your restaurant has incredible-looking dishes, one quick search on Instagram, and you might find that hundreds of people have posted photos of your food (It’s even better if they use #nofilter). Or, maybe you’ll see reviews about your hotel on Yelp or Facebook. People are going to talk about your business whether you’re involved or not, so having a presence on different social media platforms can give you some control while capitalizing on what people are already saying.

If you were using social media to communicate with your patrons while you were closed during stay-at-home orders, you can now turn your efforts back to how you’re handling reopening in a contactless world. Social media makes everything public so in the case of how you’re reopening, don’t hide anything. If you’re struggling, tell your customers and ask for help. Provide them with an easy means of helping, like CTA buttons that send them to online menus and order forms.

Social media is affordable, connects you to a large audience, can be done instantly, and allows for interaction with customers and potential customers in a way that traditional advertising doesn’t. It’s a great way to attract new guests while building loyalty with others. So, how can you put an effective strategy into place?

Implementing the Right Strategy for Your Industry

Once you understand the importance of social media, you can start to put together an effective strategy. As with any marketing strategy, you should start by having a goal in mind. What is it you want to achieve through your social media campaign? You don’t necessarily have to have a giant, sweeping goal in mind. In fact, smaller goals can help to motivate you and allow you to see just how well your strategy is working.

Examples of practical social media goals include things like getting 1,000 likes on your Facebook page or getting 100 “retweets” of a post on Twitter. In the wake of COVID-19, a social media goal could focus on discount-based conversions. Statistics show that 63% of customers note discounts and promotions factor highly in how they choose which restaurants to patronize. Offer a discount for online orders of a certain amount; that CTA button you added now plays a key role in increasing your conversions, i.e. sales, and create a hashtag to promote your discount. Customers who find your promotion via the hashtag will then turn around and post your food with that tag.

Once you have your goals in mind, do your research to determine your target audience. Who are you marketing to? Maybe you’re trying to break into a new demographic with social media. If that’s the case, you may need to adjust your strategy to cater to the right audience.

Finally, start thinking about your content and then create it!

Content is king in the marketing world, and that goes for social media content, too. Thankfully, many social media platforms give you the opportunity to automate your content by scheduling posts and ads in advance, and tracking the engagement on content posts so you can see which areas of your strategy are working. Automated marketing has many benefits in the social media world, including:

Your strategy shouldn’t stop at just posting content. It’s what happens after that can make an even bigger difference in your social media success. To find out more about that, let’s discuss what you shouldn’t do when implementing your social media strategy.

Social Media Mistakes to Avoid

For all of its incredible benefits, there are some general mistakes to avoid when you start to put your social media strategy into action. One of the biggest ones is posting irrelevant content.

We’ve touched on how important it is to post great content frequently, but that means creating posts that are relevant, engaging, and important to your industry or your business. Posts that don’t line up with your business will often be viewed as “spam,” and can actually turn fans and followers away.

Another mistake is being “faceless.” Social media should be … well, social! People in the U.S. are inundated with anywhere from 4,000-10,000 advertisements each day, and many people have learned to tune them out. While your biggest goal might be to attract more customers, you can’t just throw advertisements at them all of the time. Instead, show the more humanistic qualities of your hospitality business. Looking for ideas? Try some of these:

Additionally, answer people’s questions on social media platforms and respond to reviews — especially the negative ones! It can be a huge mistake to ignore negative reviews and an even bigger one to respond to them unprofessionally. By taking the time to put a positive spin on negative attention, you’re showing others that you care about their input and want the customer experience to be flawless every time. When possible, avoid other negative content — there has been a significant amount of fearmongering in relation to COVID-19. Much of it has been centered around socializing. Don’t stoke fears via your content. Instead, show your patrons how you’re taking care of yourselves to take care of them.

No matter which area of the hospitality industry you’re in, a social media strategy needs to be an integral part of your marketing plan along with things like SEO, digital ads, and traditional forms of advertising. It’s one of the best ways to connect with followers and potential customers and to breathe more of a personality into your business in a way that no other form of marketing can accomplish.

About the Author

Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but technology and digital marketing topics are his favorite. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

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