On-Trade Progress explores avenues hospitality entrepreneurs can take to use social media to drive footfall.

In many ways, society is now lived through a screen. Whether that is a phone, laptop or tablet, the only certainty is that to totally ignore social media marketing is to fall into the trap of irrelevance.

In 2017, a Pulse Study, conducted by Nisbets, found that social media benefited their marketing the most (by 28 per cent), shortly behind word of mouth (which came in at 34 per cent). Moreover, it found that the most effective social media channel to use for digital marketing was Facebook (52 per cent), followed by Twitter (20 per cent) and then Instagram (18 per cent).

Commanding and understanding how you can further your presence on these social media channels are key. On-Trade Progress reached out to venues across the country who were able to use social media channels to further footfall to their establishments.

Integrated strategies

We catch up with Mark Ayre, general manager at Manor House Lindley. With the hotel having only opened in May 2018, Ayre used a mix of social media strategies to further footfall to the venue. Most importantly, the online presence started before the establishment opened its doors.

He says: “We heavily utilised social media to build a following before we opened, using both organic and paid. We quickly built up a large following on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and were able to promote the opening of the hotel to the audience, creating a buzz and demand before our doors opened.

“We have been using a marketing agency, KC Communications, who manage our social media and deliver our day-to-day content. However, I think it’s extremely important to include ‘as it happens’ posts in and amongst this content so that our channels don’t become lifeless and to sales heavy. We find that this type of content receives the most engagement from our audience – for example, it could be around a wedding that is taking place at the hotel or someone that has got engaged in our restaurant.”

For Ayre and his marketing team, the Manor House Lindley attempts to focus on user generated content; which he believes is absolutely vital in the travel and tourism industry.

“It’s not a secret that potential guests are more likely to visit after receiving a recommendation from a friend than receiving the latest copy of your fancy brochure,” continues Ayre. “Social media users are sharing their travel photos and tagging themselves at their location, which in turn creates interest from their friends. This should absolutely be taken advantage of – make sure you share your guests’ pictures and engage with them to encourage future content.

“Very often social media can just be seen as a platform to post deals and offers or run competitions. It’s a great way to raise your profile through those kinds of activities but I definitely think you should be aware not to devalue your brand by posting too many discounts. Our social media activity is extremely image rich and we use it to showcase the hotel as a destination and create an aspirational audience, which in turn will drive footfall.”

Getting ahead

A great advantage of employing an external digital marketing agency to help drive footfall to your venue, is that they are able to plan and execute campaigns, even when you don’t have the time.

We catch up with Stephanie Whitworth, marketing manager at Fat Media, the digital marketing solutions agency, she says: “With the holiday season fast approaching, venues will no doubt be hosting events to make the most of the festivities. Social media is the perfect platform to get the message out about these events, and encourage word-of-mouth, both before and at the events. Facebook is of course a great option for this, with their events feature enabling you to give all the information your guests would need on one page. Where people have expressed an interest, they will even receive notifications reminding them of the upcoming date.

“You may have heard that Facebook’s algorithm change has made it harder to get a good organic reach on posts from businesses. However, a strategic approach to Facebook’s advertising platform can earn you a great return on investment. Their targeting options are extensive, meaning you can really hone in on your target market. For example, if you have a wedding fair coming up, you can advertise to anyone with a relationship status as ‘engaged’.

“By using a combination of location, age, and demographic data, you can be sure your adverts are showing to the most relevant individuals. Facebook will also give you a realistic estimate of your total audience size, and the number of them you can reach with your given budget. Even a few pounds a day could result in hundreds of impressions! Plus, with the option to pause your adverts at any time, you have complete flexibility.”

Fat Media’s knowledge and expertise revolving social platforms means that rather than using your time to figure out how to master social media – they are able to effectively execute these tasks for your venue, ultimately to successfully drive footfall.