Speaking the Language of Social
Learning to communicate using social media should be easier for hospitality folks more than in any other industry. The reason is simple: we know how to talk to people. Social media has shifted consumer communication from one-way to two-way. This has increased the importance of building community skills in lieu of big advertising budgets. With Gen Z entering the workforce, digital communication and brand relationships will be key to the success of all businesses.
Let’s put this in hospitality terms…
Customers, especially young ones, demand an experience from their brands. This demand reaches from the physical to the digital world. Imagine you are serving a table at a fine dining restaurant. What are your steps of service?
- Offer a drink, make a connection
- Suggest your favorite appetizers
- Meal order
- Serve guests
- Check back
- Clear and pack up leftovers
- Suggest dessert menu
- Deliver check
- Final thanks and farewell
Let’s apply these steps to curating a digital, customer experience:
1. Introduce yourself and your brand.
You must let new and existing customers know that you have ventured into the realm of social media. Optimize your opportunities for social engagement by including links to all social channels on your existing website. Make sure to link directly to your account profile. Remember, you want to be found…so make it as easy as possible.
2. Building digital connections.
The first step to building community is understanding your target market, so you know what they want. This can be achieved through audience analysis. Data collected from customers visiting a physical location should also be considered. Such information can serve as a strong starting point for customer analysis.
The second step is serving up content to your target market in the locations they frequent most often. This means discovering which social platforms your audience uses before setting up accounts.
3. Make a value offer to get things rolling.
This could be an introductory or exclusive offer. Perhaps a discount or a raffle. The important thing is to get potential customers “in the door.” Remember that social media isn’t about you. Customers have learned to mistrust brands thanks to years of unethical and questionable marketing practices. That sentiment still exists in the culture. By focusing on a commitment to relationship building by providing value to audiences, hospitality brands will find the connection (and the customers) they are searching for.
4. Serve up valuable, original content.
Now that you understand the content your audience engages with and the platforms they use, it’s time to serve them something tasty. Creating original content may seem daunting, but you are probably further along than you think. As a highly innovative, small business owner, you have bootstrapped from the beginning. So, the key to creating content is simply retelling your story in different ways. Here are 10 ideas to get you started creating digital content for your brand.
Don’t forget that the goal of your content should be to provide value to your audience. If you aren’t entertaining, educating, persuading, or inspiring, you might want to reevaluate how you are telling your story.
5. Treat your followers like your guests
Commenting, liking, and engaging are important parts of building a community with an online brand. Young consumers are especially fond of building brand relationships online. Go where your audience is, discover their needs, and then figure out how you can meet them! Positive correlations have been found between online engagement and brand trust, commitment, and participation. In short, talk to your followers as you would talk to your tables: like a human.
6. Always follow-up, check-in, and engage, engage, engage!
Offer your audience other ways to connect with you and stay up to date on your content and offerings. This can be achieved through updating statuses, posting content, e-newsletters, featuring user-generated content, contests, and physical crossover.
Remember that the relationship goes both ways. How can you encourage your audience to engage back? Are you asking questions? Offering a call to action? Encouraging the creation of user-generated content? Here are a few tips to optimize your social engagement.
7. Don’t forget to recycle
Did you run out of original content already? Don’t stress…and certainly don’t get burned out (there’s enough of that going around). Check out these tips on how to reimagine and recycle content to save your assets.
8. It’s time for the sweet stuff
After you have spent time nurturing a relationship with your followers you finally have the currency to ask for something in return. Dessert = an introduction to your product offerings.
A good rule of thumb to remember is the 80/20 rule. 80% of content created or curated by a brand should provide free, engaging value and only 20% of all the content you post should be used for self-promotion or sales. If you have already embraced community building through value creation, this should not come as a shock. If you haven’t, then this rule might be a slight choking hazard. Have no fear! Review steps 1-7 for a figurative Heimlich.
9. Deliver the check
Now that you’ve introduced your offering, it’s time for a hard sell. Ensure your calls to action are clearly defined and easy to accomplish. Well-designed landing pages, links to ticket or event pages, and optimized checkout experiences are all part of delivering a strong offer. At this point, your audience is yearning for more ways to be a part of your brand, but there is no reason to make the conversion any more difficult than it needs to be. Make sure to test your purchasing system before making it live…it will save you hours in customer service later.
10. Always give credit where credit is due for content UGC
User-generated content (UGC) is more powerful and persuasive than anything a brand could create. This is an asset brands should be pursuing with enthusiasm (see step 6 for details). Once you have content, don’t forget to loop your community back into the conversation by giving credit to content creators. Become familiar with collaboration and tagging tools across platforms and always get permission before posting UGC.
UGC simultaneously serves as a customer review and brand promotion. The content itself tells an engaging story of a brand experience that could be enjoyed by others. The time used to create and share content with a community act as a positive review. 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation and 91% of people read online reviews. Those are statistics we can get behind!
Let’s Start Building Your Community
Starting a hospitality brand from scratch isn’t easy. Building that brand community online doesn’t have to be as difficult. The Social Observer exists to provide valuable content to brands of all shapes and sizes. As one of the Top 100 Social Media Blogs & Websites of 2021, TSO is a trusted source for marketing support.
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Category: Customer Experiences, Social Media Marketing 101