It is fair to say many hospitality businesses recognise that social media has great potential for building awareness and creating leads for their corporate offerings of event space hire or group dining packages.
Unfortunately, in practice, the in-house sales manager often lacks the strategy or knowledge to get a tangible return from their efforts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
One of the biggest mistakes is to assume that the customer is only interested in seeing an interior shot of your room and what’s on the menu. When businesses fall into this trap, their social media posts will be packed full of information about the menu with endless photo shares of empty rooms. This may be enough to get you on the customer’s shortlist but what happens when you’re compared with a number of like-for-like offers. When you also find ways to communicate with your customers on avalues-led or emotional basis, it could make a crucial difference to your corporate sales conversion rate.
Story-telling is a very powerful marketing tactic that can help businesses to communicate with customers on this more touchy- feely basis. One popular way of telling stories on social media is to post behind the scenes photographs of a chef and his team in action or to share images of a big event as it rolls out over an evening. Photographs that capture the energy, creativity and excitement of your offer can communicate a mood or emotion that strikes a deeper chord with your potential customer. For example, Gennaro Contaldo works as an executive chef at Jamie’s Italian chain of restaurants and his Instagram account is cleverly used to share the day-to-day food action from behind the kitchen pass.
Hotels like Sanderson in London inter-mix images of the hotel interiors and venue details with quirky portraits, artistic compositions and live event snaps to convey a mood and lifestyle that will immediately connect with their fashion-conscious customer. And this approach is not just for the big boys. Much smaller, socially savvy restaurant and café owners are sharing live event photos to promote wine tasting evenings, caffe latte art workshops and themed dinner events that vividly share people’s enjoyment of the experience with a wider audience.
Today’s corporate customer can also be swayed to give your business a second glance when she gets a clearer view of the ethics and values that underpin your business. When money is to be spent on any sort of jolly or corporate excursion, it helps to make the case for choosing your venue by demonstrating that you are investing in working with the wider local community. For example, do you strive to use vegetables and fruit from local suppliers? How about posting photos of the latest colourful produce that’s just been delivered to your kitchen and name checking your local supplier in the photo description? Or are you running an apprentice scheme to help train up young people in your business? Then why not share photos of your young employees with short bios or comments sharing their experience of your business. Maybe your business helps a local charity to fund-raise once a year by hosting a special event or party. These angles make great social media stories to share with potential corporate customers who always have one eye focused on their Corporate Social Responsibility policy.
Social media can also be used to help demonstrate your commitment to customer service. Many businesses now use Twitter and Facebook as customer feedback channels, where managers and marketers can pick up and respond to comments and requests from customers on a day-to-day basis. When you pro-actively use Twitter and Facebook in this way, you also let corporate customers know that you are ready to listen and attend to any issues that may crop up.
Another way to leverage the power of social media to increase brand awareness for your business is to chat about events as they happening at your venue. If news of the event is in the public domain then it should be perfectly fine to give the event a mention on your Twitter account, and if possible post photos of speakers or special acts that have been brought in for the occasion. You could also retweet any interesting photographs or tweets that have been posted by your customer, which gets around being too intrusive with your camera if that could be an issue. At a minimum, you can announce you are delighted to have XYZ hosting an event at your venue. If your client is using a hashtag to promote the occasion, you may also want to include that in your tweets or posts to help increase the number of people who could potentially see mention of your business in the twitter stream.
LinkedIn company profiles provide a great way to connect with PAs and events managers who work for corporates, charities and government organisations. For maximum exposure on LinkedIn, make sure to setup a company page for your venue that includes details of your various corporate offers and contact details for your sales team members. One of the benefits of having a LinkedIn company profile is that you can invite corporate customers to endorse your service on this page. These recommendations then create valuable social proof about quality of your corporate offer.
To promote your LinkedIn company profile add a link to the email signatures of all your sales team members and ideally also include details of the profile address on your business cards. Additionally, invite your corporate contacts to follow your business on LinkedIn in word-to-word conversations, as a call to action on your venue’s corporate newsletter, website corporate page and on any corporate brochures you produce. Then once you start to build a following on LinkedIn, think of ways to make your LinkedIn followers feel special by offering them invitations to ‘Taster Events’ or soft launch openings of new venues in your group. When your sales team are out at networking events, leverage this activity further by briefing them to sell the benefits of following your business on LinkedIn to bookers, PAs and other purchase influencers.
About the author: Susanne Currid is a social media marketing strategist and coach who specialises in helping hospitality businesses to better engage with their customers online.
Her new book Build Your Tribe – the new marketing manifesto for restaurants, bars and cafes offers more advice on using events and social media to drive sales for hospitality businesses and is now available to buy in print and Kindle format on Amazon.