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I have several problems with most of the articles I read that claim to offer the best answer to how restaurant and hotel marketers can achieve success with social media. My main ones include (in no particular order):
- The author has no successful experience in the industry. “I used to run the social media efforts of Fruit-of-the-Loom and my local dry cleaners.”
- The prescriptions are based on retail strategies. Restaurants & hotels are not retail businesses.
- The prescriptions are based on a one-size-fits-all mentality. “You must give yourself over to the force” types of thinking.
- They focus on the technology and not on people. Biggest mistake!
It’s the 4th one that gives me the most problems lately. 99% of the hype in the most ridiculous articles are focused more on the least critical variable – technology and less on the most critical variable – people. So I thought I’d spend a few minutes and discuss 3 of the most critical tools necessary for you to achieve success with social media.
The Guest Experience
This is your product – the social experience. Not food or a bed or some other nonsense. People come in to share a day in their life. A birthday, anniversary, first-date, last date, new job, or just to share time with friends or family. Creating memorable experiences that connect guests emotionally to your business is what your goal is with every guest, every experience, every day. These unique and meaningful experiences are the “content” for their social posts, discussions and stories shared with friends, family and others they have influence with.
Anyone can eat, drink or sleep pretty much anything, anywhere. The question is, why do they do so in your restaurant or hotel? The answer isn’t technical either: price, convenience, location etc.. although those factors do play a role in a guest’s decision making process – especially if all the alternatives are the same and undifferentiated and unexciting and emotionally unconnected.
While food, drinks and beds are not your product, they are important in terms of context. People like the foods and drinks they grew up with or have experienced, they just like them kicked up a notch or two in fun and unique ways. This is why comfort foods outsell specialty foods. The problem is that they are easily copied or duplicated so you need to have a process in place for maintaining a flow of different and creative ways of adding excitement and context to your menus.
The Employee Experience
These are the people who actually create the experiences for guests – from first impression to last impression. Which is why it’s critical to create a culture that attracts and nurtures happy, mature, high IQ & EQ, “A” level talent. Your ability to attract these types of employees has a direct correlation to the types of guests you attract as well as the degree to which you are able to achieve long-term business success.
The same goals and attributes apply to your employees as they do your guests. You want them to talk about how great you are, creating buzz for your business as much as guests do. So that means their experience is just as important as that of your guests.
The Community Experience
- the more exposure you gain (acquiring new guests & employees is both cheaper & easier)
- the less you have to spend on marketing (loyalty is organic due to shared values)
- the more solidified (positioned) your brand is in terms of perceived quality, success, buzz and more (retaining guests & employees is both cheaper & easier)
The key here is to not try to be all things to all people, but to associate yourself with events, activities, vendors and causes that reflect your values and interests and provide the context for people to visit you, talk about you, connect with you and recommend you.
In our business, technology cannot create loyalty, demand or even sales – no matter what you read or are told by some guru. Restaurants and hotels are about real people creating real experiences that have a truly emotional and social impact in the lives of our guests. There’s nothing virtual about it. While technology is great (I’m a big fan of technology!) it cannot replace or enhance the real relationships you create with real people. It can only serve to amplify the reactions people have to your level of hospitality. If you do it right, they will be inspiring, influential and rewarding.
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