Hands up who has a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account?
While we can't see you raise your arm, it's safe to say that most people in Australia are active on social media. According to Sensis Social Media Report 2016, 95 per cent of survey respondents used Facebook, 31 per cent viewed Instagram and 19 per cent accessed Twitter – highlighting the role of these platforms in society.
Of course, social media is just as important from a professional perspective as in our personal lives. Used correctly, social media can become a real asset for professionals in the hospitality industry. For the next generation of hospitality workers, it's vital to understand, respect and take advantage of social media – it might just come in handy as you craft your own career and business.
Don't believe us? Take a look below at three different situations where social media influences food, service and everything in between.
Understanding cafe or restaurant reviews
The internet is an open forum – almost everyone has an opinion. Whether on sport, TV or politics, the world wide web is all powerful and this can influence your success as a proprietor.
In recent years, Australia, and the world, has adopted a true foodie culture and community – platforms where individuals can review cafes and restaurants, leaving their thoughts and concerns about a particular establishment. A great example is Zomato, with 3.15 million active users per month and information on more than 15,000 registered Sydney businesses.
With this many active users, it's impossible to deny that reviews don't affect people's choices about what and where to eat. It's an important part of the decision-making process for many customers.
By checking out reviews, accepting shortcomings and areas for improvement, restaurant owners can dramatically enhance their reputation in the marketplace. This is the trick for those in the hospitality industry, as complaints and recommendations don't always come face to face anymore. In today's digital age, many of these reviews will come via social media and impact those who have never been to your restaurant or cafe.
Platforms such as Zomato are also a directory for new customers looking for general information about your establishment, such as the address, phone number and menu. If you are active on these sites, it can only raise both your online profile and interest. For example, uploading an up-to-date menu and opening hours can be all it takes to set you apart from your competition!
Controlling marketing channels
We all have those friends who enjoy posting delicious photos of their food – showing off their own cooking ability or the fancy restaurant that they have been to. For those in the hospitality industry, social media is a marketing opportunity – one that often doesn't come with a price tag!
Think about your social media platforms as your shop window. The more items (photos) that you take and display, the more people (followers) will be attracted to the window (social media). As a crowd starts to form out front, other people (those tagged or shared) are caught up in the hype as well. Of course, if you are looking for a particular audience or are creating interest about an event, utilise hashtags and promote the use of social media around your restaurant and brand.
Be honest with your marketing efforts – are people really reading the newspaper or looking up your cafe in a phone directory? Probably not. Let your audience know that you are up with the times around social media and its merits.
Managing customers and overall reputation
The issue with social media is that it can blow up in a second. One moment, everyone is playing nice before someone drops a comment and there is a keyboard argument. Of course, restaurants and cafes can find themselves in this situation on these platforms – perhaps not dealing with a customer complaint or feedback in the right manner.
Take a 2015 Victorian situation for example. A Lentil as Anything store moved in next door to The Raw Store, with the former adopting a "pay as you feel" policy. However, Owner of The Raw Store, Rebecca Freer, took to Facebook to condemn the idea due to the types of people that this would attract to the area. As a result of the post, the store was physically damaged as well as Freer receiving scores of violent and aggressive comments.
Although the post was removed and Freer apologised, this example shows the power of social media, even during the worst circumstances for hospitality businesses. For all the benefits of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, the style and tone that you take needs to align with brand guidelines and general common sense, regardless of whether the conversation started off on a positive or negative note.