Working on your business, rather than just in it, is critical. Without keeping a strategic eye on development, it can be easy to end up static: managing to just stay afloat on the day-to-day of running of your restaurant, café, or bar alone. Broken equipment, last minute table cancellations, and training new staff can distract from what you, as the business owner, should be focusing on: growth. Thankfully, the online space is both a driver for growth in the hospitality industry and a relatively easy place to leverage and craft a presence within.
Unfortunately, many small businesses are missing out on the opportunities offered by the online arena and social media, often because they don't understand it. From what to do with your social media accounts to creating a high-quality website, here are our top tips to leveraging your online interaction for business growth and greater online traffic.
1. Create a Facebook Business Page
Your Facebook page is their first point of call for contact details, reviews, images, menu, specials, and location and parking information.
Nearly 90% of New Zealanders over 15 years old use social media, and in 2015 80% were discovering new brands and products on Facebook. 36% were going on to discuss the same brand or product with their peers online, highlighting the social media world we live in. Most NZ businesses realise this, with 93.6% currently using the platform in some capacity.
It is critical to have a Facebook business page. Not only can it be a strong source of traffic to the business website traffic, but it is often customers’ first point of call for contact details, reviews, images, menu, specials, location and parking information. Make sure your page is populated with all the above. Learn how to set up a business page here.
Once created, you’re going to need to ensure you’re constantly engaging on the platform, and test what works best for your business. See how other hospitality businesses have been staying in step with their customers on Facebook here.
2. Use a Soft-Sell Approach on Facebook
No one enjoys seeing their news feed cluttered with promotional “Buy this!” or “Shop here!” content from brands and companies they follow. In fact, Facebook reached a point where this was such a big issue that the algorithm was updated to reduce airtime on hard-sell promotions from businesses. Go for more subtle messaging, promoting your restaurant or café with customer reviews, food photography, video content, or republished reviews from other websites.
Some examples include:
- Food imagery
- Menu updates
- Seasonal ingredient profiles
- Staff profiles or new staff announcements
- Celebrity guests
Test and see what works for your business. One thing to note is that, while 75% of NZ businesses actively use their Facebook pages, most are still only using text or still image-based ads, which is no longer the best way to use social media for business.
3. Cut Through with Video on Facebook & Instagram
Instead of just static images in your Instagram ad, you can now include videos. The key is to create content that keeps people engaged.
While food photography is a great way to promote your business on social media, video is better! Now, video advertising is king. The Facebook algorithm now favours content based on how long someone has spent viewing the update, and Instagram also has video advertising. Naturally, video provides the moving imagery that has been proven to capture greater attention from those scrolling Facebook and Instagram feeds.
How can this format work for businesses on social media? Well, instead of just static images in your Instagram ad, you can now include 30 second videos to say – and show – a lot more about your business. For Facebook, there is no limit to video length; the key is simply to create content that keeps people engaged. Some video examples include:
- Behind the scenes in your kitchen
- Food preparation of great looking dishes
- Some ‘did you know?’ facts about your cuisine, location, or other related topics
- Short interviews with your manager, chef, or staff
- Vox pop-style interview with customers
4. Create a Social Media Content Calendar and Delegate!
Lack of time and confidence stops most New Zealand businesses from using social media. After all, it is a time-consuming commitment to maintain and ensure that you are top of mind and current across your consumer audience. For those who can afford it, you might have a marketing team or agency managing your social media accounts. But for many of you, it is something you struggle to manage yourself.
Make it easy, and set up a content calendar to map out what you can upload on a daily, weekly and monthly basis; also share the responsibility of content creation and uploading around your team. One of the easiest ways to do this is to identify team members who enjoy using social media and make them your champions.
The general rule of thumb is this: the more you put in, the more you get out. If you commit yourself to at least one post a day, you will be top of mind with your online following. If you only post once a month, it is unlikely to be seen, or appreciated.
5. Make Your Website Work
Your website should not be just a place to store menus and contact details, but your online shopfront. The design, accessibility, and functionality of your business website can all affect your sales. No longer just a ‘nice to have’ option, they are now expected by the new waves of digital natives who are interacting with businesses online.
Further, it is logical to do what you can to make the website’s presence known, through methods such as:
- Linking to it from your social media profiles, your local directory listings, and other websites
- Investing in search engine optimisation (SEO), the practice of ranking well in Google search results for important search queries.
6. Use Reviews
Did you know 28% of New Zealanders make purchases based on reviews they’ve read online? Customer reviews through social media, the website, or Google Maps listings are important in establishing a trusted reputation for your business online. It is also a major component for SEO when it comes to the hospitality industry. Good reviews can provide a strong signal to Google about the quality of the venue that will influence where it ends up in search results. A more prominent position in local search results is more likely to be seen by users, and result in higher website’s click through rate or physical visits.
Of course, you must begin by providing excellent service, but you can also prompt your visitors to leave a review online though asking via an email or through your business’s social channels - just be careful not to overdo it. Make sure to stay slow and steady - don’t falsely create a sudden burst of reviews using friends or family, as it will look suspicious. If you receive two or three reviews a month – you’re doing well.
7. Get Customers Online!
Ensure your actual customers continue to keep you front of mind even when they are not front of the line in store by engaging them online. Clearly advertising your Facebook, Instagram, etc. handles in store and within merchandise such as business cards or menus will make you easier to find online. Consider also making it part of a promotion, such as 'Liking' the shop on social media and getting a discount or free product. Plus, millennials love nothing more than to declare their location eating out on their social media channels – so take the guess work out, and make sure it’s clear to find you. They will do the rest.
Seeing the results of these small changes can show you just how effective using social media is for maintaining and growing your customer base and ensuring your small business is successful.