3 Effective Ways to Use Social Media to Attract Guests

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Geoffrey Brown is a member of GoDaddy’s local business outreach team. Two of his areas of expertise are social media and online reputation management.

Brown puts those skills to use helping local businesses keep up with today’s social media marketing trends. One of those trends has transformed into standard operating procedure: content marketing is king.

He shared his experiences with platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Yelp at the 2019 Nightclub & Bar Show in Las Vegas. Brown revealed the three ways bar, restaurant and nightclub owners can use social media to attract more guests.

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Be Consistent and Authentic

Being on social media isn’t as simple as downloading some apps, creating profiles and posting away. Certainly, it can be used that simply but ROI will be non-existent. If there’s any ROI at all it will be the product of luck.

The keys are understanding brand identity and being authentic. Posts that don’t reinforce a brand’s identity—type of business, location, food and beverage focuses, core values, supported causes—will confuse followers and can push them away. A brand’s feed doesn’t need to consist of a cohesive collection of posts, it needs to be authentic to that brand’s identity.

An operator must also determine who they’re going to be online. Social media shines a spotlight on users, so brand identity and voice are paramount to succeeding on any platform.

Does the brand relate to people who are health-conscious and live an active lifestyle? Is it appealing to craft-beer drinkers? Attractive to sports fans? All about EDM and bottle service? Is the person monitoring and posting to social media fun or funny? Sarcastic? Informative? Contemplative? A combination?

An operator can determine brand identity and voice by considering their audience—current and potential guests—too. Taking a moment to think about the typical guest who frequents their venue, who their ideal guest is, and how they want social media posts to make guests feel will help guide posting and messaging.

Posting is where things can become overwhelming. Social media can be a full-time job, particularly when platform algorithms shift and make it difficult to remain top of feed (and therefore top of mind). To help ease the stress of posting and keep things organized, Brown suggests creating a content strategy that involves a posting schedule.

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Operators would do well to decide the frequency with which they want to post; if that frequency will be dependent upon the day of the week; and if content will be themed for each day (Taco Tuesday, Thirsty Thursday, etc.). It will also help to add bar and restaurant holidays that the brand can leverage in an authentic way, like the upcoming National Mint Julep Day (May 30).

Another important element of the posting schedule is making sure to vary content. Brown says the content mix should consist of the following:

  • User-generated content.
  • Questions.
  • The human element.
  • Cross-promotional posts.

When it comes to the human element, operators should show off their team members. Bartenders, servers, chefs, managers, security, bussers… When team members are shouted out, followers feel as though they “know” the staff. That bit of familiarity can draw guests into a venue.

Use Hashtags and Stories

Brown shared two interesting stats during his Nightclub & Bar Show presentation:

  • Instagram posts with at least one hashtag get 12.6% more engagement.
  • 70 percent of the hashtags on Instagram are branded.

“Hashtags create great visibility for a campaign, and help you reach your target audience by using relevant hashtags that you know your audience is already following.”

Users should leverage popular, trending hashtags to help improve engagement when posting. Brands should also create hashtags specific to them and their marketing campaigns, use them in every post and include a couple in their profile description, and encourage their followers to use them as well.

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When it comes to stories—live videos—the content doesn’t need to be as polished as regular posts, says Brown. If the content is compelling and tells a story, even a story as simple as, “Look at our back-of-house prepping brunch,” followers will be engaged. Stories that create FOMO (fear of missing out) are even better. Is a local band killing it on a bar’s stage? Is the patio slammed with people having a great time? Those brands should be posting stories to create FOMO and lure people through their doors.

Again, the live video doesn’t need to be a highly produced, polished bit of perfectly lit content with incredible lighting. The intent is to show off something fun and exciting going on that inspires FOMO in followers and lures them out of their homes and into the brand’s venue.

Respond to Every Review

Whether good, bad or ugly, operators must respond to the reviews they receive. In fact, Brown suggests taking ownership of their listings.

“Let your customers know about your business’ presence on Yelp, Google, and Facebook,” he says. “They’ll be more likely to share their experiences.”

According to Brown, a mere 10 percent of people say that they don’t look at online reviews before they make a purchase or visit a bar or restaurant. Another 73 percent say that they feel a local business is trustworthy if they receive positive reviews.

Operators should view online reviews as another marketing opportunity. An actual guest (hopefully) has taken the time to post about a venue and potential guests have taken the time to read that post—they’ll take the time to read a response from the business. The people reading reviews want the business to respond to good and bad reviews, not one or the other.

If an operator replies only to good reviews it’s glaringly obvious that negative reviews are being ignored. If only the bad reviews are replied to it makes it look like the guests who have good things to say are taken for granted.

Brown’s top three pieces of advice for responding to online reviews are:

  1. crafting a sincere, specific response;
  2. being professional;
  3. keeping an open line of communication.

Operators must avoid replying immediately in an emotional way that can make a bad review seem even worse. Allowing a knee-jerk reaction fueled by anger or frustration can create a post that goes viral for all the wrong reasons. It may feel good in the moment to unload on a bad review but the Internet is written in stone and even deleted posts are forever. There are sites, bloggers and influencers who are so fast with screenshots that post deletion doesn’t really exist.

Check this out: 5 Tips for Handling Negative Restaurant or Bar Reviews

Professionalism extends to any communication that follows the initial review and response. If an operator invites a reviewer to return to their business to make things right, they must follow through. Sharing an email address privately and helping to coordinate a future visit go a long way with guests who have posted a review and gotten a response.

Operators who are able to stay consistent, keep their brand messaging authentic, leverage hashtags and live stories on social media, and become experts in replying to online reviews leverage content marketing effectively. Perhaps more importantly, they engage with their communities and create loyal followings that translate into years of reliable revenue.

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