Six Common Social Media Mistakes Made By Restaurants & Hotels

Updated: November 02, 2010

  1. No goals. Without setting goals, your efforts become aimless and unfocused. Unless your social media strategy fits seamlessly with your overall marketing strategy, your message becomes fragmented and confusing to guests and results in killing your businesses momentum.
  2. No measurement. You can't pay the bills with fans and followers. You have to tie results to actual cash in the till. Doing anything in social media (or any of your marketing efforts in general) further than two degrees of separation from an actual sale is worthless and a waste of resources. The closer you engage a guest at their point of experience with your brand, the more impact your efforts will have on real loyalty and facilitating great word-of-mouth.
  3. No social culture. The biggest factor that prevents a business from having any social media success (or any success in our business period) is that the actual business does not have a culture that encourages real engagement with its guests. FOH staff that can't have real conversations with guests about their experiences, at the minimum, is not going to be able to fake it virtually. Real social media success begins in the dining room or lobby and without making a tangible difference in the moments your guests share with you, will only allow social media to amplify your mediocre levels of execution.This also includes using the wrong people to manage your social media efforts. You don't want to give up this tremendous responsibility, facilitating relationships with your guests, to someone who isn't engaging or who does not know your business. Outsourcing any part of the guest experience is always a definite "No" in our books. If you can't find someone in your business who is the most "people friendly" then you have more problems than getting started in social media. And I don't care if they know a tweet from a post, you can teach the technical stuff, but you can't teach empathy or sincerity. This leads us to the next point.
  4. Nothing to say. I get this question so much it scares me. "What do we talk about?" First you don't talk about yourself. Stop pushing specials, coupons and discounts to your social media community. That's not creating a relationship with your guests. That's treating each one of them as nothing more than a transaction. That makes you a commodity and provides absolutely no basis of understanding who your guest is or why they visit you.Second, what you do talk about are those things that matter to your guests. What's going on in their lives and how can you make an impact in those situations. Do they have kids? What events are their kids involved in at the moment? How can you make an impact in them? What are they celebrating in their life? What problems or difficulties can you help them overcome, within the context of your business? Do they work at a business that you need to establish and build a relationship with? How many names of core guests do you know? Can your staff recognize those guests on sight? What events do you have coming up? Pictures and video to share with your community? The list is endless.Third, understand that the conversation you have offline are no different than then ones you have online. Keep the focus on your guests and what's important to them. Don't be a social narcissist.
    Our hospitality philosophy is centered around the simple understanding that every time a guest walks through your door, it's a day in their life. First date, last date, engagement, divorce, birthday, anniversary, new job, old job, every success or failure is celebrated and if you can add to their level of enjoyment by making a significant difference in their day's event, you can make an emotional connection that plants the seeds of real loyalty. Don't add to it, and you are actually taking away from their celebration and won't be remembered for anything positive.
  5. Trying to be everywhere. The only platforms you need to engage in, are those where your guests are. Which means you have to have a conversation, at some level, to get a good understanding of where your guests socialize online (and offline!) . Where do they talk with their friends and family? That's where you need to be, no place else. This might be one of the "Big 3″ (Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook) but it could also mean someplace more local like your local newspaper's website, in their culture sections (reviews, community news, etc…). Most likely you will reach more of your guests through these local community sources than the "Big 3″.Most times, the place where you should be, is in your own dining room, simply talking to guests. If 90% of your time isn't spent talking to guests, or staff who do, then you're not doing your job. How else will you find out what they're celebrating today? Why they came? What they love about you? What they hate? Who and how they socialize? How much influence they have within their social circle? (This goes for both staff and guests!) Which leads me to the final point.
  6. Forgetting staff. The most important people in your social media efforts are those front-line employees who greet, shake hands, talk to, laugh with, engage with, celebrate with, encourage, and serve every single guest, at every single table, every single day. They know your guests better and they know your business better. They make or break every guest experience. Your guests know them better than they know you. Plus there's simply more of them. Ignoring the impact that your staff has and can make is insane. Which is why the first people you need to dedicate yourself to are them. Don't hold them back from being a part of your social media efforts. In fact, insist on it. It should be a criteria for employment. If you have a decent Facebook or Twitter presence as your main social media focus, then so should your staff. There's nothing more powerful than a server commenting to a guest on your social media outpost with: "Hey George! Glad to see you visiting our Facebook Fan Page. I wanted to thank you for allowing me the pleasure of taking care of you and Helen when you were in celebrating your 40th anniversary last night. I'll email you some of the pictures and video we took so you can share it with your family and friends."
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