Ways to Win at Social Media in a Social-Distancing World
This article first appeared in NC Restaurant & Lodging Association (NCRLA)'s Winter 2021 At Your Service magazine.
One of my favorite memories of dining out prior to COVID-19 was how it made me feel. I remember the dimly lit dining room and flickering candles, the server’s warm smile, the gentle clink of fresh plates delivered, and familiar sound of ice water being topped off. While it’s near-impossible to replicate that feeling through digital channels, there are ways restaurants can connect with consumers from a far.
In many cases, I am a fan of a restaurant brand long before I walk through the doors. The same goes for the majority of consumers. Upserve’s 2019 State of the Restaurant Industry Report suggested 90 percent of guests research a restaurant online before dining — more than any other business type.
As the hospitality world continues to stir, leveraging social media platforms can help bridge the gap while social distancing.
Seek community and collaboration.
Over these past several months, we’ve seen the hospitality community come together to support one another in unique ways. For example, Preeti Waas, the owner and head chef of Indian-American café Cheeni in Raleigh, opened up her professional kitchen to local female chefs free of charge. Each week they create a unique meal and sell it through Cheeni’s website, and Waas uses social media channels to promote the dish.
Engagement is more important than ever.
According to Hootsuite’s Digital 2020 report for April, almost half of internet users (47 percent) report spending longer using social media compared to their pre-lockdown behaviors. While not everyone should go out and create a Tik Tok account, the use of video on social has a strong impact. In fact, social video generates 12 times the shares than text and images combined. Think of ways to incorporate more informal video into your social feed, whether it is an outdoor dining area walk-through on Instagram Stories, or a boomerang of employees showing off their Count On Me NC certifications.
Vulnerability is Okay.
It’s no secret 2020 was hard on everyone. Rather than hiding emotions or struggles from your audience, consider ways to be more candid. According to Sprout Social, 86 percent of Americans say transparency on social media is more important than ever before, which means they’re willing to take their business to a competitor if they see a lack of transparency. If consumers can get to know and relate to the people behind the establishment, and the thoughtful safety measures or creative business strategies being put in place, they may be more inclined to visit.
Whether people grab and go or linger at their tables for a while — the world is aching to get back to “normal.” Utilize social channels to connect with your community and help them feel at ease in your establishment. Help them remember, we’re all in this together.