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Hopsitality businesses 'missing out on social media'

30 | 01 | 13

UK restaurants, hotels and leisure operators tend to focus more on the quality of their catering equipment and the provenance of their produce than they do on their social media policies, with few firms fully recognising how influential outlets such as Facebook and Twitter can be when it comes to reaching huge swathes of consumers across the country.

According to a new report from Barclays, more than one in ten hospitality and leisure operators now generate up to half of all sales through social media, making a clear business case for improving engagement with this medium.

Over 60 per cent of companies in the sector claim to only see 'some' or 'limited' potential in the harnessing of social media to engage directly with consumers and attract potential customers.

This is despite that fact that over two-thirds of businesses that have improved their social media policies reported a 'positive' or 'very positive' experience, through which they attracted new trade and earned highly positive reviews for their offering.

While it is obvious that the crux of any restaurant or hotel's success comes down to the quality of the service they offer to consumers, social media offers the ability to directly engage with customers, drastically changing the relationship between consumer and business.

If a company can embrace the medium, it can tap into a new segment of the market or cope with customer complaints in a novel and fast-paced way.

Barclays pointed to the prevalence of high-tech mobile devices such as smartphones as one major driver of social media growth, with new estimates suggesting that over half of Britons own this kind of phone.

Hospitality is one of the industries most affected by this change, because consumers are now able to check recommendations and reviews for their business while on the go - meaning positive feedback can play a real role in bringing new trade into a restaurant, pub or hotel.

Obviously the inverse is also true, underlining the importance of keeping on top of social media channels and responding to any criticism in a reasonable and empathetic manner.

Head of hospitality and leisure at Barclays Mike Saul said: "The industry is missing a trick. Social media has blurred the line between personal and corporate communities - something that has been encouraged by consumers who now expect to be able to interact in an immediate and very personal way, not just with friends, but with their favourite - and not so favoured - brands."

He stressed that the dynamic and responsive nature of social media ensures businesses can have a powerful role in shaping how feedback develops - an option that was not available to them when the majority of discussions about a hospitality firm would have been conducted through word of mouth.

"If a flight or dinner reservation is delayed for example, it's easy for consumers to vent their frustration to the online world - the trick is being able to respond helpfully, turning a negative experience into a positive one," Mr Saul claimed.

TNS chief development officer Matthew Froggatt recently told Director magazine that companies should plan their social media policy before diving into the sector with both feet.ADNFCR-16001031-ID-801531493-ADNFCR

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