In a report by Adobe it was discovered that UK users intake around 6.9 hours of online content per day. Similarly, there was an approximate 325% increase in Google searches for “influencer marketing” throughout 2017, with the addition of 230 new platforms and agencies consentrated on influencer marketing over the past two years. Clearly, what we see on our phone, tablets and laptops matters.
Surely this trend of online consumption must have an affect on the British food and drink industry providing so much opportunity. Are pubs, cafes and restaurants missing something big by disregarding the influence or are them embrasing their voice on social media?
The proffesionals thoughts
Recently a Pulse Survey was carried out to gain insight into the attitudes of catering businesses towards social media. When questioned what each participant thought was the most effective form of marketing for their business, a mere 34% cited ‘word of mouth’. Instead, 48% claimed that digital methods were the notable type of advertising — with social media making up 28% of this figure. In fact, 93% of respondents believed social media had positively impacted their business.
According to the survey results, Facebook was thought to be the more popular platform for the catering industry, with 81% naming it the most important marketing tool. Twitter followed as the second most popular social media platform, with 20% believing it has helped their marketing strategy.
Even thought Instagram is still considered new to the marketing scene, the popularity of the visual platform is also on the rise, enabeling brands to showcase their images of food and drink. 18% of survey respondents said that they use the platform and, as it continues to grow in popularity, we can expect to see more catering outlets incorporating Instagram into their marketing strategies.
The huge reach that social media has of over 58% suggests it is a valued tool for restaurants, pubs and caterers more widely. Social media provides brands with exposure and the opportunities to connect with their target demographic to promote their products. It also makes it easier for customers to find out key information, such as opening times or details of menu changes.
What are the leading catering brands doing?
It may be aobvious that social media provides great influence on consumers, often it is harnessed and capitalised on differently by some of the world’s top food and drink brands.
Nando’s — UK’s most popular restaurant chains as of recent years — is ‘liked’ by just short of 4.5 million people on its UK Facebook page as well as having around 1.5 million followers on its UK Twitter account. Why is this? Partially because the chain strives to drive social media engagement. One example of this was the ‘finger selfie’ (#fingerselfie) campaign. Essentially, this was about encouraging customers to tweet a photo of their best ‘finger selfie’ using a Nando's napkin while dining. Essentially, the aim was to spread the brand name and the Nando’s experience using something simple, quirky and interactive.
It is definately achievable for food and drink companies to simply engage with the customer by noticing and responding on social media —take Greggs for example. The food chain’s digital marketing coordinator, Abby Hughes, spoke to PR Week in February this year: “The best performing content for us is our reactive posts. We look out for conversations that we can naturally get involved with, not bandwagons to jump on. These tend to be people making comments about our food or us as a brand.”
Taking advantage of the influence that social media provides is the no different to being consistently responsive since being proactively creative is key to success. It can start with something small, such as monitoring tweets and tags about your brand and reacting to them quickly can help boost your social media standing and provide a better experience for your current or potential customers. According to the Greggs Annual Report 2017, the brand was up on sales by 7.4% to £960 million, which suggest that, whatever it is doing as part of its overall marketing strategy, it’s working.
Despite these impressive figures pulled together by Nisbets who sell a variety of Catering Appliances, some big catering companies aren't using social media to their advantage. The most famous, and perhaps most recent, is popular British pub chain JD Wetherspoon. On 16 April 2018, the company announced that it would be deleting the social media accounts of its head office and 900 pubs.
Instead of using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Wetherspoon plans to instead “release news stories and information about forthcoming events on our website (jdwetherspoon.com) and in our printed magazine — Wetherspoon News”.
"going against conventional wisdom that these platforms are a vital component of a successful business"
Although the above statement is vague, the chairman of JD Wetherspoon, Tim Martin, provided further insight, insisting that the company’s move was: "going against conventional wisdom that these platforms are a vital component of a successful business". Martin added: "I don’t believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever, and this is the overwhelming view of our pub managers.”
Because JD Wetherspoon has completely removed themselves from all social media platforms, they will instead have to rely heavily on customers and potential customers visiting their website, as well as other, more traditional, marketing methods.
While the pub chain may be confident in their decisions, it conflicts with the perceived benefits of social media — especially, its ability to reach massive groups of people in an instant. So, could this move by JD Wetherspoon be detrimental to its exposure and connection with its core demographic? Only time will tell.
All in all, media platorms seem to be vital to the success of cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants all aroundthe country. Being available online means you are likely receptive to feedback and reviews, which in turn gives the perception that your brand is modern, available and reliable.
You can then create a relatable, recognisable brand persona to give your engagement an extra boost and inspire consumer loyalty. When Epic Pubs won the Unique Hospitality Social Media Award 2016, marketing coordinator, Lara Busby, said: “Our saying is we are a “pub for everyone” and so our social media reflects this. We understand our audience and tailor our social media to suit this by keeping up to date with trends in the market and create posts that are engaging and draw people in.” Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram can all work together to give your brand a definable personality that your target audience can get on board with, which could be the key to success.
Find out more about social marketing tips for restaurants and food outlets.
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