I know what you are thinking, the food set in front of you at a restaurant and the information you read on your mobile phone have nothing in common, right? Wrong! 

Over the last ten years social media has become one of the main marketing strategies used by all business’, in particular the hospitality industry such as restaurants and cafés to engage with those first-name basis customers as well as those “I’ve never been before” customers.

The evolution of social media has been driven by human impulse, the need to communicate on a broader scale, as well as through the advancement of digital technology. Research conducted by Maryville University described the increase of social media presence as “a story about establishing and nurturing personal connections at scale.” I mean if you don’t have some form of social media by now, where have you been?

A study indicated that 47% of young people aged 17-21 text, tweet or post a picture whilst they eat out, something that was unheard of and seen as rude in the past. Nowadays, those type of consumers are seen to have the highest spending power raising the profiles of such restaurants and cafés through their online social media presence.

A Chronological History of Social Media

The online presence of the hospitality industry in the past was unheard of and not really seen as necessary. However, as the era of digitalisation surges the need for online interaction with consumers is a vital marketing strategy that cannot be underpinned.

Such business’ in the hospitality industry use social media platforms for promotional and awareness purposes in order to identify customer trends and often helps recognise the types of advertising  techniques are best, for example using online poles, video blogs etc.

For example, Dawsons Restaurant a local restaurant in my hometown of Castledawson creates online social media presence through content such as uploading images of dishes they produce, their menus, specials on offer as well as the availability of tables.

Dawsons Restaurant have altered their business’ promotional techniques to suit the digitalisation era that is rapidly growing and changing on a regular basis. Just look at these dreamy dishes below, who wouldn’t want to indulge?

Coronavirus or ‘Covid19’ as its more commonly known as is a topic of conversation we all cannot avoid these days, sick and tired of hearing about it? Yeah me too! But have you ever considered how the hospitality industry has adapted through this pandemic? With all aspects of the industry being shut down, it is exceedingly difficult to maintain customer interaction and satisfaction without providing the services that consumers desire the most.

However, many restaurants have cleverly recreated the way in which they deliver their services to their customers. Through the power of social media, restaurants in particular, have been able to promote a new type of service, a ‘take away’ menu. The same type of food is offered but only you eat it in the comfort of your own home.

Social media is the main marketing source to drive this type of service as people are able to share the posts uploaded by such restaurants and create a buzz around wanting to try different local menus that are available to them.

One of the main techniques used by the hospitality industry to drive business through the power of social media platforms is the added tool of location check-ins and company profile tags.

These type of promotional strategies are commonly associated with Facebook and Instagram and is one of the main features of both platforms. People simultaneously want to inform people of their location or whereabouts as it enhances a sense of status and engages their followers by updating them of what they are up to.

Moreover, do not be fooled. Social media has a dark side, negative content can arise from it as many critics are known to take to the internet when they want to voice their opinion about a certain dish that wasn’t to their taste buds or because of the customer service they received.

Social media platforms are one of the most effective marketing tools. However, it also is the main source of negative comments and reviews as it is available to the wider public and little to no barriers stopping them from writing negative reviews online.

Personally, I have been influenced through the power of social media. I admit that I am part of this society that loves to get the picture-perfect angle and the prettiest backdrop for that ‘perfect insta pic’, why you ask?

I believe that if restaurants and cafés go the extra mile to present food to a high standard and put in those added details like putting a raspberry in my French Martini cocktail. Then why should I not return the favour and promote them by capturing it and uploading it to my social media, tagging the location and their personal profile that ultimately entices others to visit.

Social media is a huge influence on people’s every-day life and often shapes their opinions and feelings based upon what they view online. Evidently social media can be both a positive and negative influence for the hospitality industry, but it inevitably depends on the type of content that is uploaded to the platforms and the way in which they are perceived.

If there’s anything that you have learnt from this short insight to the evolution of social media and the hospitality industry, is to be kind and support your local shops, bars, restaurants and cafes as they depend on you and your loyalty to support their business.

Because, supporting one another especially in these difficult times is only the right thing to do, don’t you think?

Emily McCann is a final year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter and LinkedIn

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