How to use social media to drive bookings

It’s probably no surprise that, according to our latest consumer research report, in partnership with CGA, 80% of consumers now use at least one social media platform. It may be more of a revelation to discover that nearly half of these consumers use social media to find recommendations of places to eat and drink out. But what may come as a genuine shock to some, is the finding that a third of customers now use social media to make a booking.

The report underlines the increasingly important role the likes of Instagram, TikTok and Facebook have in driving bookings for pubs, restaurants, bars, and the like. This is something that supports our previous research, undertaken in conjunction with insight firm Trajectory, which took a deep dive into the attitudes of teenagers when it came to hospitality and technology. Our survey of 500 young people aged between 13 and 17 revealed current trends amongst these future guests, with over 40% of this digital-savvy generation saying they visited a venue because they saw it on social media and 57% of 13–15-year-olds believing they will use social media more in the future than they do currently.

With all this in mind, it’s vital for hospitality venues to consider the importance and role of social media as part of their marketing mix – however, it’s no longer simply sufficient for marketing teams to add wisteria walls or selfie frames in order to create Insta-worthy experiences. Here, our Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Olivia FitzGerald, shares her thoughts on how social media can drive revenue, reservations and footfall.

The ‘booking’ button

We know customers are looking for recommendations on where to eat and drink via social media – in fact more than two thirds (69%) of 18- to 24-year-olds are doing so, but it’s not enough to just be discoverable on social media. We recommend that operators ensure that there is a customer journey from discovery to booking that is seamless. We highlighted above that a third of consumers are already booking tables on social media platforms but the research shows a further 38% are happy to consider doing so. This presents a golden opportunity for venues to drive conversions and reservations by leveraging these platforms.

As a result, we recently partnered with booking channel aggregator, Mozrest to offer hospitality businesses the opportunity to boost their online bookings through Google, Facebook and Instagram. With Mozrest, venues can add a booking button to Google Search and Google Maps results featuring their hospitality venue, as well as their Facebook and Instagram profile pages, generating incremental bookings while building their own brands.

What’s more, venues that implement the Mozrest solution with Zonal’s booking platform will be able to track bookings in real-time, show available slots online and send instant confirmation emails, SMS and booking reminders to customers. This is a personal touch that will be acknowledged and appreciated, making them more likely to book again. With 80% of customers seeking some form of personalisation from pubs, bars and restaurants, small personal touches such as this are a key part of the marketing toolbox.

Don’t ghost your customers

Nobody likes to be ghosted, and certainly not customers. So, communicating with them frequently via all channels, including socials, is key to ensuring they visit and return again and again. Customers want brands and businesses they engage with to show their personalities and be relatable – so it will be beneficial to come across as human, fun and to be interacting with customers old and new.

It’s also important to keep customers engaged once they have made a booking via social media. By linking social media bookings to your overall reservations system businesses are able to remind customers about reservations and avoid those pesky no-shows. In a survey we ran in 2021, we found the collective cost of no-shows to the hospitality sector amounted to a staggering £17.6bn in lost revenue over the course of a year. Simply sending an SMS reminder to those that booked digitally keeps customers engaged and therefore more likely to #ShowUpForHospitality.

Promote offers via social

You don’t need a genius to tell you that people like discounts, promotions, offers and freebies and social media represents a powerful way of achieving this, thus encouraging footfall and bookings.
For example, promoting a 2-for-1 deal on cocktails ahead of key calendar occasions on your social feeds, or offering customers a chance to win a free meal for two people as part of social media campaigns will pique customer interest and inspire them to make the most of the deal. Alternatively, using targeted paid for ads across relevant social media platforms will be vital in attracting customers again and again.

We also know that people want personal and bespoke deals and offers. In our GO Technology report, Make it Personal, we discovered over a quarter (29%) of people would be interested in a loyalty scheme and light personal touches go a long way – with one in six (17%) consumers interested in being able to sit at a favourite table without having to ask, information that’s easily obtainable using the right technology. The way to delivering hyper-personalised experiences is obtaining customer data – and venues that offer their guests easy ways to make reservations – whether that be via social media or Google – means data can be acquired easily. For example, if you know that a customer always reserves a table of four for their birthday and orders white wine most frequently, venues can prepare for this in advance and in a few simple steps set up offers and deals based on this data. Venues that appear to be making the effort with loyal customers by creating bespoke offers will win in the long-term.

Related resources

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GO Technology: Socials, searches and the future of bookings

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