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How to take your hospitality marketing to new heights

Allegra research shows industry leaders regard social media as the most effective form of advertising in coffee shops, but how can hospitality businesses best harness the power of digital and social platforms? By Mark McCulloch, CEO, Supersonic Inc.

"Many businesses make the mistake of using social media to reach customers before knowing what their brand actually stands for"


Know your social channels

Today we’re spending an entire day per week on our phones, screens and online. That means your thumb is scrolling the height of the Empire State Building every single day. When it comes to social media, we often hear Snapchat is ‘it’ and Facebook is ‘over’. But don’t believe the hype – Facebook is still massive, with more than 35.15 million unique users per month – and it’s not true that all its users are now over 55.

Often overlooked as a social media platform, YouTube has around 23 million monthly UK users. I urge people to create evergreen YouTube content and take advantage of keyword selling opportunities there. It’s also incredibly useful for hosting helpful, educational entertaining content for the coffee shop industry.

With 20 million unique users per month, LinkedIn is hugely undervalued. It’s Facebook with a suit on and there’s so much impact you can have here. You should be producing B2B and B2C content constantly because there’s no longer any split and consumers are increasingly using these channels in tandem.

Instagram is everyone’s darling, but it still got a long way to go, ranking third in the UK with around 14 million active user per month. Twitter’s micro-blogging platform has 13 million monthly UK users and is most useful for news and events. Many people will go to Twitter before they check BBC news, for example.

Snapchat is basically a locked bedroom for teenagers – they don’t want parents going in. So, unless you’re a super cool or hip brand I’d just stay out of there. But you can use Snapchat to give younger consumers tools to share your brand so they can market your products for you.

Know your brand

Many businesses make the mistake of using social channels to reach customers before knowing what their brand actually stands for. As a leader you might know the answer, but does your team? You need to ensure that everyone’s on the same page and can write pithily on the following:

Can your customers and everyone around your boardroom table replay these to you? That’s where the hard work starts, because once you’ve done that everything else is academic. The culture you have, your products and services and your reputation are all aligned around these points.

Then start thinking about what your business is trying to achieve. You’ve got to be laser-focused on who your target audience is. Think about the exact age of your customers, what they’re into and what their job is. Next, look at your platforms. You don’t have to be on every single one because you’ll die trying. Pick two or three where your customers’ attention is, not where you’re best at.

Get your content department in shape

You should be producing 80-100 pieces of content a day for your brand to be standing out organically online. But it’s very important to consider user value, that you’re giving back and entertaining. Can you imagine having the founder stories of Grind, Pret A Manger and Taylor Street Baristas every day? People want to see the trials and tribulations, the drama and excitement behind the brand stories.

Growth is important and of course you want to increase your followers, but slow and steady wins the race. Don’t go out and buy followers, just keep ticking along and doing what works for you. Commenting on customers’ posts, getting involved and interacting with them. Those are the hard yards and that’s where you’ll get more likes.

Spending thousands on a PR firm every month to get a few lines of press exposure doesn’t make sense. There’s a huge amount of impact you can have with that budget on digital

Focus your marketing efforts in three parts – acquisition, retention and an editorial team. In 10-15 years, there’ll be hardly any marketers in the team at all, perhaps just an analyst. The rest of the team will be novelists, comedy writers and actors creating amazing content. The marketer’s job will just be to place the bets and measure results.

Take 80% of your marketing budget or more and put it into your digital eco-system. That includes your SCO, PPC, content and social. Spending thousands on a PR firm every month to get a few lines of press exposure doesn’t make sense. There’s a huge amount of impact you can have with that budget on digital.

One of the biggest tips on content is document, don’t create. Hire a graduate who’s great with a video camera and get them to film everything around your business every single day. Get them to cut it in time like football highlights so there’s continuous momentum of content. Can you imagine the Costa brothers filming from day one?

To achieve this, you need to create pillar and longform content. Maybe it’s your CEO doing a speech, a photoshoot for the Christmas venue or a day at the roastery. That’s your longform content and that can go out as Facebook stories, podcast, YouTube and Instagram TV. Then the trick is to really juice that content into lots of micro stories.

Make your coffee shop Instagram integrated

Seventy-five-percent of people search, share and shop after being inspired by an Instagram post. With many cafés selling products via an e-shop, customers can simply put their card details straight into Instagram without leaving your post for a seamless shopping experience. If you’ve got cook books, take-home sets or other products, just set up the catalogue and you can deal with the sale from there.

Does your café have Instagram appeal?

It’s now being said that if you own a café or coffee shop it’s no longer a table for three, it’s a table for 3,000. So, you really need to design your store for Instagram. Elan Café are really the queens and kings of this currently. They’re doing an amazing job of creating ‘grammable’ moments that attract queues of people waiting to be inside their stores and in front of their staged sets with the drink of their choice. With travel magazines already including grammable must-take photos alongside hotel reviews, it won’t be long before this happens in the hospitality sector.

Also consider if there an interesting photo hook in your store – a boomerang, poster or a ‘press for champagne’ button. Think about what your thing could be and the grammable nature of your stores, packaging. Celebrate follower milestones, be inspired by influencers and what they’re posing with. Do interesting things with your food and drink photography – so much is the same these days, so consider what you can truly do differently. Finally, make sure you tag 11-13 relevant hashtags on Instagram otherwise you’re just wasting your time.

Mark McCulloch is CEO of Supersonic Inc. and was a speaker at the Allegra Coffee Leader Summit in April 2019

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