Ready for some numbers? Social Media News states in their latest statistics that Australia alone has 16 million active Facebook users. Five million of us are on Instagram every month, and 2.8 million of us tweet daily.

Social media has become the official space for socialising, meeting romantic partners, finding a job, or going shopping. Almost every aspect of our lives is played out among these platforms online.

But you already knew that right? As both an individual and a business owner, you are likely to be utilising social media in a regular capacity. However, this is your wake up call to approach social media with caution: whilst it can be your businesses greatest friend, it can also be its greatest foe.

Out of the 16 million Facebook users here in Australia, chances are that all of those people have probably had at least one bad experience at a hospitality venue. If it’s particularly noteworthy, they may even head straight to the venue’s Facebook page and leave a scathing comment. Worse still, they’ll jump onto every review site they can find and continue the rampage. If you have one bad review, it may not be such a big deal but if your page is full of them then people are really going to start taking notice and avoiding your venue.

Without being the bearer of bad news, this could be you. Whether or not you do the wrong thing, at some point in time you are probably going to receive a bad review online. It’s absolutely crucial, therefore, that you have a plan of attack in how to deal with the fallout.

 

Do your research

It’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed at the idea of formulating a social media strategy – where are you meant to begin?

Easy. Take a look online. Profitable Hospitality is a great source of up-to-date information about social media trends, and case studies of businesses leading the way with great online content.

Check out 5 hospitality social media accounts you NEED to follow for some inspiration, and Cyberbullying in the workplace: What you need to know for some useful tips on managing your internal processes with staff and social media. Read up on techniques, and pick and choose what feels right for you.

Make it official

Social media is not just a ‘fun’ aspect of your business anymore. It’s a locked-and-loaded element of your marketing strategy, so take it seriously. When you do put together a plan on dealing with social media situations, make it part of your official business documentation.

The social media strategy needs to become like gospel to you and your staff. Ensure that they read and approve it as part of their onboarding documents, and make sure that it’s clear. Your online reputation is just as important as any other public part of your business – so take the necessary precautions to protect it.

Print it out, stick it up

When a social media situation unfolds, it will happen quickly. One minute you’re dealing with an unhappy customer, and the next they are trolling your Facebook page.

Make sure you have the steps of your social media strategy printed out and displayed clearly. Even if it’s four simple steps, it can make the difference between a small drama and a massive disaster. Try steps just as:

#1: Respond to negative comments within 2 hours

#2: Call the main account holder [business owner, head of marketing etc.]

#3: Be helpful, apologetic, and always try to take the conversation off your social media public page and into private messages, or even give them a phone number to call

#4: When the issue is resolved comment on the negative post again saying that you’re glad the issue got sorted and you hope to see them back soon

Oh, and the main thing? Don’t panic.

Brainstorm every possible situation with your team

As the venue owner or manager, you might not be as internet savvy as your younger employees. Remember: these guys are digital natives. They’ve been online since the moment they could own a telephone – so listen to their suggestions.

Hold a staff meeting where you can discuss all of the possibilities of online complaints, and the best way to deal with it. Ask your staff where people are going for restaurant reviews – it’s always changing – and instances where they have admired how a brand has handled it.

There are so many different paths you can go down: you can opt to reply, turn off commenting completely, or even delegate the responsibility to a few people in your management team.

 

Social media is inarguably the most powerful marketing tool your business currently has on offer. Not only are you reaching record numbers of potential customers, you are connecting on a very personal and intimate fashion. Inevitably, unhappy customers will take advantage of these to leave negative comments or publicity. Whilst it’s not ideal, it is able to be managed with a well-rehearsed and easy to use social media strategy.

Prepare yours today, and make sure you’re always two steps ahead!

Become a Profitable Hospitality member today to find out how you can get started planning your social media strategy by viewing our membership options here.