The vast majority of hospitality and leisure businesses recognise the value of social media networks to their operations, yet nearly half fail to use them as a promotional tool for their activities.
According to a new survey carried out jointly by law firm DLA Piper and accountancy firm BDO, a significant proportion of the sector views social media as a 'nice to have' rather than a 'must have' for their business.
Around 66 per cent of respondents to the survey said Facebook was the most useful social media channel, followed by Twitter, on 55 per cent.
More than two-thirds of businesses said that social networking had forced change in the way the sector operated, despite pubs' tendency to lag behind the Facebook generation.
David Campbell, a partner with BDO and head of the firm's restaurants and bars, said the survey revealed that people were generally changing the way they used social networking sites.
"Pubs tend to use them less than the likes of restaurants, but then again the community aspect of a pub can be replicated on something like Facebook, where everyone can feel like they are part of something," he explained.
Many pubs were already onboard with email marketing for special events, Campbell said, which, while not - strictly speaking - social media, was still proving effective.
"Getting involved with social media is less an issue of cost, since creating a Facebook page or a Twitter account is free," said Campbell. "It's more about resources. You've got to find someone within your organisation who can keep tabs on things and add news and events on a regular basis."
Social media was relevant to pubs, Campbell said. "It helps you target your customer base and can prove to be a cost-effective way to do business in an increasingly competitive marketplace," he added.
There was a downside, however. The DLA Piper/BDO survey found that 28 per cent of respondents said social network sites carried negative feedback about their business, though some suggested such comments could be used to improve their operation, if handled correctly.
Meanwhile, discounting was playing an important role in the development of new technology in the hospitality trades, Campbell continued.
Operators could offer discount deals during quiet trading periods for a limited period through sites such as VoucherCloud, but would have to wean consumers off such deals in a targeted way as the economy improved.
The DLA Piper/BDO survey on use of social media in the trade found:
• 55 per cent of respondents use social media channels to promote their business
• 10 per cent of respondents didn't think social media was relevant to their business
• 68 per cent of respondents believe social networking has forced change in the industry
• 66 per cent of respondents use Facebook
• 55 per cent of respondents use Twitter.