The good news is that the vast majority of licensees have embraced Facebook and are keen to learn more about the platform, according to an exclusive survey by the Publican’s Morning Advertiser and Heineken.
However, just 60% of licensees are using Twitter and less than a fifth are using Instagram, which comes in just behind Snapchat as the fastest growing social network.
The PMA gives you five tips for getting started on social media.
1. Choose your channels
Keeping up with multiple social media channels can be a full- time job in itself. Punch learning and development manager Helen Willis recommends having no more than four social media platforms and suggests concentrating on Facebook and Twitter to start off with. “We see Facebook as the most useful platform for publicans,” she says. “It’s an ideal way of providing people with the basic details on your site (where it is, contact details, opening hours etc) while also giving you the chance to show your offering through attractive videos and pictures, display positive review and respond to customer feedback.”
She also recommends checking out your competitors to see what they’re doing on social media. “Look and see how actively they are using social media and what they are posting.” Similarly, if you admire how other pubs or businesses are using social media, have a look at the kind of content they’re posting and see if it would work for you.
2. Listen, as well as talk
It’s easy to forget that an effective use of social media can be as much about listening as it is talking. Pubs need to engage and be responsive, says Andrew Henderson, head of creative, design and technology at the Craft Beer Co. “Social media is a great way to get involved and gather valuable feedback from your customers, but make sure you listen as well as broadcast,” he says.
His thoughts are echoed by Red’s True BBQ (almost 30,000 Twitter followers and counting) founder James Douglas. “Social media is a vital tool to get feedback on your business and ask what you’re doing right or wrong,” Douglas told delegates at the PMA500 business club earlier this year. “There are millions of conversations happening on social media and I can guarantee at least one of them is about your business.”
3. Be organised
Remembering to tweet once or twice or a month isn’t going to help your business grow. Plan a social media calendar for the month that includes any events the pub is putting on, big sports matches and any events in the local community. Having tweets and Facebook posts mapped out will stop you from having to scrabble for good content, although you’ll also need to add in some more time- sensitive content, like encouraging customers to visit your beer garden on a sunny day.
Building a good library of photos to use in your tweets and posts can also help your tweets fly; research shows including photos, links and videos leads to higher levels of engagement from users.
4. Don’t be afraid to have a personality
Many pubs fall into the trap of just using their social media channels to pump out messages about drinks offers and lunch deals. There’s no doubt that Twitter and Facebook can be valuable tools to let people know about upcoming promotions or new drinks. As Craft Beer Co’s Henderson says: “Let your audience know when you have new products in stock, whether it’s an exciting beer or new wine. Your social media channels allow the customer to gain a heads-up before or as it happens. Don’t underestimate the power of the enthusiasm of that.”
However, some of the most popular food and drink businesses on Twitter aren’t scared to be a bit more interesting. Smoothie brand Innocent drinks light-hearted approach to current affairs has earnt it a huge 228,200 followers and London kebab shop Mangal 2 has become an unlikely social media star thanks to it's quirky tweets.
5. Post responsibly
The PMA’s licensing experts Poppleston Allen urges licensees not to use social media for excessive or irresponsible drinks promotions, pointing to the example of one London bar advertising £1.50 drinks all night on its Twitter feed. They also warned that as well as the obvious dangers of pictures of excessive drunkenness or underage drinking being shared on social media, it has also seen local residents produce pictures at hearings of people at a pub outside of its licensed hours and of rowdy customers.