I wrote this article to emphasise the importance for a hotel or restaurant to invest time and financial and professional resources in building a community, online or offline, and the importance this can have in business development.
I decided to ‘come out’ and I am here to tell you how my relationship with digital has changed over the last 5 years. I am sure that my journey can be enlightening for many former hotelier and restaurateur colleagues who now find themselves in the position I was in a few years ago.
Because ‘if you don’t understand you don’t act or you act badly’. And you must not continue to see digital as an enemy that makes you throw money away, but you must see it as a valuable ally in which to invest intelligently, with the knowledge that every euro invested will produce a ROI (Return on Investment) of at least 300%.
In this article
- What is a Community?
- Why create a Community?
- Useful techniques and strategies
- Monitor results and create a safe environment
- Final advice
What is a Community?
A community is a group of people who share common interests, values, experiences or goals and who interact with each other through different media and platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Whatsapp Business, Telegram, Messenger, Tripadvisor, Google, etc.
Communities can form around various topics, such as hobbies, professions, brands, products, services and therefore Hotels and Restaurants. As a matter of fact, every Hotel or Restaurant already has a group of loyal customers representing the offline community, whose relations are normally managed by a customer department, a manager or the owner of the business itself.
Today, however, I will share with you my thoughts on the importance of implementing an offline community, represented by groups on social media, forums, blogs, associations, clubs or organisations, which is just as important as the offline community that you are surely already cultivating.
And we will see that creating relationships within it can mean generating new bookings and thus increased turnover.
The reason why people join within a community is to exchange ideas, knowledge, experiences and support, creating links and relationships between them and a company.
For a hotel or restaurant, communities can be a powerful tool for marketing and customer loyalty, as they allow you to interact directly with your audience, to understand their needs and expectations, and to build lasting relationships based on trust and brand affiliation.
Let us now look at some tips for creating and managing a community for your Hotel or Restaurant.
Why create a Community?
In the hospitality industry, engagement or interaction with customers is key to creating lasting bonds and improving business. A well-structured and active community can become a fundamental pillar for your hotel or restaurant, offering numerous opportunities for growth and customer loyalty.
Interacting with your community through social channels, Instagram or Facebook for example, exclusive events and customised promotions, will allow you to get to know your customers and their needs better, increasing satisfaction and positive word of mouth.
A well-curated community can turn casual customers into loyal and passionate customers of your brand, increasing the likelihood that they will return to visit your hotel or restaurant and promote your establishment to friends and acquaintances. To do this, it is important to offer a unique and customised experience that takes into account the needs and desires of individual customers. Consider implementing a loyalty programme, which rewards your customers with points, discounts and exclusive benefits based on their attendance and spending. Also, don’t underestimate the importance of maintaining constant and open communication with your community members by engaging them in surveys and discussions on topics of interest to them.
Keep in mind that a community of fans passionate about your hotel or restaurant is not created overnight. It requires commitment, consistency and, above all, the ability to offer unique and memorable experiences. To do this, it is important to focus on quality content, such as exclusive dishes, special pairings, travel tips and behind-the-scenes stories about your hotel or restaurant. Evaluate which channels among Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Whatsapp Business, etc. are best suited in your specific case to share these experiences with your community and engage your customers in an authentic way, creating an emotional bond with your brand.
If you manage to create a community for hotels or restaurants you will generate the word-of-mouth effect, the power of which is undeniable: a loyal community can become the best ambassador of your brand, promoting it through the telling of their positive experiences. To make the most of this potential, it is important to nurture the relationship with your most loyal customers, offering them exclusive benefits and proactively involving them in community life. Encourage the sharing of reviews and testimonials on major industry sites and platforms, and don’t forget to interact with your customers, responding to their comments and questions.
Useful techniques and strategies
The creation and management of a successful online community in the hospitality industry requires the use of appropriate technologies and strategies. Some of the most effective solutions include chatbots for managing bookings and customer enquiries, content marketing platforms for creating and distributing quality content, and data analysis tools to monitor community performance and identify areas for improvement. In addition, it is important to define a coherent and targeted communication strategy using different channels and formats to reach your target audience and keep the focus on your community.
In your strategy, do not forget to include UGC – User generated content. User generated content plays a crucial role in strengthening your community and increasing customer trust. Invite members of your community to share their photos, videos and stories about their experiences at your hotel or restaurant. Such activity will not only increase engagement, but also demonstrate that your brand is appreciated and experienced by real people. Furthermore, promoting user-generated content on your social channels can encourage other people to participate and interact with your community.
Just as organising events, both virtual and offline, can help strengthen your community and create additional opportunities for engagement. Events can include wine tastings or themed dinners in your restaurant, or online workshops and seminars on topics of interest to your customers. Events offer the opportunity to interact directly with members of your community, gather feedback and create memorable experiences.
Information also plays an important role. An informed and knowledgeable community is more likely to remain loyal and appreciate the value of your hotel or restaurant. Offer educational and informative content about the latest trends in the hospitality industry, best practices for sustainable travel or cooking techniques used by your chef. Organize webinars, workshops or Q&A sessions to actively engage your community members and demonstrate your expertise in the industry.
Use different channels and platforms to interact with your community and reach a wider audience. Each channel has its own advantages and peculiarities, so experiment and adapt your approach according to the characteristics of each medium. For example, use Instagram to share eye-catching images and behind-the-scenes stories, while using Facebook to post in-depth articles and promote discussions among your community members.
Finally, collaborate with other brands, influencers or industry experts to expand your community and increase the visibility of your hotel or restaurant. These collaborations can include participating in events, creating joint content or promoting exclusive offers for members of the respective communities. Partnerships can bring added value to your customers and help you reach a wider audience.
Monitor results and create a safe environment
Analyzing your community data is key to understanding what works and what can be improved. Use analysis tools to monitor key metrics such as engagement rates, follower growth and conversions. Identify areas of success and opportunities for improvement to refine your strategy and deliver an ever-better experience for your community members.
As part of your data analysis, listen to your community in order to continuously improve your offer and service. Collect feedback and suggestions from your community members and use them to make changes and improvements to your hotel or restaurant. This will demonstrate your commitment to respond to your customers’ needs and strengthen the bond between your brand and your community.
Finally, it is essential to create a safe and inclusive environment for your community members, where they feel free to express themselves and share their opinions. Establish clear rules and guidelines to ensure respect and courtesy among members, and intervene promptly in case of inappropriate behavior. A positive and welcoming environment will encourage members of your community to interact and remain loyal to your brand.
The final bonus is simple: you now have many reasons to invest time and resources in the creation and management of not only a real but also an online community. You will see that your efforts over time will be rewarded with increases in turnover more than proportional to the investment made. Complaining as I did for too many years is not a strategy. On the contrary, rolling up your sleeves and stepping out of your comfort zone will allow you to create and manage a community ready to support and promote your hotel or restaurant.
Before I leave you, I would like to emphasize that the success of a community depends on consistency, dedication and attention to detail. Maintain an open and honest dialogue with your community members, offer valuable content and experiences, and continue to improve and adapt your strategies according to the needs and expectations of your audience.
In an increasingly connected and digital world, the power of communities cannot be underestimated. If managed correctly, your hotel or restaurant can benefit enormously from creating a strong and cohesive community. By engaging with customers, sharing unique experiences, leveraging active members and implementing a multi-channel strategy, your community will become a key pillar to the success of your business.
Don’t forget that the key to keeping a community active and engaged is innovation. Keep experimenting with new ideas and approaches, and always remain open to change and adaptation. In the hospitality industry, customer satisfaction is the top priority, and a happy and satisfied community is the basis for the long-term success of your hotel or restaurant.
In conclusion, building and managing a community is not an easy task, but the benefits to your hotel or restaurant are well worth it. Devote time, effort and resources to creating a strong and active community, and you will soon see the results in terms of customer loyalty, positive word-of-mouth and the success of your business. The community is the beating heart of any successful hospitality brand, and with the right strategies and constant commitment, your hotel or restaurant can also achieve memorable results.
Article written by Giancarlo De Leonardo, former Restaurateur and Hotelier and Founder of carocollega.com