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The power of social media

As of March 2017, there were over 44 million active (active referring to, accounts that are used regularly – either on a daily or monthly basis) accounts across Australia’s biggest social media platforms – Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, SnapChat and Twitter. Australia’s population is almost 24.5 million, with approximately 20 million of the population aged 15 or or over – each Australian has an average of 2.2 social media accounts across each of these top five platforms. When taken into account Australia’s top twenty social media platforms, data shows this figure increases to 3.56 accounts.

Having a social media account isn’t the only big trend in the digital landscape. According to Deloitte’s 2015 Mobile Consumer Survey, there are over 15 million active smartphones in Australia. This doesn’t include other devices including smart watches or tablets and doesn’t include devices that may be lying around the home or office.

52 per cent of consumers in the survey also have ‘connected devices’. Connected devices refers to “the marketplace for Internet of Things devices including connected home entertainment, home automation devices, individual devices and connected cars” (Deloitte, 2015). 

This indicates Australia’s technology adoption is growing at a significant rate in all aspects of life – personal and professional. Australians are more connected today than ever before and these connections do not stop when a phone is locked or turned off – they now continue when users get into their cars, and continues when users change devices, and when they get home. The Australian digital lifestyle means consumers of all types and ages are always connected, can always search, are always online and always want to source information at their finger tips.

SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

With more than half the population of Australia being active on at least one social media platform, there are more opportunities than ever to reach current and potential customers.

It’s no longer an option to ignore your social presence, it is an expectation that your business is online. If a consumer cannot find you, they will not dine with you. If a consumer cannot connect with you, can’t message you or see real and high quality pictures from other diners or from your business, they won’t trust your brand.

This can be daunting and scary if you don’t know what you are doing. However, it can be a really useful and inexpensive tool to reach millions of potential customers.

WHERE DO YOU START?

Knowing you need to have an online presence, but not having the skill, knowledge or time to make one can often discourage businesses from trying, however spending a small amount of time and planning can make using the digital world much easier than you might imagine.

  • Know your target market

Start with working out who your market is, who are you trying to connect and engage with? Are you wanting to reach the local community or do you need to reach the tourism market? Are you a café? – If so, your trading hours are more likely suited to part-time workers with small families. Or, if you a fine dining premise in a major city, you are more likely to attract customers with higher disposable incomes. Working out your target market, and putting a face to this person will help you as a business decide what platforms are going to work best for your business.

  • Create your profiles

Now that you have your market, where do you find them? Are they on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or SnapChat? Do they prefer videos, pictures or articles? It will be a waste of resources to create profiles on platforms that are irrelevant to your market, and the more profiles you have, the harder to manage the content – so think wisely! Can you or your staff manage more than one account?

When creating your profiles, you should also consider the content shared on these platforms. For example, Instagram is picture-based platform. You can use text but anything more than one sentence is likely to be ignored. You can’t hyperlink from individual posts either – so if you are trying to send your customers to multiple pages on a website, it may not be the best choice.

  • Know your brand

Any social media account should align with your businesses’ brand and website. If you are an Italian restaurant, posting recipes on how to make cupcakes won’t make much sense to your customers when they get to your website and realise you are an Italian restaurant and not a bakery. Your ‘voice’ should sync with your overall brand positioning, do you want to present your business as a ‘real person’ or do you want to leave a wall of professionalism between your business and your customers?

  • Keep it simple

On a website home page, remember what type of business you are. In the hospitality sector, why are customers coming to your website? It is likely one of three reasons.

  1. To book a reservation. Having an online booking system on your home page (or a button) is a good option. If you don’t offer online bookings, having something clear and obvious indicating how a customer can book, such as “Call us today to book” followed by your reservation number.
  2. To review your menu. A customer has just seen the best looking burger on your Instagram profile and is super excited to visit your business on the weekend, but one of their friends is a vegetarian – so the customer wants to know what else you offer on your menu. Again, having your menu in a prominent and obvious place will make it really simple for the customer to find. A PDF is an easy way to share your menu online.
  3. To check your trading hours. There is nothing more disappointing than travelling to a restaurant or café and finding the business to be closed or completely gone. Most customers don’t want to waste their free time so they want to know when you’ll be open, so they can come and see you and eat at your business. Again, listing these details in an obvious place on the home page or having ‘trading hours’ in your websites’ menu will help customers navigate your site quickly.

Other things you may want to consider having your site are: functions details and/or packages (if you offer them), a gallery or Instagram feed showing off your food and venue, a specials page – do you have a Mother’s Day event on etc. The key is to remember that your website is designed to help your customers, quickly and efficiently.

  • Utilise free tools, hashtags and profiles

Businesses can reach further audiences by using hashtags such as #restaurantaustralia and #foodie or tagging profiles such as @australia @seeaustralia and @savouraus etc. Simply tagging food related businesses or even engaging with bloggers or food-related media agencies (Concrete Playground, Gourmet Traveller) can create further opportunities. Customers do go out of their way to view these profiles and hashtags, so use what you can. If you are lucky, your content may even be picked up and shared.

  • Take your time

Social media followings do not generally grow overnight. Take your time, build on your content. Spend time responding to your audience and let them know you are contactable. Aim to post at least something once a day. If you use you the insight tools built into the social platforms you can monitor your followers’ engagement and activity. Use these tools and adjust your content as needed. It is important to remember, social media is not a race. A business does not want to inundate its audience with 60 posts a day – they will likely unfollow you. Social media is just a platform to keep your audience (customers) informed. It is an additional tool to your normal advertising, and should compliment it.

R&CA often runs seminars and webinars on social media and the digital landscape for its members. Stay tuned through weekly newsletters for upcoming events that may be of relevance. Alternatively the R&CA members area hosts a range of useful resources, including videos and documents on how to be digitally savvy.