By Karen Fewell, founder of Digital Blonde, a leading agency specialising in the hospitality sector

Many things can be debated about the last few months, but there is no question that our digital and social media activity increased during the lockdown. In fact, 47% of Internet users reported that their social media usage went up during this time*. We have turned to the social networks to fill our time, share experiences and connect with others and it’s likely many people will continue an increased use of social media over the following months. This means Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn should be central to promoting your hospitality business whether you are offering socially distanced food and drink or providing a takeaway service.

How can you use social media to promote your pub or restaurant over the coming months?

START LOCAL The pandemic has raised the importance of supporting local businesses and social media lends itself to local marketing. Using Facebook and Instagram’s ad platform you can target your
posts at the people who are most likely to want to support you, those in your local community. There is also plenty of research around about which age groups feel more comfortable about returning to bars and restaurants and so you could add these demographics to your ad targeting too. Start with a small budget on your ads to ensure you don’t have too many customers in the early days and either let people down or make them feel unsafe. You can gradually increase the ad spend over time.

SHOW THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE BUSINESS I was always told “People buy people” and the more marketing experienced I have gained, the truer I have found this statement. It’s so important for the business owner, landlord or other figurehead to have a presence on your social media accounts. Perhaps you can record a video to camera talking about the new approach to visiting your business. In the video explain the new process. When video is done well, it can achieve higher engagement than words and photos and it helps to build a relationship with your audience.

Be cautious about the staff you choose to show on your social media accounts. In the early days, most of your customers will be locals. You don’t want to show a photo of one of your team and then find a customer comments about how that person is not following the distancing rules away from work.

REVIEW YOUR PHOTOS AND SOCIAL ASSETS Whether you are offering a socially distanced service or a new takeaway offering, it is likely there have been changes to how your business looks and feels. It will now be inappropriate to show photos of chefs working closely in a kitchen or pub goers on a busy Saturday night all close together. I recommend you plan in some time to take new photographs to reflect how your business ‘looks’ now, what you are offering and how the dishes are served. It will also help to post photos of your team demonstrating safe hygiene practices such as wearing masks and gloves, to show how you are taking your customers’ safety seriously.

HOW HAS THE LOCKDOWN MADE YOUR BUSINESS EVEN BETTER? Lockdown has given many people time to reflect and come up with new ideas. Use your social media accounts to tell the story about using the closure to make your business better. Perhaps you have re-decorated, sourced new ingredients, introduced a new drinks supplier or maybe even started to grow your own vegetables?

WELCOME FEEDBACK After months of cooking every meal at home, there is a lot of love out there for hospitality businesses trying to re-open. Use your social media accounts to sound out your customers on new ideas and approaches. You will be surprised by just how keen local people are to help you. Make sure you show that you are listening to your social media audience, thank them for their time and ensure you answer any concerns people highlight.

DON’T FORGET THOSE WHO WANT TO RETURN AT A LATER DATE Despite everything you are doing to encourage customers back to your business, some customers are just not ready to venture out yet. Still communicate with these customers and don’t let them feel excluded from your brand and marketing activity. When they do feel safe to venture out again they will remember who thought about them during the easing of the lockdown.

DON’T LET SOCIAL SLIP DOWN YOUR TO DO LIST It’s going to be a really busy period with many new challenges, but it’s important to set time aside for ensuring you talk about all your good work on your social media accounts.

Good luck and if you have any questions feel free to drop me a note at