Although traditional methods of advertising and publicity such as radio, TV, direct mail and events are all methods that businesses use to attract customers, the majority of customers nowadays are using new methods to consume and share information, and at least up to 90% of consumers are using the digital arena to communicate with one another. For promotion for hotels and F&B businesses, one of the most popular social media sites is probably Yelp, a leading platform that is playing a vital role in the hospitality sector.
Yelp – The Leading Platform in the Promotion for Hotels and F&B
Since it started in 2004, Yelp, a business and service search engine and social network, has become the most popular review site for the promotion for hotels, F&B and accommodation businesses. On Yelp, customers are able to search for businesses by food type, location or by keying in the hotel, F&B or restaurant’s name, and in recent years, customers have flocked to the social media site to share experiences and reviews, and this means that if you are in these sectors, you cannot possibly ignore the impact this will have on your company.
According to Experian Marketing Services, over 80% of customers conduct searches online for reviews on hotels, F&B outlets or restaurants before the actual visit. Consumers, the younger they are, the more likely they are to use Yelp. For instance, more than half of millennial customers put reviews as the most important when planning a visit to a place, a hotel, or a restaurant chain, said Placeable.
There will be customers looking for more information on your company, or reviewing your business online even if you do not have an account on Yelp. Whether you like it or not, you will have to read online reviews of your hotel or accommodation, your company’s food, service and setup online. You can hence see how reviews, and in particular Yelp plays an integral part in the promotion of your hotels or F&B; and in how customers decide where to stay, and what and where to eat. In fact, Yelp! is one of the biggest marketing tools in countries such as US and Europe, though, in Singapore other sites such as TripAdvisor, HungryGoWhere, Burpple and OpenRice are also being used.
With that information, how then, should you best utilise Yelp to your advantage?
(1) Polish Up Your Yelp Account
Much like your other social media accounts such as Facebook and Instagram, you should take some time to set up your Yelp listing properly, because Yelp’s algorithms are supportive of businesses who are active updating and managing their profile page.
It could be the case that your business is already listed by your customers, and in this situation, check what other information there are to fill in. There could be missing information pieces among vital details such as your company name, basic business information, website address, contact information such as phone number and email address, photos, opening hours, where it is located, menu and its prices, parking, seating arrangements, upcoming events or promotions.
To engage customers actively, post happy photos of guests, diners or travellers, or your staff members having fun serving them, and it will provide your business with more positivity and energy.One tip – do check out what your competitors are posting on Yelp, and see what can be improved for your own listing.
(2) Reviews, Reviews and Reviews
For promotion for hotels, F&B or even accommodations, having a lot of positive reviews on Yelp! can do wonders for your business. A Harvard Business School report on the social media giant revealed that an increase in a one-star rating can result in a 9% rise in revenue for the business, while a half-star increase in rating will lead to a 30% to 40% increase in possibility that an F&B business will sell out their dining space during peak hours.
Hence, hoteliers, restaurateurs and F&B management must acknowledge the importance of online reviews when it comes to promotion for hotels and restaurants, and seek to interact with customers regularly on Yelp. Responding to reviews can help to boost your ranking in Yelp’s search engine. Whether the feedback you get is positive or negative, the first step is always to thank, in a professional manner, the customer for patronising your business, and tell them that you will conduct an investigation of the matter if there is a negative feedback or even complaint. Contact the customer through a private message for more information, and apologise if your company is in the wrong. Most of the time, an instant and sincere response will diffuse anger and turn the situation around, and definitely, take such feedback as an opportunity for you to provide the customer with an experience he will ever forget again, with a complimentary meal at your restaurant or establishment, or send him gift cards, so that he might possibly write a positive review, or you might even turn him into a lifelong customer.
However, browsing on Yelp itself shows that the majority of hotels and restaurants are choosing to simply ignore reviews on Yelp, especially the negative ones as human nature means that it is not easy to take criticisms. As well, it could be the case that most business owners thought that it is more important to tend to their daily operational issues that their outlet is facing. This is the biggest mistake made by businesses on Yelp – not responding or engaging their reviewers. It is also vital that you customise your reply according to the feedback received, and do not use standard replies that might make you look insincere, a very important point in the promotion for hotels and F&B outlets.
Sometimes, Yelp’s scam review filter can sieve out customers’ positive reviews. Rosie Akenhead of Yelp UK told Boutique Hotel News that Yelp recognises its responsibility to protect businesses and the consumer by filtering reviews regularly. What you can do it try to reach out to such customers by clicking on the filtered reviews at the bottom of your business page, and tell them that their reviews have been hidden, and to fill out their profiles properly so that when their Yelp profile and engagement increase, their positive reviews will then be shown again on your page.
Finally, although it’s against Yelp’s policy to pay reviewers, it is good to encourage your customers to leave you a favourable feedback about your business online when they are leaving your restaurant or hotel, for added credibility and future business opportunities. Of course, this makes sense only if you know that your customer’s review will definitely be positive. Alternatively, you may want to put up a Yelp poster or sign that ask customers to ‘Find Us on Yelp”, while at the same time print out some positive reviews and paste them on the walls. Positive reviews will beget a similar type of energy, and your customers will be more likely to give you shining reviews. Hasten or encourage this by adding Yelp QR codes on your signage to make it quicker for your customers to snap and review!
(3) Hire A Full-Time Yelp Social Media Manager
If your budget allows, it is good to hire a full-time social media manager for Yelp (and perhaps other social media) to fully engage your audience online. It is also important to track your key performance indicators when using digital media as a marketing tool, such as the number of feedbacks and comments that you have been receiving on a regular basis. Keep maintaining your account fresh, with photos, promotions, events and snippets of fun facts about your business, so that your business will stay relevant and searchable on Yelp.
(4) Promotions or Deals
You can also increase the brand visibility of your business by running a deal or promotion on Yelp, such as a discount coupon or a gift voucher. Yelp will promote your deal to their users, and these users will then purchase your deals online and visit your establishment, providing more business for you. Yelp will take a small percentage of the revenue that will be generated from the sale of your deal.
(5) Promoting Yelp on Other Social Media
Ask for Yelp reviews on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media networks. Also place a Yelp logo on your outgoing mails, envelopes, newsletters or e-newsletters so that your customers are aware that you are active on Yelp.
(6) Host a Yelp Event
There are many other ideas in the promotion for hotels, or in general the hospitality industry. For instance, you can try to host an event on Yelp, garnering potential patrons to your business, or encouraging previous customers to revisit you, thereby further intensifying your relationship with the Yelp community. Check out this link, choose the city where your business is located, and then add your event and event details. The only thing you need to do thereafter is to promote your event via all the channels that you have! Usually, giving away something free or a very attractive promotion will entice many customers to your establishment.
While some business owners have criticised the Yelp algorithm, saying that it determines which reviews will be displayed on their pages and that Yelp will release positive reviews about a business in exchange for advertising dollars, there is no denying the power and reach of Yelp in the hearts of foodies and travellers. Customer service does not end when a diner or guest leaves the restaurant or hotel, the power of social media means that it has just begun.
What other methods of promotion for hotels, F&B and accommodation have you tried and what worked and what didn’t? Let me know or contact me for a chat at firstname.lastname@example.org – I’ll be able to offer some tips on how to use Yelp and other social media to increase your revenue.