The reputation of any brand including, restaurants, hotels, and cafes, heavily depends on customer perception. Their experience with your business will determine how they convey that experience to others, which translates to word-of-mouth marketing, the pillar of success in the world of hospitality. The more people talk about your brand from a perspective of trust, loyalty, and satisfaction, the more return traffic you’ll earn, and the more referral customers you’ll attract.
But beyond reviews and word-of-mouth marketing, does your hotel, café, restaurant, or spa center use social proof to grow your presence? Do you fully understand the impact of social proof today, and especially now during a pandemic?
Leveraging customer trust and their experience are precisely what social proof is all about. It focuses on the simple human preference to tried and tested businesses that their friends and family, and today influencers, already trust and love. If you publish reviews, you already use social proof to show your potential customers that others already trust you.
We’ve built a comprehensive guide to social proof for hospitality brands, with actionable tips you can implement and allow your business to succeed.
Building authority and credibility
With so many options at their disposal, customers will have their doubts as to whom they can or should trust. For most, booking a table at a restaurant or visiting a spa is more of a treat than a regularity, so they want to know their time and money are well spent. In an oversaturated market, those brands with the most support from their community and the most praise will ultimately establish a reputation that speaks for itself.
- Expert reviews from, let’s say, food connoisseurs and critics, can skyrocket your brand’s success, get you more media coverage and social media attention in a heartbeat.
- Consistently positive reviews from customers build your brand’s image, helping future customers make up their minds more quickly.
- Approval from emerging foodies and influencers gets you extra points, too. You can rest assured that their followers will suddenly put you on their maps, too. In the eyes of your competitors, such support also matters, as everyone wants that kind of visibility.
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Establishing trust online
As we’ve mentioned before, trust is an essential part of the social proof puzzle that drives customer decisions and helps your business grow. It’s relatively straightforward to make the most of social proof in the form of reviews and testimonials but it’s much more challenging to engage your customers as they peruse your website during moments of decision-making and potential indecisiveness.
Your website visitors will read the reviews, but what will give them the added nudge to leap of faith is the use of a social proof tool on your website. It can be customized to show brief and effective pop-up messages that don’t interrupt the customer journey and merely give them a glimpse into what others are doing on your site. Whenever someone makes a reservation or purchases a service package from your website, they will get that pop-up window, showing them just how popular your business truly is.
These tools help inspire trust in that moment of engagement when your customers don’t have the chance to call up a friend and ask for their suggestion where to go out that night. Or they might have already gotten a few ideas from their family, so now they’re narrowing their choices down. For you to land in that final choice column, generating social proof and boosting trust on the spot matters.
Associating your brand with influencers
Simply put, influencers are brands. Linking your business to another particular brand evolves into a mutually-beneficial partnership with perks on both ends. However, that is why you need to be exceptionally careful as to whom you trust to sponsor and endorse your brand.
Celebrities, as well as micro-influencers that merely enjoy your venue might not align with your values. When you do find a person with a strong online presence that shares common values with you, you need to consider a long-term collaboration to make use of social proof.
- Their blog posts detailing their experience at your hotel are a great way to provide an in-depth, yet personal glimpse into your brand.
- Their stories and live streams provide that FOMO content that further ignites their followers’ interest.
- Photos on Instagram with a few carefully chosen hashtags are all the social proof you need to get the attention and affection of their followers, as well.
Empowering word-of-mouth and referrals
Social proof in its most basic form, such as reviews is a potent feedback loop. You can ask a satisfied customer to share their thoughts on Google reviews or Yelp, and expect people to come to your door based on that positive review. In turn, the simple fact that you encourage and publish reviews already will make it clear to other customers that their thoughts are welcome and valued.
As a result, they’ll likely feel free to do the same as the initial customer that has started this cycle of positivity in your favor. Something as simple as a testimonial can become the initial spark that generates even more word of mouth, expanding your reach beyond what’s measurable in KPIs or statistics. Ultimately, their testimonials work to boost your SEO strategy over time, as Google and other search engines will recognize your relevance in your community and reward you for it.
Growing audience engagement
Social proof, whether in the form of a social media review, a blog post, a video review, or a photo, has the potential to become a conversation. It’s so much more than a passive piece of content that generates silent approval or an increase in reservations and bookings.
On the contrary, social proof is a perfect strategy to inspire engagement based upon user-generated content. It helps start relevant conversations that are natural and organic, allowing for questions in the comment section, shares, and of course, social media contests that you can monitor and organize. Reviews, photos, videos, you name it, all of that content that serves as social proof can become pivotal in your marketing strategy for elevating engagement rates as well as trust.
Finally, even negative reviews and your responses are opportunities to make amends, own up to your mistakes, and connect with the customer in question while you simultaneously reap the rewards of long-term exposure. How you handle social proof, both the kind you create and the kind that comes naturally from your customers will help you manage your reputation.
Boosting brand visibility and awareness
Ultimately, all forms of social proof and showcasing customer trust serve another unified purpose: to get your brand in front of more people and make you more memorable. This dual-purpose is more of a long-term aspiration than what you can achieve with a single marketing campaign crafted to ask for reviews to publish on your site.
If you start treating social proof as timeless content for your brand, you have the chance to leverage that online presence in an ever-changing market prone to trends and oscillations. Brand visibility and awareness for your business mean so much more than increasing sales in a single month. It pays to invest in generating and inspiring social proof, if for nothing else than for the sake of your long-lasting brand image in the eyes of your audience.
The hospitality industry is one of the most competitive spheres out there. Add the pandemic into the mix, and the reduced business combined with competition makes it exceptionally difficult for businesses to persevere. However, social proof can make all the difference for your business, no matter if it’s a small local café or a chain of hotels and restaurants. With this knowledge and actionable tips, you can slowly boost your own business and let social proof in its many forms work in your favor.
Emma is a digital marketer and blogger from Sydney. She has worked with Australian startups on business and marketing development. Emma writes for many industry-related online publications, is an Executive Editor at Bizzmark blog, and a guest lecturer at Melbourne University. She is Interested in marketing, startups and latest business trends.
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