Facebook for Pages is changing! What should hotels and restaurants do? [Survival Guide]

Facebook will change how its algorithm prioritizes content that users see in their news feeds. What does it mean for hoteliers and restaurateurs?

What was the Facebook announcement about?

On January 12th, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckenberg announced that Facebook will change how it prioritizes content that users see in their news feeds focusing on meaningful interactions between people. Facebook explains the evolution of its algorithm in this video.

What does it mean for hoteliers and restaurateurs?

Facebook’s new focus on friends and family is expected to greatly reduce – or in some cases completely eliminate – the publications from business pages – i.e Hotel Facebook Pages, Restaurants Facebook pages - that a user will view on his Facebook news feed.

What is the impact of the changes to Facebook's news feed?

This change in Facebook’s algorithm was dreaded by experts for several months, and depicted as the “Apocalypse for Facebook Marketers”.

Last year, publications on Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne’s page reached over 1 Million readers organically. In 2018, if nothing is done by EHL social media marketing team and community manager, EHL would therefore lose one of its main communication channels to students, potential students, parents and alumni.

The same is true for hotels and restaurants who rely on their Facebook page to showcase their business. Small businesses such as small independent hotels, bed and breakfast, tea-rooms, food trucks, concept bars or cafés are expected to suffer most, as they do not have significant advertising budget to compensate this change.

While this Facebook change is the hype in the social media marketing sphere, it might get un-noticed by hotel and restaurant managers who are busy running their operations - that is, until they look at their social media performance and realize a significant drop in their referral traffic, reservations, walk-in traffic after promotions.

It might also get unnoticed by many users, outside a hotel or restaurant’s most loyal customer base. They might simply forget about that hotel or restaurant, or assume that the hotelier or restaurateur has simply stopped posting the content that they enjoyed in the past.

Staying on top of the consumers’ mind through their Facebook new feed will become almost mission impossible.

At Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne (EHL), with 50% of our Alumni working in the hospitality industry - the majority in senior management positions or as entrepreneurs - we felt it was important to raise awareness concerning this transformation, share our knowledge and suggest resources so that hospitality business owners and leaders may efficiently overcome this challenge.

What should independent hotel or restaurant owners do?

It might not be intuitive in the initial panic generated among marketers, but one could actually see this Facebook update as a good news for any business that puts customer satisfaction at its center.

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Here is a list of 6 things to do to improve your Facebook hotel marketing for 2018:

  1. Ask your customers when they are on your premises whether they would like to see (promotions, recipes, etc.) and how frequently.
  2. Commit yourself with publishing only these relevant topics and not spam…  As hospitality experts, you know that a small group of delighted customers will do more to spread the good word about your business than a crowd of indifferent, lukewarm patrons.
  3. Alongside your “Rate us on Tripadvisor” flyer, add a Facebook call to action: “to get our latest news, add your Facebook page to your ‘See First’ list”. Ask your front office staff to inform your guests accordingly.
  4. Put aside some budget to selectively promote your posts – reach out to people traveling to your location or in walking distance of your restaurant by promoting your local business on Facebook with Facebook location based targeting.
  5. Seek help from Millenials talents about designing future customer experiences for your hotel or restaurant. EHL’s Student Business Projects can get you a team of 6 EHL final year students to work on your customer experience or social media strategy.
  6. Get a refresh or update on Digital Marketing for Hospitality with an online certificate.

Content ideas for 2018 Facebook marketing for restaurants, food trucks, bars, cafés  – with new algorithm

  • Get Live:
    • Live behind the scenes of an event, your Chef’s technical prowess in the kitchen sharing pro-tips.
  • Get Personal:
    • Share your customers’ happy moments: Offer to take professional pictures of your guests and share them on your page.
  • Get in conversations:
    • Share your ideas for a change on your afternoon tea menu and ask for opinions.
  • Get kind:
    • A free recipe from your menu and tell your staff in service to mention to guests who are pleased with their dish that it is available on your Restaurant’s Facebook page.
  • Get Entertaining:
    • A compilation of activities and events in your vicinity. Ask your guests to contribute their own tips and share them. Cooperate with other local businesses in your area to cross-promote events.
  • Get Educational:
    • A live video of your dining room manager showing a fancy napkin fold to embellish a dinner party table.

What should Social Marketing Managers for Hotel and Restaurant pages do?

  1. Take a deep breath and remember your marketing basics: being customer centric and focused on satisfying your target customers’ needs. The Facebook algorithm change is a good reminder for all of us to do the right thing…. And a reminder about the meaning of the word “Social” in Social Media.
  2. Get up to speed on the nitty-gritty of the announcement with the social media gurus:
    1. Michael Selzner
    2. Jon Loomer
    3. Mari Smith
  3. Assess the impact on your page using the Insights tab in your page, or the new Facebook analytics feature.
  4. Set aside increased marketing budget for Facebook ads. Here is an approach to get a rough estimate: 
    1. Check the total number of organic impressions obtained in 2017.
    2. If you ran boosted post campaigns in 2017, check the CPM you achieved.
    3. Divide your organic impressions by 1000, and multiply by your CPM to get an estimate of the equivalent ad budget you would have spent in 2017.
    4. Add x% more to account for the expected ad cost increase in 2018 (see next point).
  5. Expect costs of Facebook advertising to soar as more page owners resort to ads. This cost trend will be compounded by the fact that Facebook's ad inventory has reached capacity in 2017.
  6. Prepare and update your social media editorial calendar for your hotel with content ideas listed (check out our content ideas above)
  7. Explore whether a Facebook Group could be relevant for your most loyal and engaged fan base.
  8. Increase focus on other channels but expect all your fellow marketers to do the same, and remember that Instagram – the other social media asset owned by Facebook – will probably be the next target for algorithm changes.
  9. Seek inputs of Millenials on engaging content marketing concepts. Mandate a team of 6 EHL final year students via a Student Business Project to review your social media strategy.
  10. Rethink your marketing, evolve from Interruption Marketing to Inbound Marketing. Learn more about this customer centric approach with Hubspot’s free Inbound Marketing online courses.

What you should stop doing now?

Here is a list of 5 mistakes hotel marketing managers should avoid with Facebook marketing in 2018. Let us know if you think of other mistakes to be avoided.

  1. Post more: The future is about relevant, engaging, thoughtful content. Quality will trump quantity.
  2. Schedule posts: Using scheduling systems will probably get penalized, as it is not what normal “human” users would do.
  3. Use ‘engagement-bait’: The “comment on this post and get a chance to win a free lunch at our restaurant”, “comment Yes if you like our new hotel fitness room as much as I do” or “tag your friends who would like our new vegetarian menu” might not have the result you expect.
  4. Create fake profiles or use third parties to act as genuine customers commenting on your Facebook posts. Facebook software engineers will probably find ways to detect these attempts and penalize your page.
  5. Give up on Facebook: Your customers will most probably still be using Facebook by 2018.

List of Facebook marketing resources for Restaurant and Hospitality Management:

Here is a compilation of our favorite Facebook resources for hospitality.

We will update this article and seek to make it as rich and useful. Ideas and contributions are welcome. Over to you!

Author: Veronique Malan - Marketing and Sales Channels Director, EHL

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