Why are hospitality & service-based businesses still hesitant and/or fearful to use social media?
Social media and hospitality go hand-in-hand. I think a year or two ago there was still hesitation from a significant part of the industry to avoid social media. It was sort of a ‘wait and see’ mentality. Plus, it was like any other industry. They didn't want to touch a new technology until the critical mass had validated it.
You saw the early adopters - the independent restaurant owners - who needed every single advantage they could get to keep their door opens, then, the larger franchises like Taco Bell.
On the hotel side, your boutique hotels picked up the torch, then your larger hotel brands followed suit. You see the same thing happening on the food & beverage side now. The hospitality industry, historically, can be one of the slowest turning ships. For decades, decision makers have adopted the classic "if it ain't broke..." mentality. Innovative marketing was not a priority for hotels, partly because they had a number of tentacles touching the consumer on their behalf: travel agents, tourists, business travelers, convention centers, etc.
So with all these opportunities to generate business, the hotel’s Marketing Director or Manager is really just a sales person with a cool title. And that's not a knock on them. It just shows how the organization prioritized certain initiatives.
With restaurants you had the same issue but a little more exaggerated, partly because margins in some cases can be very thin. So when they’re looking at your books every month and they're making money, then there used to be little incentive in their minds to market or to ‘waste time’ on social media.
Then when you add ignorance about a technology and a lack of desire to do anything different, you've got a perfect recipe for stagnation. But there were three important things that kicked the industry in the butt and ultimately changed this mindset. First, the hospitality industry began to notice the social-media-successes from other industries like Entertainment (music especially) and Human Capital (mainly recruiting), and so it began to open their eyes.
Second, they began to feel the effects of the looming recession and when that bad boy hit us, it was like a bully pulling away your chair as you're about to sit. Things were not so predictable anymore - patrons held out, so revenue was shrinking. This meant they had to look at every possible angle and ways to reach out for the sale.
Then finally, we began to see a shift in the workforce - the Millennials and the progressive Gen X's were working together! Talk about an invasion on the old-school's way of doing business! Don't get me wrong, we didn't change a lot of the key business principles, but because on the outside we changed how we wanted companies to do business with us, it inevitably meant that we took these 'new-age' principles into the corporate arena. So now you have an educated, informed, progressive group of marketers who understand, love and live by social media. They not only use social media to ultimately encourage the sale, but to also build brands, engage their audience and participate in what's going on outside the four walls.