The acceptance and the surging growth of the internet has changed how businesses interact with their customers, when traditional methods of marketing via mass media, print, billboards, telephone etc have been gradually losing their significance for the past two decades, social media marketing is gaining significant attention as the premier tool in an organisations marketing arsenal (Patino, Pitta, & Quinones, 2012).
Social media has potentially transformed the communication dynamics between a business and the customer, its virtual platform coupled with its wide scope and low-cost nature can help reach more customers quicker than conventional marketing tools (Hassan, Nadzim, & Shiratuddin, 2015). Ideally, social media marketing is a very promising avenue for new and small businesses as they do not have to allocate enormous marketing budgets and requires limited infrastructure because of its digital nature. However, organisations are encountering challenges when incorporating social media practices into their marketing regime (Andzulis, Panagopoulos, & Rapp, 2012).
Small businesses are hesitant to engage in social media marketing to communicate with the customers, especially because of their lack of knowledge and lack of motivation to implement new changes (Agnihotri, Kothandaraman, Kashyap, & Singh, 2012). The restaurant industry is no different in their acceptance of social media, where traditionally new technology and marketing methods have experienced slower adoption rate. However, in the past decade the restaurant industry has gradually accepted the fact that social media marketing is very important to stay competitive in the restaurant industry (Koutroumanis, 2011). The low change-over costs, easy implementation and excellent efficiency of the social media marketing tools have led nearly 80% of the restaurants in the industry adopt social media marketing (Kim, Koh, Cha, & Lee 2015). However, Taneja and Toombs (2014) reported that only a 26% of the small restaurants have effectively used social media to advertise to potential customers. This is a worrying trend that small restaurants are not effectively utilising social media as this may be most helpful for newer and small restaurants.
Agnihotri et.al explains that the primary reason that small businesses are hesitant to implement social media marketing strategies is because of their lack of knowledge. It has been also identified that the larger restaurant chains and organisations have signed up to applications on social media platforms to effectively set-up shop, interact, distribute promotions and update stories and news about the organisation(Yadav, Joshi, & Rahman, 2015).From a customer’s perspective, Bruhn et al. (2012) discusses that customers have left traditional marketing channels because they feel that social media is more genuine and trustable.
However, it can also be argued that social media marketing is an upgraded version of traditional marketing, the primary difference is that social media marketing is a two-way communication where the customers can also interact back to the advertisement or the system. The companies that use social media exactly how they would use conventional media is limiting the opportunity for a better customer interaction (Nevin & Torres, 2012). Hospitality industry has a different approach to customer service as what it offers is an experience than a tangible product. Therefore, there is a need to do further research about the best social media marketing strategies that can be implemented, it is also essential to identify the challenges in social media marketing in the hospitality industry.
The aim of this project is to investigate the social media marketing methods implemented by the small restaurant businesses in the UK and to deliver insights to academia and to the wider restaurant industry on how a business can expand customer base, improve reachability, advance innovation and develop the business using social media marketing strategy.