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Hospitality on Social

The pandemic and rising living costs have pushed the hospitality industry further away from its customers than ever before. Read on as we talk through our social-first strategy that aims to build sustainable hospitality brands during this unprecedented period.


Essi Nurminen

14 Mar 2022

As COVID-19 restrictions ease up, people attempt to live ‘normally’ again. This cautiousness paired, with the rise in living costs in the UK means that consumers remain reluctant to spend their money on non-essential services.

The hospitality industry has fallen victim to consumer cutbacks but with vaccine boosters, herd immunity and milder variants, there is light at the end of the tunnel as the ONS predicts strong growth for consumer spending in 2022. In this window of opportunity, the hospitality industry should look to build brands by building credibility, trust, and reach to encourage the public into spending again.

Historically, hospitality brands turn to activation techniques in the form of promotions and sales when attempting to attract customers. However, this approach lacks endurance as it only provides a short-term win and doesn’t build sustainable brands.

So, how do you build a brand with an experiential service like those in the hospitality industry?
The answer, of course, is through social media.

Building a brand on social unlocks a unique opportunity as social provides brands with a platform and a level of contact with consumers that has never been seen before. At Born Social we understand the power of social; it allows brands to craft their own look and feel, connect with audiences and build with the community through collaboration across a multitude of platforms. Consistency and continuity are key to brand building so by focusing efforts on reaching all potential buyers and harnessing the power of social, brands will see a compounding return.

Our social-first approach allows brands to understand the nuances of social. In the following section we’re highlighting a few key areas of our whitepaper, ‘The Social First Brand’ and its applicability to the hospitality industry.

Let’s dive in!

Tapping into subcultures

Identifying subcultures

Whilst it's true that the strongest brands are shared within society, brands should understand that nowadays consumers are rarely one homogenous group: moments of mass conformity, unity and shared understanding are increasingly less frequent. As algorithms dictate the flow of information, they have evolved the way we consume content by creating hyper-personalised, individualistic feeds. As a result, monoculture has declined and splintered into an ever-growing number of subcultures, making it harder for brands to identify their place in culture. To identify and scale subcultures, brands should leverage social listening and use it to build tailored structures, communication and assets to bond the brand with the subculture.

Scaling subcultures

To scale subcultures, brands should add actual value to the brand in an indirect way. Take KFC for example, KFC is known for tasty, fast-food which makes it ideal for gamers. KFC set up a separate Twitter page to connect gamers and ingratiate itself within gaming culture so KFC is front of mind when it comes to ordering food around gaming.

Similar to KFC, Nando’s is another good example of a brand adding to the subculture through brand experience indirectly. Nando’s set up ‘Nando’s Yard’ which is an initiative which embeds Nando’s in all things youth culture - from music, to gaming, to comedy, to fitness and fashion, Nando’s remains relevant as it builds the brand within the subculture.

Cultural codes

Once the subculture is identified, social unlocks the opportunity to tap into a subculture’s cultural codes and trends. If applied correctly, it gradually integrates a brand further with its consumers which builds a stronger, more credible brand.

Through social listening, brands should commit to subcultures and tap into a subculture’s cultural codes, lean into trends and jokes with branded content as it removes the friction between the brand and the customer and it adds value to the day-to-day consumer experience. It’s important to align the brand with cultural codes and add a brand’s voice to key moments to remain front of mind and build a collective understanding which bonds the consumer and brand together.

Our work with Nando’s is a prime example of reactivity to subculture moments on social whilst remaining true to the brand with relevant, engaging content which increases a brand’s penetration, reach and growth.

Build with community

User generated content (UGC)

Harnessing subcultures lays the foundations between the brand and the consumer but building with community through collaborative UGC empowers the subculture and strengthens the bond between brand and consumer.

citizenM and Whotels use UGC which encourages other customers to take pictures and use their platforms as visual testimonials to promote the brand and the experience. Prospective customers will see UGC and feel confident that it is an accurate representation of the service as it is unbiased and authentic because it is produced by ordinary paying customers.

From reposting UGC, to duetting and reacting, there are many interaction features on each platform and using these natively is key to interact, empower and build with the community authentically on social.

Our team at Born nail Nando’s native approach on TikTok . In this example, Nando’s duets a user’s TikTok PERI-PERI salt hack with a filter which elevates customers content, adds value to the customer experience, empowers the consumer and embeds itself into subcultures on TikTok.

Distinctive product & brand assets

A distinctive product asset like a signature cup or a hotel robe ties the consumer into a brand and makes it easy for consumers to become a part of the product. Creating shareable and recognisable assets distinguishes a brand from another and it allows subcultures to interact with the brand.

The team at Born leaned into Nando’s brand assets and utilised their spice flags and takeaway bags to create distinctive product assets on social.

Don’t underestimate the power of the creator industry

The value that the creator industry brings to brands who choose to collaborate with creators meaningfully is unparalleled. Utilising creators who embody the values of the brand and subculture unlocks further audiences in an authentic way. Using a creator gives brands a relatable, human face with a fresh creative perspective and is likely to be successful as people trust people over faceless brands.

See below for TikTok examples from the Hilton and our work with citizenM hotels.

Channel Clusters

Layers of complimentary channels

To build a brand on a large scale, brands should adopt a social strategy which incorporates layers of complimentary channels to its subcultures and create in accordance to the subcultures and the selected platforms. Adapting to each platform with a flexible suite of assets and strong unique selling point (USP) is crucial for successful multi-platform campaigns. It is important to consistently reinforce the USP at every touchpoint and platform diversity facilitates this strategy to remain ‘front of mind’.

Think of social as the new 'Tripadvisor'

Social is the place to show off so show off the very best of the brand on each platform. Think of social as the new 'Tripadvisor'. Social channels are the place that prospective customers go to assess whether they want to visit a hotel or restaurant (particularly Instagram) so convince them easily with strong channel presence. TikTok has also provided hospitality brands with unrivalled organic reach potential as brands and customers use the platform to showcase services which gain virality within subcultures and grow in popularity as a result. Therefore, each social channel should be built for social in order to increase reach and penetration.

Use each platform natively

Before setting up on a platform, brands should conduct research around each platform and understand the nuances of the platform and how each subculture taps into these nuances and replicate.

Nando’s has an exemplary multi platform strategy. Below are examples of how Born Social’s Nando’s team uses each platform differently yet remains authentic and still manages to communicate its USP across its channels.

In conclusion

When brands commit to our social-first pillars, they inevitably see a compounding return. Social is not just ‘another’ channel. Social is the place where brand and performance come together: a dynamic environment with different formats, behaviours and audiences. Communities are born, built, and nurtured on social for subcultures to thrive. That’s why we believe that the brands of tomorrow will consistently put social at the heart of their approach in order to build a brand that will withstand the test of time.