BY BENJAMIN FANG
The digital revolution has impacted the way businesses operate and thrive, including the hospitality and tourism industries.
To discuss the implications of these changes, the Queens Chamber of Commerce’s Hospitality Committee assembled a panel of experts on June 27 at LaGuardia Community College.
Paul Neuman, president of the Long Island City-based Neuman’s Kitchen Events & Catering, moderated the panel. He noted that approaches to storytelling have changed even in the last two years.
Brian Cirillo, founder of NY 360Tours, a virtual marketing company, said back then, having the best website was so important for businesses. Now, if you Google any business or brand, they’re usually buried.
“Businesses are putting all their resources into social,” he said.
For Ben Guttmann, co-founder and partner of the Digital Natives Group in Long Island City, email is still an important tool to reach audiences. Whereas social media platforms have what he called “leased audiences,” in email marketing, you maintain a list of people you’re reaching.
Videos are also an important component of digital storytelling, according to Kyle Susmin, president of the company 1Motion. For businesses in the hospitality industry, customers want to see the experience they’re going to have before they get there.
“It’s more about telling your story than selling your product,” Susmin said. “It’s a constant story you’re telling.”
The panelists also discussed how social media channels serve different audiences. For a semi-private audience, Facebook Groups or Slack channels may be the way to go, Guttmann said.
While Snapchat has gone up and down and Twitter has been written off by many users, Facebook is still a viable option, especially for older crowds.
Guttmann, who teaches a digital marketing class at Baruch College, said he always asks students what platforms they use daily.
“They all still have Facebook, but they use it like a utility,” he said.
Jake Oliver, vice president of the nonprofit consulting firm Anat Gerstein, said Twitter still has its value, especially when engaging members of the media or elected officials.
He said LinkedIn is another valuable platform for networking and developing thought leadership. For businesses or organizations that place a premium on visuals, however, Instagram is vital.
Many hospitality businesses are still deciding how to allocate their budgets on the digital side.
Susmin, an expert in videos, said while generally people think video production will “cost them an arm and a leg,” their strategy to keep costs low is to capture all the film in one day, and then cut up the videos.
“You can repurpose content,” he said.
Cirillo advised, before even spending a penny on digital marketing, that businesses get a free “Google My Business” page, which gives companies more control of what shows up in search results.
He said business owners should make sure their company name, address and phone numbers are correct. Then they add reviews, add photos and even virtual tours to the page.
“Optimize those pages as much as possible,” Cirillo said.
One audience member asked the panel about how to maximize search engine optimization. Susmin responded that creating content, and posting regularly on social media or your website, will help you rank higher in searches.
“The best SEO is a properly built website and good content,” Guttmann said.
Oliver added that while social media platforms are free to set up, businesses should keep putting up content and engage with users.
Both Susmin and Cirillo encouraged businesses to not be afraid to put their foot forward and try their best with digital.
“It’s better than being scared the entire time,” Susmin said. “Just do it, that’s the only way to get better.”