More than one in 10 hospitality and leisure operators now generate up to half of all sales through social media, according to new research from Barclays bank.
However, a survey of 126 hospitality and leisure operators also highlighted the scepticism which still exists surrounding the business potential of social media.
Over 60% of those questioned said that they only see "some" or "limited" opportunity in using social media to engage consumers. Meanwhile, nearly a third (29%) of respondents directly attribute up to 25% of all their sales to social media, and a further 13% state that these platforms generate up to half of sales.
Of those currently using social media, more than two thirds (68%) report that they have had a "positive" or "very positive" experience, attracting new customers, and receiving positive recommendations.
More than one in 10 operators do not currently use social media, nor do they have any plans to do so, and say this is because they do not see any value or return on investment.
Mike Saul, head of hospitality and Leisure at Barclays, said the industry is missing a trick. "Social media has blurred the line between personal and corporate communities - something that has been encouraged by consumers who now expect to be able to interact in an immediate and very personal way, not just with friends, but with their favourite - and not so favoured - brands.
Concerns over the amount of time social media takes to manage, the risks of negative publicity, and the technical skills required are putting operators off using these networks and platforms. Although more than half (58%) of respondents believe the role of social media will increase in the sector over the next 12 months, responsibility for these channels is largely being placed on non-specialist in-house individuals (25%) or the general in-house marketing teams (24%) who do not necessarily have experience of handling these tools.
Saul added: "Just having a presence on social media is not enough - there needs to be a strategy driving it. Consideration needs to be given to how the information generated through social media is used, and we're already seeing canny operators merging such initiatives into their wider marketing campaigns, targeting potential customers in a more focused manner.
"However, the industry has a long way to go - social media has a lot of potential and ignoring it would be a mistake."
Social media in hospitality >>
By Janet Harmer
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