Small businesses need to communicate their holiday hours. Social media makes it quick and easy. So why do so many business owners neglect this?
Without fail, I always find myself with a restaurant conundrum every Easter long weekend. I've shown up at places which boost that they never close only to find out that they do in fact shut down. I've turned up to Happy Hours and found the place hopping (not unlike the Easter bunny itself I suppose...) only to learn that their usual menu has been replaced, or that the Happy Hour specials have been cancelled, or that the only available option is a buffet. And I've even stayed away from restaurants, convinced that I won't be able to find breakfast early on the morning of Easter Sunday, only to learn that they were indeed open the whole time.
What do all these frustrating scenarios have in common? They all could have been prevented with social media.
Sharing holiday hours is the one social media post that most businesses consistently forget. Perhaps frazzled managers forget to post an update during the busy pre-holiday rush. Perhaps certain industries feel that it's obvious that certain old fashioned rules will be followed. Or maybe social media is only used on rare occasions by a business, posting when inspiration strikes rather than when a schedule dictates. Regardless of the cause, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I'd rather be enjoying a delicious meal. And I'm certainly not alone. Long holiday weekends are a time to reunite with family members (is your gas station going to be open), visit those who need extra cheer and comfort in their lives (will you still be delivering flowers on the weekend), and even complete some long overdue projects (what time does your hardware store open?) I may be preoccupied with food - no surprises there! - but virtually every business can benefit from publicly clarifying their holiday hours.
And it's not just a matter of courtesy. It's about making money! Customers are likely to stay away from independent businesses, assuming that many do close on statutory holidays, and will instead choose a major chain they are confident will be open. I'm a classic example of this. I'll grab my coffee and muffin at national coffee house chain at the start of a long weekend road trip. Doing so comes at the expense of several indie cafes, simply because I'm in a rush and I don't want to go on a fools' errand. All this would change if I could instantly access their hours on social media. Time in, time out, presenting easy to access, clear information helps a business gain and retain customers.
I always say that social media posts, just like blog posts, should tell a story and grow a community. And, even for a subject as cut and dry as holiday hours, there are still plenty of opportunities to accomplish those goals. For instance....
A bakery could say: "We'll be closed on Sunday but our staff - and our homemade blueberry muffins - will be back Monday, open 9:00 to 5:00 as always. We look forward to seeing you then!"
A hardware store could say "We'll be open on Easter Friday starting at our usual time of 8:00 am. Hope you "hop" in to check out our new display of backyard gazebos. We'll be happy to help you with any project questions."
A pub could say: "Through holidays, bad weather, and even roadworks, we're still open! And this Easter long weekend, we're giving every dinner guest a complimentary coffee and mini dessert just to say thanks for including us in your plans".
Each of these posts answers the question about holiday hours, provides potential customers with an additional piece of important business information (what their normal business hours are, that a new display is ready, that there are road works outside) in a really natural way, and finally it makes them feel welcomed and valued as part of that businesses' community.
Don't worry - if you're in a rush or not feeling particularly chatty, that's okay. Just say "We'll be closed on Sunday. Happy Easter!" and rest assured that you've gotten the point across. This is definitely a time when something is better than nothing.
As always, social media is just one part of communication process. Any step you can take to clearly let customers know what is happening during the holidays is valuable. An extra sentence in your voice mail, a sign on the door a week in advance, a quick word at the cash register all go a long way to keeping people informed. And even if you're not feeling particularly tech savvy, you'll find it easier than you think to temporarily update your hours with Google. You can find an easy step by step guide here.
So what are you waiting for? "Hop" to it!
Vanessa Chiasson is the founder and senior digital strategist of Sculpt Social.