"People spend so much time looking at their phones for something interesting to happen so you are giving them that 'something'."

thecrownTessandAnrdew900It takes a certain type of person to move to a new town in their twenties and turn a pub that had been closed for two years into an award-winning social hub.

That is what Tess Eaton, now 29, and her partner Andrew Swan have managed to do with their freehouse, The Crown in Hastings' old town on the Sussex coast.

Just over a year into their first business, they are piling up the awards at a pub that offers "fresh, seasonal, local" food, an array of events, a bar bristling with local keg beers and real ales, and dozens of whiskies and gins.

It also sells crafts, art and books produced by local people.

With a background in food and drink marketing as well as managing The Reliance in Leeds, Tess had a clear vision of the kind of pub she wanted.

"There was a gap in the market for a higher-quality offering," she says.

"We wanted dogs and kids and people reading the newspaper or using the WiFi in the daytime, and in the evening we wanted it to work if you were in your overalls or you wanted to dress up."

The pub sits on a narrow street that stretches from the homes of locals to the seafront arcades, cafés and fish stalls that bring in the tourists. Tess knew they had to tempt in the potential customers, who had got used to The Crown being closed.

Long before they bought the pub they started making connections, with the licensing team, residents' groups, friends of friends, and businesses. "We wanted to get involved and we knew the implications of not doing that," explains Tess.

Part of this is done in person and in the pub, but the pub's digital presence also plays a huge part. Tess takes control of the pub's website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts and monitors review sites.

"It's a hugely important part of the business — much more than paid advertising," she says. "People spend so much time looking at their phones for something interesting to happen so you are giving them that 'something'."

The pub has high standards of food, drink and service and Tess is keen to replicate this across digital channels.

"There are a couple of bars we follow who post photos when they are on holiday or of a nice car they've seen. We made the decision to keep it specific to the pub and keep a certain tone on there."

That ethos applies to social media and the pub's website which is regularly updated and features professional photography.

"People see a simple, professional and calm website. I think we could do more with search engine optimisation and adwords. There is always room for more," she adds.

The pub has a bank of professional photos that it drip-feeds and has also invested in a decent camera so they can add their own shots. "Good photography is hugely important but you don't want to look so professional that you look like a chain with a huge marketing budget. There is a balance between looking too polished and having the charm of a small business," she says.

Like many licensees Tess gets nervous whenever she logs onto Trip Advisor but she can also see the benefits.

"There's not much negative stuff on there and when there is I talk to the staff and find out what happened. We've got a rating of 4.5 so overall it's good and some of the reviews literally quote our business plan back at us."

As with much of social media, the pub is reaping the rewards of what it puts in.

Fact Box: The Crown, Hastings
Website: www.thecrownhastings.co.uk
Twitter: @crownhastings (1,212 followers)
Facebook: 1,700 likes
Instagram: average 30 likes per image
Staff: 17
Trading split: 60/40 (wet/dry)

Stand out online: Tess's Tips

KEEP YOUR WEBSITE SIMPLE
...but update it regularly. People want to know when you are open and what you do but they don't need to be bombarded with every little detail

USE TWITTER
Connect with people, use hashtags and handles to be on the radars of breweries, suppliers, events and festivals. They'll help you spread your
message

INSTAGRAM YOUR PUB
It's about beautiful photos so get the tone right. Create the right feel for your pub, not a hard sell

TAKE GOOD PHOTOS
and drip them through different channels – don't upload them all at once

BRAND YOUR EVENTS
Give each one its own identity on social media so it captures different people's attention