Does your Hotel have the Right Social Media Strategy for 2015
Spreading the word about the best features of your hotel and all that it can offer to guests has always been part of a hotel’s marketing plan. Traditional means of hotel marketing include such things as billboards, print media, radio spots and television commercials. However, in today’s competitive hotel industry, traditional methods of marketing your hotel are not enough. As most hoteliers already know, a strong social media presence is crucial for driving up occupancy rates and increasing sales.
Social media is a fairly recent development, but it has been around long enough to evolve from a place for teens to chat to the dynamic force that it is today. Everything you did last year to create a buzz and get people talking about your hotel may not work as well today. Some platforms have become more relevant than others? Are you keeping up with the trends? Will your hotel’s 2014 social media strategy produce better results than it did last year?
Social media platforms for hotels
There are hundreds of social media platforms on the Internet and new ones are always being added. While it might seem like a smart strategy to get on as many platforms as possible, the danger in doing so is that you may spread yourself too thin. You need to prioritize your platforms based on the goals that you want to achieve. Whether you use one, two or ten different platforms, it takes time and money to manage each platform and every one.
Some platforms are more relevant to the hotel industry than others. In 2013, the top social media platforms were accessed by billions of unique visitors. While many still access these sites on their desk top computers, statistics show that worldwide, over 4 billion people use mobile devices to interact on social media platforms.
Facebook is by far the most popular site with over 1.15 billion total users and of those users, 750 million of them access Facebook from a mobile device. The acknowledged heavyweight in social space is most effective for building strong communities where members can engage in conversations, seek feedback, get information and participate in promotions and contests that help create a buzz about your hotel.
Twitter had 288 million active users, of which, over 60 percent accessed the site through a mobile device. In 2013, people age 55-64, represented the fastest growing demographic. Year-over-year registrations increased by 79 percent. Hotels can use Twitter to provide more immediate responses to hotel guest inquiries and issues. Twitter allows you to reach out to media organizations, bloggers, and other influencers, who can help spread your message to the masses. If you want to know what people think about your brand, right now, check your tweets.
YouTube has over 1 billion unique monthly visitors. When you add a YouTube video to your web page, you enhance the content and create another reason for visitors to use your site. In the 18-34 year-old demographic, YouTube is number one for tourism-related searches. Posting a video of a local event or happening near your hotel, with a link to your web page, will help draw more visitors to your home page.
LinkedIn has over 238 million total users with more than 50 percent having a bachelor or graduate degree. As a professional network, your hotel can use this platform to reach out to travel planners. You can also stay in touch with vendors and stay connected with businesses that provide a mutually beneficial relationship with your hotel.
Pinterest has 70 million users and 69 percent of them are female. When people are planning a travel experience, Pinterest is often one of the first social platforms they use to find out about the specific area hat they are interested in visiting. The site recently launched its Place Pins feature which makes it easy for users to focus in on the restaurants, attractions and hotels in a specific geographic area.
Google+ has more than 500 million total users of which 67 percent are male. 80 percent of users log in at least once a week and 60 percent log in at least once a day. As a platform where shared content helps with search engine optimization purposes, Google+ can help with your other forms of online marketing. While not widely used by hotels, this platform is stating to play a more important part in the social media strategy of hotels.
Instagram claims more than 130 million users who upload more than 5 million photos and videos every day. When Instagram was acquired by Facebook, it quickly became a popular choice for sharing vacation photos. People love to document their hotel stay and they take tons of pictures that they instantly share with their circle of friends. In the middle of a Minneapolis winter, nothing sells a San Diego hotel better than an Instagram from your friend sipping a Pina Colada by the hotel pool.
How to engage with your audience
Are you listening?
It has been said thousands of times that it is always better to listen first before you start to talk. That is especially true when trying to interact with an online audience. You do not want to simply throw out information and have people react. It is much more effective to developing a good rapport with people if you listen, observe and find out what people want and like before forcing any information out onto social media platforms.
Work hard at providing original content
You want people to be provoked into responding to the content you put out through various social media platforms. Try to focus on unique, original content that evokes an emotional response or plays to the interests of your audience.
Don’t just fill space
You want your content to be of high quality. Don’t use photos from ten years ago and make sure your spelling and punctuation are correct. Before you send out anything, double-check it so you can avoid sloppy or embarrassing posts.
It may be interesting to know that back in 1999, John Travolta stayed at your hotel, but what relevance does that have to a hotel guest staying at your property in 2014. Unless you have a Saturday Night Fever themed suite at your hotel, talk about something more immediate like the waffles with strawberry and cream at the free buffet.
Use the right tone
You should always use a more casual tone on social media to engage your audience. This is not a gathering to discuss the best investment strategies or the merits of using natural gas instead of oil. Topics are more light-hearted and should be presented in a way like you are talking to your friends rather than discussing work with your boss.
Tools to help you determine trends
Keeping abreast of the needs and wants of your customers means that you have to recognize trends as soon as possible. Hotels that are late to the party in providing services and other amenities that the competition is already providing will not do as well as they could. Tracking the current trends in travel and lodging can help your hotel customize its social media strategy to relate to customers in a more focused manner. Some of the best online resources to help you recognize trends include:
• Google Trends
• Google Think Insights
• What the Trend
• Social Mention
• Trends Map
Content that works
Study after study shows that using images and videos will capture the attention and interest of a viewer better than just relying on text. Whenever you have the chance to use a photo along with the written word, don’t pass up the opportunity.
You can get the conversation started by providing an opinionated post and then asking for responses. What do you think about the proposal that all hotel pools should have a lifeguard on duty?
Your social media content should be more about your customer than about promoting your hotel. You want to make your fans into a tight-knit group where they can feel confident that other members of the community will give them sound advice and voluntarily talk about your hotel.
Encourage participation by using contests and promotions. You could post a picture of a big jar of jelly beans and ask everyone to guess the number of jelly beans. The winner could get the jelly beans and a free night at your hotel. Keep promotions simple and fun.
You can add content by giving common sense travel tips or tips about how much to tip the housekeeper. Make it fun and ask viewers to share their best travel tips.
Provide links to your articles and blog posts to allow the reader to learn more about your hotel or the things to see and do around your hotel. If you can get your audience interested in your content, they will think about your hotel longer and become more loyal to your brand.
Use your imagination when creating content for social media platforms. Some ideas that work well to engage you audience include:
• Sharing personal stories, jokes and funny images
• Asking trivia questions
• Motivating and inspirational quotes
• What do you like best about …
• Recommendations for restaurants, attractions etc.
• News announcements
• Special offers for fans of your hotel
• Future plans for your hotel
Your employees can be the best advocates for your hotel. Almost everyone has their own social connections and circle of friends online. If each employee contributes to the sharing of your hotel’s message, you will quickly build up your social presence on the Internet. Your hotel’s You Tube video may not go viral, but it may influence some viewers to book a room at your hotel.
It may cost more to use social media in 2015
The days of the free lunch are rapidly disappearing. With Facebook and Twitter now public companies, trading on the stock exchange, the pressure is on them to generate more revenue. Shareholders want a return on their investments and ads are becoming more prevalent than ever on these and other social media platforms.
If you are a hotel, or any other type of business, you can not expect to play for free. You will have to include more money in your budget for social media marketing if you want to provide rich content that will appeal to the audience you are trying to reach.
Social media strategies have to evolve over time. Once the domain of people under 25, social media is now used by seniors in their 70’s. Almost everyone has a smart phone and you must incorporate content for those mobile devices into your overall strategy. If you focus on the needs and wants of your followers, you will build brand loyalty and more of your followers will want to stay at your hotel.