Social Media Will Be the Marketing Tool of Choice for Hotels in 2015
The Hospitality Industry can no longer ignore social media as a marketing tool.
There are hotels that dabble in social media and then there are social media hotels. In today’s market whether or not your establishment has a true social media presence can mean the difference between being a top ranked hotel and continuous loss of revenue or even bankruptcy. Hotels which are optimized for social media have been shown to receive significantly more website visitors and to have higher conversions rates of visitors to customers compared to non-optimized hotels when matched on price, location and amenities. Considering the large number of new and established hotels available to travelers, it has become critical to ensure your enterprise is socially savvy in order to receive steady new business and return customers. If you are concerned about the time and funds necessary to accomplish this feat, you can be assured that the ROI will be well worth the effort and capital expended.
Those first considering implementing or expanding their social media network are often overwhelmed by the belief that being optimized means having a consistent following on all major social media channels. This is not the case. With a complete knowledge base informing you and some smart decision-making, it is possible to choose a few channels that are likely to yield the greatest results.
It is important to recognize that today’s travelers are looking for recommendations from others when deciding which hotel at which to stay. Many individuals and families have limited budgets yet still want to have an enjoyable vacation. After saving up money and time off, those looking forward to a once a year vacation do not want to waste their well-earned resources on a rundown hotel or service that is lacking.
More than 88 percent of travelers currently use review sites such as Tripadvisor to see what people are saying about hotels when planning time away from home and 40 percent are also examining other social media channels such as Facebook and Google Plus to get opinions from those in the nearby community. These statistics pinpoint the importance of obtaining good reviews when possible and making sure any review sites on which your establishment is evaluated are carefully monitored for positive and negative feedback. This will allow managerial staff to thank visitors for positive comments and address negative ones, showing that they are not only quick to respond to good ratings but are dedicated to improvement by taking not so great ratings seriously.
Business travel has also been greatly impacted since the advent of social media. Many business travelers once sat down with the Sunday paper to make their own arrangements based on established reimbursement amounts. Now many businesses have a travel relations expert who is responsible for searching social media networks to provide recommendations on places to stay. Travel relations personnel are able to take advantage of established relationships with hotel management and other personnel in order to keep abreast of changes to services, amenities and property quality as well as receive updates on special deals or offers. This cuts back significantly or even eliminates the amount of time necessary for individual employees to engage in researching options.
Travelers can focus on the websites of select properties and read reviews from colleagues before choosing the best location for their purposes based on cost, location of known and anticipated contacts, scheduling preferences, and the availability of onsite or nearby activities that can be enjoyed during free time. Individuals can either book their stay themselves or provide the information to their travel relations representative who will take care of making hotel arrangements in conjunction with flights or other transportation needs.
Social media also helps business travelers establish new leads quickly and efficiently along with providing ease of communication for follow-up contact. Hotels which are integrated into commonly used social media outlets for business travelers or who provide perks for those who book online have been shown to increase the number of first time business customers by 13% the first year and 27% the second year of social media usage, along with high rates of return business customers across both years.
While these statistics are impressive and perhaps even motivating to those looking to improve the rate of commission free reservations for their hotel, it is important to recognize that building a social media presence is not the same as building a social media page. The need to transition from focusing on constructing pages to constructing a presences can lead hoteliers to become overwhelmed such that they abandon efforts to become a social media success story.
One way to build protect against such outcomes is to start slowly and build gradually. In other words, those in charge of managing the social media front should not expend excessive energy focusing on multiple channels simultaneously. It is smarter to start with one site and ensure that it is being managed properly by evaluating the degree to which it is meeting stated objectives, then adding one channel at a time in this manner. While it may seem like a slow process it will limit wasted time, effort and financial output.
That being said, it is no small feat to manage even a single social media page as there are a number of predefined goals that must be met if the page is to result in increased revenue. Using someone who is knowledgeable about the technical side of the process is critical to appropriately oversee the development, day-to-day monitoring, content building, and reporting for the page. This is the only way to determine how best to use the page to achieve the greatest impact. Content and website design are important aspects of any type of website page including social media pages. However, as the goal of social media pages is to attract visitors and increase sales, appearance and readability aren’t the only factors which predict successful outcomes. In addition to constructing pages that are engaging for visitors and grab their interest, standard SEO practices aimed at high rankings must be employed to continue to have a consistent following. Without even one of these factors, pages will not succeed in all the steps required to increase sales. A break anywhere in the chain means visitors will not be converted to customers.
Successful social media pages are also effective at eliciting responses and stimulating the desire to share content. Pages must be updated regularly with timely information communicated in a prompt manner. The ability to interact with real people at the sites origin is also something that contributes to high traffic. When visitors are not just interested in what they read but learn something directly from the source that excites their imagination or provides an option that benefits them, they are more likely to comment on posts, like pages and share content or offers with their individual networks. The most popular hotel pages offer incentive rewards for fans of the site such as discounts on rates or special packages and many provide the ability to make reservations during the visit. These advantages increase brand recognition and ultimately brand preference.
Another important development that can no longer be ignored by hotels striving to remain competitive is the advent of mobile devices. A large number of individuals who conduct searches and do research while on the go. In 2013 alone more than 4 billion people accessed social media channels through mobile devices. Those not familiar with the differences between desktop computers and mobile devices may not fully appreciate what it takes to establish a quality reputation through each. Those in the know will understand the necessity of designing different versions of their online social media pages for different platforms and types of media, be it written, picture or video.
It has also been shown that the viewer behavior of those using mobile devices and those using desktops varies significantly. Some of the differences have to do with the size of the screen and the method of navigation. Those using devices with small screens and touch navigation will have trouble moving around a site that has an abundance of text, images and links without mistakenly calling up unwanted pages. This can result in mobile users, already prone to quick choices due to limited time en transit and split attention, being quick to click on a competitor’s site that provides greater ease of access.
In order to capture the different segments of users, creating a web presence that is mobile-friendly is mandatory. To accomplish this those designing a social advertising campaign must be aware of the appropriate scale, ratio of content to images, number of links to include, and the way video options are presented, for each type of medium in use. This point underscores the importance of using a dedicated manager who has the appropriate knowledge and skills to manage all the components of a social media marketing campaign.
The ability to correctly design and use social media channels is now a critical tool for hotels to remain competitive. This is true even for the most highly visible and well-known chains. Smaller hotels can find innovative ways to utilize social media to increase awareness of brand amenities and offers taking advantage of specials in the area, local activities and attractions and seasonal variety. Thinking outside the box to generate ideas based on current trends can also make social media pages more enticing. Determining which parts of a social media campaign must be handled by owners or onsite managers and which can be handled by another employee or external online marketing expert, will enable hoteliers to obtain the greatest benefits from their social presence.
- 14 Social Media Tools Used by Marketing Pros ( by Socialmediaexaminer)
- New social media tools seem to pop up every day. Here are some definitely worth checking out (by INC)