Social media is one of the highest-ROI marketing strategies for the global travel, tourism, and hospitality industry. To succeed in an increasingly competitive market, hospitality brands must now engage with their target audiences on their preferred social media channels and clearly articulate their differentiated guest experiences.
What did we do?
This summer, SocialGrow, in partnership with our European reseller Commarglo, audited different hotel brands’ presences on social media and then spoke in detail with each hotel about what really works in 2015 – and what doesn’t – with regard to engaging in-house, booked, and prospective guests on social media to drive incremental room nights and ancillary revenues.
Who did we speak with?
We sat down with three-, four-, and five-star hotel properties’ management and marketing teams, ranging from small, family-owned B&Bs focused on leisure travelers to large, global luxury resort brands focused on business travelers for corporate meetings and events. We spoke with century-old properties in medieval city centers and newly constructed properties in redevelopment zones (one scheduled to open in Spring 2017). We met with hotels focused on golfers, gourmands, and even nudists. And no primary hospitality research would be complete without including a
What were the common denominators?
Without exception, every single hotel had limited experience (and unfortunately even less success) with using social media to drive results – which we’re defining here as measurable increases in bookings, F&B, and services revenues(including golf, spa services, and concierge-reserved off-site restaurants, tours, and activities).
They also had:
- significant seasonality in their business with both leisure and corporate travelers, with some properties closing down entirely for the winter months
- limited marketing budgets, regardless of their star-level, and
- heavy reliance on sense of place to differentiate their properties from neighboring markets and countries
What did we learn, and what are our recommendations?
We learned that a high-ROI, results-driven social media marketing strategy must have the following seven components: compelling content; customer engagement, staff training, smart tools, structured conversations, community participation, and integrated marketing:
1. Compelling Content
A continual daily flow of emotional, evocative, and authentic visually-driven real-time content is “in.” Annually updated stock photography of empty, lifeless lobbies, rooms, and facilities is “out.”
2. Customer Engagement
Have you heard the marketing axiom “fish where the fish are”? If you’re a hotel, that now means having [internal or external] marketing resources who understand how to optimize content for each social network’s different demographics, culture, and formal and informal rules for engaging existing and prospective guests. It also means having, and executing – daily – strategic follower, audience, and content management processes on the social networks your particular property’s guests use most, which can include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and other networks.
3. Staff Training
Whether you have 2 or 2,000 people caring for your guests, and whether you choose to manage your social media fully in-house or have your staff capture and contribute content for your agency partner to edit, schedule, and publish, it is critical to train your staff on the best practices for each social network in line with the respective local culture and consistent with the hospitality industry’s requirement and respect for guest privacy and discretion.
4. Smart Tools
A smart strategy and a smart team are necessary, but not sufficient components for a successful hospitality social media plan. You also need to take advantage of smart tools which can enable your employees to capture and share – for publication AFTER your approval – compelling, engaging, and emotive content that communicates what makes your brand unique in real time (research has repeatedly shown that casual “Instagram” photos consistently outperform professionally shot photos).
5. Structured Conversations
While guest communications should be spontaneous and ongoing, hospitality brands benefit from having regularly scheduled public “Ask the Expert” and “Behind the Scenes” sessions, such as Tweet Chats, to proactively initiate discussions with prospective guests and create a large quantity of search-engine optimized brand content to showcase your lesser known and niche audience amenities.
6. Community Participation
By definition, hotels have dozens of local product and service partners. Especially for hotels with small marketing teams, engaging your suppliers to amplify your brand online is mutually beneficial, increasing both hotel and supplier revenues. As with staff, training suppliers on social media best practices and messaging exponentially increases your effectiveness and your reach.
7. Integrated Marketing
Think of social media marketing not as a substitute for traditional hotel marketing campaigns, but an accelerant for them. Take full advantage of publishing and broadcasting opportunities such as publishing a coffee table book of your guests’ best photos published on social media, with all profits donated to a local charity chosen by the guest photographers themselves. And look for globally syndicated niche radio shows where you can “show off” your team’s expertise in the specific areas which differentiate your brand.
Global business and leisure travelers are less influenced today by traditional print, broadcast, and direct marketing efforts than ever before. The solution is to invest in higher-ROI, content-driven social media marketing efforts to engage with your target guest audiences at scale.
To learn more about SocialGrow’s Outbox Pro Solutions for Hospitality, reach out to SocialGrow resellers EVVO (Asia: +65.6258.4914), Commarglo (Europe: +44 0131 208 0923), and CKC Global Media (United States: +1 203-286-8760), or contact SocialGrow directly on firstname.lastname@example.org. And connect with us on Twitter @SocialGrow!