Revving up social media marketing can be one of the most cost-effective maneuvers a hotel sales and marketing director can make. Both leisure and business travelers are searchin for the right accommodations on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as much as Google, Bing or TripAdvisor. What follows is a list of 10 things hotels should be doing in social media this year.
1. Have a solid plan.
Executing a profitable social media marketing strategy involves more than updating your Facebook fan page with promotional packages or re-tweeting comments from your most satisfied guests. It is important to identify goals and objectives (soft as well as hard), baseline metrics, the proper staff and competitor benchmarks. Know what you are setting out to achieve in terms of guest services, group inquiries, rooms requested, engagement and even follower and fan counts.
2. Connect with content.
Take advantage of the customizable page apps on Facebook fan pages. They allow you to tell your hotel’s unique story beyond the generic “wall” and “info” apps. A stylishly designed page fusing pictures, video and words will drive more engagement around your hotel’s content. Also, create a content calendar that features links to new local music, upcoming events, worthwhile attractions, travel tips and trends. Consider creating seasonal campaigns as well.
3. Invite all guests to join your Facebook page and follow you on Twitter.
You should already be gathering email addresses at the time a reservation is made. Once a guest has become a fan, ask them to post pictures of their stay at the hotel and some highlights from their trip.
4. Offer smarter responses to complaints and promote tighter coordination with guest services.
Unfortunately, not every comment post comes adorned with smiley faces. However, all comments provide opportunities to speak directly to guests and other potential guests in their social networks — free of charge! What if guest services were able to address a guest’s displeasure at the lack of friendly room service with a genuinely social effort to make amends? A wall post video offering a “three for two” night stay for the now smiling former guest and the three friends he shares your post with could have viral implications.
5. You don’t have to go it alone.
Successful social media marketing consumes ample time and resources. Find a company that provides targeted solutions to meet your marketing objectives. The company should have their own internal tools to manage levels of engagement and reporting as well. Your social media partner should have knowledge of your market sector and the ability to measure your hotel’s progress with advanced user data, analytics and insights.
6. Start a YouTube channel.
Encourage guests to post videos of their stay and offer fun rewards like free champagne upon next check-in. Post interesting and funny videos of your destination from all sources, just don’t forget to credit the producers. In 2012, most travelers will rely more heavily on videos to make decisions about their next vacation destination.
7. Take advantage of new Facebook applications.
Don’t be timid. Over 20 million Facebook apps are installed every day. You can even build your own Flash or image applets for integration into your hotel’s fan pages.
Not only will it help in terms of increasing your SEO and SEM, but it also builds credibility for your hotel as a trusted voice of authority in your destination. What should visitors to the hotel see and where should they be seen? Have guest bloggers offer their perspectives to keep the content fresh and engaging.
9. Engage with partner networks.
Nearby concert or theater venues, popular restaurants, clubs, bars and lounges all have their own social media profiles offering rewarding social connections that are yours for the taking. Mention local companies and attractions in your Twitter and Facebook posts by using @ and their profile name. This will heighten your engagement levels online and widen your circle of influence. Connect with destinations, tourist attractions and tourist information centers by liking their page and following them on Twitter. Now you’re thinking like your guests! Just by browsing the pages and profiles in your partner network, you will find accommodation inquiries in real time. Start a conversation and include a link to your hotel’s blog to show you’re “in the know” with what’s hot and happening in your destination. You’re generating clicks to your website along with a potential new booking.
10. Extend your reach with sexier Facebook advertising.
By now, you’ve probably witnessed how quickly your fan base can grow with a well-targeted Facebook ad. An 845 million-strong user base, clear-cut demographic profiles, self-reported user interests and viral friend recommendations make Facebook a highly influential, cost-effective advertising channel for hotels. This year, get a bigger bang from your Facebook ad budget with more alluring imagery and text. Test various combinations of images with text that give a specific call-to-action: “Too sexy for travel agents? Book on Facebook for complimentary VIP Upgrade Package,” or, “Like our page, enjoy exclusive room service treat.” Analyze performance by reviewing click-thru rates and connection conversions (how many new fans “liked” your page versus how many clicked through). Always remember to test and refine.