Hotels & Social Media
A difficult friendship or the perfect relationship?
articles November, 2013
Social Media refers to all the websites and online applications that enable the creation, the exchange and the sharing of user generated content (UGC). These tools have changed the way organizations communicate with their clients, but what about hotels ?
Nowadays, in the era of social web, there are two types of hotels: some that provide wifi connection in the rooms, and others that use it. In the United States, 90% of hotels have a facebook page. There is no study considering it on a worldwide basis but one thing is for sure: this trend is rising. Hotel chains, hotel groups, independent hotels (…): social media is open to every hotel. Thanks to their structure and investment capacity, big hotel chains quickly follow and adapt to new and innovative formats. Almost all chains optimize their presence on social media and more and more independent hotels manage it, too.
Where to begin?
The majority of social media platforms offer a free and quick profil creation. Once you created your profile, you can start customizing it. Add all the information that you consider as necessary and upload nice pictures that inspire and give desire to stay at your hotel. After personnalizing your profile you have to define a realistic guideline: what do you want to share and how often? Don’t forget to decide who is responsible for the page. When your strategy is established, it is important to follow it strictly : regularity pays off!
Later on, once you integrated these new tools to the way you work, don’t hesitate to expand to other channels: internet users are not confined to Facebook, they have several accounts on different networks and they interconnect them.
Which content ?
You should deal with diverse and various topics, not necessarily directly related to your business. You have to find the right balance between promotional and informative content. Too much promotional content can lead to a loss of audience. Publishing consistant and attractive content on a regular basis enables you to involve your members and to attract new fans. The bigger your community is, the faster it will grow! In addition to this, don’t hesitate to make experiments! Social media is not an exact science. Some good practices have proven themself but it doesn’t mean that new paths can’t be explored. Trust your intuitions and surprise people in order to draw their attention.
Online / Offline: complementary channels?
Sooner or later, your online activity will impact your offline activity. In other words, being active on social media will generate bookings. Simultaneously, you can invite your guests to follow you on social media during their stay. Regardless of asking your guests directly when they check out, or with a general information in the room or the elevator : don’t exaggerate it! This way you create a virtuous circle: the more fans, the more guests; and the other way round: the more guests, the more fans!
Social media, essential? Yes but why?
How can hoteliers ignore a tool that enables them to secure guests’ loyalty and to attract new guests at the same time ?
1. Create loyalty
Social media allows hoteliers to communicate directly with their guests, to engage in conversation and to get usefull feedback. It’s a win-win relation: the guest gets more information and the hotelier gets people talking about his business. According to Jeff Weinstein, editor in chief of HOTELS magazine, “customer loyalty toward a hotel chain or property can be influenced within seconds through a posting on one of those sites”. Social media is a good opportunity for the hotelier to convert satisfied guests into loyal guests by maintaining the link created during the stay, so that the guests come back.
2. Raise visibility and attract new guests
Social media gave birth to the so called electronic word of mouth. Recommandations, evaluations and reviews spread rapidly and are visible to a big number of internet-users. Lane Douglas, principal of the social media solutions for sales and marketing firm MarketBridge stated that “most people don’t do vacation planning sitting at a desk, thinking about dates and planning and calendars. I may be coming home from my vacation, sharing photos on Facebook, and a friend of a friend may see those and decide to consider that destination too, just based on my pictures.” That’s the reason why you should encourage your guests to share their impressions once they are back home. Furthermore, interacting on social media helps to improve your visibility on search engines: the more people speak about you, the more visible you are!
3. Promote your business
You are currently in the low season and only have a few bookings for the next weeks? Social media is an easy and quick way to inform potential guests about special offers and discounts. However, as mentioned above, it is recommended to make a moderate use of promotional publications.
4. Managing is improving
When ignored or mismanaged, social media can negatively impact the hotel activity. After location and price, guest reviews are emerging as the third most important criteria for travelers. Social media represents an opportunity to know what your guests really think and write about their stay. Collecting, summarising and analyzing these data allows the hotelier to understand the guest needs better. Knowing this, you can make sure that your services coincide better with guests’ expectations. Identify the main sources of discontent and remedy the situation. For example, if some guests are complaining about the price of the breakfast, the mere fact of adding a few items more to it, can change the guest’s point of view. As soon as the hotelier manages his reviews actively, the number of negative reviews tends to decrease. The average score of all hotels’ reviews have improved for the last 6 years: this proves that hoteliers’ involvement shows positive results on a long term basis.
5. Make your location attractive
Before choosing an hotel, people choose a destination. Some destinations are more attractive and touristic than others but every location has its charms. Concerts, exhibitions, conferences, fairs, sporting events (…) communicate about what is happening in your area! Tourists’ habits and wishes are evolving. More and more travelers are looking for authenticity. Instead of following all mapped out itineraries, they want to get a feeling of local culture and live like the aboriginal population. Who could help them better than the hotelier?
6. Differentiate from competitors
“A business can survive in a highly competitive market only if it is able to stand out from the rest by providing unique and desirable products and services.” (Bridges et al.,2003) This universal economic law also applies to hotels. Using social media offers a comparative advantage because it enables you to show and underscore your qualities. Moreover, with the growing importance of Online Travel Agencies (OTA), hotels need to restore their online identity and sovereignty. Hotels should profit from the use of social media in order to show how unique they are.
A challenge for the hotelier?
The spontaneous and unpredictable aspect of social media represents a real challenge for hoteliers. In a world where information move as fast as the speed of light, using social media implies to be attentive and responsive. For the hotelier, it is one more thing to take care about.
How much is it?
The financial cost is low but hotels have to invest time in it. 20 minutes a day to manage your online reputation can be enough at first. It’s a long-term approach which can be frustrating at the beginning as the effects are not directly visible and hardly measurable. One thing is for sure: building a community takes time, and the earlier you start, the better it is!
Prepare the future!
Social media is foremost a space of exchange and a place of sharing, but it is expected to become a place of action and purchase. The use of social media to plan a journey is a trend that will keep on growing: the generations which are born with internet are soon entering in the active world! Provided that hotels are using social media wisely, it can become an excellent online storefront. This storefront is daily visited by millions of potential guests, you better make it attractive! For further reading we recommend our white paper Like, Share & Tag. You will get more useful tips on social media marketing for hotels.
Keep on top of your engagement with customers
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