The following article was written by our founder and CEO, Nora Minichino for publication in Hotel Business Review. It is reprinted here with permission from www.hotelexecutive.com.
If you’re a hotelier — or business owner — looking for a way to engage more customers and promote your services, then social media marketing should be at the top of your list. Whether you’re just starting or you’ve been in business for years, incorporating social media into your overall strategy could be the key to growing your visibility and increasing your customer base. This article will provide you with an essential guide to social media marketing, helping you gain insights into the best strategies and approaches that can help take your hotel’s digital presence to the next level.
Over the last two decades, the rise of social media has ushered in a new era of communication that has redefined the business-consumer relationship.
In hospitality, the impact of this drastic transition from traditional to digital communication has been one of both immense opportunity and challenge.
With over 4.7 billion active users across platforms, social media’s audience and potential impact are, in a word, massive. However, while most hospitality professionals recognize the necessity of social marketing, they also find that this medium holds as many questions as it does benefits. After all, it isn’t enough to simply create a Facebook Page and wait for leads to come pouring in.
In this article, we lay out the fundamental marketing elements hoteliers need to address in order to integrate social media into hotel operations successfully.
1. Know Your Target Audience
Whether you’re building a new hotel, rebranding an existing space, or seeking to boost an already-popular place to stay, first thing’s first: you must know your target audience.
Your target audience is the proverbial face of your hotel’s ideal customer base; the people most likely to use your service. Having a clear understanding of what your hotel’s ideal guest looks like allows you to better define and market to those customers on social media.
For well-established hotels or brands, it’s likely your marketing department already knows the ins and outs of your audience. For those newer brands or ones in the process of rebranding or rebuilding, there are several ways to research and find your target audience. You can use tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Insights to see who views your content the most. You can also conduct surveys or look through the hotel’s client database for demographic trends.
Be sure to consider demographics such as age, gender, income, pain points, personality traits, reasons for travel, and objections. For example, are you located in an urban center where tourists make up the majority of your guests? Do you cater to families or the romantic couples trip? Are you a frequent haunt for business travels due to your convenient location? Knowing these details will allow you to tailor your online presence with the best chance of a positive return.
The better you and your team know your audience, the better you’ll be able to create social content that speaks to them and keeps them engaged with your content. The traits you learn about your audience will also help determine your brand voice.
2. Determine the Right Tone
Now that you know who your ideal audience is, it’s time to think about how you speak to them. Brand voice, or hotel voice, represents the personality of your hotel and how you communicate that personality to your guests and audience on social media. In a survey conducted by Sprout Social on what made some brands stand out from others, 40% said memorable content, 30% said distinct personality, and 32% said compelling storytelling. These impressions can be made by establishing a distinct brand voice for your hotel.
Your hotel voice is an important tool you can use to reach and engage successfully with your guests. For instance, if you’re trying to reach the millennial crowd, you’ll want to use language they relate to, including embodying a relaxed or casual tone. Or perhaps most of your guests are business travelers, in which case you’ll want to be more professional and formal with your content.
Different social media platforms require different tones to reach and engage your audience effectively. For example, a more formal and professional tone might be appropriate for LinkedIn, whereas a lighter, conversational tone works well on Instagram and Facebook. It’s important to consider the personality of each platform when crafting your content strategy, and recognize that every platform might not be the right fit for your content.
3. Find Your Audience Online
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to be active on every single social media platform. Keeping up with the demands of creating quality content and managing social media algorithms can be cumbersome and time consuming. If you understand who your ideal audience is and the brand voice your hotel will use, the next step is to create and maintain a presence on the channels your audience uses to speak to them directly.
To determine which channels are popular with your ideal audience, begin with researching demographic data for each social media platform. This data can tell you what percentage of users on each platform are in your target demographic. For example, if you’re trying to reach people between the ages of 25 and 34, you’ll want to look at Instagram, which has a high percentage of users in that age group. Meanwhile, the average age of Facebook users is a little higher at 35 years or older.
Another way to find where your audience spends their time on social media is through your website traffic data. If you already have established social media channels, you can use Google Analytics or another similar tool to see which social media platforms send the most traffic to your website. Hoteliers can look at these demographics to determine which platforms will best help them reach their target audience. It’s also important to consider where people talk about travel. Visitors will often share photos from their trips on Facebook or Instagram, so it can be helpful to have a page they can tag in their posts if appropriate. Facebook is also a popular site for reviews, so regardless of target age, it is worth considering how another review page could support your hotel.
4. Dedicate Time to Strategy
This is certainly a lot of things to consider, which brings us to the last point – set aside the time to actually consider these things! The average internet user spends approximately two hours and thirty minutes daily on social media. That means your customers are consuming A LOT of content regularly. To keep up with the consumer content demands and to contend with various algorithm nuances, you will need to commit to building a solid strategy that both serves the user and fits in with your operational bandwidth.
Things to consider might be how often you can commit to posting, what types of content (photos, videos, graphics) perform best and how long it will take to create them, and if you can allocate time and resources to engaging with users in a timely fashion through comments and direct messages.
For example, if you are targeting a younger demographic that spends time on TikTok, it is important to note that TikTok is a video-based platform. When looking at the logistics of starting and maintaining a TikTok account, you will need an abundance of professional video content available to post 3-4 times a week or have someone on property that is willing and able to take video of hotel happenings on a regular basis. You will also need to allocate time and resources to editing the video footage to post, as well as managing any comments or messages you receive on the platform. Because TikTok trends change so fast, it’s also a good idea to carve out time to consume content on the platform and see what is popular to help your content perform the best.
Utilizing social media to strategically communicate with your ideal audience can be very powerful, but it does require some forethought, management, and interdepartmental collaboration. Being realistic about this from the start will help you better manage your online presence as one person, or help you divide up responsibilities across different operational departments to share the responsibility of marketing your property online.
5. Analyze Your Efforts
So now you’ve done the work. You’ve identified your target audience, determined how to speak with them and where they spent time online, and developed a strategic plan to create awesome content with your colleagues. But how do you know if your social media efforts are actually paying off? The answer lies in your analytics.
A key factor to social media success is knowing what value you want your time spent online to bring and then tracking each channel’s performance accordingly. Whether your success is measured in new leads, applicants, or brand awareness, knowing your goals can help you prioritize your time and report your wins back to your team more effectively. To see what strategies are working and which ones need improvement, you will want to track your KPIs.
KPIs, or key performance indicators, are metrics you can use to measure success. The main KPIs used in the hospitality industry are engagement, reach, lead generation, and conversions. Engagement KPIs such as likes, shares, active followers, and comments are used to measure the degree to which your audience is connecting with or reacting to your content. Reach deals with impressions and traffic to indicate how many people have seen your content or, in other words, how far your content has reached online. Lead Generation refers to the number of followers and interactions on social media that turn into revenue-generating leads. At the same time, conversions indicate how many sales your hotel has made as a direct result of your social media campaigns.
There is no cookie cutter formula that every hotel can apply to see social media success. Platform demographics can change, KPIs will fluctuate, and it will take a lot of trial and error to find a recipe that works for each individual property. In the end, the most important piece of advice is that social media is meant to be an extension of the hospitality you provide to guests that walk through the doors at your hotel.
The ultimate goal of any hotel’s social media presence should be to create content that is rooted in the experience guests can expect on property and to build online relationships that create awareness for future purchasing decisions.
If you’re interested in learning the specifics of how to grow your hotel’s social media channels, I highly recommend checking out our certifications with Hotel Social Made Simple. Our self-paced Fundamentals of Social Marketing certification track is filled with the exact techniques and strategies I’ve learned work best for hotels looking to convert followers to guests.