Social Media and the Hotel Industry, Why They are a Perfect Match
Marketing in the hospitality industry has always been an essential component in driving hotel sales but since the emergence of digital technology, hotels have had to innovate their approach to reap the benefits. Social media has quickly become an essential marketing channel and a major influence when communicating brand messages and leveraging promotions to generate revenue. It can also become every hotels’ best friend. Improving customer satisfaction is fundamental to hotel success and social media interaction with guests during their stay can bring the hotel closer to their customers. So what are the best ways to utilize social media as a hotel?
Customer Service. Social media is a powerful tool because it allows you to listen to what your customers are saying. Twitter is the primary channel for engaging customers as well as for any customer service opportunities. Yes, I said opportunities. Every time a customer talks about anything related to your hotel or their stay, it is an opportunity to capitalize and be accommodating. This is why listening is so important. I mean, we all remember the Morton’s story right? Social media allows for a hotel to catch, fix and/or improve the little things of a customer’s experience, which are often the most important differentiators. They often compete with each other for the best perks or prices, but it’s the little things that matter most.
According to a survey, from Revenue by Design, the number one reason hotels use social media is to increase brand awareness. This is a given, but I believe it is important to focus more on your customers than anything else. With solid customer service, there is no doubt you’ll have increased brand awareness. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful forms of marketing and because of social media, people will always ask others where to stay and why. By making positive impressions, you’ll likely be among the first options mentioned to others. One of your biggest hopes is to build loyal customers, who in turn can become your brand advocates.
In the survey, mentioned earlier, it was shown which platforms were most utilized by hotels. We see that Facebook, TripAdvisor, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs (the Pfister hotel in Milwaukee, WI does a fantastic job on their blog), Youtube, Foursquare and Google+ (check out the Four Seasons) are most used. Although it is not mentioned, I think Instagram is becoming heavily adopted by many as well. One thing you must remember, the audience on Facebook is much different than it is on Twitter or LinkedIn, which is why cross-posting is often frowned upon in the social media world. You can’t just post the same thing across all channels, it takes actual effort, time and strategy and you have to learn where your customers are hanging out and what they talk about on each platform. Here are a few tips when using different social media channels.
Facebook is perfect for showcasing your brand. By consistently creating content about your hotel events, promotions, local activities/events and hotel features/services, you have a great opportunity to give customers an inside look into your hotel, with hopes to inspire future visits. You can hold giveaways and contest, ask people to submit their own images, and really create a community based around your hotel.
Twitter should be devoted to your current and potential customers. You should be as accommodating as possible and always listening. Posting about local attributes such as tourist spots, restaurants and events are as critical as responding to a customer complaint. If you want your customers to come back, help them enjoy your city. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to be creative. Let’s say someone tweets they will be staying at your hotel the next day. Maybe check out their Twitter timeline to see what they are interested in and surprise them upon arrival. Of course, this is a judgment call because you need to know if it will inspire them or freak them out. Remember, be real and be engaging. People like to feel important and this is a great chance to help make that happen. The W Austin, Texas stays active, has an appropriate and attractive skin, and retweets interesting events happening in Austin.
Hotel brands should create Foursquare brand pages for people to follow. Once there, you can provide a variety of tips and lists to help people learn more about the area for tourism or just places to eat. Trump hotels does a great job with this, check out their Chicago location. Brands should claim their locations, as well as in-house places such as bars or restaurants, as “venues” to give people the chance to check in separately from your hotel. By doing this you can use the Foursquare Merchant Platform to create specials too. It is easy to have fun with this.
Google+ is growing fast, despite word of it being a “ghost town”. I say, get with the program people! All social media aside, being active on Google+ is HUGE for search results. You need to get involved with Google+ Local and “claim” your business page. As for the social side, Google+ is just as valuable as Facebook to your strategy. If people aren’t that active yet, it’s a good idea for you to get there first, so when they are ready, you are prepared for them. Hyatt Place Waikiki features beautiful, high quality photos of their rooms and grounds and provides contact information should anyone be looking for the on Google+.
Consistency is key. If you create these accounts, you must remain active or else it may be received negatively, as if your lack of interest into marketing might cross over to your lack of interest into customer service. It doesn’t matter if you’re a large chain like the Hilton Hotels or a small boutique brand, social media can benefit you immensely. One important thing to remember, you should always create separate social media accounts for every one of your hotels, wherever they are, and probably one for your corporate account too. This will allow you to have better feedback to your specific hotel location and will also allow you to build a great community in each area. It is essential for customers to know what is going on in your city as much as it is for them to know about your hotel.
Author Bio: Cedar Brown is a freelance social strategist and recent college graduate. He works with small businesses to help them integrate social media into their marketing plans. Much of his work is devoted to the education of social media practices to employees and entrepreneurs so that they can continue to move their business forward successfully. Feel free to reach out to him on any number of social networks and say hi!
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