“Choosing the Right Social Media Channels For Your Hotel” was originally published Tuesday, February 16, 2016 as part of Hotel Business Review’s annual feature on Social Media: Communication Platforms to Build Your Business.
The first step to social success is figuring out where to be, and even more importantly, why. Social media can be overwhelming at first. There are many different platforms organizations can use to deliver their message to the public. From Facebook to Twitter, Instagram to Pinterest, professional networks such as LinkedIn to video-orientated channels such Periscope, Vine, and YouTube – there are endless opportunities out there for businesses to interact with their consumers (and that is without diving into extremely specific niche oriented channels).
Research Social Media Channels to Find the Best Fit
Would you go on vacation without investigating the market first? Book a hotel without inquiring about the amenities, resort fees, or local area information? Choose an airline without considering what airports they fly in and out of? Similar to making travel plans, choosing a social platform to join requires conducting enough research to make an informed decision. Social media is a commitment demanding time and resources, making it imperative to explore all options and analyze which platforms are worth the investment. There are many channels available to connect with current, past, and potential guests and the first step in making the right choice begins here.
Question 1: Who is my target market and where do they spend their time?
The first step in determining the appropriate channel to connect with your consumers is determining exactly who you are looking to connect with. Moms between the ages of thirty and forty-five? Millennials? Families with an above average household income? The beauty of social media is advertisers have immense amounts of data available to use. In fact, we have more data than we as advertisers even know what to do with. After determining who exactly is interested in and is staying at your hotel, we can discover which channel they are investing their time in. In turn, your hotel will know where it makes most sense to invest your time and efforts.
Question 2: Where are my competitors investing their time?
It’s always a good idea to run a quick competitor review to see what channels comparable hotels have a presence on and what type of engagement they receive. For example, if three of your four competitors are on Twitter, that’s great… but are they active? If they are active, do they see a good amount of engagement? If not, why? While a likely reason for low engagement may be they are not dishing out relevant and optimized content, it could just as well be there is not an interest for your market on that particular channel.
Hotels in larger, more popular markets as well as unique or scenic markets have several advantages when taking their local area into account, and for obvious reasons. Just because a comparable brand/ hotel in a desirable tourist market sees high engagement on (let’s say, Instagram – a solely visual channel), does not mean your property will too.
Question 3: How does my market as a whole perform on said channel?
In addition to considering where your competitors are, take a look at other attractions and organizations in the local area. This will give you a good idea of where the interest in your market as a whole lies. For example, a client once approached Blue Magnet looking to either invest more time in Facebook, or invest in Facebook and Twitter. After our research, we found that there were very few interactions on twitter in their area. When we looked at the city’s official Twitter account,we found that they had over three thousand followers, but very little engagement. Thousands of followers and minimum engagement was a red flag that their followers could have been bought, spam accounts, or that there is just little interest and interaction in the market.
Additional Questions to Consider
Question 4: How is my hotel’s photography?
High resolution, quality photography is vital to prosper on Instagram and necessary to grab users’ interest on Pinterest as well. Photography can make or break your hotel’s success on certain networks.
Question 5: What type of back-end access do I have to my website?
Certain channels, such as Pinterest, require codes to be embedded on your website in order to obtain any type of Analytics. Currently, Facebook and Twitter both offer advertisers the option to embed code on their website to target recent site visitors on social; without access to add the code, your remarketing efforts will be terminated.
Question 6: How much time am I willing to invest?
While ample time is required to be successful on any channel, the nature of certain channels may require more time than others. For instance, Twitter is a fast-paced channel that tends to require more attention and maintenance due to its conversational manner. Tweeting once per day will not benefit your profile’s presence, while posting once per day may be perfectly sufficient for Facebook, where content is re-purposed more often. If you create a persona on Twitter solely to be there, but are not investing the time to tweet, how will that look to potential guests? Inactive and unattended social accounts create sour first impressions and are not representative of your hotel’s knowledge and top-notch customer service.
Question 7: What is my hotel’s end goal?
Potentially the most important question… why does your hotel feel a social presence is necessary? Outside of the obvious answer – that social media is often seen as the preferred method of communication during the 21st century – are you looking to drive bookings? Fill need dates? Connect with consumers on a personal level? A place for past guests to leave reviews? Are you looking to boost sales for meetings, weddings, and other special events? For the latter, Pinterest is a great network to highlight event space; industry themes that thrive on this channel are wedding and event planning, as well as home decor, recipes, fashion, crafting, and DIY. If your hotel does not have event space or an on-site restaurant/ social head chef, Pinterest is not the place for you.
Looking to get started? Facebook may be the place for you.
Facebook is an excellent starting point for hotels for a number of reasons. If your property only has the time and budget to invest in one channel, let it be Mark Zuckerberg’s first born. For starters, Facebook is a great place to showcase your property in a well-thought out and organized manners. Your hotel can highlight everything and anything by creating Photo Albums and Page Tabs (think: catering menus, meeting and event space, guestrooms, amenities, the community, your staff, and volunteer work). By creating custom applications/ Page Tabs, users can view menus and pricing, submit RFPs, take virtual tours of the property, and book directly through Facebook (depending on your hotel brand).
According to Facebook, more than 1.4 billion people are using Facebook and more than 900 million visit everyday. With such a large user base, advertisers can take advantage of Facebook campaigns (for as little as $5) and have the ability to reach an extremely targeted audience. For example, brunches and on-property events can be targeted locally (i.e., users within X miles of your hotel), wedding-related ads can be targeted to couples engaged within the last two months, and so on.
Facebook Ads aside, Facebook provides detailed information about your Page’s performance and who likes your page, where they live (down to the city), and what language they speak. Hotels have the ability to monitor their Page’s and posts metrics, see who is engaging with their content (and when), and compare their overall performance to their competitors. In addition, Facebook is an excellent place to run promotions; by utilizing Page tabs to install custom applications, developers can embed forms for users to submit their email address, answer survey questions, upload user generated content, and so on – great for contests and giveaways!
Give Me More: Facts and Figures
Facebook aside, let us dive into a few interesting statistics and demographic data of other popular channels hotels often inquire about: Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Internet Live Stats noted that every second (on average), 6,000 tweets are sent out on Twitter (meaning 350,000 tweets per minute, 500 million per day, and 200 billion per year). Twitter has 320 million monthly active users, 80% of which are active users on mobile. The people you will find here? Twitter is especially popular among people under 50 (37% of adults 18-29 user Twitter, 25% of adults 30-49) and, in regards to gender, is split almost evenly among men and women. In addition, Twitter’s ad platform has really developed over the last few years and now includes global targeting, behavior based targeting, and event targeting. Twitter is an excellent place to exchange information, share relevant news, and engage in real-time, one-on-one dialog with a, for the most part, younger crowd.
As of November 2015, Instagram reported that their 400 million plus active users have shared over 40 billion photos since the channel’s launch in October 2010. Today, Instagram’s users are collectively averaging 80 million photos per day in addition to 3.5 billion likes. Who are these users? Pew Research Center reported in August 2015 that among internet users, 31% of women use instagram compared to 24% of men.
It’s important to note Instagram’s current user base is heavily dominated by young adults. 53% of young adults ages 18-29 now utilize the service. Recently, Instagram made their ad platform available to all advertisers, big and small. Instagram is owned by Facebook – which could mean their ad platform will grow to have huge niche targeting potential. If you are looking to reach a younger demographic and have visually appealing content to dispense and high quality hotel photos, Instagram might be the proper channel for you to invest your time and money into.
Pinterest continues, year after year, to be dominated by women users. In fact, 42% of online women are using Pinterest (compared to 13% of men). Pinterest stated two-thirds of the content users are pinning came directly from a business’ website. Making access to your website an important piece of the puzzle. If you are unable to embed Pin It buttons and incorporate the channel throughout your owned properties, you may not be able to benefit from this network to your full capacity.
If your hotel has excellent catering menus, an unique on-site restaurant, plenty of event space, or an event planning team that will share tips, tricks, and resources and can visually represent all that your hotel has to offer) Pinterest may be worth a look.
Keeping Up With (Keyword: Relevant) Trends
It is imperative for your hotel to adapt to the changing digital world, but it is not imperative to “keep up with the Jones’.” What works for one hotel may not work for your hotel. For example, if your hotel generally attracts leisure travelers, you will want to consider focusing on a different social network compared to a hotel that attracts business travelers. What network makes sense today may not make sense tomorrow; but by tuning in to user trends, conducting thorough research, and paying close attention to Analytics and Insights, your hotel can thrive on social media, complement your team’s offline goals, and bring your hotel’s digital presence full circle.
If you would like assistance determining what social media channels your hotel should invest in or if your hotel is interested in social media marketing services, feel free to drop us a line! Stay up-to-date with the latest trends in social media by signing up for our newsletter below.