In mid-December, Twitter began rolling out an experimental new feature called “Nearby” that places an emphasis on user location when tweeting. Twitter has been hesitant to divulge much information about Nearby and its future, simply stating that they are constantly testing new features. However, as Twitter continues to roll out Nearby to more users, we are getting a clearer picture of what this new feature is and how hoteliers can use it to their advantage.
What do we know about Nearby?
Nearby is an alternative timeline to Twitter’s “Home,” “Discover,” and “Activity” timelines for viewing tweets. The Home timeline, the most commonly used, is the standard timeline for viewing chronologically sorted tweets of people you follow. The Discover timeline features relevant and trending tweets that Twitter thinks you’ll be interested in, even though you may not follow those people yet. The Activity timeline, which can be found within the Discover tab, shows you what actions your followers are performing on Twitter, such as favoriting tweets or following new people. All of the three current timelines present tweets and activities as a list.
Nearby works only with tweets that have been geotagged, meaning users have allowed their location to be tied to their tweets. What makes Nearby so unique in comparison to the other timelines is that rather than using the standard list format, tweets are presented as markers on a map, with the location of the marker being the location of the user when that tweet was sent out. In the screenshots below, you can see the Nearby map. Each tweet can be viewed by tapping on the marker.
75 percent of Twitter users are accessing the social media channel via mobile or tablet, which is probably why the Nearby timeline is currently only viewable on the Twitter mobile and tablet apps. That does not mean that the tweets presented on the Nearby map are only from mobile and tablet users. As long as your phone, tablet, or desktop is allowing your tweets to be geotagged, they will appear on the map regardless of the device they were tweeted from. Directions for enabling geotagging on desktop and mobile devices can be found in Twitter’s Help Center.
Because Nearby is still in its infancy, being tested, and being introduced to users gradually, there is no guarantee of when it will appear for you or if Twitter will keep the feature permanently. Only users who have enabled geotagging have been given access to Nearby so far, meaning that the sooner you enable it, the better your chances are of getting Nearby and exploring the new feature yourself!
How can hotel marketers use Nearby to benefit their hotel marketing strategy?
- Nearby is one of the very few ways, besides buying ads and being retweeted, to increase the reach of your tweets to users who do not follow you. The tweets that appear on the Nearby map are not only from the accounts you follow; Rather, any geotagged tweet in your general vicinity will appear on the map. So if you tweet from the hotel’s account and the tweet appears on the Nearby map, users who may have never known your hotel existed, let alone had a twitter account, will see your tweet and be exposed to your hotel. This means your hotel has the opportunity to acquire new potential guests and referrers!
- Nearby offers a better way to tap into your hotel’s local market than was ever possible with Twitter before. With Nearby, you can see what the locals are tweeting about in your immediate area – what’s most popular with users and what’s catching their attention. Insight like this is invaluable to your hotel. Knowing what users are interested in and using that knowledge to create great social media content is crucial. The more you know about your users’ interests, the easier it will be to tailor your social media content and ensure it’s relevant to your audience!
- A very cool opportunity that becomes available with Nearby is the ability to read your guests’ tweets regardless of if the tweet mentions your hotel at all. To this point, the only way to know for sure if someone was tweeting about your hotel would be if they mentioned it by name or mentioned your Twitter handle in their tweet. With Nearby, you’ll be able to see all of the tweets originating from your hotel’s location on the Nearby map. These tweets will undoubtedly be a good source of customer feedback you may not have received otherwise as well as a way to encourage happy customers and defuse unsatisfied ones.
- No announcement has been made regarding paid advertising integrating with Nearby, but we can only assume that it is certainly an avenue that Twitter is exploring. Twitter has struggled to win the favor of small business marketers due in part to the limited options for geographic targeting of ads. Nearby can open up new ways to for paid tweets to target locals that have not been available with Twitter before.
Nearby has some excellent benefits for hotels, but it does have some possible drawbacks.
- Quite obviously, a hotel’s interest in its local market is limited. Local customers are the target for booking events and meetings, but not usually for selling rooms, so investing in paid tweets on Nearby (if and when that option becomes available) may not the best use of your money. However, depending on your hotel’s objective, you may be able to find a creative way to make Nearby ads work for you. For example, you might be able to increase foot traffic for the hotel’s weekday lunch special at the restaurant.
- Nearby is also limited by the lack of users who geotag tweets. Twitter has not been used as a location-based social media outlet as much as Foursquare or even Facebook, so Twitter will need to build awareness for Nearby and encourage more users to start geotagging. If Twitter cannot achieve this, Nearby may very well be discontinued.
- Nearby is sure to have its fair share of detractors due to users being forced to see Tweets from anyone, not just users they follow, on the Nearby map. Social media users are very averse to unwelcomed messages being pushed in front of them without invitation. That’s why it is so crucial to have excellent content that will engage users who may not have originally wanted or expected to see your message. Otherwise, you may just end up turning them off.
The jury is out on Nearby’s long-term potential for success, but as long as Nearby is used correctly, it can be one of the many fantastic tools you can utilize as part of a successful Twitter strategy. So, hotelier, be an early adopter and, when given the option, add Nearby to your already formidablearsenal of social media weapons!