10 Nov 2011

The correct use of Social Media in Hospitality

There has been a lot of buzz about social media and its role in hospitality. Is social media a distribution channel, or not? 

What is the correct use of social media in hospitality and what should hoteliers do about it?

Let’s put the record straight: Social media is not a distribution channel in hospitality. Social media is a customer engagement channel, and an extremely important one at that.

There is no doubt that social media has changed how travel consumers research and plan travel, access travel information, and perceive credibility of information. Internet users are increasingly influenced by social media sites, location-based services (LBS) and location-based social networks (LBSN), near-field communication services (NFC) and peer reviews. By utilizing a comprehensive social media strategy, hoteliers can create social media “buzz” around the hotel, target receptive audiences, and ultimately stimulate hotel website visits, interactions, and bookings.

Social marketing should become an important component of any hotel’s marketing mix and part of the comprehensive direct online channel strategy for any hotel company. Naturally, it is important to use the right ROI metrics to measure the success of social marketing efforts of the hotel. Social media and social marketing initiatives should be reviewed with “sober eyes” and within the context of the impact of the multi-channel marketing strategy of the hotel.

Instead of focusing on bookings and revenue when measuring results from social media marketing, remember that currently the best uses of social media are as:
  • An important component of a hotel’s multi-channel marketing
  • An important customer service channel
  • A brand-building and buzz-building channel
  • A medium to interact with and engage customers
  • A source of engaged and relevant traffic to the hotel website
  • A way to make the hotel look current, cool, and up-to-date

Action steps to better utilize social media:

  • Partner with a social media strategy company to launch/enhance your social media presence and provide ongoing quarterly reviews and trainings, as well as social media technology and creative services (e.g. custom tabs and interactive contests and sweepstakes on Facebook, etc)
  • Establish a brand consistent Facebook and Twitter presence
  • Locate/designate your on-property Social Media “Champion”
  • Spend minimum 1-3 hours daily to manage social media presence
  • Post 3-5 times/week each on both Facebook and Twitter
  • Use engaging posts (ask questions, use trivia, hold contests)
The recommendations contained in this article are really aimed at the branded larger hotel chains however even the smallest of hospitality business can significantly benefit from working alongside a social media specialist to increase targeted traffic to your website and direct bookings. 

Original Article from "An Interview with Max Starkov": 4Hoteliers