Social media and travel go hand-in-hand. Sixty-five percent of adults now use social networking sites (Pew Research Center) and a growing portion of these users are utilizing social media before, during, and after traveling. As traffic and activity on these platforms continue to grow, hoteliers have even more opportunities to reach their customer segments and generate revenue.
The possibilities for hoteliers in the social media space are more exciting and accessible than ever before. From emerging social media platforms to robust ad targeting capabilities, the options are constantly expanding and evolving. Are you prepared to leverage these opportunities and maximize revenues from social media in 2016? Here is a checklist to help you on your journey.
1. Allow flexibility in your 2016 budget to incorporate paid social media efforts.
HeBS Digital recommends allocating 2-3% of your digital marketing budget to social media. While this budget may take into account ongoing community management and engagement, it should also provide flexibility to include paid social media efforts. On Facebook alone, organic posts only reach about 2-3% of fans. In order to expand reach, it is important that brands “pay to play” in the social media space with ads supporting ongoing campaigns and business needs. Not only would this strategy help to promote a hotel’s social media presence, it would also result in more revenue from the direct online channel.
For more details on how to budget for 2016, read “The Smart Hotelier’s Guide to 2016 Digital Marketing Budget Planning.”
2. Claim, optimize, and brand your social media profiles.
Today’s hyper-connected travel consumers expect to see brands on social media, especially on the most popular platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Hotels that have claimed, optimized, and branded their social media presences can gain a competitive advantage over those that have not, and encourage users to follow and engage with them on these platforms.
Aside from posting unique and relevant content, there are many ways to create a well-branded social media page. For example, on Twitter, hoteliers can implement a custom-designed header image to showcase rich destination imagery and feature a call-out to build brand awareness. On Facebook, local business Pages may be verified, resulting in a gray verification badge that appears next to the Page name. On all platforms, utilizing the official logo and optimizing images for each platform’s dimensions are simple yet effective ways hotels can create a more official brand presence on social media.
3. Outline your social media goals and KPIs and ensure your initiatives address your business objectives.
Whether you’re trying to increase brand awareness or drive bookings for a specific need period, it is important to establish your business objectives before determining which social media initiatives to implement. This will ensure that your social media efforts are goals-focused and performance-driven. For instance, if you are trying to increase bookings for a holiday special package through a Facebook Promoted Post, some KPI’s may include link clicks to the special package landing page, bookings initiated, and bookings completed.
4. Utilize the correct social media platforms based on your target customer segment.
With the frequent emergence of new social media features and platforms, it can be difficult to decide which ones to invest in and prioritize. While it may be tempting to try every new feature or platform, it is important that hoteliers take the time to determine how it might benefit the brand before diving in. Some may be more suitable for some brands over others, while some should be implemented by all brands.
First and foremost, hoteliers should utilize Facebook and Twitter as these channels allow brands to reach the largest and most targeted audience possible. Based on the hotel’s target markets, other channels should also be utilized. For example, if a property offers a wedding venue and services, it should consider creating a Pinterest profile and implementing Promoted Pins to reach users planning weddings. If a hotel is promoting a lifestyle brand and targeting Millennials, it should consider posting and engaging with users on Instagram.
5. Engage and provide value to your target audience through social media initiatives. Provide a clear call to action.
As more brands create social media content, it becomes crucial for hotels to stand out from the “noise” by promoting engaging content that provides value to their target audience. Social media users do not want to feel as though they are being spammed with ads. To build quality engagement and brand loyalty, brands should develop unique content that speaks to the target audience. Social media platforms such as Facebook are constantly developing new ad formats to better engage users and support advertisers’ business objectives. For instance, Facebook’s Carousel Ads allow brands to highlight 3-5 images and links within a single ad unit to direct users to specific locations on the website.
Social media initiatives should also include a clear call to action to generate the desired results. For example, if the goal is to increase engagement, Facebook posts should include a call to action such as “like,” comment, or share. On Twitter, hotels can create Promoted Account campaigns that include tweets prompting users to follow the hotel’s Twitter profile. By simply providing a clear call to action, brands can focus their audience’s attention on the next action they want them to take.
6. Take advantage of the robust targeting and retargeting opportunities available.
As social media advertising continues to evolve, targeting becomes more powerful and impactful on each platform. Facebook offers a wide variety of targeting options- from location, relationship status and income, to interests, purchase behavior, and beyond. Brands can also use Custom Audience targeting to reach their email subscribers or website visitors, and implement Lookalike Audience targeting to expand reach among similar users. By running multiple ad campaigns with different targeting criteria, marketers can discover their top audiences and hone their future campaigns to reach the most qualified audience.
Hoteliers can also utilize retargeting to reach users who have already visited the hotel website. By placing a snippet of code on the website, hotels can remarket to users and even recover bookings. Both Facebook and Twitter offer website retargeting, which is an effective way to keep brands top of mind and drive awareness of their social media presences to build followers and engagement.
7. Utilize first-party data to reach users planning travel to your destination.
To reach users planning travel, hoteliers can create social media ads through a travel ad network such as Sojern or ADARA, which uses first-party travel data from top airline and travel planning websites to target a highly qualified audience. For instance, luxury hotels can target affluent travelers from top feeder markets. Adding this layer of data to social media ad targeting ensures that the hotel is serving ads deeper within the booking funnel and driving more conversions.
8. Address the three screens and multi-device usage in the travel planning process.
Multiple devices are used when planning travel, and 9 out of 10 people use multiple screens sequentially (Google Research). For example, users may begin their research on mobile and tablet devices, but eventually book on desktop. Therefore, hoteliers should ensure that their social media content and ads are optimized for the three screens. This might mean limiting copy to appear on smaller screens.
Both Facebook and Twitter allow brands to designate devices for ads to be displayed on, and offer previews of the ad for each device or placement. If a property is looking to drive foot traffic to an onsite restaurant or spa, it might consider running ads targeting users nearby on their mobile devices. Facebook’s Local Awareness Ads allow businesses to reach users within a certain radius and include a call to action button such as “Get Directions” or “Call Now.”
9. Incorporate social media initiatives into multichannel campaigns.
When social media is incorporated into a multichannel campaign, it moves from being an influencer channel to one that amplifies reach and drives conversions. Based on hotel seasonality and business needs, hoteliers should build multichannel campaigns with core revenue drivers such as SEM, email marketing and the Google Display Network, and seamlessly integrate social media initiatives. All components of the campaign should promote one cohesive brand message.
Effective social media reaches users at every touch point of the travel planning journey. Starting with the dreaming phase, marketers should use destination rich images and videos to motivate and inspire users to travel. In the planning and booking phase, hoteliers should promote a concrete offer or package and retarget users who abandon a booking across the web and social platforms. Finally, in the experience and sharing phase, marketers should promote content surrounding things to do in the destination to enhance the travel experience and foster consumer generated content from guests. Promoting one guest’s sharing phase can influence and inspire a potential guest’s dreaming phase, leading to more long-term bookings and brand loyalty.
10. Track and optimize your social media efforts.
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter provide native analytics which allow brands to track their performance. However, hoteliers may access more robust analytics with tools such as Google Analytics and Adobe Omniture. By tracking the performance of social media initiatives, marketers can determine what types of content or targeting work best, and hone their initiatives for better returns in the future.
As social media continues to evolve and new capabilities and trends arise, it is important for hoteliers to invest in this growing channel to reach and engage the right audience at the right time. Not only will this allow hotels to set themselves apart, but it will also support their digital marketing efforts and maximize revenues in 2016. By taking advantage of this ever-changing landscape, hoteliers can create meaningful connections with their target audiences and propel the brand ahead of the rest.
About the Author
Victoria Hsia is Senior Interactive Media Specialist at HeBS Digital, the hospitality industry’s leading digital technology + website design, full-service digital marketing and website revenue optimization consulting firm, based in New York City (www.HeBSdigital.com).