By Gaurav Varma Product Marketing Manager, Milestone Inc
Social media is one of the most important channels for marketing a hotel and this year is bound to be an exciting year for digital marketers. Change will continue to drive the evolution of consumer behavior and putting the right messages in front of the right consumers at the right time will be pivotal. As you work on your marketing plan, here are the key social media trends you could leverage to increase your chances of success:
Facebook Has Limited Reach Without Paid Social
Facebook has continuously evolved its algorithm to match the right content with the right audience and machine learning technology will continue to guide the content your guests will see in their news feed. The existing algorithm adapts to user behavior and preferences. For example, if your guests interact with your videos, Facebook will show them more of it to keep them engaged. Facebook's goal is to reward person to person interactions, show meaningful newsfeed content and eventually drive more connections between its users. Facebook has also ramped up its effort to protect user privacy, show more content around friends and family, which means to focus less on content from business pages; not just hotels but from every business leading way for more content for friends and family.
The latest update from Facebook will not eliminate content from business pages but rather prioritize content which is more meaningful to the end user. The prime real estate is now given to user's content with shares and comments seen as "active" interactions and hence more meaningful and relevant for the newsfeed. These changes have already been impacting users; video, referral traffic and organic reach is experiencing a decrease should the content not stir a meaningful person to person interaction. Fewer guests seeing organic posts would mean lower likes, comments, clicks or shares which would eventually lead to lower bookings, RFP's or reservations. On the contrary if your hotels content creates more meaningful interactions you are bound to benefit from these changes.
Increasing Share of Paid Content & Distribution
With over 2.27B monthly active users on Facebook, the scale of content distribution is massive, the newsfeed is now an even more competitive real estate, of course it's a boon for Facebook, but for advertisers it means more expensive ads. Today, making visibility in the News Feed means to do paid social advertising. Secondly, Facebook wants to show users the content that is most relevant to them after passing it through its very sophisticated algorithm. Your hotel marketing strategy must evolve to these new realities and make sure you spend some money on Facebook advertising if you want to reach your audience.
Action Points for your team:
Create engaging content for your fans; as per a study by Quintly ; 48% of Facebook pages uploaded a video and they attract up to 8x times more comments Encourage your fans to interact with your page and remind them to update their notification settings, when users engage with your page, they would see more of it Leverage Facebook as a paid ad platform; make sure to target and speak to the right type of audience. Advertise your assets -- blog posts, specials, evergreen content about your hotel.
Instagram Is The New Home For Brands
With over 1B monthly active users and 500 million daily active users, Instagram has proven itself business worthy. Today 90% of top 100 brands are on Instagram. When it comes to travel and hospitality; Instagram has a natural fit; Exotic destinations, luxury hotels attract likes, shares and comments. Instagram directly influences trip ideas and related decisions. Four Seasons page attracts over 799K, Marriott Hotels 329K and Hilton Hotels attracts 252K followers.
Brands can leverage this opportunity by asking their followers to actively use a hashtag to tag their engagement. For example Hilton would encourage #RightHere or #ShareMyHiltonPic hashtags to engage with users or the Ritz-Carlton would engage with guests and loyal advocates looking for wedding packages, and then ask these guest to tag their stories after the event gets over by using #RCMemories hashtag. Marriott also does a fabulous job by promoting events and signups to its Marriott rewards program by using Instagram. Instagram also allows seamless conversion opportunities; with action buttons user can now reserve hotel rooms, get tickets, start an order or book via third-party partners.
All these offer innumerable opportunities for the hotels to inspire, engage, convert and develop long term loyalty. Instagram has been a very effective channel for hotels to reach their target audiences with features such as location and geo search. When a user clicks on a post tagged with a location tag, users can easily see posts from other users who were tagged at the location, for hoteliers this feature allows traveler to experience the property through many different perspectives, it also creates a feeling of crowdsourcing; an experience which is very hard to replicate otherwise.
Action Points for your team:
Use photos, posts, stories or hashtags and encourage users to share their version of hotel or travel experience Convert inspirations into guest stays by using Instagram "action buttons" Partner with influencers to market your hotel, ask them to promote your unique features including your loyalty program.
Tap The Power Of Influencers
Influencers call social media their home, they have helped move the needle. Nurturing relationship with them has served many benefits to a hotel. Influencers document their travels or hotel experiences and show case their unique perspective to entice their followers. They lead, educate and attract an audience who thrive on their recommendations. To win at Influencer marketing authenticity matters the most.
For example, @chiaraferragni with 15.6 Million followers is an Instagram influencer who travels the world to shoot for the most famous brands including hotels and would post pictures and stories on Instagram to drive incredible engagement. Gartner L2's report on influencers highlights 82% of luxury hotel brands work with influencers. Instagram with its photo and video friendly features offers opportunity to tie up with reputed Influencers and display aspects of your service and experience which are unique to your hotel, influencers are partners which extend the reach of your hotel to an untapped audience. Instagram has turned into a viable channel for hotels, by making the most of Instagram you can extend your reach inside the Facebook ecosystem. Hotels work with influencers in multiple different ways; they would nurture local influencers to promote their in-market experiences or tie up with influencers from their target market to attract new audiences.
Influencer marketing has opened new doors for hotel. The key should be to find the right channel strategy and include influencers as part of the larger goals to make the most impact. Lastly, you can use your own staff as influencers; hotel executives, chefs, bartenders or concierge can team up with the hotel teams and show case the property and there by adding new dimensions to the hotel guest relationship.
Action Points for your team:
Research and prepare a list of influencers most important to your hotel Designate your PR team to proactively handle the communication with influencers on a mutually agreeable term Involve influencers; be it internal or external to show unique features of your property which are best experienced
User-Generated Content. Leveraging Your Audience's, Communities and Guests
Social media has remained evergreen despite of its share of challenges specifically around user privacy; For billions of users' social media can easily be regarded as their primary source of news and information, which makes it even more important. With over 3B active user's social media usage is only going to grow. Enhanced communication devices, cheaper data and friendly government regulations all support the growth of digital communication channels.
Users are making the most of these opportunities; countless photos and videos are been shared every single day on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat and these channels are leaving no stone unturned to keep the medium visual and interactive. 2018 was a pivotal year when live and dynamic content really skyrocketed in consumption - US adults spent an hour and 16 minutes each day watching videos. For example, Facebook live sessions are used to demonstrate cooking sessions, give property tours, Q&A sessions about your hotel or the destination by hotels world over.
Ephemeral content (Short form video lasting a few seconds to 24 hours) has created totally new avenues to sustain engagement; Instagram stories, Snapchats or Facebook stories have cemented their place with the audiences. One of the best ways to crowdsource your own content is by asking loyal customers for pictures of them using your hotel. The key is to let your customers create and share the content and you save on professional photography; a win-win for all.
2019 will see the momentum continue to grow with several brands and businesses will be using social media to tell a more authentic story and to connect with consumers of all age groups and geographies with even greater emphasis on personalized content.
Action Points for your team:
As new platform and features are launched, try out those features for your hotels Involve your audiences and make sharing of content easy, participate in content creation and content distribution with your fans Follow other hotel brands and competitors to keep a track of their social media activity
Messenger Apps And Chatbots Are Here To Stay
One of the most important ways in which social media has changed hotel experience is by offering new ways to serve customer needs. Today chatbots are helping travelers plan their itinerary, book rooms, act as an extension to the concierge desk, provide local area information and more. Marriott have been very innovative to deploy chat technology. Aloft hotels ChatBotlr or Marriott Rewards chatbots are available via Messenger and Slack to serve Marriott guests before, during and between stays.
Through Facebook Messenger and Slack members can research and book travel at more than 4,700 hotels, while earning reward points, book upcoming stay or communicate directly with their customers service teams. Branded hotels started using Facebook messenger when it was first introduced and are leading the industry by engaging with guest on the platforms. Chatbots and messaging platforms are now deeply entrenched in the customer journey, your hotel can make the most of this opportunity by using these applications and serving guest needs. If you are looking for a best time to start, 2019 it is!
Action Points for your team:
Connect with your internal guest facing departments and understand the most common guest quires, offer those as your conversation starters Make your tone of voice friendly, courteous. Offer a human touch to the experience. Keep some offers exclusively for users of chat and messaging tools to encourage adaption.
Hotels can be destinations in themselves or can be deeply entrenched with their surrounding communities, whatever type of hotel you manage, marketing hotels is indeed exciting. 2019 brings with its numerous opportunities especially for social media users. Hotel can make the most of this opportunity as guests are likelier to respond positively to personalized and tailored communication. Social media is one of the most popular engagement medium and will continue to grow in 2019. We anticipate more engagement, more video content and innovative campaigns which will stir conversations. We would love to hear from you about how your hotel is using social media or your plans for 2019.