6 Social Media Recommendations for Independent Hoteliers in 2016

Seventy-six percent of travelers post vacation photos to social networks, and 52 percent of Facebook users say friends’ photos inspire their travel plans. With social media playing such a big role in inspiring travelers and sharing experiences, a strong social media presence and strategy is more important than ever for lodging operators.
Whether you’re new to social media or have been using it for years, it always pays to have a plan and measure results to maximize the return on your social media efforts. A social media audit is a great way to start…
Conduct a Social Media Audit
Social media audits help businesses assess how well their current social media accounts are performing to identify which profiles need to be updated and which ones should be deleted. Social media marketing success depends on making a solid commitment to your accounts; many businesses choose to use just two or three networks, and to do them well.
Hootsuite’s social media audit template and guide provides clear steps to follow for conducting your own social media audit. By going through these steps, lodging operators can:
>> Identify which of their social media profiles are showing up in online search.
>> Evaluate each profile in line with business strategy, goals and target market, in order to determine whether or not it is worth maintaining a presence on a particular network. This can be done by reviewing metrics like your posting frequency, number of followers and fans, engagement (retweets, shares, likes, comments, etc.), and leads generated.
>> Make sure each profile is on brand, with quality and consistent profile and cover images and logos, complete bios and descriptions, and correct URLs.
>> Ensure that all social media profiles are secure and determine who is running them.
>> Create a process and criteria for determining if and how new social profiles will be established in the future.
Prioritize Visual Content
Social media feeds are intensely competitive spaces, especially for organic content. To get noticed, post more visual content.
Social media is becoming an ever more visual space; Twitter launched video auto-play on timelines last year, and between April and November last year, Facebook’s average daily video views doubled from four billion to eight billion per day.
Facebook rewards posts with video with greater organic reach, but it’s important to note that the platform prefers native uploads as opposed to YouTube embeds. Native uploads perform better than third-party players on Twitter too, with native video driving more engagement (2.5 times more replies, 2.8 times more retweets, and 1.9 times more favourites).
Posts that include images produce 650 percent higher engagement than text-only posts, and visual content is 40 times more likely to be shared.
This year, post (and share) more images and videos to increase reach and engagement.
Generate & Share UGC
User-generated content (UGC) is essentially the digital version of word of mouth, which has always been the most trusted form of marketing.
Marketing is becoming much less about broadcasting, and much more about generating opportunities for conversation — and UGC is excellent for driving engagement. We’ve written before about how to make the most of UGC, but here are the key points:
There are many ways a hotel can promote engagement and UGC, from providing share-worthy on-property experiences (like thoughtful in-room treats that surprise and delight guests, or special events), to running competitions and hashtag campaigns on social media that encourage customers to share photos, videos or their own stories. When asking for UGC, make it fun for your audience and tied to their interests — which, safe to say, is probably travel — and they won’t even need to be persuaded.
The next step is to share UGC through your own channels to amplify reach and encourage other customers to engage.
Share, retweet and like positive comments, reviews, photos and videos about your property that your customers post online. You can even incorporate UGC in your own storytelling efforts by featuring it on your website (for example, albums featuring guest photos, and live social media and review feed embeds), or marketing and advertising campaigns.
You can also learn a lot about guests from the content they share and engage with on social media. Relevant information can be noted on guest profiles in your property management system or CRM for enhancing the guest experience.
Use Social Media Monitoring Tools
It’s important to keep track of what your customers are saying to you and about you online. While it’s not difficult for a business to monitor customer reviews, comments, photos and videos posted or shared directly on the business’ social media pages, customers also talk about businesses across the Internet universe where the conversation is harder to track. Sometimes, a customer will try to tag a business in a post, but get the business’ handle wrong. In cases like these, businesses can easily miss customer feedback and UGC, and therefore miss the opportunity to share positive customer experiences or appease negative ones.
Social listening or social media monitoring tools like Hootsuite, Social Mention and Mention can help lodging operators stay on top of online conversations — and save lots of time — by automatically monitoring social media and the wider Web for any direct and indirect mentions related to their property.
Social media monitoring tools also allow you to schedule and post content to your social media profiles, as well as provide analytics and reporting that can help guide social media strategy — all from a single dashboard.
Respond & Interact
Being interactive online is key to increasing engagement and building strong customer relationships. Acknowledging your customers online shows them that you value them. And you don’t want negative comments floating around Internetland unchecked.
In our blog post about social customer service we offer some tips for managing customer relationships online, including: being a good listener (this is where your social media monitoring tool can help); developing a process for dealing with complaints professionally; responding to customer feedback and questions — and responding quickly; being human; and eavesdropping (monitoring indirect mentions — again, this is where a social monitoring tool comes in handy).
Pay to Play
Your customers spend a lot of time on social media, so it makes sense to advertise there. Paid social media advertising can be easily controlled, offering excellent reach at a relatively low cost.
Even a conservative budget can reap high ROI through targeting. Social media platforms like Facebook offer powerful targeting tools that allow businesses to hone in on consumers who are likely to convert. Promotional content can be targeted to custom audiences such as current followers, Facebook users matching a business’ email list, or people who fit certain profiles based on data like location, interests, income level, purchasing behavior and relationship status.
Social media remarketing is also worth testing for converting booking abandoners. This involves adding code to your website that tracks website visitors and then shows them customized ads on social media if they leave your site without making a booking.
Just like organic content, paid content should be engaging and inspire people to start dreaming about staying at your property. Think quality, eye-catching images and descriptive and emotive language. It’s also important to use clear calls to action (CTA) aligned with the stage of the customer’s purchasing journey. Social media plays a key role in the inspiration stage of travel planning, so using CTAs like “learn more” may work better than “book now” (except in the case of remarketing).
If you haven’t already, add a little paid social media advertising into the mix and monitor results based on KPIs like number of likes, click-throughs and resulting bookings. Experiment to see what works for you.
For travelers, social media is an intrinsic part of travel planning and experience. For lodging operators, social media can help strengthen a property’s brand, build customer relationships and create brand ambassadors. We hope these tips help you to achieve just that in the year ahead.