Social media is an important part of an overall marketing strategy for most businesses these days — and just like any other digital application, it’s always evolving. To stay competitive on social media, lodging operators need to keep up with their platforms’ latest tools and trends and test new strategies to stand out.
Here are seven smart social media practices that will help lead to success in the year ahead.
Pay to Boost Content
Gaining organic reach on social media is becoming more and more difficult for businesses as networks such as Facebook prioritize posts from users’ friends and families. That may explain why between 2014 and 2016 (a mere two years), social media ad spending doubled worldwide from US$16 billion to US$31 billion, and analysts predict a further 26.3% global increase on social media ad spending in 2017.
All the major social media platforms now offer powerful targeting tools like custom audiences, which allow businesses to reach customers who are more likely to convert. Social media advertising offers an excellent ROI, attaining high reach at a relatively low cost. We recommend testing posts organically first and boosting the most popular ones (those that gain higher organic reach) through paid advertising.
Experiment with New Video Formats
Video has taken the social media world by storm. It’s no secret that Facebook prioritizes video over other types of posts with video driving much more engagement.
Recently, new video formats are gaining popularity, such as live (real-time) video and 360-degree video (and photos), and are now available across platforms like Facebook (Facebook Live), Instagram (within Instagram Stories) and Twitter. Live video in particular allows brands to create engaging content without requiring all the time and resources that go into more polished productions. Live video is great for giving audiences a glimpse behind-the-scenes or sharing a live event experience — authentic, real content that really resonates with audiences.
Lodging operators have a wealth of video subjects to choose from, including the property, staff, location/destination, events, guest feedback, etc., so this year have fun with different video formats to see what resonates with your audience.
Take Advantage of Instagram
Instagram just keeps growing. From June 2016 to December 2016, the number of monthly active Instagram users increased by 100 million from 500 million to 600 million! With last year’s launch of Instagram’s business profiles and tools, the recent release of Instagram Stories (a Snapchat-like feature that lets users post ephemeral photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours), and the upcoming shopping feature, exciting things are happening on the platform — especially for businesses.
After Facebook, Instagram boasts one of the best engagement levels across social media platforms and is a great discovery tool for brands. Because advertising is relatively new to Instagram (2015) there are still lots of opportunities for brands to stand out, so if you haven’t looked into this social channel yet, now’s the time.
Share User-Generated Content
The feedback and opinions of real guests tend to be trusted by potential customers over the property’s own marketing efforts, which is why it makes a lot of sense to capture and promote positive user-generated content (UGC).
Your guests’ experiences form an engaging part of your story, so be proactive in encouraging your guests to create content relevant to your property through social media contests and custom hashtag campaigns that inspire guests to share photos, videos and their own stories. Provide share-worthy on-property experiences such as thoughtful in-room surprises (like personalized welcome notes or a small gift) or special events. Make sure guests know where to find you on social media by promoting your social media handles and hashtags on your website, on-property and in advertising campaigns.
Respond to and share positive UGC through your property’s own accounts (and even on your website or in marketing campaigns with the user’s permission) to amplify reach. Of course, any negative feedback should also be dealt with appropriately.
Augment Customer Service through Messaging Apps
Messaging apps (such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Viber) are used by over 4 billion users worldwide. From email to SMS text messaging and social media to mobile messaging apps, digital has fast become the world’s preferred method of communication.
In our mobile age, the widespread use of mobile messaging apps and the quest to personalize the customer experience is leading the customer-brand relationship further toward one-to-one communication via channels that offer more instant and more convenient service. It makes sense for hotels to be accessible through the channels their customers prefer.
Mobile messaging offers many advantages as a customer service channel: it’s cost-effective and easy to implement and it provides an avenue for less vocal (or confrontational) guests to voice complaints and make requests — both valuable opportunities for properties to provide a level of customer service that earns loyal customers.
Make it Easy to Book through Social Media
Social media has typically been considered a channel through which to increase brand awareness and engagement, but with ecommerce features rolling out across platforms, social media is increasingly becoming a direct sales channel.
Offer your social media audience the convenience of booking with you direct through social media in an unobtrusive way. Lodging operators can add a “book now” button to their property’s Facebook page, which can take customers directly to the bookings page on the property’s own website. “Buy now” and other call-to-action buttons (like “Learn more”) can be added to Instagram ads that link to specific pages on your website.
Use Micro-Moments to Guide Content
It can be hard to keep things fresh when it comes to creating social media content, but keeping Google’s micro-moments in mind (the dreaming, planning, booking and experiencing moments) will help point your posts in the right direction.
Social media is particularly popular with travelers during the dreaming and experiencing stages but can be relevant during the planning and booking stages too. For example, posts recommending local hotspots, sharing travel tips or highlighting activities and events can be very helpful to guests in their planning stages, and information about special packages is obviously relevant to the booking stage.
Using micro-moments to guide your content strategy can help keep your posts focused on what resonates with your audience, is relevant to their needs and drives engagement. It can also help to maintain the right balance of personal and promotional content (of which the former should largely outweigh the latter).
As part of your overall marketing strategy, social media works best when integrated with other marketing channels and campaigns, such as your property’s website, email campaigns, online advertising and offline campaigns, and even customer service. As you plan your strategy for the year ahead, keep these smart social media practices in mind for an engaging and successful 2017.