The fascination with travel is about the discovery of the unknown and sharing that experience with people. These qualities make travel a hot topic for discussion in many social media networks. This is one of the reasons why social media marketing has gained particular relevance to the travel and hotel industry. It is one of the biggest buzzwords in hotel marketing at the moment with most hotels thinking about how best to utilise it.
At the same time, the consequences of poorly executed social media marketing initiatives can be embarrassing or even dire so we have pulled together a list of the top 7 hotel social media marketing sins to avoid.
As with 2 ways conversations in real life, there are good conversations and there are bad conversations; not everyone is always in agreement. This is the same in social media networks. Add to that, in the online social media world, almost every conversation is transparent and broadcasted to thousands or more.
It can be very dangerous for a hotel to publish any responses or comments without thinking through it properly – be it responding to a hotel customer complaint or a bad review about the hotel. Hoteliers need to remember that whatever is published will be remembered and publicised.
In addition, written words are often up for interpretation. Sometimes, the hotel may find that they are responding to a complaint in a fairway. However, the tone can come across wrongly who come across it on the social network.
Add to that the real-time nature of social media, there’s a real danger when it comes to speaking out before thinking. For hotels, this can lead to damaging consequences –a hotel may unwittingly anger a customer and alienate future potential customers who are looking for information about the hotel.
A danger of any hot trend is that marketers jump in to leverage the new kid on the block without really understanding what they want to achieve - the same applies to social media marketing.
Any marketing tactic that a hotel employs should always start with stated business objectives the hotel wants to achieve– be it to manage the hotel’s online reputation or to communicate the hotel’s promotions - that’s the starting point to decide if social media is the right marketing route to proceed with.
Once the objectives are defined, the hotel can then work towards employing specific social media initiatives that best suit the hotel’s objectives– rather than employing a scattergun approach. Without a clear plan, initiatives undertaken can easily fail and be a huge waste of resources.
A key reason why travellers engage in social media is to be part of a conversation to discuss their travel experiences. Hotels need to recognise this - every good conversation actually starts with listening and understanding customers.
The best way for a hotel to create an engaging conversation with existing or potential customers is to listen. It pays to listen to the discussions and conversations that travellers and customers are having before jumping in. This way, a hotel can better understand its target audience, the concerns their customers have, what they are interested in etc. This is the first step that a hotel can take to establish a better flow of conversation and define the topics of interest when they start engaging their target audience in social media networks.
Interestingly, one of the most common mistakes made by the travel industry is using social media marketing is to sell an endless stream of promotions and products. It can be challenging to break the traditional mould of selling and marketing hotels and hotel promotions. However, a hard sales tactic doesn’t always work in the social environment.
It would be worthwhile to take a step back and remember that a key objective of being in a social network is to communicate – nobody likes to be constantly bombarded with commercials. That is hardly considered engaging. A hotel should recognise that pushing only sales messages through social media networks may result to promotions being ignored, users “unfollowing” the hotel or worse, be viewed as spam.
Hotels can make social media work simply by being a little more subtle in approach, create interesting conversations and provide relevant content that interest customers or assist them in making their online travel or hotel booking decisions.
There are no 3 letters that divide marketers more when it comes to social media marketing - ROI - Return on Investment. While there are online marketers who believe that we cannot put a value on relationships and in essence, social media marketing, the truth is all hotel marketing investments need to provide a tangible result to the bottom line. Social media marketing is no exception.
Without setting a plan and specific ROI for the hotel social media campaign, it can be difficult to understand the value that social media marketing brings to the hotel and to continue investing in it.
ROI would generally be easier to calculate when there is a proper social media plan, stated objectives, listed key performance indicators as well as monitoring defined before the start of the social media campaign. While the results may not be immediate but hoteliers should not be persuaded that ROI does not matter.
Most hotels normally engage in multiple forms of marketing – be it print, TV, online, outdoor or radio.
It is critical to recognise that social media marketing is an extension of a hotel’s marketing arsenal and should carry the same hotel messaging, brand values and positioning to its target audience.
A hotel needs to be conscious of consistency in messaging when portraying the hotel, its brand and its values on social media so that the hotel maintains its identity. Running different messages across different marketing distribution channels may result to conflicting messages which could confuse users and ruin a company’s credibility. For example, a corporate hotel should not attempt to portray a casual, laid back image on social media networks just because that’s the style that attracts most users. This would be in direct conflict of the hotel’s business image and confuse customers. It is important for a hotel to stay true and consistent in the hotel messaging on social media networks.
While social media marketing is relatively new compared to the rest the hotel marketing mix, it should not be cornered off for “experiments” or planned and executed independently. For social media to work well, it needs to be considered together as part of a hotel’s marketing mix.
Letting social media go alone makes it harder for the hotel’s social media campaign to succeed. A good social media campaign requires all the different elements of marketing to come together. Integrating the marketing mix would enhance the opportunity for the social media marketing campaign to succeed. Lack of integration will increase the chances of failing.