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Embrace the impact of social, mobile media

Embrace the impact of social, mobile media

Last week, we considered the compound impact of a multichannel marketing marketing strategy and the critical importance of keeping your property’s website up to date with consumer expectations and standards. This week, we will propose and action plan to capitalize on two of the fastest growing e-media channels, social and mobile.

Action Plan: Engage your customers with social marketing

Social Media has changed how travel consumers research and plan travel, access travel information, and perceive credibility of information. eMarketer reports that more than 70% of Internet users under age 35 browse social networks. That percentage decreases for older users but is still significant, with 43.1% of those ages 35 to 54 and 18.9% of users ages 55 and older visiting social networks.


There is no doubt that Internet users are increasingly influenced by social media sites and peer reviews. By utilizing a comprehensive social media strategy, hoteliers can create social media “buzz” around the hotel, target receptive audiences, and ultimately stimulate hotel website visits, interactions and bookings.
HeBS’ 2010 Benchmark Survey on Hotel Internet Marketing Budget Planning and Best Practices showed that half of hoteliers surveyed (50% exactly) responded that in 2010 they are planning to create profiles for their hotels on the social networks. 


Social marketing should become an important component of any hotel’s marketing mix and part of the comprehensive Direct Online Channel Strategy for any hotel company. Naturally, it is important to use the right ROI metrics to measure the success of social marketing efforts of the hotel.


As discussed above, social media and social marketing initiatives should be reviewed with “sober eyes” and within the context of the impact of the multi-channel marketing strategy of the hotel. Instead of only focusing on bookings and revenue when measuring results from social media marketing, remember that currently the best uses of social media are:


  • An important component of hotel’s multi-channel marketing
  • Buzz-building
  • Brand-building Interacting with and engaging customers
  • Keeping up with the times, making the hotel look current, cool and up-to-date
  • Driving engaged and relevant traffic to the property’s own website

What are the initiatives hoteliers can deploy in 2010 and expand in 2011?

  • Facebook Fan Page with reservation widget, email capture functionality, custom design tabs, photo albums, hotel blog feeds, etc.
  • Twitter Profile with customized look and feel design, contests and sweepstakes, SEO-friendly posts, etc.
  • LinkedIn profile to reach out business travelers and meeting planners
  • Flickr with photo albums addressing your main business segments
  • YouTube hotel profile: virtual tours are out, videos are in. Develop hotel videos presenting hotel services and amenities to your different customer segments and post them on the hotel website and YouTube.

A word of caution: if your hotel cannot allocate bandwidth and resources or cannot afford to hire an external social marketing firm, do not start with social media initiatives such as Facebook fan page or Twitter profile. The social media battleground is full of “corpses” of abandoned hotel fan pages and profiles that do more harm than good to their owners. Social marketing is a very engaging process that requires skills and consistent engagement with the travel consumer.


Action Plan: Utilize mobile marketing to communicate in real time with your customers

Mobile travel bookings are projected to grow 700% in two short years. U.S. M-Commerce will reach a staggering $1 billion in 2010 (ABI Research). Sixty-seven percent of business travelers already use their mobile devices to view hotel locations via maps (Sabre Travel Network Survey). Mobile marketing must become a vital component of the marketing mix for any hotelier.

Hotel guests?past, current and potential?are increasingly becoming mobile-ready, and hoteliers have to respond adequately to this growing demand for mobile services. This is the reason why all major hotel brands, travel suppliers and OTAs have mobile Internet initiatives in place, including mobile brand websites and mobile applications including iPhone apps, m-CRM and mobile marketing. In order to meet the enormous growth in consumer demand for mobile services, hoteliers must start with a clear understanding of current best practices in mobile marketing.

As shown by HeBS’ 4th annual Benchmark Survey on Hotel Internet Marketing Budget Planning and Best Practices, while a number of hoteliers surveyed were not yet planning on mobile marketing initiatives for 2010 (32.8%), many are taking some very crucial first steps:
























What mobile marketing initiatives are you planning for 2010?


2010


Mobile site


25.9%


Mobile booking engine


22.4%


SMS Text marketing


27.6%


Mobile banner advertising


19.0%


iPhone app


24.1%


I am not planning on mobile marketing initiatives in 2010


32.8%

What can hoteliers do in the remaining months of 2010 and 2011? Mobile marketing must become a vital component of the marketing mix for any hotelier.

An excellent first step is to create a mobile site, which by default is the “gravitational” center for all future marketing efforts: from text messaging and Google mobile ads, to mobile sweepstakes and applications. Budget limitations are no longer an excuse for not launching a mobile-ready hotel site. 


Between 1% – 1.5% of visitors to hotel websites are from travel consumers accessing your property site via mobile devices:





















Number of mobile site visits January-June 2010:


Regional midscale hotel brand              


24,130


Multi-property resort company              


6,595


Boutique hotel in Key West, FL             


2,073


Full-service hotel in Los Angeles                       


1,873


Luxury spa resort in Florida:                              


2,803



Imagine the user experience of trying to squeeze your wide-screen hotel website, designed to fit screen resolutions at 1280×1024 pixels and above, onto the tiny screen of a mobile device. Our analysis shows that more than 90% of mobile users access the hotel website via mobile devices with screen sizes of 320 x 480 pixels. Accessing a “conventional” website via a mobile device, even the latest iPhone, often results in an undesirable user experience: the inability to find information needed, and a predictable outcome of abandoned websites and reservations.


What should hoteliers plan for 2010 and beyond? In addition to a mobile-ready website, launching mobile contests, quizzes and sweepstakes as part of the hotel multi-channel marketing initiatives will allow you to “test the waters” of mobile marketing. Adding  Google Mobile ads as part of a comprehensive search marketing strategy is another natural step. Also, start soliciting sign-ups to the mobile opt-in list (m-list) on the website via hotel email marketing campaigns, social media initiatives, interactive sweepstakes and contests.


Location-based services, m-CRM and mobile apps are initiatives in need of careful planning, sophisticated technology, and a better economic environment. Even so, hoteliers should start thinking about how to incorporate these initiatives in the upcoming years.

Next week, we’ll conclude our eight-step action plan with metrics and achieveable objectives for this year and next.

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