The many ways to tackle social media

The incredible rise of social media in the last five years is a very challenging development for us hotel operators. Although on the one hand it creates a new, tantalizingly direct and low-cost distribution channel and opens new opportunities to engage with and understand clients, it has also fundamentally altered the way travelers decide where they will stay.

So it’s not surprising that more and more hotels are turning to the Internet to increase sales and generate greater brand awareness. In the wild world of blogs, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, with more than 50% of hotel bookings taking place online and more than 60% of travelers saying they research travel online before purchasing, failure to do something on social media is suicidal and hands the advantage to those who act early.

So what are the most social-savvy hotels up to online, and what advantages are they getting?

Facebook and Twitter are undoubtedly the networks getting the most attention, reflecting their high number of users, but the savviest hotels don’t stop there. A recent survey showed 65% of U.S. hotels are active on Google+, and 20% are active on Instagram. Spreading social media efforts across different networks allows the social-savvy hotel to engage with different demographic groups and with users on a variety of devices.

More than two-thirds of U.S. hotels are now estimated to have a mobile-optimized website with a mobile-optimized booking facility, with the U.K. at a similar level, so it’s logical that mobile-focussed social networks such as Instagram should increasingly be a key factor in hotel social strategy. Facebook usage is also increasingly mobile-focused, and the most social-savvy hotels take account of this in optimizing the format of content they’re posting — so no large file sizes and lots of easily digestible short and snappy text. Mobile bookings account for about 7% of online travel bookings currently, and this is set to explode. Hotels that are using social to develop their brand awareness amongst mobile users are experiencing the most benefit from this shift.

The types of content that social-savvy hotels are sharing online, and which research has shown users want to see, include photos and videos showing hotel features, company news, local events and ideas for tourism locally. Especially on Facebook, contests, promotions and special deals have become one of the staples of the social-savvy hotel, as these are consistently amongst the best ways to drive increased awareness through sharing.

A discussion on the impact of social media amongst hotels also needs to acknowledge the huge influence of review sites on purchasing decisions. Actively paying attention to collecting reviews and working hard during the guest’s stay to make them good reviews should be as much a part of the hotel social strategy as posting content to Facebook and Twitter. Even OTA sites have a significant social-influencing aspect to them that cannot be ignored.

So, in the ongoing battle to drive direct bookings and reduce acquisition costs, it seems social media is one of the hotelier’s greatest weapons. Although not without its technical complexity, social media really comes down to the hotelier’s authentic desire and ability to provide guests with a memorable stay.

And doing nothing is not an option! Gosh, where did the days of telex and fax go? You must keep up to date to keep in front. Happy tweeting!