YooJin Lee, Marketing Executive
Travelers today often get their travel inspiration from social media. According to MDG Advertising’s research, 52% of Facebook users said their friend’s photos inspired their travel plans, and 40% of UK millennials said they consider how ‘instagrammable’ a location is when they are planning their next trip. Hence as a hotelier, it is your loss not to have one for your business. Social media platforms are great tools for businesses to build brand reputation and engage with their customer base.
I was responsible for managing a hotel social media account in my previous job and built their successful social media platform (growing number of followers by 1,900% in less than 6 months!). I’d like to use this experience to share my tips and methods on how to get into the business of social in the hotel industry.
1. Goals & Objectives
Before you start anything, you need to ask yourself the most important question: what are your goals and objectives? It could be as simple as ‘to increase brand awareness’ or ‘to attract more customers to the property’ but try to elaborate. Increase brand awareness in what way? Do you simply want more people to know about your brand or do you want to penetrate into new demographics your business hasn’t reached yet? If you want to attract more customers, what kind of customers do you want to attract? Your goals and objectives are like a skeleton which will help shape every step of the way in your social media marketing journey, so be more specific.
2. Social Media Marketing Strategy
Once you have goals and objectives in place, the question you can ask yourself next is, what is your social media marketing strategy? Treat social media strategy like any other marketing strategy. Consider what type of content you would like to post, how often you would like to publish and everything in between. In short, it sets out a plan to achieve your goals and objectives.
Key tips for a successful social media marketing strategy
Consistency is the key
From tone of voice of your brand to how often you post, consistency is the key. Being consistent on social media is like having a brand identity: for your audience to recognise and be familiar with your brand, you must be consistent. People don’t want to follow an account on social media where they don’t know what they are getting. They are following your brand for a reason, let them get what they want!
Engage, engage and engage
Social media platforms aren’t like any other traditional media outlet where businesses present their ideas and the audience is largely a passive receiver. The charm, and sometimes the challenge, of social media is its capacity for interaction and engagement. Comment, reply, like and repost. Engage with your audience whenever you see an opportunity. Your followers expect you to react when they speak to you. Remember, you are on a platform with personality!
Story telling is everything
I’ve seen a lot of hotels promote their deals or discounts on social media as they would on any other media outlet and fail miserably. There’s nothing wrong with posting deals on the social media, but what’s important is the story you are telling. People don’t want to be sold to on social media, they want to learn about your brand and your stories. They want to engage with you, get to know you and maybe find a deal along the way- they want to ‘socialise’ with your brand. Treat your social handles like individuals with personalities, let them speak to their audience in the same way we interact with each other in everyday life.
3. Posting 101
First, look into what content you already have available. Do you have marketing photographs or videos taken by professionals? That’s a great start. See how many photos you have and schedule the post according to your marketing strategy with great storytelling captions. You don’t have any? Don’t worry, it is really easy to create them. Just follow the simple how to guide below to create your own content.
Depending on what kind of objectives and goals you set, think about what you can say about your hotel. Proud of the design? Anywhere specific you’d like to focus? Take some snaps of those areas and post them. Is your hotel placed in a great location? Your followers want to know! Explore the neighbourhood and tell your followers where they can explore near to your hotel for a local experience. Make sure you create great captions by using the story telling technique mentioned above.
When I took over the social media handle for a hotel in my previous job, I had two top marketing objectives: to convince prospective guests why they should choose our hotel over competitors, and for locals to know about the location of the hotel and encourage them to come and spend time in the active frontage areas. I had no photos by professionals nor any budget for new content. I went outside and took photos of the hotel logo and curated a photoshoot of every quirky corner of the hotel with a story to tell, including the best-looking cocktails and the stories behind the drinks in the hotel bar. I made a short video clip when there were fun events at the hotel or in the area, and did the same when the night was particularly busy at the hotel bar when everyone was having a great time. I created a hyperlapse video with fun music on how to get to the hotel from the nearest station to let people know about the location.
Creating your own content is a great idea but do make sure the quality isn’t poor. Low quality photos and videos will make your platform look unprofessional. With the right amount of light combined with the smart phone camera, you will be surprised what you can achieve.
UGC (User-generated Content)
Like I mentioned at the start of this article, modern travelers like to showcase their travel experience. They want to be seen and want people to know where they’ve been, especially If they are staying in a nice hotel. Just search #hotelstay for example: you’ll find lot of amazing content created by hotel guests themselves (User-generated Content). People want to go to ‘instagrammable’ places, take photos and show it to the world through their social media. User-generated content of your hotel from customers and brand advocates is a powerful free advertisement, they will start advertising your hotels for free! How amazing is that? Use it wisely by liking the post, commenting on it and re-posting it. Make sure you credit them on the post and furthermore, get a permission to re-post their contents.
4. Bespoke approach to each platform
With 2.41 billion active users, Facebook is still the no.1 social media platform in the world. Using Facebook for social media marketing can be very straightforward. Along with the techniques mentioned above, you can use its paid advertisement functions. When it comes to advertising deals, Facebook is your best handle because it knows more about its users than any other social media platform. Targeted advertisement allows you to separate your target audience into categories like location, age, interests, relationship status and so on. So, how do you advertise the Valentine’s Day Deal in your hotel? Create a post with your deal, target couples on Facebook living in the area, somewhere between age 16-50 depending on your target demographics.
With 1 billion active users every day, and 75% of all users aged between 18 and 24, Instagram is the best social media handle to break into millennials and generation Z. Instagram is a visual heavy handle, so before you start, try to have a cohesive feed with a consistent theme or colour palette on your posts: so when you scroll through it looks unified. Having a cohesive feed is like having a brand identity on Instagram, it is aesthetically pleasing to the eyes and it makes your Instagram look more professional.
Hashtags are one of the most important functions on Instagram since its entire search functionality is built on them. You can use up to 30 hashtags per post and 10 hashtags per Instastory. I’d use all 30 hashtags if you are starting out, and around 10 to 20 if you are already established. Do your research, which hashtags do your targeted demographics use the most to find services like you on Instagram? Create hashtags that are unique to your brand, find popular hashtags that people use all the time and mix them together with less popular (but still relevant) hashtags.
Posts with location (aka. Geo tag) have 79% more engagement than those without and videos get over two times more engagement than photos, so make sure to always put a geo tag and try using video once in a while. Use Instagram stories for the maximum exposure – simply repost your content on Instagram story once it’s been published, and put a location on it. If you get lucky and the story gets picked up by Instagram’s location sticker algorithm, it will be available for the audience in the area as well. Lastly, make sure you set your account to a ‘business account’ so you can start collecting data and analyse your performance afterwards.
303 million active users, with 90 million senior level influencers and 63 million in decision-making positions, LinkedIn is the leading social media channel for b2b marketing where you can present your business in front of all those professionals directly. Hotels tend to ignore LinkedIn as their go to social handle, because of its heavy b2b focus. But if you use it right, it will be a great tool for you have influence in the industry. Having voice and authority makes you more influential, so how do you grow it? Think of Linkedin as a roundtable of industry professionals. What kind of conversation would you like to spark? You don’t want to talk about something dull and irrelevant, you want to impress them, you want to spark a conversation that everyone in your industry would like to join and have a meaningful discussion about it. Using the story telling technique, talk about important issues and how your brand is approaching them. For example, #sustainability was the hot topic for 2019 and it will be relevant for a very long time. Talk about the sustainability policy of your hotel and start a conversation. Joining the trending conversation on relevant topics within your industry is a great way to get involved as well. Simply search for hashtags that are relevant to your industry on LinkedIn and follow them, LinkedIn will let you know when there is a trending post with those hashtags. If you have an article talking about your business add your thoughts on the captions and share the link. Once you start to post, keep it consistent and post regularly. The more you do that, the more LinkedIn algorithm will love you and your post will be exposed to more viewers. Use hashtags but keep it under five. Video is the most engaging content of all on LinkedIn resulting in five times more engagement than other posts.
Over 300-million people use Twitter on a monthly basis- it is fast-paced and conversational, hence the quickest way for you to engage with your customers. Twitter marketing for the hotel industry is all about communicating with customers, finding out what they like, solving problems and answering questions. Think of Twitter as your customer relations representative. Your customers expect a brand to reply to their tweet in less than an hour, make sure there is always someone to respond. Engage with tweeters who mention your hotel. Set up a custom Twitter feed, monitor key words and track mentions of you and your competitors.
Using posting 101 techniques, posting consistently and with a bespoke approach to each platform, I can guarantee that your social media will be heading to the right direction! But remember, be patient: there is no fast-track to building hugely successful social media platforms overnight unless you put your time and effort into it. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get social!