Audience engagement is key to social media

As social media channels gain importance and bottom-line impact at the hotel property level, marketers are getting more involved in structuring and measuring social campaigns. Four travel and hospitality marketers shared the next generation of social media marketing tips for hoteliers at November’s NATHIC conference in Chicago.Audience engagement is the key social metric these days, all four panelists agreed. A hotel’s No. 1 goal with its online presence is to increase bookings (preferably through the brand.com or hotel.com channel), so visibility is important, especially through search engines like Google or Bing. While the internal formulas Google uses to determine how search results are delivered change constantly, marketers know that a property’s social media presence does influence its performance on search engines. 

“Social media mentions are an extremely important part of the Google algorithm,” explained panel moderator Gordon Liametz, co-founder and CEO of RP Interactive. Simply put, the more likes, comments, retweets and favorites your posts have, the more visibility your hotel will get on Google. 

So marketers today are crafting social media campaigns for hotels that cover all the bases in order to engage a specific audience and increase bookings. 

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“It’s a misunderstanding that social media can’t drive direct revenue,” said Chris Jackson, president of gCommerce, who works with hotels around the world. “Like any other campaign, social campaigns have a run period and goals we need to achieve.”

Here are some current social marketing trends and examples from the pros: 

“There is an argument to have an active presence on all social channels, but you have to think about where your guests are first,” advised Andrea Mann, senior account manager for Blue Magnet Interactive. “Facebook and Twitter are obvious choices because they have the highest user base, but there may be smaller channels that are low-maintenance. The most important first step is to take a look at your audience.”

Liametz said hotels have to think about their audience on social channels as more than just guests. Hoteliers should consider all segments of their customers, from guests to meeting planners, and tailor social presence accordingly. “You might have a Twitter account for consumer guests and you might have another highly targeted one for travel writers, bloggers and travel agents,” he said. 

Regardless of channel, all the panelists emphasized the need for a consistent voice that reflects the hotel’s already-established personality and identity. “Your social personality shouldn’t be different from your real personality,” Jackson said. “Stay true to your brand. Just because you’re on Facebook doesn’t mean you have to try to be edgy or hip if that’s not your personality.” 

Breitenbach advised taking the time to establish and standardize that personality before deploying it online. “You know your property’s personality, so translate it into your online personality,” she said. “Train everyone posting on your channels in that voice, then make it consistent.”  

The panelists agreed that the best way to encourage engagement is to draw the audience in directly by asking for their content. “Instead of assuming that we as hoteliers understand what our customers want,  we ask them," Jackson said. “Then they have buy-in and we get a accurate feedback.” 

Jackson shared an example from a resort hotel in Ibiza. “They had Facebook stations with built-in-cameras set up around the resort, near the pool and the bar,” he said. “They encouraged guests to take fun photos and post them to Facebook right away.”

Worried about keeping up in a fluid social media environment? The panelists all agreed that simple, well-thought-out campaigns work the best. 

"Social is evolving into a much more simplified mode," Breitenbach said. "Users want to get it done quickly. Whatever channel delivers that quick, simplistic result will win.”

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