A common argument in the hotel industry against social media is that return on investment is difficult to measure, so why spend time and money on it? That attitude can be bad for business, and recent research suggests that hotel brands need to do a better job conversing with customers on social media.
“The challenge most marketers have is on deciding which metrics matter when it comes to dollars. Attributing a dollar value to likes on Instagram isn’t the right way to think about it,” said Elvis Lieban, product marketing manager for NetBase—which recently released its 2018 Luxury Brands Report that tracks social-media use of top luxury brands.
“Brands need to measure whether or not they’re accessing their target audience on social media, and whether those interactions are helping move the customer through to booking,” he added. “The best way to start figuring out the equation is to start analyzing and measuring your brand’s social-media activity and performance.”
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NetBase’s report found that Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is one of the top hotel brands handling its social-media presence well. However, the research found that hotel brands had a lower conversation volume compared to other categories in the report, which means that any trending conversation can have a big impact on a brand’s perception on social media. For example, the research found that Fairmont Hotels & Resorts was in line with the competition on luxury, check-in and points conversations; however, the brand falls short at booking, with one viral conversation driving most of the negativity.
“Hotels need to pay attention to the conversations around their brands online, and they need to get involved,” Lieban said. “We can see from the tone of overall conversation in our report that people have lots of good things to say about hotels—but that conversation volume is low. This is an opportunity for hoteliers to start doing more to ignite those passions and stoke more conversations around travel.”
He said hotels especially need to aim their focus on Instagram where there are more than 260 million posts that tag “#travel.”
“Social media users are using social media to figure out where they’re visiting next, what they’re going to do when they get there, and where they are going to stay,” Lieban said.
Additionally, hoteliers need to pay attention to their “share of voice” on social media, Lieban said.
“Share of voice is especially important relative to other hotel brands in your tier. Having more share of voice means you’re more likely to be top of mind when your audience is planning their next vacation,” he said. “The companies that are best at tracking social media return are measuring all of their marketing efforts including organic and paid social so they can see how social media is driving traffic and influencing purchasing decisions.”
Customer Care Drives Revenue
The authors of the report suggest that it’s critical for hotels to think of social media not only as a promotional tool but also as a space to provide customer care.
Lieban said the first step in doing that is to respond on social media. When social-media users mention a brand with a tag, they expect a response.
“Sometimes just recognizing a person is enough to keep the conversation from turning negative,” he said. “These customers don’t want to pick up a phone and call the customer-service line.”
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The next step is to incorporate social-media responses into existing customer-care programs, Lieban said.
“All it takes is one unsatisfied customer going viral to bring a lot of unwanted attention to your brand. Hoteliers can look to industries that are already leveraging social media to provide better social care, [such as] airlines and mobile carriers,” he said.
Finally, Lieban said that hotels need to focus on highlighting experiences and guest stories online, which will ultimately help to drive revenue.
“Consumers are looking for inspiration—where to go next, what to do when there, what to eat and where to stay. Hoteliers have a great opportunity to get into the conversation to spread the excitement and also build relationships through customer care on social,” he said. “Both will help them attract and retain customers.”