Social Media for Hotels: How it Drove 6% of Direct Bookings
Social media for hotels, does it work? Does it convert? Is it a waste of time? Is there any ROI? Should one have a Facebook page? An Instagram one? As always, there are no totally right or wrong answers and one size does not fit all. First of all let’s start analyzing the three typical hotel approaches when it comes to social media, to further emphasize the lack of a unique and standardized methodology:
1. The Über-Social Hotels
It’s the minority of hotels that makes of their social DNA their selling point: they train their staff, hire social media managers, allocate budget for social ads, work on niche social networks, etc.
2. The Let’s try it Hotel
Hotels that approach social networks with fewer resources, limiting their actions to the most known players (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) and working without a proper method and strategy. This group includes the majority of the hotels.
3. The I don’t care Hotel
In this group are those hotels that have no interest in being present on social networks, relying mainly on established advertising channels.
Which of the three is the right method? While I have personally sometimes discouraged hotels to go all-out on social media, I have also managed and led many very successful campaigns for some clients.
ROI or ROE?
The main problem with social media for hotels is understanding and measuring the results. As Douglas Quinby from PhoCusWright once said: ”hotels are reluctant to disclose the numbers associated with the conversions of the hotel on Facebook because the data is irrelevant.” Supporting this thesis is a recent study by the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Lucerne, which states that social networks are “much less important than previously believed”. The study was conducted on 1,000 online bookers of three critical markets: UK, Germany and United States. For English and German travellers, a good website is (still) the decision-making element priority. Americans give the Palme d’Or to hotel reputation and notoriety of the brand and only a minority of (less than 20%) think that social networks are important.
Friends, not clients
So, are social networks completely useless for hotels? Of course not, but to understand if it is worth to use social marketing you have to understand what social networks are all about n the first place: sharing. And what users share? Stories. If the stay was pleasant guests will more likely write a review than share or interact with a hotel social page. They will post photos from the city, or funny things they saw or did during the trip, but rarely anything related to the hotel. Why? Because if the hotel does not offer a story to tell then that story, obviously, won’t be told. On the other hand, if a hotel has something special and unique or it offers a non standard hotel experience, that’s where social networks become useful. According to Jana Zvolánková, former IT marketing and social media manager for a famous hotel in Prague I used to work with “guests are like friends and you do not send advertising to your friends. They give us good ideas and we give them interesting facts and links in return. Facebook should not be the commercial backup of your official hotel website: it is a social media platform designed for friends to communicate with friends, so that is what you have to focus on. Once they actually arrive in the hotel, they have the feeling that they are already part of the family. The hotel is created with the uniqueness in mind and with the urge to be different then the rest of the pack. In this increasingly difficult hotel market, you need to find a way to stick your neck out. We opted to change the complete interaction with the guests and we strive hard to give the guests a completely different experience, that is great to share over social media. Combine this with the kind of guests that we attract with the concept of the hotel and you have a clear view of why social media works well here, with 6% of direct reservations coming from Facebook only.”
While many hoteliers and marketers still look at social media as an ROI tool, it should be looked at primarily as a communication platform to engage with guests and potential guests. Hotels that are built with social elements in their DNA may receive more reservations through social media but that is a positive side-effect that one should consider as a bonus and not the main goal.
As to who should have a social media presence? most any hotel can and should but if they’re ready to manage it for real, that means answer questions, post regularly, make it interesting and not just an advertising outlet. If the hotel isn’t ready to handle the traffic I recommend not to take this path, as there’s nothing worse than an old page not kept alive.