Social media for hotels, does it work? does it convert? is it a waste of time? and is there any ROI? Should one have a Facebook page? … the questions go on. Every day somebody has a new opinion or study and we as a hotel marketing agency get all the questions. There are no totally right or totally wrong answers and one size doesn’t fit all. Every hotel is different, the answer to social media lies in that important phrase.
We’ve taken up one of the very successful hotels to try and give examples of how social media can work for hotels.
First of all let’s start showing the three typical hotel approaches when it comes to Facebook and other social media, to further emphasize the lack of a unique and standardized method for the management of social marketing:
1. The “Social” Hotel: it’s the minority of hotels that makes of the “socializing” of their selling point, training its staff, hiring specific staff (Social Media Manager), allocating budget for campaigns, working even on smaller and more specific social networks, etc
2. The “Let’s try it” Hotel”: hotels that approach social networks with fewer resources (instead of the Social Media Manager the receptionist on duty, no budget for marketing, etc..), limiting its action to the big known players (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) and working without a method and strategy. This group includes the majority of the hotels;
3. The “Indifferent” Hotel in this group are those hotels that have no interest in being present on social networks, preferring sales channels visibility and more canonical and more certain results (official website, search engine marketing, etc.).
Which of the three is the right method? There is no right method, but while it’s true that accurately estimating the return in terms of reputation and brand identity on social networks, it is not difficult to measure the general ROI of other actions, and here the results all play against social networks.
While we’ve sometimes discouraged hotel’s to go all-out on social media we have also managed and led many very successful campaigns. The problem with social media for hotels is understanding and measuring the results. As Douglas Quinby from PhoCusWright said: ”Hotels are reluctant to disclose the numbers associated with the conversions of the hotel on Facebook because the data is irrelevant.”
Supporting that is a recent new study by the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Lucerne.
The study, which is presented in April at the World Tourism Forum (WTF) in Lucerne, states that social networks are “much less important than previously believed.”
Further confirmation comes from Jan Frederik Valentin, Vice President Travel Package KAYAK for Europe, that on a panel moderated by PhoCusWright at ITB Berlin 2013 edition said:“
I doubt that social research is still as important as some would like it to be. I do not doubt that people read the reviews before booking, but I do not think this play any role in the research phase. We still have a long way to go in that direction ”
The Head of Travel Facebook , Lee McCabe, agrees.
So you have authoritative opinions from within the social network and not the hotel.
But back to the study of Lucerne: the study was conducted on 1,000 online bookers of three critical markets: the UK, Germany and the United States.
For English and German online bookers a good website is (still) the decision-making element priority, together with the availability.
Americans of the same opinion, which, however, give the “Palme d’Or” to the reputation and fame of the brand.
Only a minority of 15% (UK) and 20% (Germany) state the social networks important.
So, are social networks completely useless for hotels?
Of course not, but to understand if it’s worth to use social marketing you have to understand what social networks are all about on the first place: Sharing
And what a user shares on social networks? Experiences, feelings, meeting, feelings, etc.
In short: a story.
If the stay was pleasant the guest will more likely write a review on TripAdvisor than share or interact with the hotel page. He will post photos from the city, or funny things he 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 WON’T be told, even if the hotel Facebook page is updated daily.
On the other hand if a hotel has something special and unique or it offers a non standard hotel experience (I’m thinking about the “Ice Hotel” in Sweden or the “Karostas Cietums” in Lithuania etc.) that’s where social networks become useful.
In these cases they can boost popularity and have guests sharing their experience and creating “engagement”.
One of these (quite rare, to be honest) hotels is “fusion”, in Prague, where the philosophy behind the whole project makes every stay a story to share.
We had a chat with Jana Zvolánková, IT marketing and social media manager in the hotel that we wanted to share for other hoteliers and marketers, here is what she said.
Q: Hi Jana, please introduce yourself and tell me more about your professional role in Fusion Hotel.
A: I am in charge of social media and internal creation of content for the social media : 4 Facebook pages, 1 twitter accounts, 2 websites, then foursquare, pinterest, linked, You Tube, blogs, etc
Q: Do you think this dedication is why there’s always so much interaction on you social pages?What are in your opinion the strong points of your social marketing strategy?
A: Fusion: We like to interact with our guest and not disturb them with commercial messages. Our guests are our 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. Once they actually arrive in fusion, they have the feeling that they are already part of the fusion family.
Q: Let’s focus on Facebook: one of the problems about it is that it’s not possible to tell exactly how many reservation it generates. Using a tracking system software one can count the Facebook ‘ booking engine reservations page but one won’t ever know exactly how many people discovered your hotel for the first time there and then booked somewhere else. In your experience and based on your guests feedback, is Facebook an important “Start point” for travellers or not? And what’s the average percentage of social-media-related revenue compared to the hotel global turnover?
A: Facebook is an important discovery channel for fusion. We are constantly trying to engage with our guests and hope that they will share their experiences with their friends and family. This way, more and more friends are introduced to the fusion concept over Facebook. The strategy works well, from the total number of reservations in fusion, about 6% come from Facebook. This is an extraordinary number, if you imagine that the level of reservations over Facebook in general in the hotel market is about 0.5%…
Q: 6% versus a average 0.5%, that’s impressive. There’s a whole philosophy behind Hotel Fusion. It’s not just a normal hotel, but a unique experience. How does that uniqueness affect your social media strategy?
A: fusion 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. From arrival, to room experience, to the food and beverage outlets and the check out, we strive hard to give the guests a completely different experience, but with some great service and lots of passion. This completely different experience 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 in fusion.
Q: Based on a recent study it looks like social media isn’t very important for most hotels in the decision process. Part of the responsibility is due to the wrong habit of hotels to use social pages like the backup of their official website only. Do you think the huge amount of user-generated contents and the lack of too much commercial info (special offers, call to actions, etc.) in your social pages plays a role on the success of your Social Media Strategy?
A: As I pointed out earlier, our guests are our friends and they want to be treated like a friend. To have Facebook as a commercial backup of the official hotel website does not make any sense. It is a social media platform designed for friends to communicate with friends, so that is what you have to focus on!
While many hoteliers and marketers still look at social media as an advertising 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 will receive many new guests through social media (evidence, fusion and Seven Hotel) 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 we recommend they don’t as there’s nothing worse than an old page not kept alive.