Social Media For Hotels – What Helps, What Doesn't.
By Neil Salerno – Hotel Marketing Coach
Wednesday, 9th December 2009
The unique quality of Web 2 social media is that it consists of user-generated content; social media users post comments directly on the Internet and all they need is access to a computer.

At the same time, users have the ability to read and absorb comments made by other users…sounds like a marketer's dream. But, how well does social media serve individual hotels?

Twitter and Facebook are heavily promoted to hoteliers as opportunities to market their hotels to millions of social media users. I get a real kick when I hear the phrase "Find out what people think of your hotel".  Ironically, the vast majority of comments, made about hotels on Twitter and Facebook, are posted by the hotels themselves and many fewer by hotel  consumers.

I guess social media could be considered as a form of advertising, but just how effective is it for hotels? Advertising is only effective if consumers have an interest and take notice. Since I am a hotelier at heart, I am always concerned about the amount of time hoteliers spend "working" social media instead of concentrating on more productive sales areas.

Hoteliers should take note that the 80/20 rule still applies; it is always better to concentrate on the 20% of marketing tasks which produce 80% of the business. Marketing hotels today is much more complex than just a few years ago; it is easy be distracted by seemingly "miracle" solutions.

This is a time to strengthen and solidify relationships with current business sources and that usually means lots of face-to-face contact. The Internet is wonderful, but let's not forget that it's hard to develop relationships through Internet postings and email, alone.   

It's a Matter of Relativity and Interest

My contention is that the vast majority of consumers have little interest in hotels unless they are planning travel; and then only those hotels in the location of their interest. I see no evidence in the marketplace for general consumer interest in or curiosity for hotels, especially in this economy. In the vast Twitter and Facebook communities, it seems inconceivable to me that any one hotel could draw enough curiosity to make the effort worthwhile.

I do see some opportunity for hotel franchises to build brand awareness through general social media. With the explosion of new franchise products during the past fifteen years, there is a lot of confusion in the marketplace, even among hoteliers themselves. Multi-brand franchises have an opportunity to use general social media to clarify the differences for each product in their inventory.

Most Twitter and Facebook users would have to admit that social media is fun to use, but it is a real chore to sift through hundreds of posts to find a message of interest. As an active Twitter user, I follow many hotel members because I have a strong interest in what they have to say; after all, I am a hotelier too. The question is how much interest does the average user have in any individual hotel, unless they are planning a trip to that area? The answer is very little.

Now, let me be clear, I think that social media has been a virtual boon for retail products and services. Products and services, of general interest to the public at large, which can be purchased by anyone at any time, have really benefitted from general social media. Hotels, on the other hand, are limited in their appeal to the general public because hotel use is highly destination and location focused.

Travel Social Media is Relevant

One area of social media is quite different; travel-oriented social media sites like TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor and other travel oriented social media are beneficial to hotels due to their very nature. If you really want to know what people think of your hotel, it is best to turn to TripAdvisor or other sites like it.

It is vitally important for hotels to monitor and react to consumer comments posted to TripAdvisor. Most consumers use TripAdvisor in one of two ways; to read comments from past guests of the hotel, either before or after making their own reservation, and to post comments about a hotel, in which they have stayed. In either event, all the information on the site is relevant to travel.

Many traveling consumers have learned to rely on travel social media to validate their choice of hotel; just like they used to rely on their favorite travel agent to provide advice on travel. It just doesn't make sense to ignore your hotel's postings on these sites.

I first wrote about this almost two years ago. If one reads many of the reviews on TripAdvisor, it quickly becomes evident that many hoteliers are not reacting to comments made about their hotel. TripAdvisor provides hotels with the opportunity to respond to postings made by former guests; yet it seems like too few hotels actually do that.

Neil Salerno, CHME, CHA
Hotel Marketing Coach
Email: NeilS@hotelmarketingcoach.com 


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