How hotel marketers can make social media work

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Social-Media

To some people, the arrival of the Internet in the public’s consciousness in the 1990s was the start of a communication revolution – and so it was. Its most obvious manifestations were a rapid increase in the ease with which people could communicate with each other. With that came new possibilities, with e-commerce latching onto the fact that it was not only easier and faster to share and access data, but to buy and sell goods and services as well.

The next development was in the area of social media. Once more this began as a pure means of improving communication. For example, Mark Zuckerberg started off Facebook as a college project to enable a group of friends to communicate with each other. Now it has over 1.5 billion members. With so many people on board with Facebook, this is more than just an opportunity for people all over the world to keep in touch with friends and family.  It also provides a vast number of potential customers for hotels and other businesses, a potentially huge audience of travellers who will want somewhere to stay when they visit a particular city or area. Having a social media presence like a Facebook page immediately creates great possibilities, and the same will be true for other social networks like Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and the rest.

However, Revinate has noted, a social media presence on its own is not going to be enough to bring the bookings pouring in. The key, it notes, is for the content to be engaging. This can mean two things; firstly, that it interests the reader enough for them to keep on reading rather than clicking onto something else, and also that it prompts interaction. And the end goal must not be forgotten. However entertaining or interesting your content is, it must be able to bring about an action at the end, such as booking a stay.

The first suggestion Revinate offers is to be customer-centric, focusing on the desires and expectations of the potential guest. That may seem counter-intuitive because the hotel wants to tell its own story, but first it needs to understand its potential customers, otherwise the way it tells a story may not resonate with the target audience.  Therefore, the key is to understand who you are trying to sell to. Is your ideal target demographic young, middle-aged or old? Are they disproportionately male or female? Will many of them be from a particular country? These are important and relevant questions. With this in mind, content producers can also think of how this will affect readers in terms of their consumption of content via social media, which broadcasts to an individual’s friends on the network about their likes and dislikes. Thus they will be most attracted to something that can help demonstrate just what they are about, what revinate describes as a need to “define their social self”.

This presents some obvious opportunities. If, for example, your hotel offers something that is seen as ‘cool’ by the audience, that will attract them. It will also be something they will happily repost or retweet, not least because a fair number of their friends will have similar interests. That, of course, is a great way of spreading the message for your hotel, even if this does not stretch as far as ‘going viral’.  To make this particularly effective, of course, means content needs to hit the sweet spot in all sorts of ways. It should be entertaining, to make people smile and want to repost content. It should be timely, so it shows you have your finger on the pulse.

The content should also be informative, so you are seen as a reliable source of information, and, perhaps most importantly of all, be inspirational, part of a narrative that people will want to return to.All these elements represent classical content marketing, with the aim being to sell effectively without directly interrupting anyone’s activities and by engaging with the audience in a more indirect way. The advantage of doing so via social media is that readers do not need to come to your site. In effect, you go to theirs, with your latest content being highlighted on Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. Managing to put all this content together may seem tricky and daunting, but the key is not to fear failure. In a fast-moving world of communication and media from so many outlets, most mistakes will be forgotten, unless you make an absolute howler that goes viral.

For the most part, mistakes will be made when you try different types of content or pitch at different audiences. This will teach you what works and what doesn’t, so by learning from mistakes you can refine your content. So while putting effective content on social media is neither simple nor an exact science, with some persistence you can soon establish a presence that not only gets you noticed, but helps your readers attract more potential custom too.