Top 5 Social Media Questions for Hotels
There was a great article published this week on Mashable.com which focused on the “5 Big Social Media Questions from Small Business Owners” that I found very relevant for many of Milestone’s clients. I’ve taken the answers to each question and tailored the response so they are specific to hotels and travel industry. If applicable and relevant to the answer, I’ve also provided a Milestone website or client example so you can look at ways other hoteliers are marketing themselves online.
- Is group buying right for my business?
There is a lot of buzz around deal-of-the-day websites or group buying offers such as Groupon, Tippr, LivingSocial, BuyWithMe, and more. Even Yelp and Opentable have jumped on the group daily deals bandwagon and started offering city-wide daily discount offers. But do these promotions make sense for small businesses? In the past few months, more and more Milestone clients have asked us whether these websites are good marketing opportunities for their hotel or on-site restaurant to offer a daily promotion. The answer really depends on what product or service you plan to provide a rock-bottom deal on, and what the anticipated profit margin is for that sale. How many of these deal websites work is by offering at least a 50% off deal, so if the sale is for a $200/night hotel package on Groupon, for example, then it would be listed for only $100/night. And as long as a minimum number of people buy the offer, then the deal will “tip” and be available to be sold to as many people want to buy it during that 24 hour period. At the end of the day, when the sale has expired, Groupon adds up the total amount of purchases and splits the profit with the business 50/50. So if your $200 package was offered at a 50% rate of $100 and you ended up selling 1,000 packages, you would only make $50,000 off of the promotion. But at the same time you now need to fulfill 1,000 hotel packages. So really, you’re only making 25% revenue on the product or service’s value. You really need to think wisely about the anticipated profit vs. the raw cost. Many larger businesses and corporations have decided to promote on Groupon or these deal-based website because of the sheer number of people that get emailed the offer. For example, San Francisco’s Groupon email database has over 375,000 users that subscribe to the daily email promotion – think how many users would see your brand name, visit your website, and would have that “top of mind awareness” of your hotel when thinking of travel to your local area. For that very reason, many large businesses see this as an advertising opportunity, rather than a profit generating promotion.
- Without a location, how can I use location-based marketing?
Location-based social networks have really taken off in 2010, with apps/websites like Foursquare, Gowalla, and now Facebook Places dominating as the most popularly used services. The process to create a place page and allow users to check-in to your business is very clear if you have one set permanent address for your hotel, but how can you use location-based services if you are a brand or group of hotels with multiple locations? The answer that Mashable gives is to first create a profile for the group headquarters (don’t worry about where the address is, it can be the main office building for the brand) and then use that profile to “check-in” to the individual hotel location and local attractions in each destination. When you socialize with your individual hotel properties or local attractions by checking-in to their location, you can post a short snippet of content (like a status update) and give @ mentions to the hotel businesses profile on the network or post links to the website or blog. Also, a really awesome tip when creating the individual hotel properties location page on Foursquare, for example, is to post a special or promotion for people that check-in to the property. An example of a Milestone client that has taken advantage of their Foursquare marketing and posted a special promotion is The Whitehall Hotel. If you visit their website you will see a social media banner at the top of their site that has in icon and link to the Foursquare profile page. If you go to their Foursquare profile page (http://foursquare.com/venue/122650), you will see the promotion listed at the top for the “Mayor” (person who checks in / frequents the property the most) to receive 2 free breakfasts or room upgrade.
- How do I start a blog if I’m not tech savvy?
A blog is a great web 2.0 feature that Milestone recommends all of our clients add to their website promotion and social media marketing plan. It allows you to create new fresh content on an ongoing basis to highlight seasonal packages/promotion, upcoming events, local news, top reasons to visit the property and local destination, or just have fun creating engaging blog posts that will excite and entice your target market to travel to your destination and stay at your hotel.
The Mashable.com article recommends cutting down on the technical complexity of setting up a well-defined, search engine optimized blog by hiring a webdeveloper or SEO company, such as Milestone, to create the design, keyword optimization, programming, and customization of the blog. At Milestone our blogs are based on the CMS platform system, WordPress, and that system is very user-friendly and easy to use. Basically every week or 2 weeks, the hotel can go in and create a new blog post geared towards the topic that will be of interest to the target audience and help drive additional bookings. A great Milestone client example of a destination blog that is well optimized and setup for conversion is the Nickelodeon Suites Resort Orlando blog. Take a tour of the blog and its latest blog posts to get some ideas on strategy and what to write on an ongoing basis on your blog: http://blog.nickhotel.com/.
- Why isn’t my business’s social media following growing?
There are many possibilities that you don’t major growth in your social media channel’s fan numbers. Sometimes it means you’re spending too little time socializing, sometimes too much time, and sometimes you efforts just need a little re-targeting and strategizing to make them more effective to the audience. Here are some top reasons for lack of growth in your social followers:
- You update your profiles or pages too often or too little – try to aim for updates a few times per week or daily, and look for signs of your followers complaining that you don’t write enough or you write too often.
- Your messaging is too promotional – your social communities do not want to be blatantly “sold” anything, keep direct promotion to a bare minimum.
- You don’t offer any value to your followers – most people online follow brands or businesses on social channels because they are looking to get deals, discounts, or insider tips.
- You aren’t promoting your social profiles enough – make sure your social media usernames and URLs are on your website, email footers, print collateral, and even business cards.
- You need to interact more – when your followers talk directly to you (they DM or @ mention you on Twitter, they write on your Facebook wall) they are expecting an answer. If they don’t get a response from you, they will leave you.
Ramada is a great Milestone client that is using one social media channel, Facebook, with the perfect mix of interactions, value/promotions, and interactions. They’ve been able to achieve some great fan-base member numbers as a result of their social media daily management.
- How do I optimize my business’s social media pages for search?
Search engines read the content available throughout your social media profiles and pages, and use your popularity (i.e. how many people like you on Facebook, or @mention your username on Twitter) to help power their real time search of social media conversations. Here is a basic checklist to make sure all of your profiles and pages are optimized for best SEO results on search engines.
- Your social usernames or vanity URLs should be named after your business.
- All of your social usernames or vanity URLs should be the same and consistent for optimal branding power.
- Always fill out the basic profile information content – company bio, location, mission, products, address, etc.
- Add links to all of your other social profiles and pages – they should all cross-reference each other for horizontal traffic and fan following.
- Consistently update your profiles or pages with content that is relevant to the hotel industry and/or your location – the more you can build out content that is related to your city and hotels, the more likely that search engines will classify and rank your profile pages in their SERPs for those keywords.
The goal of these top 5 questions is really to provide clear guidance and strategy to setup and promote yourself on social media channels, and to gain clear results from your efforts. Social media is definitely a way for small businesses to gain a larger market share of their online audiences, while increasing brand awareness, search ranking, website/blog traffic, and booked revenue. Contact Milestone today for more information on how we can help setup and promote your social media channels, website, or blog.
Contributed by Natalie Evans, Director of Client Services, Milestone Internet Marketing, Inc.