While social media has become a mainstream marketing channel, there are many variables that hoteliers are not taking advantage of to increase their revenue. Unlike other mainstream marketing avenues, social media is not static, as platforms continuously find ways to increase engagement with both users and advertisers. As social platforms have realized their massive marketing opportunities within their user base, they have increasingly capitalized on their clearly defined users by providing advertisers access to them. Today, the popularity of social channels has created a “pay-to-play” model that leaves many business owners and managers perplexed as to which channels to focus on, and the right budget to allocate in order to maximize return on investment (ROI).
Organic Social Reach is Dead
Social platforms bring the promise of an enormous engaged base, with 78% of all Americans having a social profile. This extreme density of users leads to an oversaturation of content. Social media platforms use algorithms to provide consumers with a better experience by de-cluttering the massive amount of content, highlighting topics and information that is deemed most “relevant” to each user. Facebook began prioritizing popular posts in 2009, and has continued to tweak what users see based on preferences and engagement. In 2015, marketers were faced with a daunting challenge. Facebook announced that business posts would be displayed less often in user news feeds compared to friends’ posts. Today, only 2-3% of posts created by businesses are shown to their fans, a trend that is guaranteed to remain as Facebook has warned the organic reach of posts will eventually decline to 0%. Marketers can no longer rely on creating engaging, relevant posts that will be automatically fed into followers’ timelines, but must rely instead on paid campaigns. As Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media channels expand on these practices, the need for well planned, well executed and well targeted paid social campaigns will become increasingly necessary.
Reach Your (Social) Customers
Consumers thrive on social media platforms, and tools are available to allow marketers to not only reach, but also to engage with these users in highly targeted ways. The biggest marketing mistake is to think your customers are not using social channels. Facebook alone has over 1.7 billion users. Marketers need to understand which channels are used by their target audience and how their audience interacts with each channel. For instance, a consumer could get dinner inspiration from Facebook on a daily basis, while using Instagram more sporadically to plan future travel. Pew Research Center has insightful research that allows marketers to better understand social platforms and their users. Once you have a solid sense of channels that are right for your business, it is time to identify advertising options to meet your goal. Is your goal to increase traffic to your website? To increase your page followers? Gain video views? Or perhaps you wish to increase engagement within your current followers? Having clear goals will allow you to carefully select advertising options to include in your strategy and assist in budgeting. The following advertising options are traditional for social media marketing and can fit into most social strategies:
- Facebook Boosted Post – Allows you to get additional reach and engagement on a post. This ad type also includes a page like button, so if people like the content, they have the option to like your page. If you have a special or offer to share, this is a great option for it. Be sure to include a link for more information in your post.
- Facebook Carousel Ad -This allows up to 10 images to be rotated in the advertised post and drives users to specific sites, pages, or apps. This can be done with a single image as well.
- Twitter Promoted Post – This is like Facebook’s Boosted Post and it also has a follow button for anyone who wants to follow the business handle moving forward. One key thing to remember is to avoid using a hashtag on any promoted posts. If users click the hashtag, they may not be engaging with your tweet but you will be paying for that click. Instead, focus on the content that matters for you and include links to drive traffic to your site.
The options above are in no way a comprehensive list of social media advertising vehicles. We recommend reviewing social advertising options quarterly, as they are continuously changing, and budget to test the latest methods for reach and engagement. Since there are always new ways to reach your users, flexibility is crucial.
Targeting your preferred consumer has a direct impact on your budget. Advertisers are drawn to social channels due to their targeting capabilities. Businesses can target social users based on location, age, gender, interests, connections and more. Businesses new to social advertising should start broad, relying on the platform’s advertising system to see who responds well to published advertisements- the results may be surprising. The broad targeting can give a deep understanding of the type of users that engage with specific messaging, giving you an opportunity to later target those demographics uniquely. Travel, for example, tends to be a universal interest, so targeting only people that expressly state interests associated with travel will not lead to better results, just more marketing spend. The reason for this, obviously, is that the narrower your target, the larger the cost per action charged by the social channel. Rather than testing for narrow interest ranges, we recommend testing different ad options with varied audiences to achieve the best mix of advertisement and audience demographics. When measuring results, it is also critical to ensure your audience size and your result samples are large enough to make proper decisions. High click-through rates are pointless if the volume is insignificant.
Budgeting for Social
Your social campaigns should target current followers, they should aim to acquire new followers, and should also be used to test out new audiences and advertising methods. A huge benefit of social media advertising is that it is relatively low cost in comparison to traditional channels, making it an ideal platform for testing and measuring engagement. When developing a social media advertising budget, a good rule of thumb is to use 10% of your paid media budget (PPC) on social media. Drilling down further, divide your social advertising budget based on the channels that contain your target customers. Milestone recommends spending 80% of your budget on Facebook, which includes Instagram, a Facebook owned subsidiary. Instagram ads are developed through Facebook’s ad platform, ensuring maximum visibility. The remaining 20% of your budget should be spent on Twitter advertising. Focus your social budget on paid options that will bring reach and engagement. Most of these options still offer a “like/follower” option on the post. A little spend can go a long way. Milestone tested almost 100 of their clients with a $10 Facebook promoted post with excellent results:
- 1,278% average increase in engagement
- 456% average increase in reach
Average social media budgets vary by industry and audience size, however, it is common to allocate $1 per new Facebook fan. Salesforce released research regarding social media advertising costs, and the research shows the average cost per click is $0.65 in the United States. Some industries see an average cost per click as low as $0.16.
Targeting impacts your budget greatly; businesses pay more to target a smaller market versus a larger market. For instance, a locally advertised “weekend getaway” that targets audiences within 2 hours of a destination would have a much higher cost than a national campaign for a week-long stay. The reason for this is simply one of demand. Narrower campaigns like the first example require the advertising platform to discard a significant portion of their “inventory” to satisfy your demand. A broad national campaign, on the other hand can be more fully automated and can leverage a broad audience to display the advertisement. Tracking your ROI for individual campaigns becomes very important once you start testing out targeting and new social strategies.
If the social advertising options seem a bit overwhelming, businesses can opt to choose a daily maximum budget or a lifetime budget for social advertising. Choosing maximum budgets will ensure budgets remain constrained and do not grow out of control. Budgets can be set as low as $1 a day, but, of course, lower budgets must also be accompanied by adjusted expectations on results. Businesses fluent in social advertising often put a minimum spend behind each social post, knowing that without a spend the effort to create the post would be fruitless to a small organic reach. When businesses have more valuable content, such as videos, specials, or events, more spend would be suggested to reach more users.
There are many paid social advertising options available within the various platforms to begin or elevate your paid social strategy. Brands have seen such success with social media advertising that they have moved their paid marketing budget completely to social channels. Our recommendation is not to transfer your entire marketing budget to social advertising, but to consistently use paid social to increase your reach and engagement, and allow the flexibility to test out the latest targeting methods. The granular targeting capabilities of social platforms ensures paid social will remain a strong advertising channel and necessary for businesses. With the decrease of organic reach of social posts, businesses need to focus as much time on creating their content strategy as they do to promote their content.
Contributed by Nisha Thakkar, Director of Client Services at Milestone Internet Marketing
Nisha Thakkar is a Director of Client Services at Milestone Internet Marketing. She manages a team of seven SEO/Social Media Strategists that focus on the hospitality industry. She also leads the social media practice for the organization. She also manages social media training, paid social, the content marketing team, research, development of new ideas and all strategic social media activities for the client base. Ms. Thakkar works with her team to support SEO strategies and activities for Milestone Internet Marketing clients – including website updates, email blasts, listings management, analysis, reporting, etc. Ms. Thakkar has led a social media webinar for Milestone in 2016 (which is available on the Milestone blog). Ms. Thakkar can be contacted at 408-492-9055 or firstname.lastname@example.org