Ensuring your hotel is ‘social’

David Taylor David Taylor Uploaded

I recently carried out an independent study of 80 independent, boutique hotels. I looked at their websites, their social media presence and their levels of engagement on social channels.

What stood out for me first was the poor quality of websites. Most looked as if they had been designed in the 1990s and in most cases were simply glorified booking engines. Considering that by the end of this year, more people will access the internet from mobile devices than PCs, this is worrying.

Realistically, modern hotel websites should be designed with an iPad in mind and have much of the functionality of a social network. And while there should be an highly visible booking engine on the homepage, weight must be given to the quality of the content on the site - remember that websites are just as much lead conversion tools as lead generation devices.

Then came the social media audit. Every single hotel was on Facebook, nearly all were on Twitter and a handful were using sites like YouTube, Flickr and Pinterest. The amount of fans and followers varied widely from just a few to over 4,000.

In terms of engagement, levels were very low on Facebook which invariably means poor visibility on the site thanks to EdgeRank - the algorithm the site uses to decide what does or does not appear in people's news feeds. Engagement was a little higher on Twitter, which was to be expected, but posting was pretty haphazard .

However in almost all cases, the hotels had no real idea why they were using, what specific business objectives they were trying to reach using the channels and could not measure the value of using sites like Facebook and Twitter.

This is symptomatic of not just the hotel industry but the majority of organisations across the UK. Most companies, hotels and businesses will probably have some form of presence on social media sites but very few will have the first idea about what they are doing.

Considering that here in the UK there are roughly 30 million users of Facebook, 10 million users of Twitter and 10 million of LinkedIn, not having some form of plan for reaching out to these people could end up being very costly.

At the same time, every day, thousands of people staying in hotels will be using sites like Foursquare, Instagram, Vine and Pinterest to create their own content - checking in, posting pictures, making short videos. How many hoteliers can honestly say they are harnessing this?

Social media has evolved into a highly technical, time consuming and tightly targeted form of marketing. Just setting up channels and hoping for the best is therefore not the best way forward.

Not only that, but any general manager who is looking to integrate social media into their business plan must take into account sales, IT, recruitment, internal communications, human resources, public relations and customer service too - all of which are impacted upon in some way.

So it's not a case of simply incorporating social media into your marketing. While this is clearly important, it is more about adapting your business to meet the opportunities and challenges posed by an era in which every member of staff, every guest and potential customer has a voice online.

This makes having a clearly defined set of business objectives along with some realistic KPIs (key performance indicators) an absolute must. From this you can then create a defined business, marketing and social strategy for your hotel.

To read a sample chapter of David's new book, The Business of Being Social, which explains in detail how to make full use of social media, click here.


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