Maybe I’m a little unusual, but I actually measure hotel marketing success by added revenue and profit. I’m still getting used to the increasingly popular measurement of counting followers and fans. I fear that many hoteliers are spending more time and resources tweeting and posting on non-travel related social media while neglecting the most important travel-related social media like TripAdvisor.
I get the sense that many hotels are not as engaged with TripAdvisor as they may be with general social media like FaceBook and Twitter. If one takes a little trip through TripAdvisor, you will see the many negative comments about hotels, to which hoteliers have not responded. Ignoring negative guest comments won’t make them go away and your future guests are reading them.
I know there is some debate over whether or not to answer bad comments on TripAdvisor, but unanswered bad comments, in my mind, tend to confirm those comments as a real problem. I think many people simply want a hotel to recognize a problem and then, do something about it.
TripAdvisor may not be as much fun, but, for our industry, it’s a lot more relevant and beneficial than FaceBook and Twitter could ever be. The fact is that most travelers are not very interested in any particular hotel unless they are planning a trip to that destination. In my calculation, that considerably reduces the "millions" of followers and fans to a few thousand, at best, at any one time.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some benefits to participating in non-travel oriented social media; primarily, it is very useful for search engine optimization for your website, but only if your site has a link strategy and your webmaster knows how to use it. It can also be useful to promote local traffic to restaurants, bars, and function space, but, for that matter, so is your website.
To be perfectly clear, my concern is the allocation of time and resources needed to properly participate in non-travel related social media and the increasing business expectations which are being sold to hoteliers. Hotel sales and marketing is an endless function, but hotel time and resources are very limited. Success or failure could depend upon how one deploys that time and resources.
With the seemingly endless list of tasks needed to market a hotel today, my concern is how hotels are prioritizing their marketing time and resources. There is never enough time to do everything. If you are completely finished each day, you probably forgot something.
Why is Audience Relevancy So Important? Long before I decided to specialize in Internet marketing, I spent thirty-five years working in hotel marketing and operations. In those days before the Internet, media advertising was our only effective way to get to the masses, especially for hotels soliciting group and transient package business; even direct mail was an expensive and complicated effort.
The ultimate goal of media advertising is to send the right message to the right audience; getting that message to the right audience is important. Media buys are generally ranked in CPM, cost per thousand, or what it costs to get your message in front of a thousand consumers. In those days, no publication had a lower cost-per-thousand than National Geographic. Their audience was huge and magazine shelf life was exceptionally long. One ad agency I worked with pushed hard for our hotels to advertise in this publication.
There was only one problem: most of the readers of National Geographic were not relevant to a travel audience. In stark contrast, the New York Times travel pages had a much higher cost per thousand and were distributed to far fewer consumers, but travel was almost entirely relevant to their readers. This scenario reminds me very much of what hotels face today with FaceBook and Twitter as compared to TripAdvisor.
It is true that non travel-oriented social media is used by millions of people attracted by the social interaction of user-generated content. It’s true that FaceBook and Twitter have been a great benefit for retail sales and hotel franchises, but it has had very limited benefit for individual hotels. It’s simply all about relevancy and common-sense.
There is a new feature on Facebook which holds some promise; their new "like" feature. This new feature allows users to post the websites that they like. The jury is still out, but it does have some promise. The goal must be to get travelers to visit your website to make a reservation.
TripAdvisor has developed a business listing service which posts your website link and business listing on your TripAdvisor page. Look into it; it could be very beneficial to active hotels; it’s a way to get more visitors to your website.
The bottom-line is that, although there are some benefits to participating in FaceBook and Twitter, but if you are ignoring the tremendous power of third-party endorsements derived from TripAdvisor, you’re wasting valuable time and resources.
If you have the time and human resources to do a good job on all social media, perform all necessary sales and marketing tasks, and maintain a productive website, I applaud you. But, have you forgotten something?
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