By David Collins, Co-Founder/Director of Communications, Great National Hotels and Resorts Group
With such intense competition to acquire and retain guest loyalty whilst contending with an increasing supply of rooms and the shift towards digital now well beyond tipping point, it is simply critical for hotels to rethink their engagement strategies with customers, both new and existing.
Note: I’ve not used the work ‘marketing’ but ‘engagement’, for reasons which will be come apparent below ..
Further context here is that the average consumer’s attention span has been whittled down to almost the barest minimum thanks to the fact that our world now almost revolves around the screen of a mobile device which has been compounded by social media apps which in turn have reduced brand and personal relationships to little more than side-swipes, likes and dislikes ..
So faced with this new world order, how does an independent hotel complete within this digital landscape where the macro- and been reduced to micro-, where traditional generic mass marketing doesn’t cut it anymore, and consumers now dictate the rules of engagement and not brands?
In short .. with difficulty. Largely as this – as in social media – is such fast moving and frankly at times unpleasant platform: beware the keyboard warrior chasing 15 minutes of fame or the permanently offended and outraged snowflake.
Because of this very toxicity, the temptation might be to avoid using social media however doing so might be a case cutting off your nose, etc., Case in point, a recent study by media intelligence agency Meltwater reported that in the UK, 79% of the population use Facebook, 47% use Twitter and 41% use Instagram, proving just how key these social media platforms are to reaching people.
In a nutshell, done right, social media can provide hotels with the chance to build upon their guest relationships, bolster and reinforce online reputation, and also create dynamic content which is good for organic rankings; this latter point is particularly relevant given that ‘paid’ rankings are increasingly difficult – and expensive – to secure.
So there are plenty of pointers out there on to how to successfully manage your social media. Indeed as a new medium – that is, relative to press, radio and TV – best practise is evolving literally in front of our eyes.
But what about what NOT to do? Here’s a quick ‘faux pas’ list when it comes to managing your hotel’s social media: Not being active: there’s nothing worse than being referred to a Facebook page and finding that the last post was two years ago .. even two weeks ago would be a no-no. Peeps (forgive me) expect fresh content weekly, if not daily as this implies a living, breathing, ‘interested in engaging’ business. After all, the attitude is that visitors are giving of their time and attention so you had better have something good and relevant to say.
Not responding: social media means you’ve got to be um, social and that means when someone asks a question or makes a comment, you’ve got to respond. Simples. No doing so implies that a) you run a ‘shoddy’ business and b) you’re not interested in your guests which again can cause huge offence and instigate an almost biblical onslaught of online abuse.
Vanilla content: your social media in short needs to be ‘magnetic’, in other words so powerful that you attract and retain visitors in their volumes. Simply posting ‘me too’ or trivial content or posts for example that that are lengthy and overly wordy, are straight up ‘boo-boos’ because people who have again taken the trouble to sign up to your page have ‘entrusted’ you with their time and attention and expect to be entertained and engaged. So don’t bore .. inspire.
No OTB or Opportunity to Buy: so you’ve ‘inspired’ your visitors with your magnetic content, what next? Well most hotels fail to convert this to a sale as they’ve sorted the window dressing and stocked the store but forgot to staff the shop. By not thinking it through, it’s often the case that potential buyers are simply frustrated in their efforts to well, buy. Make it easy and give them a clear opportunity to buy. Remember, social media has ‘dumbed down’ daily living .. so you need to do likewise when it comes to booking a room say, at your hotel.
No follow-up: so you’ve had a successful event, a charity gig or a promotional offer, the worst you could do isnot tell people about it. Not in a patronising, ‘overly-showey’ way but with a measured, informative, personalised tone. If people for example have entered into an online competition and someone has won, well tell people who’s won, post a picture of you handing them the prize-winning voucher .. Why? Because this makes your messaging all the more believable and will drive engagement further as let’s face it, there’s a lot – and I mean a lot – of ‘fake news’ out there so folks can be and are rightly cynical ..
The key thing here is that we – and I use the term ‘we’ as we are also consumers of social media, not just hoteliers – have an increasingly limited attention span and unless you can say what you have to say in 140 characters or less, you’re already on the back foot. Remember too that thanks to technology, consumers expect of the brands they choose to engage with, that they personalise this experience.
Looking at the upside, the opportunity for hotels is immense. As an industry, we’ve tended not to invest in technology which has meant that CRM within the industry has traditionally been clunky and frankly underwhelming. The emergence of social media however has created a free and effective platform now to engage directly and ‘one to one’ with your client base. Which is mind-blowing when you think about it. Used properly and sensitively, social media will certainly help to transform your business. The opposite however is also true so thread carefully and enjoy the ride because we’re only just getting started.