Why hoteliers should be connecting with guests on social media
Tuesday 13th October 2015
Why should hotels be embracing social media? Journey’s Junior Designer, Amber Bird, explains the benefits of using social media within the hotel industry.
A little over a decade ago, social media was practically non-existent. Now though it’s a global phenomenon, with billions familiar with what it has to offer. And it’s not only become an industry in its own right, but also one that influences countless others. As an hotelier, if you want to realise your full potential, you can’t afford to pass up on the opportunities that social media can provide.
Despite its relatively short lifespan, social media has had time to develop and mature. It was once viewed with suspicion in the field of hospitality, with wary hoteliers regarding it as an unfiltered, unwelcome insight into their hotel. Just what would an ungovernable spotlight shining into the furthest recesses of their hotel rooms reveal? Guests were free to say exactly what they wanted to, with hotel owners and management seemingly powerless to respond.
Now though, that attitude has changed. It is no longer regarded as something to be feared, but something to be embraced. Social media doesn’t just shine a light on the bad; it also highlights the good. By viewing it with a measure of positivity, social media has now been reinvented as an advantageous tool to exploit. Hoteliers have come to realise that the power now lies as much with them as it does the guest.
But why is this the case? Why have hoteliers changed their mind?
The statistics behind social media use have left hoteliers with little choice other than to accept and adapt. According to research, 87% of online users are reportedly influenced in their hotel decision making by the online social presence of their prospective choice. With 57% of all travel reservations apparently made via the internet, a huge proportion of your guests are likely to have discovered your online presence, or lack thereof. This means that social media, whether you’re a fan or not, can have a massive influence on the success of your hotel, meaning that you simply can’t afford to dismiss it.
So what can you do to turn it to your advantage and make it a promoter of your hospitality offering rather than a detractor? There are several things to take into consideration.
From the moment that guests check-in, you should be seizing the opportunity to connect with them on social media, looking to build a positive relationship. Now is the time to get savvy and make it count.Amber Bird, Junior Designer, Journey
First and foremost, it’s where everybody is
Facebook is the largest social network in the world, with the highest volume of activity amongst its users. Savvy hoteliers can tap into this activity, catching the attention of prospective guests by having a strong online presence. A socially active hotel is more likely to be promoted by friends and family, which in turn piques the curiosity of their social media circle.
It should be regarded as customer service aid
Following a hotel stay guests will often use social media as an online platform to voice their opinion of the experience. If you, as an hotelier, aren’t online to listen to this opinion then how can you respond? You should listen to the conversation, taking on board both compliments and criticisms, and respond by engaging with any concerns, helping to remedy any possible complaints. Ignoring concerns will reflect badly on you, whilst responding will demonstrate attention to detail, something that is hugely important in successful hospitality. In some instances an online response is all that’s needed, in others a more appropriate course of action is necessary, but by beginning a resolution online you put the wheels of good customer service in motion, reassuring the complainant as well as impressing silent observers who are judging your reaction.
Good customer service and real-time interaction is time consuming, but don’t be put off by this. It’s worth the time invested. If you run a tight ship, complaints should be at a minimum anyway, but if you’re inundated, then you need to review wider processes. Social media doesn’t cause the problems, but it can emphasise underlying issues. Again though, this should be viewed positively and seen as constructive feedback that you can build upon to improve your hotel’s offering.
A key point is not to approach social media in a half-hearted manner. Tardy, or even no responses can often do more harm than good, as poor social media management may be seen as a reflection of the hotel as a whole.
Use social media to listen to the competition
It will allow you to monitor the online activity of your competitors, allowing you to measure their rate of progression within the market against your own. This will in turn enable you to develop your own products and services, ensuring that you’re in tune with industry trends and can match or even exceed guest’s expectations
It provides you with a direct line to your guests, both existing and potential
Whether they’re actually staying in the hotel with you or simply near it, you can gain an insight into their needs and requirements, whilst also continuing to project your services. It empowers you, the hotelier, to be in a position where you’re with guests in real-time throughout the day. For example, capturing images of the chefs preparing delicious looking dishes for the lunchtime menu will help to entice locals to visit that same day and inspire others located further afield to make a booking. It will also encourage resident guests to have dinner within the hotel, rather than booking somewhere nearby. On an alternative note, if a guest criticises their food or service via social media then you’re on hand to address this criticism immediately.
The vast scope of it means that you can extend your offering to a huge potential audience. Social media isn’t just a tool either, but rather a toolbox. Various platforms offer different opportunities.Amber Bird, Junior Designer, Journey
Social media is a marvellous marketing tool
The vast scope of it means that you can extend your offering to a huge potential audience. Social media isn’t just a tool either, but rather a toolbox. Various platforms offer different opportunities.
Twitter is excellent for brief messages and exchanges; with the retweet function meaning enormous numbers of users can conceivably be reached. Multiple retweets of a mouth-watering image of the chef’s special can potentially be seen by thousands, causing food envy the world over.
Instagram in particular, is a popular platform for hoteliers, as it allows you to market yourself through its visual appeal. Showcasing eye-catching imagery of the surroundings, events, food, treatments on offer in the spa, or other seasonal activities, allows you to tell a story that guests will engage with. This will help to provide them with an insight into the indulgent experiences that you have on offer, inspiring them to visit.
As well as promoting your hotel to prospective guests, social media is also an excellent method of maintaining contact with previous guests. Timely social posts that are suitably beguiling help to remind them of their stay, hopefully encouraging them to relive the experience and book another visit. It’s also regarded as less invasive than the more traditional forms of internet marketing, such as email updates.
It’s a great way to communicate incentives
Running special promotions and limited offers are great ways to incentivise guests, spurring them on to make a confirmed booking. Facebook in particular has a mechanical make-up that will allow you to post longer messages accompanied by images and links to the content, which will direct customers back to your website.
It encourages consistent interaction with guests
From the moment that guests check-in, you should be seizing the opportunity to connect with them, looking to build a positive relationship. Now is the time to get savvy and make it count. A great example of the use of Twitter is the social media concierge service, a concept started by Sol Wave House in Mallorca. It allows guests to find out about events, order room service and get exclusive deals using dedicated hashtags. Food and drinks can be ordered by tweeting using the hotel’s Twitter handle followed by a unique hashtag.
The benefits of this are two-fold. Not only does this please the guest that a service has been delivered directly to them, but it also helps to create a ripple effect amongst their social following. Others seeing it will be duly impressed, which reflects well on your offering. It also helps to engender loyalty, building an online community that buys into your brand.
Social media is a powerful marketing tool for hoteliers to use in order to reach their target audience and reconnect with both current and past clientele. Whether your hotel has a strong presence on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, each channel enables you to connect and communicate your story to the guest through engaging copy, eye-catching images or interlinking hashtags.
By approaching social media in a proactive manner, regarding it positively and managing it properly, the rewards for an hotelier can be high. Embrace it and make your hotel stand out from the competition.