Guest post by Carla Burton
More than any other industry, hotel users have embraced online tools to find, review and book their accommodation experiences. Since audiences are now so familiar with thinking about accommodation in the online space, it is important that hotel and accommodation owners meet them there by using social media to engage with guests and to promote their businesses.
So what are the benefits of social media in the accommodation industry?
A free channel
Social media offers a free channel through which to communicate with customers and potential customers about your business. Like advertising, you get to control the content, but unlike advertising, it is free to put out there. For instance, post photos to your business’ Instagram, Twitter or Facebook page showing the first snow of the season. Promote an upcoming event by posting a flyer online or for reminders of weekly meal deals. You can even consider engaging a corporate film business to make videos or a virtual tour of the hotel which can be posted on YouTube (with links from your home page of course).
Reviews and feedback
Some hotels are concerned about the possibility of negative feedback on customer review sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and Google +. The reality is, however, that if you are not on these sites, you are missing out on customers and the potential benefits outweigh the risks.
The key to engaging on social media is to remember that at all times it is a two way conversation. Yes you will need to devote resources to monitoring and responding to comments and feedback – both positive and negative – but each one presents an opportunity to win fans and generate goodwill. Show customers that you are attentive and concerned about their experiences with timely and reassuring responses and then keep raising service standards to minimize the risk of it happening again.
Find out what your customers want
Since social media is a two-way conversation, it is a great way to ask your customers what they are after. By inquiring about the products and services they are most interested in, you can tailor your offerings to enhance their experience and the chance of repeat business. Ask prior customers to complete short (very short) online surveys or to comment on photos online to find out what they prefer.
No geographical barriers
Of course being on social media means that anyone, anywhere in the world, with a smart phone or laptop can access you online. You are limited only by your imagination in the creative and interactive ways you can reach out to a global audience and carve out new target markets for your business.
In terms of local audiences, your business can be “found” by range of apps, such as Yelp, and even simply on Google Maps searches by those searching for accommodation “nearby” so use this to your advantage.
Targeting audience segments
Social media offers numerous opportunities to reach out to specific demographics by starting targeted online conversations and leveraging those relationships. For example, some hotels will organize social events and syndicate online. The Star Sydney organizes Karaoke nights on Thursdays then broadcast the finalists each week onto their dedicated YouTube channel. This is a great example of using different forms of social media to build a platform for ongoing communication and you may find a different combination of social media channels will work for your business.
Social media is quickly becoming established as an important way for hoteliers and accommodation providers to build and maintain relationships with guests. It is also a way for new guests to find hotels through networking and recommendations both online and offline. In fact, with a little thought and effort, social media can help your business grow and build in all 4 foundations of hotel marketing: reaching out to the audience, engaging with potential customers, promoting and activating a loyalty program and maintaining a conversation with them.
Carla C. Burton is a self-employed Travel and Hospitality writer with a BBA in Business Administration from Bond University. Although a Gold Coast native, Carla moved to Melbourne in 2008 to further her writing career in the Travel industry. Carla has become a top contributor to many Travel blogs world-wide and thoroughly enjoys the freedom that self-employment has provided her.