Social Media Marketing: The Social Media Marketing Phenomenon

The need to develop an effective social media marketing campaign has leapt to the top of the business agenda and is revolutionising the way businesses communicate with their customers. Phil Benson explores the phenomenon of social media marketing.

The sudden increase in social media platforms over the last few years has had a significant impact on hoteliers and how a hotel now has to look at running its business. Seemingly overnight there has been an explosion of websites that allow travellers and visitors to comment on their experiences when staying at a particular hotel.

This is great news if the comments are positive and reflect the stay in a good light, but if feedback is damaging then the hotel are almost obliged to respond to the accusations in a polite manner, where ‘the guest is always right’, as they know clients, travellers, competition and the media will be watching and waiting.

Social media has taken over the control of what is being said about hotels and handed it to the guests, with one commentator describing it as ‘a difficult guest who demands so much attention’.

Social Media Marketing: New Players

For the hotel industry, social media encompasses a range of internet based platforms, which include traveller review sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp, online travel agencies like Expedia and Travelocity, as well as social networking sites, blogs and content sharing websites. The influence of sites that have a ‘Book now’ button cannot be underestimated.

The power that platforms such as Twitter or Facebook have to boost room sales can be debated but there seems to be a rising trend for companies in all markets to advertise themselves with a ‘free’ Facebook page to supplement their website. Maybe it is time for hotels to get into this game?

Quality Content

There is also an expectation for hoteliers to generate clever, original content on these social media sites in text, image or video format. This could be the opportunity to put staffs expertise to use. For example, the chef is the food expert; the concierge is the specialist on the hotel surroundings and front of desk staff will have all round good quality knowledge of what the hotel can deliver.

This can be tapped in to by asking employees to create some material or add a few sentences for use on these sites each month, to boost a hotels social media credentials.

Increasingly, travel research, holiday decisions and bookings are taking place online, which has seen the effectiveness of traditional marketing, such as printing advertisements, brochures and direct mail shots diminishing. Efforts need to be shifted to where the action is taking place for a hotel to be run more cost efficiently.

There are also some time-saving applications that can be used to search the web for text, photo and video mentions of a hotel and its competitors, reporting back on a daily basis with a summary of findings. For a small cost, hoteliers can monitor performance, share and respond to feedback and identify areas where improvement needs to be made.

Through the restructuring of resources and the utilisation of newly available tools, social media can become a strong ally in the management of hotels, the strengthening of reputations and the creation of long-term future business.

By Phil Benson

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