2013 is just around the corner and now is the perfect time to re-evaluate your hotel's social media strategy and have it ready to roll out January 1st.

If your strategy includes ways to convert more business through your social channels then ask yourself the following questions.

1. Where does social media fit into my sales flow? With social media you are reaching prospective customers at an early stage in the sales process as compared to traditional leads that are generated through your hotel's website. They may have stumbled upon your Twitter account through a friend they are following or landed on your Facebook page through an indirect search engine query.

Getting your prospective customer's attention at this point needs to be handled with care and you should have a strategy in place with which to do so. Now is not the time to sell but to establish a relationship and build trust with the intention of keeping them informed and connected until they are ready to book with you.

If you don't agree then try creating an incentive for prospective customers to book now or in the not-too-distant future. Everyone loves coupons so why not develop a campaign with a 30, 60 or 90-day expiration date that they can use and/or share with others in their social communities.

2. Do I make it easy for prospective customers to book through Facebook? Most likely you are driving traffic from your Facebook page to your brand site. If so, then why not keep them on your Facebook page by giving them a booking option instead of providing them with the opportunity to abandon your brand site?

Look at it this way. You post a promo on your Facebook page (step #1). The link that you provided in the promo sends your prospective customer to your brand site (step #2). Your prospective customer lands on your promo page that also contains other promos that you are running and the confusion begins (step #3). Your somewhat frustrated prospective customer finds the promo, clicks on the promo and is prompted to "read more" (step #4). Your prospective customer arrives at a details page, reads the inclusions, and clicks on the "book now" link (step #5). Your prospective customer elects to abandon your site in lieu of pulling out his hair and you wonder why he didn't convert.

Now go back to the flow above and shorten the steps to just three. Click on the link to the promo (step #1). Transfer the prospective customer to the promo page on Facebook with the details of the promo along with a booking engine (step #2). Begin the booking process (step #3).

3. Do I provide my prospective customers with soft conversion options? Your prospective customers may not be in a position to purchase when they are visiting one of your social channels but how about moving them into a soft conversion by having them subscribe to your newsletter?

If you can collect an email address you'll have a pretty good chance of adding them to your sales funnel and have a better opportunity to convert them when they are ready to book (42 percent of subscribers are more likely to book with you in the future after subscribing to your newsletter).

4. Do I handle social media leads the same way I handle traditional leads? Your social prospects require that you continue to feed them with valuable content that will help them to stay connected with you and allow you to nurture their decision-making process.

Since your social channels don't allow you to establish the same level of relationship that your traditional marketing channels provide, you must first establish a certain level of trust with your social prospects over a period of time that will eventually lead to a conversion based upon that relationship.

At the end of the day, you build trust with your audience through thought leadership, transparency, quick and responsive customer communication, accountability, fun and simple engagement, and a level of social responsibility. If you can master these six ways to build trust with those who follow and like you, you'll be able to leverage your hotel and eventually convert your social prospects.

5. Do I measure results? If the answer is yes, you are probably using Google analytics to track your campaign and conversions and using certain metrics that show a verifiable ROI with your campaigns.

Here are four metrics that you should be using.

  1. Use the combination of a URL shortener and some form of a "cookie" to attach a campaign to a lead.
  2. Measure the growth rate over time.
  3. Measure the full campaign history and then assign a cost per conversion.
  4. Measure ROI so you can tell exactly what is working and then optimize it.

A Case for Social Media is just one of the subjects I cover in my new educational workshop Mapping the Course that is specifically designed to help hotel sales managers grow their business and generate more sales.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement consulting firm dedicated to helping hotels and their sales managers grow their business and generate more revenue. Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+, or contact him by email at [email protected].

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