Industry Update
Opinion Article24 February 2017

Creating the Right Connection for Conversion and Engagement on Social Media

By Tim Sullivan, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at Cendyn

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As hoteliers' key audiences spend less time on the Web and more time on their smartphones' social apps, it is crucial for hotels to have a digital engagement strategy that creates meaningful interactions on social channels. Desktop still converts higher, but the path to a booking is a journey full of touch points across social. Now that social media platforms are maturing, hotels can go beyond targeting their own guests to discovering new profitable audiences. They can reach and drive sales for all sides of the business: leisure, corporate and group sales. However, before hoteliers think about social engagement, they need to cover the basics of personalization and one-to-one marketing.

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Planning Your Team

Social media is hungry for content. Every day, there will be an expectation that a bevy of fresh, entertaining and engaging content will be live on your sites. That means you'll need content creators, people to write and edit posts, take photos, curate infographics and shoot video. Your content creators will also need to establish a tone of voice for your hotel brand. Will it be fun and casual? Will it be more sophisticated and buttoned-up? It is important to create a tone that is in line with your brand's essence. Since social is about a two-way conversation, you will also need individuals to monitor your channel for comments, likes and dislikes, and respond in a timely and professional manner.

Monitoring should include customer service needs, as hotel guests are more likely to post their feedback on social than send you an email or make a phone call. Keep in mind that robot-like responses won't do, so staff should be trained and empowered to speak naturally on social when they are addressing a comment whether it be positive or negative. Next, your team should be built with staff who will analyze your channel for effectiveness, noticing trends in follower growth, which posts are resonating, which aren't and spikes in engagement based on the time of day, the day of the week or other factors. In social media, it is important as well that all of the information gained amongst the team should be shared collectively in a continuous feedback loop. So, that way, content creators know the performance of creative and can take this into consideration when planning the next batch of content. Or, monitoring staff can be on the watch for spikes in engagement when new creative drops.

Social Media's Place in the Marketing Funnel

As you plan social content, keep in mind you will have visitors across the buying process spectrum interacting with your hotel's brand. There could be prospects just encountering your hotel, people who have been watching your brand for a while and customers who love your hotel all there at the same time. So, your content needs to provide merit and appeal to all sides of the equation. Create buyers' personas and a path for how you would want a customer to move through your marketing funnel or circle. This could look something like Strangers, Visitors, Leads, Customers, Promoters. When content planning, ensure you have something that appeals to each of these groups who will be visiting your social media channels.

Curate Your Social Content Before Engaging.

To be effective, you must know your audience, offer great content and post material that relates. The most common pitfalls of social media marketing are engaging with a guest you don't know and posting the wrong assets, posting content that's not professional enough or posting content that simply does not resonate. In fact, engaging the guest at the wrong moment with the wrong content can backfire and lead to damage control.

However, this is something that can be easily avoided. Nowadays, you can use the guest profiles stored in your CRM to segment your social audiences and build the right interactions on these channels. A true hotel CRM centralizes data from multiple systems, stitching all your disparate data silos together in a central location to provide a Single Version of Truth. This means including guest history, value, preferences, behavior, satisfaction and intent. This data can predict what your best guests look like. This kind of modeling can lead to "drip" marketing campaigns that both prospect and nurture guests in a way that generate significant results. Another benefit is that with those insights you can design effective interactions pre-stay, on-property and post stay without any risk to communicate to the wrong guest. With this guest intelligence, you won't send a promotion on Facebook to a guest who is already on property.

Equipped with your increased understanding of who your guests are, you can now curate your social content to appeal to their travel lifestyle. One of the upsides of communicating on social channels is that it offers so many ways to reach and engage audiences through a wide array of media and interaction points.

Authenticity and Storytelling: The Secret Sauce

Does your hotel have awesome staff? Social media is the place to showcase your top talent. These are the opportunities to showcase your brand in action and give guests a taste of the wonderful experience they will have on site. Highlight an interesting bartender making a cocktail in a short video for Instagram. Interview your concierge in the lobby and post a quick Q and A on Facebook. Live stream the pool crew staff preparing the area for the day, setting up and speaking about the steps they take to create a relaxing environment for guests. This way, it's not just one voice talking about the value your hotel offers, it's the many individuals who make up your service team. Guests enjoy getting to know the people behind your brand. Try to re-create the experience guests will have once they check in to your hotel on social.

Reach Your Audience with Targeted Social Advertising

When it comes to social advertising, Facebook has become the most popular option, in part due to its 1 billion user reach. The platform offers very powerful targeting capabilities, allowing hotels to develop custom audiences from their CRM for remarketing and look-alike modeling. The Facebook platform is also rich in ad styles with options like the Right Rail Ads, Newsfeed and Carousel Ads. Traditionally used to reach the leisure guest traveler, it is under-utilized when it comes to Meeting and Event planners. This may change as you can even target a business-focused audience using Facebook's new Lead Ads, which include an RFP form directly within the unit, making it great for meeting and wedding campaigns.

Do a search on LinkedIn for meeting planners and you'll find over 15,000 of them on LinkedIn. Event planners? Over 95,000! Immense targeting capabilities abound for the platform's InMail as well as Sponsored Posts and banner placements. You can target by industry, groups users are following, job, company and more. One caveat is that creative options are limited for ad lay out.

Pinterest is a great place to reach brides and grooms looking for venues to host their wedding, as this is the platform of choice for inspirational searches on this topic. Ads within Pinterest look just like a Standard pin, so you'll want to use attractive imagery that compels a user to click. You can target ads by interests, behavior, location and device, in addition to CRM list, lookalike lists and Web site remarketing.

To reach the tech-savvy traveler market, Twitter is your best bet. Ads are "promoted posts," confined by the 140-character mark limit, and can be targeted by hash tags, by followers, following and more. Twitter ads are great for advertisers looking to keep a lock on important keywords related to their property. Sponsoring a tweet helps your content rise above the noise on Twitter when someone performs a search related to your hotel or keywords associated with it. You can even target followers of your competition!

Because of its visual nature, Instagram is a perfect match for hotels. Stunning property shots, photos of staff and guests and food/beverage shots: they all do well here. Instagram ads are built in Facebook's Ad Manager and can align with your Facebook campaigns, so there's a lot of synergy between these two platforms. Ads are "native style," appearing in the feed, so, your ads should be beautiful with the best photos of your property, rooms and suites. Or, try another method of running ads created from user-generated content (guests who stay at your property, take a picture and @tag your brand). With proper attribution, the photos turned ads convey an authentic nature that connects emotionally with audiences.

Consider your engagement goals and your audience when deciding on a campaign. Are you looking to gain web site traffic, increase engagement, loyalty, make a guest or group booking? All those things are possible if you communicate to the right audience at the right time with the right message.

Top Takeaways:

  • CRM is your roadmap for engaging with guests on social media.
  • Know your audience, offer great content and post material that relates.
  • Prospect and re-market to guests through targeted social media advertising.

Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from www.HotelExecutive.com.

Tim Sullivan

As the Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of Cendyn, Tim Sullivan oversees global sales, business development, marketing, product management, and client success. Previously President of Cendyn/ONE, where he brought an integrated hotel CRM and digital marketing platform to market, he is now responsible for Cendyn’s global expansion and strategy for the Cendyn Hospitality Cloud.

    More from Tim Sullivan

    About Cendyn

    Cendyn is the leading innovative cloud software and services provider for the hospitality industry. With a focus on integrated hotel CRM, hotel sales, and revenue strategy technology platforms, Cendyn drives sales, marketing and revenue performance for tens of thousands of hotels across the globe. The Cendyn Hospitality Cloud offers a complete set of software services for the industry, aligning marketing, sales and revenue teams to optimize their strategies and drive performance and loyalty across their business units. With offices in Boca Raton, Atlanta, Boston, San Diego, London, Munich, Singapore, Sydney, Bangkok and Tokyo, Cendyn proudly serves clients in 143 countries, delivering over 1.5 billion data-driven, personalized communications on behalf of their customers every year. For more information on Cendyn, visit www.cendyn.com.

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