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Social media strategy for hotels: The importance of not lacking one!!

Recent reports Digital Brand Expressions (Social Media Without A Parachute) and R2integrated (Social Media Survey) in the US indicate that 50% of the investigated companies started with social media marketing without ANY plan or strategy!
I don’t know exactly the numbers for the hospitality industry but I’m afraid this percentage will be even higher. The main quesions that arise are: 1) why is there a lack of a proper strategy and 2) how can I determine a strategy before starting with social media.

Lack of a social media strategy
First of all, setting up a simple account for Twitter and Facebook (the two most important ones) takes literally a few minutes. This simplicity causes probably the number 1 explanation for lacking a social media strategy: “Why do we need a strategy when it is that easy (and without any setup cost) to start with social media ?” Secondly, hotel marketing managers that do see the importance of a social media strategy most of the times don’t have or want to free the necessary resources to address this issue. Thirdly, most managers find it difficult to create a social media strategy and integrate it into the overall marketing strategy. They also don’t know which department should be held responsible for social media. Lastly, I still hear a lot of hotel marketing managers doubting about the expecting profits of having a proper social media strategy.

Result of lacking a social media strategy
Lacking a proper social media strategy before starting with social media can cause some very unwanted outcomes such as:

  • social media efforts become uncontrollable
  • there isn’t commitment from the board/higher managements (so success is hard to get)
  • there aren’t any goals set
  • you measure some KPI’s (if any) but don’t know what you WANT to measure
  • you don’t know how you want to interact and to who
  • how can you reach the audience you want to reach
  • what tone should you use in the communication
  • and much more!

Act social with a strategy!
Research (R2I) indicates that 35% of the companies that do have a social media strategy see a increase in turnover. In addition to this, an increasing number of case studies can be found. Below you find a very nice example of a hotel with a sound social media strategy and the benefits they reap from it!
Joie De Vivre: Joie De Vivre, a company that operates 33 luxury hotels in California is using a variety of social media platforms to drive sales and marketing for its properties. Central to the hotel group’s strategy is disseminating deals and coupons to followers and fans on Facebook and Twitter. Every Tuesday, Joie De Vivre’s Twitter account will Tweet an exclusive deal to its nearly 10,000 followers. Followers have only hours to book the steeply discounted room rate. For example, this past Tuesday, it offered $79 rooms at the group’s Galleria Park Hotel in San Francisco in November and December. The company also operates similar deals for its 5,000-plus Facebook fans on Fridays.
In less than a year, Joie De Vivre has booked over 1,000 room nights through these types of deals—rooms that otherwise would have stayed empty. The company has also started a partnership with coupons site Mobile Spinach to offer coupons for the group’s restaurants. And the company has partnered with Foursquare to offer deals for check-ins at its various restaurants. In terms of flash sales, Joir De Vivre has done a number of deals with travel sites like Gilt’s Jetsetter as well as RueLaLa, and Nadeau says these deals have done moderately well.
The company’s marketing VP Ann Nadeau tells me that because of the economy the hotel industry’s marketing budgets have shrunk, and social media efforts have proved to be a great way to both drive sales and build loyalty. The company’s social media efforts are not solely deal based. This summer, Joie De Vivre encouraged consumers to enter its Road Trippin’ California contest, which asked people to submit videos on YouTube that share why they love California. Three winners, out of 270 videos that were submitted, were selected to win all-expense California road trips with stays in the company’s hotels.

In terms of using social media for customer service, Nadeau says that each property hotel manager is responsible for monitoring conversations and reviews on Twitter, Facebook, and Yelp.