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Turning Your Social Media Relationships Into Dollars

Feb 14, 2011

By Jennifer Rodrigues

Reprinted from HotelExecutive.com

Today, it seems like everywhere you turn there’s talk about social media and all the benefits it can have as part of a business marketing strategy. While this is true, simply opening accounts on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and posting occasional photos and updates won’t create a strong following for your business or turn these “friends” and “followers” into profitable clients for your business.

Particularly for the hotel and hospitality industry, it seems the biggest issue with social media is the lack of identifiable return on investment (ROI) from a property’s social media presence. However, with a social media plan that includes several key strategies, you can create measurable ROI for your property, as well as increase activity that leads to bookings, in turn generating more revenue for your hotel. After all, one of the great benefits of using social media sites to drive sales is that you are targeting clients exactly where they are already booking – online.

Here are five tactics that can help your hotel generate more bookings through its social media relationships:

Booking Straight Through Social Media

When it comes to the world of social media, perhaps one of the most useful capabilities that has emerged recently is the ability to book a hotel directly through the social media site itself. This can be extremely beneficial for hotels as it creates an additional outlet in which customers can make online bookings.

CRS Bookings – a company specializing in booking engine, GDS, and web design solutions for hotels–for instance, is among several companies that offer a booking tool that allows fans to directly make bookings on Facebook. Well-known hotel brands like Trump Hotels and Design Hotels have already implemented a similar type of booking widget on their Facebook pages.

Unlike with traditional OTAs, allowing customers to book through social media sites like Facebook creates a type of magnetic marketing strategy that creates a channel for connecting people to the right information/product at the right time. Given, not everyone perusing a hotel’s Facebook page are there to make a reservation, however, the convenience and immediacy factor this type of widget creates, may be enough to create new online sales outside of traditional OTAs.

Promotions, Promotions

It is no secret that consumers love a great deal. With this in mind, businesses across the social media spectrum use sales, deals, promotions and other freebies to entice customers to make purchases. Because it’s possible for hotels to broadcast to hundreds of thousands, and even millions of consumers, through social media sites, simply posting the same deals from the hotel’s website can be seen by a much larger audience, in turn creating the possibility for additional sales, which can ultimately convert into more generated revenue for the property.

Hotels can also use promotions as a way to increase their social media following by offering exclusive promotions just for social media followers, ensuring that your social media profiles are must-visits for all of your potential customers.

Generating Buzz With “VIP” Events

Another way to increase your hotel bookings is by generating a buzz with events just for your social media followers. Throwing a social gathering, cocktail hour, party etc. at your hotel can allow your social media followers to have an incentive to go check out your property in person and it’s also a good way to create media attention for your hotel. Many businesses throw regular “tweetups”–fun events organized and promoted through Twitter–to spread the word about their companies. Some hotels who have had recent “tweetups” include the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, Canada; the Stanford Park Hotel in Palo Alto, CA; Hotel Max in Seattle, WA; and the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem. Larger hotel chains can also benefit from hosting ongoing “tweetups” at their different properties. The Four Seasons brand, for instance, hosts regular “Wine Tweetups,” recently holding events at its properties in Washington, DC and Austin, TX. The Ritz-Carlton brand uses “tweetups” to bring their social media followers into their property as well.

Hoteliers can also look into collaborating with their local tourism office to sponsor a city/destination “tweetup,” encouraging locals and tourists to go out and meet other locals and area visitors. The city of Dallas, for example, recently held a social “tweetup” at the W Hotel, Dallas, while Silicon Valley, CA hosted its last “tweetup” at the Hotel Valencia. The city of Lawrence, NH also has regular area “tweetups,” hosting its last one at The Oread Hotel.

Another type of event that can create a buzz around your property and engage your online followers offline is a scavenger hunt to generate buzz about your property. Starwood Hotels, for example, recently held a “10-Day Destination Dash” scavenger hunt with clues posted via Facebook and Twitter. Over the ten days, Starwood awarded hundreds of free hotel nights. By awarding hundreds of consumers with one free night, Starwood created a wealth of opportunity for added revenue as these customers now have an incentive to end up booking additional nights at the hotel to enjoy a vacation they may not have anticipated booking prior to winning.

Providing Useful Information

Hotel guests often want to know what the must-see places are in the city/country they are visiting. Using your property’s social media pages to post information about local area attractions, restaurants, landmarks, etc. can be a great way to not only engage the interest of your current and potential clients, it’s also a way to establish your hotel as a reliable source of information, an expert when it comes to your destination and the “go-to” hotel for clients visiting your area. Combining this constant source of information online, along with a hotel staff that’s knowledgeable about all the popular places in the area–from romantic locations to attractions that are fun for families, and even the spots with the best nightlife–and eager to lend their expertise to guests, you can provide an extremely valuable services to your customers – one that will keep them coming back again and again.

Engaging With Your Audience

Social media is all about interacting. While implementing booking widgets and having promotions and/or contests can be extremely helpful in generating sales, the success of each of these initiatives becomes more probable if your hotel is actively participating in online conversations, asking your consumers questions and providing useful, engaging information to your followers.

Asking questions and encouraging feedback from your audience can also generate more positive feedback, with past guests deciding to participate in conversations by posting photos and reviews of your property. And any hotelier knows that positive feedback from a past guest is very valuable in gaining the trust of potential future guests. These interactions can also give you, as a hotelier, the opportunity to respond to any negative feedback in a positive way (by asking for opinions on how to improve or suggesting other solutions). This communication allows the consumer to feel a connection to your property, which is the first step in creating consumer loyalty to your property and repeat (aka highly profitable) customers.

Ultimately, social media provides a long list of ways for hoteliers to turn the relationships they make through sites like Facebook and Twitter into potential long-term clients. The key to making these relationships work, however, is providing consumers with a good balance of incentive to book, along with trust and confidence in your brand through friendly, informative, engaging communications.

So what are you waiting for? Start making your social media profiles work for you, generating bookings and revenues, today.

About Jennifer Rodrigues

Jennifer Rodrigues, Visibility Development Manager with ThinkInk and TravelInk’d, is a seasoned public relations professional with a passion for the hospitality industry, which is expressed in her role at ThinkInk’s travel division, TravelInk’d. At TravelInk’d, she is responsible for developing cost-effective and creative public relations and marketing strategies for clients in the travel and tourism, airline, lodging, cruise and meeting/event sectors. For more information on TravelInk’d, please visit www.travelinkd.com or contact Jennifer at jlr@travelinkd.com. For more news about PR and marketing in the travel industry, follow TravelInk’d on Twitter @TravelInkd and visit the TravelInk’d Facebook Fan Page.

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