As the world goes digital, social media marketing is assuming new proportions and hoteliers know that investing in these marketing channels is a must.
A report titled ‘Internet in India 2017’ says that the number of Internet users in India will reach 500 million by June 2018. With smart phones becoming the order of the day and data plans becoming increasingly accessible and affordable, the Internet is certainly a part and parcel of daily life. With this the widespread use of social media has meant that hoteliers cannot ignore this as a marketing channel.
Social media marketing also known as e-marketing or digital marketing is becoming popular among people. Again the sustained increased in smart devices has meant that people are always connected in the digital world. As a marketing platform that is able to reach the target audience, social media is certainly changing dynamics. Tapping into the social media market and communicating with followers is no longer an option – it is a requirement. Aggressively cultivating guests on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms is a critical way to create loyal customers and brand followers who continue coming back for your hospitality, attentiveness and services and turn out to be your brand ambassadors lifelong. “The best strategies to adopt would be to use exceptional guest service to engage guests to write about the same and track social media metrics so you can work towards uplifting the same,” said Sayantani Ghosh, Assistant Social Media Manager, JW Marriott Kolkata. Engagement remains the major focus to analyze the social media programs followed by the reach and brand recall from the communication sent. Vishal Singh, General Manager, Hyatt Regency, Pune added, “placing guest experiences at the core of every communication and using them to become advocates of our offerings is one of the integral strategies in leveraging social media. That’s what we follow at Hyatt Regency Pune. Providing offerings and communication relevant to our audience also helps us connect better and thus retain them for loyalty and engage with them over a longer duration.”
Hotels use different platforms to manage social media engagements. Sprout Social is an app used by all Hyatt hotels globally to analyze social media performance. Ghosh explained, “we have an active presence on all major social networks. Ranging from Facebook Ads Manager to Instagram and beyond, it is very enriching to engage with our guests. We primarily use Revinate and Sysomos Publish to monitor our performance and manage our social media engagements on various platforms respectively.” Arindam Mukherjee, General Manager, Mercure Dwarka added, “we at Mercure Dwarka, largely use the inbuilt Facebook tools like Facebook Analytics and Ads Manager to understand how our organic content is driving return on investment for our brand. To leverage User Generated content, Local Measure is also a great tool through which we can access all the images by tracking check-ins and use them to drive engagement with users’ permissions.”
Making the Connect
It is important to make the existing customers feel rewarded for their stay at the hotel. The guests should be encouraged to check-in at hotel with their Facebook or share an image of the food/view they are enjoying. Gamifying the experience on social media to give them more loyalty points is another great strategy to look at. “The customer base that have stayed once with Mercure Dwarka can be reached out through a good email marketing campaign where they can be informed about something new happening at the property, an exciting offer or anything that you may want to inform them about,” said Mukherjee. Hoteliers mainly track key social media metrics like impressions, reach, engagements (likes/comments/shares/clicks) and engagement rate. Social media plays a pivotal role not only for marketing the brand, but also to ensure the creation of a top of mind recall and to increase customer loyalty. “Usage of social media platforms to understand the pulse of our target audience and to quickly act on feedback, thereby building loyalty and engagement, capturing guests’ special moments to post on social media and build an emotional connection and creating events on Facebook and other platforms to build awareness and recall factor are some ways in which we make this connect,” said Sriram Ramaswamy, Director of Sales & Marketing, Indore Marriott Hotel. Engagement remains the major focus to analyze the social media programs followed by the reach and brand recall from these communications. “We have a tool that helps us drive insights into organic and inorganic growth across the social channels and also helps with the recommendation based on audience behavior to enhance our social media following,” said Singh. The efficiency of the Social Media Campaigns are measured by the number of people that the post reached, the demographics, post view time, video view time, post click rates vs the impressions, number of likes on the page, number of likes on posts, number of followers, number of shares, number of comments, number of positive remarks and reviews, number of customers interacting through Facebook Messenger, contests and the like. “Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are those best suited for our brand. This is because we can create visual content through Event Stories, happenings at our Hotel, promotions, etc. in a picturesque form, which is more communicative and engaging and most importantly, without content limitation,” added Ramaswamy.
Naturally making the right kind of investments in social media strategy is a key factor in most hotels. “In the coming times we intend to heavily invest in social media marketing as it helps us reach the right target audience in a shorter span of time. It also helps increase traffic to our brand and restaurant’s websites to help with room and table reservations,” said Singh. While most hoteliers recognize that social media marketing is a key element, they also understand that working with creative, digital organizations can help. These companies plan campaigns in an organized manner and ensure that the content for promotion on social media is available well before time. “The investments need to be big because digital is the new future. Social media strategy has gone a long way in just being a communication platform to a platform which can actually drive revenue from the brand and we’ll do the same to make sure we invest significantly in order to use it effectively for our desired goals,” said Mukherjee. Ghosh avers, “it is our understanding that Kolkata considers us to be one of their premium options in hotel stays and dining. We want to secure this loyalty that our guests have towards us and reward them for choosing us. Our investments will be aimed at strengthening this fan base, growing our clientele and thus taking a step ahead towards engaging with them over digital platforms.”
Platforms & More
While there are several social media platforms, Facebook still rules the roost because of the sheer penetration in the digital space and the use of platform by millennial and mid-age people alike. “With so many new ad solutions by the company, a hotel brand can actually use the medium to drive a lot of engagement and recall for hotels. Also, Instagram because it is a lifestyle oriented platform and any hospitality brand should have a coherent Instagram strategy to make sure they are mapping user generated content as well,” said Mukherjee. Again with social media an element that must be understood is the concept of organic and inorganic followers. “Google analytics and Facebook insights give us detailed descriptions and charts which help to determine organic reach versus inorganic reach,” avered Ramaswamy. A platform that has taken off well in the recent times is Instagram and hoteliers seem to be thrilled with this. “In the current scenario Instagram is working really well for us. The food and space shots create great engagement with followers and also help us get new followers, comments, generate enquiries and traffic to the brand website,” opined Singh. Hoteliers also constant work to figure out which social media platforms are majorly used by their guests and focus on ensuring their consistent presence in each one of them. “To start off with a few networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube is a mode to not overload ourselves yet focus more on engaging with our followers and getting our brand stand out there. Platforms like Facebook have introduced paid advertisements that can be boosted as well as sponsored and suggested posts. Creating advertisements that are attractive and easy to read, helps us give our brand greater visibility as we ensure to use their targeting features to assure that we are reaching out to our target audience. Pictures on social media is a highway filled with a billboard that increases our brand awareness by creating beautiful content and interact with our guests and online advertisements to attract even more,” said Ghosh
Social media has managed to create a big impact in several hotels and a case in point is the promotion at Hyatt Regency, Pune. “The Qureshi Kitchen has been one of our most successful social campaigns in terms of increase in followers and reaching the target audience who appreciate the cuisine. The food shots were appreciated by our followers and got footfalls to the restaurant. It got so popular that we ended up fixing Wednesdays as Kebab nights at The Café,” said Singh. Likewise, JW Marriott Kolkata recently ran a month-long campaign for their first anniversary celebration in Kolkata. Using the hashtag ‘LandmarkOfLuxury’ that celebrated the stories that have culminated at JW Marriott Kolkata the hotel saw an increase in organic reach and engagement by 10%, over 200 organic followers in less than 1 month and engagement increase by 20% in Instagram, over 3000 organic Facebook followers in a span of fewer than 15 days and 143K+ views for the campaign. “Measuring social media activities help us learn about campaigns which are largely successful and also ones which are not. For us measuring the analytics of an ongoing promotion is necessary for keeping up with the overall pulse of general conversation about the various offerings and services available at the hotel. Once our movement tracking of a particular campaign is set up, we can just let it run and check in regularly to monitor the progress,” said Ghosh. In fact today, digital marketers are hired separately to ensure that the hotels are being discussed on social media.
With social media it is well understood that organic followers are the key to success. For detecting inorganic growth, it is helpful to analyze any platform more extensively. The first indicator for purchased followers from a quantitative point of view can be a sudden follower drop followed by a negative growth rate. However, there is no generic formula to determine the right balance of organic vs. inorganic followers on social media followers. “In today’s world all social media platforms have built-in various data analytics tools that enable us to track the progress, success, and engagement of ad campaigns that we run throughout the year. Social networking websites not only benefits organizations like us to interact with one another but also to build relationships with our guests online in no time. It is thus a participative and open forum that gives us a platform to improve site traffic, increase the ROI (return on investment) and instantly talk about our ongoing culinary promotions, products and services to reach out to the targeted audience with organic reviews and management response that greatly helps guests to identify positive guest experiences to plan their visit or stay at the property,” explained Ghosh. There are several studies and research reports that indicate the efficacy of social media as a marketing tool and hence hoteliers are upping their game to ensure they are connected with customers in real time. As its name implies, social media involves the building up of relationships that encourages participation and engagement through innovation. And hoteliers know that the way forward is all about ‘being social’.
This story appeared in the April 2018 issue of Hotelier India here: Social Media