As hotel operators and marketers face another fresh, promising new year ahead, many are watching the social media space closely to gauge the level of time, expertise and financial investment that will be required to make it all worthwhile. Having observed the space keenly so far, here are 6 quick (personal) social media predictions for the hotel industry in 2013:
- The gap between early adopters and laggards will widen even further: Not a whole lot has changed on the innovation diffusion curve (see Hotel Social Media Articles and the Diffusion of Innovation) in the hotel industry…the innovators and early adopters still continue to forge ahead and have now discovered that with adequate planning & investment, social media channels are a great way to drive footfall, loyalty, spend and share of voice for hotels, restaurants, spas and other associated hospitality business units. The late majority and laggards still struggle to tap into social media potential, plus realize that the specialized approach and planning required to make social media work…a large part of this also appears to be driven by a lack of having the right people driving social media at such hotels / hotel companies (it all starts with a business leader who believes in the space and then offers the resources and empowerment necessary to make social media work). Savvy hoteliers have also realized that social media isn’t just the domain of marketers…rather it is intimately associated with all aspects of the hotel business, from operations to recruitment (after all, a great product and remarkable service pre-empt and determine the success of hotel marketing). Without the right focus and understanding of the space, the gap between early adopters and late adopters (plus laggards of course) is likely to keep growing. The interesting thing is that falling into the ‘laggard’ category rarely has anything to do with size of the hotel operation or independent / brand affiliation…there are plenty of global hotel companies that own and manage properties at both ends of the curve, depending on the local business situation and teams in place.
- More hoteliers will discover the ‘secret’ sauce that powers social media success: The great news here is that the keys to social media success aren’t all that ‘secret’ after all. At the most basic level, social media is all about people and the best way to connect with people is to find the ones who care about your product, engage them with meaningful stories and nurture a long term relationship with them. Easier said than done, of course, but at least it eliminates all the hype, so called ‘social media gurus’ and gets hoteliers focused on the stuff that really matters in the long run. Most hoteliers successful at using social media have discovered these simple truths and devote a tremendous amount of time and resources telling stories that humanize their brand / product. The simplest way to start is to engage real people in real conversations about the stuff that matters to them (and you). Those who’ve done this successfully over time can graduate to building a growing community of engaged fans, customers and loyalists [PS – humanizing your efforts obviously means that looking at your fan & follower counts is a somewhat worthless exercise on its own…engagement and conversion are what matter now].
- The social stars will look beyond the tried & tested to differentiate themselves: Hoteliers that have been successful at leveraging base platforms like Facebook and Twitter will start looking at emerging (at least for the hotel industry) and niche social networks and tools to continue differentiating themselves from the competition, plus surprise / delight their fans and guests. This includes experimenting with Google+ Video Hangouts (up close and personal with the Celebrity Chef, anyone?), creating unique social-media-only experiences that fans can buy or redeem, hosting themed & niche local influencer Tweet-ups, Pinterest competitions, etc. While the mass popularity and blunt reach of social media platforms besides Facebook and Twitter are somewhat limited, they are a great way of reaching a very targeted and engaged audience of people, usually with very specific interests [Diversification and testing bode well and provide a safeguard for innovators in the space, especially as the general user population on social networks is becoming savvier about curating the content and people they actually see and interact with].
- Catering to your audience’s rich media snacking tastes will be a rewarding exercise: It is no secret that we’re all somewhat addicted to ‘snacking’ on what’s latest and greatest on the web…this applies to everything ranging from personal photos from friends to the latest viral videos on YouTube. We want content to be interesting, visual, shareable and most of all…quick / to-the-point! The social media and photo / video snacking trend offers a great opportunity for hoteliers to generate small doses of well-produced content that tells the brand, hotel or product story while keeping their audience engaged. The exercise does not have to be expensive, either…for example, Instagram is a great way to share high-quality, interesting pictures that are likely to desired match brand image / quality and tell a quick, interesting story. Videos used on social media, if kept short and interesting can be produced in high-quality at reasonably low costs too these days.
- More social media projects will gain traction as cross-channel efforts: Thankfully the days when social media was just a ‘floating head’ are long gone…now, most hoteliers that have seen success at the social media game realize that to make a project or campaign successful, they need to go cross-channel. This means that if you’re running a competition on Facebook…there’s no good reason why you shouldn’t also factor in a Twitter, LinkedIN, Hotel Website, Email, Offline and PR strategy to support it too. Same thing applies to the most popular media outlets at your disposal…if most of your audience spends a significant portion of their time driving, doesn’t it perhaps make sense to combine social media efforts with a Radio barter relationship to create added awareness and recall? More hoteliers will realize in 2013 that social media efforts don’t just have to be confined to one platform…and certainly not just the digital space either.
- Resource investment overall in social media will rise: The amount of time, money and expertise that hoteliers will invest in social media efforts in 2013 is guaranteed to rise. As late adopters graduate from their basic reputation management efforts on TripAdvisor and popular forums to actually initiating social conversations and nurturing communities, more direct (money) and indirect (time, expertise, people) investment will be required for sustained success. The ROI (Return on Involvement…rather than Return on Investment) on all of this doesn’t have to be difficult to measure though…as long as hotels start off with a clear strategy and goals, plus employ a little discipline in crafting & executing their conversation calendars, the return should be easy to measure. Also, as platforms evolve (for example, Facebook changes in late 2012 that have drastically reduced content reach for publishers), hoteliers will need to spend more to ensure they reach more people…whether it is via Facebook Offers, Promoted Posts, Promoted Tweets or Video Ads, etc. [On the flip side the danger here is that money invested in blindly pushing out uninteresting content to a very general audience (i.e. spray and pray) or spent on hiring social media ‘gurus’ is likely to lead to more frustration and lackluster results]
So there you have it…in true ‘snacking’ tradition, these are my 6 quick social media predictions for the hotel industry in 2013. What are your personal thoughts about hotels and social media success in 2013? Do you agree with the above predictions…and do you have your own to add? Comment and let us know!