Expert’s Voice: Influence of social media on hotel marketing

by | 10 Jan 2020 | People

As the digital era unfolds, media marketing becomes a necessary tool on the hospitality industry. Gopinath Balasundaram, Chief Operating Officer at The Residency Hotels, explains how it works.

The hospitality industry thrives on personal and emotionally-charged connections with patrons, mostly on the hotel/resort premises. But in a technologically expanding world, that isn’t the only avenue anymore.

The fact that most people check their Instagram first thing every morning, is a statistic worth noting. Most hotels have adapted quickly, with Facebook and Instagram accounts at the very least. However, research shows that only 25% of hotels across the world monitor customers, when talking about the company. Furthermore, only 23% of the companies employ any form of social media analytic tools, with 5% reporting the use of some form of customer sentiment analysis.

In moving from traditional advertising and marketing methods, it’s only natural to compare conversions. Traditional mass media marketing methods had limited scope. Only one in ten people who viewed your ads on TV/radio were interested in travelling to your city, and even fewer actually made the trip. These numbers increased slightly for hotels that advertised or featured in popular travel magazines such as Discover India or National Geographic, but these slots were pricey. Today, brands can easily reach their niche audience, run campaigns specifically catering to them, and significantly increase their chances of getting bookings – all at a fraction of the cost.

An increase in transparency

Remember those stunning visuals of coral reefs and endless beaches, placed in railway stations and airports, hoping to lure travellers? Banking only on such strategies to convert, might not work today. People trust personal recommendations and reviews from fellow travellers so much more than just a glamorous ad. Google, Facebook, and other travel aggregators have made it extremely easy for people to read or leave reviews of the hotels and resorts they visit. Thanks to these sites, your guests already know about your hospitality standards even before they make bookings.

Social media has also increased transparency in pricing. Earlier, people had to call various hotels to understand their rates. Today, with multiple Online Travel Agents (OTA) and travel influencers who readily share pricing data, it is easier for folks to find good deals online. Hotels need to keep track of their competitors prices and adjust their mark-up constantly. This article from Cornell University and ReviewPro demonstrates how even a one-point lift in aggregated review score on OTA websites increases revenue per room by 1.4%.

New generations, new strategy

Technology is constantly evolving and social media is steadily changing to adapt to it. Gen Y and Gen Z travellers expect hotels to be as tech-savvy as they are. Using platforms like Facebook Business makes it easy for hotels to connect with their prospective guests. For example, Hyatt’s reservation team uses Facebook Messenger as a tool to help customers make bookings in any of their properties across the globe. In China, most people pay for services via WeChat’s payment feature. Similarly, Indians are increasingly using digital wallets and UPI to make instant payments.

Social media has also changed the way this generation views travel. With the onset of VR technology and apps such as Infinity House and Ascape, people can enjoy bite-sized and immersive experiences with 360-degree videos in 4K resolution. This allows them to appreciate the destination before spending money on travel. For instance, Lufthansa airlines made it easy for travellers to have a taste of their destinations by uploading 4K videos directly on their YouTube channel.

An important commitment

However, adopting social media marketing is a big commitment. It doesn’t end with creating accounts and posting ads on different platforms. Social platforms are meant for networking, and brands should converse with people to build a community. It is also wise to remember that not all viral content is good publicity. Despite good engagement ratios on their social posts, one viral negative conversation can significantly bring down bookings, as was the case with Fairmont Hotels and Resorts in 2018. Rather than just collecting likes, shares and comments, open dialogue with customers and listen to what they are saying about your brand. Take feedback, improve your processes, and you’ll be better off for it!

Ultimately, while the principles of a good social media strategy mirror what successful businesses have always followed, the means to build brand credibility include social media as a major conversation platform. Use them as tools to build a good reputation among your patrons, since it can directly impact your bottom line.

Gopinath Balasundaram
Gopinath Balasundaram

Chief Operating Officer at The Residency Hotels

With 30 years in the hospitality industry, Gopinath Balasundaram has worked in areas such as operations, corporate brand management and creative PR. For 18 years, he has been with The Residency Hotels as Chief Operating Officer, currently responsible for asset management.