Facebook and Instagram Remain Key for Hotel Marketing
The marketing landscape has drastically changed in recent years, due in large part to the popularity of social media.
Hotels across the United States have picked up on the trend, tailoring their marketing strategies around online platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.
“Over the past few years, in my opinion, it’s revolutionized the way we have to do our brands’ marketing,” said Sarah Crowe, corporate director of marketing and communications at Twenty Four Seven Hotels. “It’s fundamentally changed the way we connect on a personal level and the way we connect on a business level.”
According to a study done by Pew Research Group, 72% of U.S. adults consume some form of social media on a daily basis, up from 50% in 2011 and 5% in 2005.
With the majority of eyes in the U.S. glued to screens with catered content, the advertising world has also shifted to where consumers consume.
“It’s really about trying to blend it into being an omni-channel environment where you move people from various places … so they can get the full picture of your property or your business,” said Kathryn Barrett, vice president of revenue and digital strategy at Dream Hotel Group. “It’s been an instrumental tool for lifestyle hotels that really need to differentiate themselves from our branded competitors.”
The Strengths of Each Social Media Platform
In order to have effective messaging, companies need to first determine which social media platform is best for growing engagement.
Dustin Soper, corporate social media manager at Spire Hospitality, said Facebook is the starting point when it comes to social media for a hotel, and if that account is successful, the next step is an Instagram account. Facebook’s wide user base and interactive nature make it an ideal resource for businesses.
“Facebook is one of the most effective to use from a guest satisfaction standpoint,” he said. “People will check in using the Facebook app and they’ll say, ‘Oh, my room is great,’ or ‘Oh, they’ve upgraded me to a suite,’ or ‘I didn’t have a good experience at the valet,’ or ‘My hamburger was overdone,’ or something like that. My social media [employees] can get back to the person right away and try to resolve it.”
Crowe said among the hotel social media accounts she manages, Instagram is the most important platform.
“We find that not only is [Instagram] a great way to inspire and highlight what your property has to offer, but we find it a great way to kind of build relationships with concepts and new guests as well,” she said.
Another way Crowe’s team uses Instagram to market its properties is by highlighting the work done by hotel associates. This not only builds a positive company culture, but it also shows travelers that the hotel cares for its employees.
“Today’s travelers want to be associated with — whether it’s sustainable or green efforts or social issues in the world — they want to stay with companies that they feel their values align with,” she said.
Crowe said she is “very active” on LinkedIn to promote the Twenty Four Seven Hotels brand. Whereas the brand’s Instagram and Facebook feeds are more geared toward the traveler, the company’s LinkedIn page is a place to promote business opportunities to potential new hotel owners and job opportunities for those searching for a position, she said.
Perhaps the most popular social media platform today, companies are slowly starting to create more content for TikTok. In 2021, the video-based platform was the most downloaded app globally by a wide margin, eclipsing both Instagram and Facebook by more than 100,000 downloads.
When judging the success of a post, Barrett said she cares more about the number of post shares and comments than likes. She said the main goal of her social media posts is to increase engagement, and the way to do that is to connect with viewers on an emotional level.
Casual, conversational posts such as asking users to weigh in on how they like their eggs done or their go-to brunch order is a way to get engagement in the comments, she said. Posts that give travelers information pertinent to her company’s hotels such as activities to do in the area also get high engagement.
“Those are things people really like to weigh in on. …When it comes to hospitality, people aren’t just booking hotel rooms. They need to book a trip which includes travel, airfare, transportation of some sort,” she said. “When we can put together guides that help them understand not only what they can do at our property or our resorts, but what else they can do locally, what’s happening this weekend … that tends to get a lot of shares as well as likes and saves.”
Allison Montoya, sales manager at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Annapolis in Annapolis, Maryland, said she includes phrases such as “leave your comments below” and “like this post if” to urge social media users to interact with her posts. Another way to expand a post’s reach is to use hashtags to connect their posts with others using the same keywords.
Enticing digital content that garners interest just by the image or video itself is the biggest priority, Crowe said. The goal is to convince a potential traveler that the hotel is a destination worth experiencing based on these posts.
“I think that can go so far today,” she said. “You want to picture yourself there, and you want to be able to visualize yourself in that space and what it would feel like.”
The alluring visual content isn’t the only part of a post that drives engagement, however. Crowe said the visuals coupled with a genuine, personal story that shows a positive guest experience with service is the perfect mix.
“That’s when you get the winner because that’s what people engage with. That’s what they resonate with. They want to see something that’s beautiful, but they also want to know that it’s real,” she said.
Prior to social media, hotel companies had to focus advertisement resources on traditional media outlets such as the internet, newspapers, magazines and billboards. Now, there’s an ability to target the messaging at certain individuals who are more likely to interact with the content, Soper said.
An added bonus to advertising on social media is the ability to track engagement via analytics that break down which ads are performing the best and why, Barrett said.
“We have a lot of control over it. You could put out an advertisement in a magazine, and it’s going to be there as long as people keep circulating it or passing it along, but I can immediately [post] on social media, and you get instantaneous feedback,” she said.
Crowe said there are limitations to a more traditional digital ad. Typically there is a smaller window of time to reel a potential customer in with only a company tagline compared to being able to attract a custom audience on social media.
“In today’s world everybody has, when they’re on the internet, ad blockers turned on. When you can add in paid social media advertising to your custom organic content that you’re creating, that just expands your reach,” she said. “That’s the channel everybody’s in a knack for. It’s easiest to capture attention and to, again, have a more serious engagement with a potential customer.”