By Erin Whitlock Brown, Social Media Manager, Valor Hospitality Partners
From MySpace through TikTok, social media has evolved rapidly from a platform for photo sharing and connecting with friends to one with significant ability for businesses to connect with consumers. As quickly as platforms and capabilities have changed, so too have the strategies for brands to leverage each platform to the best of their abilities.
Entering 2023, brands can build relationships with consumers like never before. Gone are the days of static digital ads hoping to grab the attention of a casual scroller or print advertisements wedged in magazines. Now, brands can connect with consumers on a personal level, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Social media’s influence on purchasing power is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, brands can develop a digital identity – a personality – to foster a relationship with buyers likening to friendship, where trust, consistency and reliability is at the core. On the other hand, even just one bad review or negative interaction has the power to obliterate brand loyalty altogether.
In hospitality, hotels and restaurants have a unique opportunity to reach consumers at varying stages of the sales cycle – from tenured loyal followers to those at the forefront of researching future travel. A strong, streamlined social strategy is imperative for hotels to stay competitive in their markets.
Here are five ways to connect with audiences and leverage social media in 2023.
Know which platform (or platforms) work best for your brand.
Entering 2023, there are numerous social media platforms available for brands to leverage: LinkedIn is great for business-to-business networking and employee recruitment; Facebook utilizes ad targeting; Twitter is frequently used by media and is great for disseminating information quickly; Instagram is visually appealing and great for streamlined branding; TikTok is a playful platform for video content; and even BeReal, a newcomer committed to authentic photo sharing, is emerging as another opportunity for brands to connect with consumers.
With all of these social media platforms at your disposal, it’s important for brands to not spread themselves too thin. You don’t have to be on all the channels. Find the right ones that work for your audience and focus on managing those well. Quality management also encompasses feedback, which should never be ignored. It’s shocking how many reviews go unanswered by hotels on popular travel review sites, when replying to reviews is a great way to further engage with customers. Publicly acknowledging guests for visiting the property and thanking them for sharing their experiences is a surefire way to help spark repeat visits and brand loyalty.
So how do you know which platforms to utilize? There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but generally, Facebook and Instagram are both a must. Facebook is a must due to user demographics. With nearly 2.45 billion active monthly users, its effectiveness is undeniable. Hotel brands can tap into niche groups, successfully manage social CX, share and promote on-property happenings and more. Instagram continues to be a game changer for the hospitality industry. It’s not only a space to curate a visually engaging aesthetic, but also frequently used as a resource for researching products and services (hello, popular travel destinations for 2023!).
With each channel having different strengths and capabilities, content strategy should vary based on what performs best for each individually. Video continues to top the list as one of the most relevant types of social media content across channels and can include short-form, lives, how-to’s and tutorials and many more. If you want to get in front of customers (and give yourself a fighting chance at understanding the algorithm), video content is where it’s at.
Understand and leverage the algorithm.
As mentioned, there are a variety of platforms at the disposal of hoteliers and hotel brands, and each one has its own secret rulebook (or ‘algorithm’). In 2023, channels will continue to prioritize content shown to users based on that channel’s various ranking signals. This can include a myriad of factors like interactions, location, language, content type, people you follow, post quality and more, but one thing is for certain: engagement will always serve as a key ranking signal that every channel will use to prioritize what appears in your feed.
The algorithm for each platform is frequently changing, meaning a piece of content that goes viral one week may not perform well weeks later. Unfortunately, social media platforms don’t often announce algorithm changes, leaving social media strategists with a fun guessing game. Staying up to date on announced or perceived changes is imperative, and tapping social media experts who understand how to follow a tried-and-true social media strategy will help keep brand pages consistently growing and performing.
Connect with followers every step of the sales cycle.
Hospitality has a lengthy sales cycle, often beginning at daydreaming and continuing through planning, taking the trip, returning home and becoming loyal to the brand. This presents an opportunity to connect with the consumer every step of the way.
During planning, make human connections by highlighting standout employees in fun and interesting ways. This gives users an idea of who they might interact with while staying at the property. Highlight the value proposition, whether that is a great cocktail program in the onsite food and beverage outlets, a luxe spa or personal care items included in guest rooms. Or, consider spotlighting unique or localized experiences, like local artwork found in the hotel, craft beers carried from a local brewery, regional farms or farmers markets used for sourcing culinary items, noteworthy pet policies or in-house activations with musicians or artists. Any activations onsite not only promote tourism, but also help the property connect with locals who may be interested in visiting.
During booking, social media is an opportunity to provide high-quality customer service through convenient, quick and thorough engagement. Social managers should be poised to answer pre-booking questions via public-facing comments and direct messages, create strong calls to action to guide users quickly and easily through the booking process and by creating content around FAQs to anticipate traveler questions.
During a guest’s stay, there are a number of ways a social media manager can add value to the guest experience. It’s important to respond in real time while staying at your property; repost positive experiences in the moment; ask via messages if there is anything you can do to make their stay more comfortable; and develop SLAs for responding to guest inquiries quickly and appropriately. Communicating during the stay is also a great opportunity to ask for a review. While TripAdvisor is not considered a “traditional” social media channel, it is an extremely popular site for guests to share travel experiences (good and bad) and can be repurposed for your social content mix.
Keep up with ever-changing trends.
COVID-19 changed every aspect of modern life, including how people live, work and of course, travel. In 2023, we will continue to see exploration of the digital nomad (those not confined to traditional office spaces) thanks to remote work opportunities. In addition, brands are likely to further incorporate wellness and mental health-focused resources into their offerings. For instance, at Kimpton Hotels, you’ll find yoga mats in every guest room, and they offer 1,000 complimentary video therapy sessions with licensed counselors through a partnership with an online therapy company, Talkspace. This service is available to any guest staying at one of their 60 participating properties. This is huge for say, avid business travelers seeking ways to decompress.
While these trends may be implemented on the property level, it’s imperative to appropriately promote and market any unique offerings on social media. Just like tapping into trending audio helps boost views when sharing video content, sharing any unique takes on industry trends helps differentiate from the comp set.
Continue to build your audience while engaging your existing followers.
When it comes to continuing to grow an audience while sharing quality content, consistency is key. Developing a posting cadence based on the best days and times your followers are online and active helps content be prioritized. When it comes to content strategy, use your analytics to create content users actually want to see. If you find that certain content themes (i.e.: cocktail program highlights, lifestyle imagery, weddings and events or carousel dumps) consistently perform well over others, create content pillars around these topics when building out content calendars. This will not only keep the target audience engaged, but it’s also a strategic way to avoid the dreaded “what do I post on social?” dilemma that social marketers can face.
Audience growth is equally important, and a few key methods are necessary to leverage. First, be sure to engage with content creators to further spread awareness about your brand. Creator marketplaces make it easier for brands now to discover talent and develop opportunities for collaboration, thus introducing your brand to a wider audience. Second, make your (social media) presence known by integrating your social media feeds on your website’s homepage. Repost/reshare content across other channels where you have an active presence.
Lastly, continue to tap into trends to reach potential followers, like tapping into short-form video using trending audio and high-quality video footage (or high-resolution static imagery that can repurposed into video format) to make your posts more engaging. And be sure to tap into any pop culture moments to highlight the brand’s personality.
While developing a social strategy and staying up to date on trends can seem daunting, a well-executed social media presence can be an incredibly valuable asset for hoteliers. Make it fun. Make it relatable. And make sure it’s of-the-moment!
In hospitality, hotels and restaurants have a unique opportunity to reach consumers at varying stages of the sales cycle through social media – from tenured loyal followers to those at the forefront of researching future travel. A strong, streamlined social strategy is imperative for hotels to stay competitive in their markets. Discover five ways to connect with audiences and leverage social media in 2023.