Learning Lessons and Moving Forward: The State of Hotel Marketing Today
Thanks to the ever changing nature of digital technology, hotel marketing can often feel like it’s standing on shifting sands. No more was that true than last year, when social media innovations and the fortunes of online review/ booking giants had knock-on effects throughout the industry. So, thanks to the developments of 2016, what should hoteliers be focusing on marketing-wise in 2017…?
It pays to pay on Facebook now – and Messenger’s opened up
Changes implemented by Facebook last year had quite big consequences for businesses that use it as an advertising channel. First off, the social media titan altered its newsfeed algorithm to favour posts made by friends and family over promotional ones made by businesses. Why? Well, we’re talking organic communication posts here; the sort that are free to make. The immediate knock-on effect of this is that, if you’re a hotelier, fewer (potential) visitors will now see such posts you put up; those who do are likely to be those who’ve interacted with your page in the past or do so regularly. And, naturally, the second effect is, like it or not, it’s pushed businesses to pay for more ads on Facebook in order to establish a footprint on the social media channel.
Conversely, another area of possible customer interaction has opened up on Facebook – in the shape of businesses being able to set up chatbots to communicate with people via the site’s Messenger service. What’s so good about this is it offers hotels a chance to improve travellers’ experience at every stage, as it’s an opportunity to reach them and guide them through bookings, as well as to reconnect with customers who may have abandoned bookings. Indeed, it’s relatively easy for a company to create such a Messenger chatbot, so much so they can embed it in their own website, ensuring genuine interconnectivity.
Things suddenly look rocky for TripAdvisor
Having started out a s travel-related review website, TripAdvisor has grown into something much more – indeed, last year it expanded its ‘instant booking’ functionality to enable users, without leaving the site itself, to book rooms in around 500,000 hotels across 11 separate countries, via its hotel/ online travel agency (OTA) partners. However, compared to the previous year, TripAdvisor saw its first-quarter fall by 3% and net-income drop 57% – the reason being the costs necessary to implement and market this additional feature. Moreover, its stock market value nearly halved across 2016. Thus, there’s now speculation it may be in the market for a buy-out, with Internet behemoth Google and discount travel booker Priceline frontrunners. Watch this space.
What should hoteliers do?
For hotels, evolution and change in digital and web-based marketing is nothing new; in fact it’s a constant of doing business nowadays. But how best should hoteliers react to these significant changes – in terms of hotel marketing solutions what should they look to do in 2017 that they didn’t (or did less of) in 2016?
- 1. Target your advertising – the change that Facebook’s implemented to organic posting/ advertising by businesses somewhat changes the social media ballgame for hoteliers; making sure your advertising on Facebook is more targeted then is a must and this means paying for your ads outright or ‘boosting’ your organic posts (for which you’ll also have to pay), as well as targeting them to specific audiences. Actually, redoubling your efforts to keep targeted your posts across all social media (Twitter and Instagram too, for example) is strongly advised.
- 2. Only use new technology if it’s going to work for you – investing time and energy in Facebook’s new Messenger chatbot functionality is a relatively low-risk enterprise as it’s swift and easy to do, but be wary about every new thing that comes along, such as voice-activated booking search services (Alexa Skill); only go (and, of course, pay out) for them if they look worthwhile for your bottom line
- 3. Drive up your direct bookings – wouldn’t it be wonderful if you didn’t have to worry about what’s happening with TripAdvisor and its OTAs because you got the vast majority of your bookings through your own website? By focusing ever more on direct bookings (using effective SEO, social media promotion, good guest reviews and a quality user-friendly booking engine), you can make this a reality. In short then, keep your eye on the real prize!