It is essential to focus on social media networks that offer real commercial value, says Jason Munslow, head of ecommerce at Best Western GB
These days it feels like there's a new social network popping up every month and as a hotelier and marketer, it is nigh on impossible to keep up.
We seem to have reached a point where there is enormous peer pressure to have a brand profile on the latest and greatest network but this just leads to branded ghost towns where a stretched social media team cannot keep up. As an operator, you might think, 'I'm on Facebook and Twitter now, isn't that enough?' Quite simply, you cannot be omnipresent and effective, so where should you be?
I often think that if social media were not dressed up in shiny web technology and confusing acronyms, we would have a much easier time refining our approach.
Consider this - there are 50 phones ringing in your hotel; 10% of the calls are your most loyal customers; 30% are prospective customers; 10% are new customers calling to complain and 50% are people who for one reason or another will never buy your product, are never likely to speak kindly of your brand and are simply making noise. Which phones will you pick up? The answer should come quite easily. When you apply this example to social media, it's important that you listen and respond, just as you would on the phone.
You might say it is not as easy as all this; how do you know who is calling? Well, there are tools to help you. Google's Adplanner gives a reasonable estimate of the kind of people using each social network. One such network is Pinterest, the latest hot property, where users "pin" images of things they like, thereby sharing them with other kindred spirits.
If you listened to many of the industry commentators, Pinterest represents a great way to get in front of a female audience. But according to Google the gender split for Pinterest in the US is 82/18 in favour of women, while in the UK it is 62/38 in favour of men. This is because in the UK, the site is full of blokes who work in technology and social media, trying to find a way to exploit the excitement.
But you needn't join these people until the benefits are clear. Your time is overwhelmingly likely to be better spent addressing areas that contribute to your revenue. For instance, Google reviews now influence your rankings for location-based search keywords. This is a direct contributor to a hotel's revenue.
Currently the biggest social media influencer on revenue is TripAdvisor. In the UK, 25% of people visit TripAdvisor before booking a hotel (source: WTM London). This is a clear justification for your time and investment.
Put simply, your decisions about social networks should be driven by information, insight and good commercial sense, just as they would be in any other aspect of your business.