Who Has Time for Social Media Measurement?
By Holly Zoba, Senior VP of Sales - Hospitality, Signature Worldwide
Do you know your popularity index on TripAdvisor or what guests are saying about you on Twitter? With the plethora of social media sites that can positively - and negatively - affect your hotel, it's important to have a clearly defined, manageable plan for social media measurement.
I often wonder if Albert Einstein might have been referring to social media analytics when he said, "Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted."
The great debate continues on how to best measure the results of any social media effort. Just look at the volume of acronyms that have been added to the ROI family. What was historically return on investment is now return on intent, return on interest, return on engagement, return on effort, and on and on.
I have read dozens of articles about how social media shouldn't be measured by traditional methods because it isn't about any kind of return on investment. It is all about reputation management, customer engagement and my favorite tactic used by social media consultants - it doesn't matter what the ROI is, if you don't get involved, you will be left behind - I refer to that as ROFGO - return on fear of getting old! There are many senior managers who don't get social media, but they know they should, so they hire kids who do get it to manage their company's social media efforts because they don't want to appear obsolete.
The quantitative results seems tricky to measure but everyone seems to agree on the value of qualitative returns on social media. Good buzz about your hotel, lots of positive tweets or posts, thousands of likes on your Facebook page, surely that cannot be a bad thing. Increased customer loyalty is another term I see linked with customer interaction on social media channels. So should that be enough? When you search for what people are saying about you, and the majority of the posts are positive, doesn't that enhance your brand and make it more valuable? But what about negative or neutral posts - isn't the old adage any press is good press still true, so even though the posts may not all be in your favor, at least your name is getting out there - PR impressions - doesn't that count?
While there is some truth (and measurement potential) in the qualitative value of social media, ignoring the quantitative component to your social media efforts, because either you can't figure out how to measure, or you just don't have the time, will eventually lead to the demise of your owner's interest in the investment of your social media efforts. Brian Solis recently did a brilliant job of consolidating the thoughts of hundreds of CEOs he has interviewed on the topic of investing in social media:
"If you come to me with a request for budget and resources for social media, to make it a priority for our business, you will lose every time…If you tie social media to our business priorities and objectives and demonstrate how engagement will enable progress, you will win every time. Social media must be an enabler to our business, just show me how." After working with hotel owners for over 25 years, I know this to be true. They will initially invest in a new thing, give it a chance, but over time, if there isn't a financial return, it is going away. Remember the mini bars? Once the rage, every hotel had to have them, and eventually most operators couldn't figure out how to make them profitable and so they lost their popularity fast. They still exist in some properties - because those properties figured out in some way those mini bars were in some tangible way contributing to the hotel's business objectives.
The same will have to become true of social media. It is new, it is ever evolving, but it is neither impossible nor unrealistic to measure a traditional return on investment for your social media investment.
The key, like any other investment, is figuring out what components of social media can contribute to your individual property or brand business metrics. There will be both short term and long term benefits and hotels will only be successful in this arena if they take the time up front to identify business strategies, and tangible measurements to determine if those strategies are working or not.
Theoretically, that makes sense, but how does it really work? And how can an individual hotel or group of hotels manage both the execution and measurement of the process? I am fortunate in that I spend a lot of time listening and learning from hotels that have begun to enjoy some tangible, measurable rewards from their social media efforts and I will share the strategies I have seen with the best returns.
1. TripAdvisor Popularity
Most of the hotels we work with have begun their social media strategy on this review site and the results are generally significant. As an example, we work with one property that had the simplest strategy for social media I have seen - go from #3 to #1 in their market on TripAdvisor. Department heads got together, created a strategy to make this happen and not only were they successful, their RevPar in the last two years has never been higher. They saw their market share increase steadily as they moved up only two places on TripAdvisor. How did they go about it? Of course, they worked on the basics - delivering great customer service and eliminating as many guest dissatisfiers as they could, but they also worked on increasing the number of positive reviews they received. They began asking guests as they were checking out to post on TripAdvisor, took advantage of the free perks that TripAdvisors offers like paper flyers you can hand across the front desk requesting a review, set up a QR code that linked guests directly to their TripAdvisor page to make it easier for guests to comment. They set up Google alerts so they instantly knew when a review was posted and they responded to the reviews immediately. They posted photos and videos on their TripAdvisor page. In short, they created a business plan and executed it, and the returns were measurable and significant.
2. Create Specific Campaigns
In any marketing endeavor, you determine a target audience, try to reach that audience with an offer that is appealing to that audience and find a way to communicate it. We have seen both complex strategies and very simple strategies around this effort pay off. One simple example, a property wanted to increase their happy hour business so they began tweeting a word of the day - say that word, get a free appetizer during happy hour. Of course, they didn't only start tweeting, they created a marketing campaign around it - making it fun, using a holistic approach, which means using some traditional marketing efforts along with the social component - in this case posting flyers throughout the hotel to figure out the word of the day. The front desk talked about it with guests, even the housekeeping staff got involved and would share the "tip" to go on Twitter to guests they ran into. The result - over six months, a 65 percent increase in happy hour revenue.
3. Find Your Niche
One very smart hotel figured out that getting their hotel guests to "like" them on their Facebook page wasn't getting them much of a return and taking a lot of effort. They started researching and experimenting a bit and discovered that they could increase their wedding business by getting other wedding vendors to like their Facebook page and speak directly to them about their successful weddings. Their vague get more "likes" goal became a targeted get more wedding vendor likes, post content that is appealing to that audience, get them to engage and referrals increased - as did wedding business.
A frequent point I hear - and it is a true one - social media is not meant for "selling" but for "sharing", is true. It is also true in the offline world. People don't like salespeople because they don't like to be sold. They feel pressured and are annoyed by them. However, they sure do like to buy. We have trained this in our offline world of sales for years and the same has certainly proven to be true online. Taking a consultative role as a salesperson, works in the offline world and the same holds true in the online social world. Provide valuable, credible information for your prospects and they will buy. Position yourself as a salesperson making offer after offer on your Facebook page and they will flee.
My message here is a simple one - without figuring out how to contribute to your hotel's business objectives, social media is not worth your time. If you can spend some time identifying some measurable strategies that are in alignment with your overall hotel goals, you can in fact recognize a true ROI - return on investment.
Holly Zoba is Senior Vice President of Sales for the Hospitality Division of Signature Worldwide, the leading provider of training solutions for the hospitality industry. Ms. Zoba has more than 20 years of sales and marketing management experience in the hospitality industry and is responsible for managing Signature Worldwide’s sales effort by determining best-fit solutions for hoteliers — helping them improve customer service and increase revenue. Ms. Zoba can be contacted at 614-766-5101 or email@example.com Extended Bio...
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