What Does 2017 Hold for Social Media?

By Robert Rauch Chief Executive Officer, RAR Hospitality | January 29, 2017

It is safe to say that social media and the marketing force that goes into it are here to stay. This is largely due to the space’s ability to continuously evolve. Just 10 years ago Facebook morphed into a mainstream business tool, Twitter arrived, the iPhone exploded on the scene and Android phones followed closely behind. This series of events spurred social growth as platforms began to fulfill needs we didn’t even know we had. Today, the number of major social platforms has reached a stable point but that doesn’t mean that there will not be continued growth in 2017.

There are over 2.5 billion active social media users worldwide. The big four platforms make up the vast majority of these users consisting of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Considering their popularity, you have probably heard of at least one of them but if you are not a frequent user of each then there are numerous changes that have most likely occurred since the last time you logged in. These four social outlets have become a staple of everyday life so it is more important than ever that hoteliers familiarize themselves with these platforms to ensure that we continuously speak our guests’ language. While they once individually filled niche roles in the social world, the features seen across each platform have begun to standardize; a trend we’ll see continue into 2017. Let’s take a look at how each platform has evolved this past year and what we can look forward to in 2017. We’ll then explore some changes that will affect the entire social landscape.

Facebook

The eldest of the featured platforms, Facebook has been known to make significant changes to their product year to year. This past year brought us Facebook Reactions, an expansion on the popular “like” function that allows users to be more expressive with five emojis. Clever marketers have used this function to create polls by assigning certain criteria to each emoji. This promotes engagement with your guests and allows another forum for them to express their opinions. Along with Reactions, Facebook Live was an extremely important evolution to the platform. Video will continue to be king in 2017, especially when it comes to live content. The function allows you to speak directly to your guests and creates a sense of urgency due to it being live. Engagement is key for a successful Live strategy, so create content that promotes your guests to comment as you go.

In an effort to keep up with Snapchat, Facebook acquired a company called Masquerade. Masquerade allows users to record videos and edit them similarly to Snapchat’s filter function. This augmented reality technology has become a huge focus of Facebook alongside their virtual reality efforts. Look for lenses and filters to become an everyday application within Facebook in the near future, furthering the homogenization of the platforms. While virtual reality is still the future, the everyday application for consumers is just not convenient yet which is why it had minimal impact last year. As Facebook continues to develop the technology it will be important for hotels to stay ahead of the curve by being early adopters.

Twitter

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Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.