How Hotels Can Measure Social Media Success

By Ryan Bifulco Founder & CEO, Travel Spike | October 30, 2011

That is the big question these days. How do I really measure this social media hocus pocus? What is the true value or benefit of social media? How many bookings did it generate? Too bad there are no magic buttons to push for one easy answer. There isn't one tool or one firm that can track and measure every possible social media mention that your hotel obtains. Social media is too vast and too dynamic to pin it down. It does not fit nicely into a certain box or stand still long enough to be properly measured. Social media also likes to mingle with so many other departments and areas of your hotel that measuring it is becoming just as difficult as measuring the impact of your hotel's name or lobby.

Social media influences users to search for your hotel online. So you cannot simply credit search engine marketing with all of those bookings since many users would not even type in your hotel name without first being exposed to it through social media. Social media lives everywhere, so it can be a daunting task to measure TripAdvisor reviews, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, LinkedIn and hundreds of others. What about the 150 million blogs out there? These social outlets all take different forms, so measuring which usually counts on some type of uniform aspects can be challenging. If you think just because you have setup a Google alert for your hotel's name that you will be informed every time anyone mentions your hotel online, then visit our Brooklyn Bridge for sale on eBay.

Social media marketing has become the new branding and awareness. It allows your hotel to get impressions and connect with your customers all year long so that you are considered when they do need to book. I said back in 2007 that I would rather have 1,000 people spend 2 minutes on my site than 10,000 people spend 10 seconds on my site. So the click is becoming less and less important in all aspects of online marketing. Time spent is moving up the charts as a must have metric in your analysis of ROI. Social media is about engagement and interaction with your customers and prospects. This interaction fuels future bookings even offline.

To measure social media you must have a sound methodology and use a variety of measurements that fit your hotel. You must track the social impressions you received in addition to simply bookings. You also might track how many signups you received to your email newsletter. With foursquare and other mobile applications you can track how many check-ins you had since that links the virtual world to the real world. To tally up social media impressions make sure to factor in the viral component of social media. Track the customers or followers of your followers. If you have 25,000 followers, then each time you tweet you are reaching not just your 25,000 but all of your followers that retweeted you. So if 1 of your followers had 100,000 followers and retweeted you, then you would be getting 100,000 social media impressions. This concept is similar to tracking a magazine at a doctor's office which might be read 100 times instead of just 1 time if it was delivered to a household.

Along the same lines, a magazine claims a readership circulation of 1 million even though only half of those people might actually see your ad. The same applies with social media as every follower or fan will not see every post. We need more studies on how many of your followers actually read a particular tweet. Without the actual data it is hard to estimate, but here is an illustration if the data backed up this hunch. One of my Twitter accounts is @journeyPod which was rated as the #7 luxury brand on all of Twitter (not just travel) and currently has about 26,000 followers. I know that from tweeting a good link that is interesting 3 times to my 26,000 followers that I typically see about 200 clicks. So that is 78,000 social media impressions discounted by only 10% of users reading the tweet equals 7,800 users that read it. Then of the 7,800 users that actually saw the decent tweet, about 2.5% of them would click the link which equals about 200 clicks. So if I tweeted 10 times a day then on average all of my followers would see at least one tweet.

I like TweetReach as they try to analyze who is retweeting you and how many followers those people have etc. They are certainly on the right path. Not sure if the free version works differently than the paid service, but my account only showed 45 tweets for the sample size. In reality I had 150 tweets including @replies over the last week (it was a slow week). So you can triple the numbers from TweetReach to see that from my 150 tweets in one week I had about 1 million social media impressions for Twitter.

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