Selecting the Right Channel for the Right Message in Social Media Marketing
By Hilary Murphy Professor & Researcher, Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne, HES-SO//University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland | February 19, 2012
Both academic and industry research shows that social media has an impact on the consumers' decision-making in relation to travel and hotel decisions and marketers are investing heavily in social media channels to reach customers. Though social media marketing $$ spend is comparatively conservative, time spent on constructing presence and customer communication is not!
Social media and user generated content which are considered most relevant to the hotel sector are; commercial review sites (eg Tripadvisor), Social Networks (Facebook), Supplier Sites (Hotel websites, destination websites) and content communities (Youtube, Flickr) The information on the different categories of social media exert influence at various stages of buyer behaviour (awareness, information seeking, evaluating alternative, purchase and post purchase evaluation).... all of which leads to challenges and opportunities for marketing decision makers i.e. which channel, what message, when and how to use social media?
There are many different types of user generated content/social media sites e.g. social networking sites (e.g. Facebook), collaborative projects (e.g. Wikipedia), blogs and microblogs (e.g. Twitter), content communities (e.g. Youtube), virtual game worlds (e.g. World of Warcraft) and virtual social worlds (e.g. Second Life) plus other specific websites related to the hospitality sector e.g. commercial review sites (e.g. TripAdvisor) and hotel related blogs such as hotelchatter not to mention location based systems (e.g foursquare). In 2011, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs were the top four social media sites used for marketing. Social media channels vary by country and regions, all customers do not use Facebook! In Holland, Hyves is a popular social media channel, in China renren and SinaWeibo are more popular, whereas in Germany the StudiVZ Group is still a market leader.
Customers utilise these platforms of social media in different contexts and for different reasons. Companies need to understand the motivations and contexts to effectively adapt their marketing strategy to these various platforms which supply a variety of content which include facts, rankings and opinions in text, video and image formats.
Social media channel choice is also heavily influenced by overall "trip planning behaviour", e.g. the length of time spent planning their trip in advance, internet usage, booking frequency and the number of trips taken per year. Our research shows that the earlier that an individual starts planning and the fewer trips they make per year, the more likely they are to consider subject specific blogs and forums, in preference to social media or review sites, in their trip planning. Hotels can launch content on these platforms targeted for early stages of buying and then direct customers to property specific content during their planning process. Though we cannot drive the customers' internet journey we can guide (and track) them, particularly if our own website is a port of call.
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