Integrating Social Media Throughout the Consumer Lifecycle
From Looking to Booking and Beyond
By Maury F. Lundahl Senior Director, Distribution Strategy, Choice Hotels International | February 16, 2014
Is social media truly a distinct marketing channel OR is it simply an amplification opportunity encompassing a hotel's entire portfolio of marketing activities? How does social media integrate at every stage of the consumer travel lifecycle: from looking to beyond booking? How can hotels use social media to stay top of mind at all times, from awareness to consideration, and purchase through retention? And finally, how can hotels create a strategy that seamlessly integrates across all marketing functions to create repeatable, successful social media practices that span the entire consumer travel lifecycle? According to PhoCusWright, the number of consumers using social media networks during the travel booking process has grown from 9% to 12% from 2010 to 2012. Considering that social networking reaches nearly 1 in 4 people around the world, it's undeniable that social media plays an important role in our industry as more than just an awareness channel.
Let's start with the awareness phase of the consumer lifecycle. Social media is the ultimate vehicle for generating and facilitating word of mouth, particularly during the critical awareness phase, when the consumer is considering a variety of destinations and hotel brands. There are many ways hotels can use social media to drive awareness, but integrating with existing marketing and promotional partnerships is one of the more effective ways.
For example, Choice Hotels recently partnered with the Travel Channel to create a travel hub called "Smart Travel for Less." While the campaign started as a traditional marketing relationship, Choice saw social media as an ideal place to crowd source tips from fans and followers around the concept of traveling for less. Many fans contributed tips, which were turned into graphics and shared across various social media channels. In order to drive awareness of the campaign and gather more tips, Choice ran a Facebook promoted post. This not only gave Choice more content to share with our community throughout the rest of the summer, but also gave the company an opportunity to recognize its fans.
In another example, the Choice social media team created uniquely branded posts, such as "Through Another Lens," that are meant to engage and inspire fans, challenging them to guess what destination is featured in each photo and giving hints that relate to nearby Choice properties. Understanding that valuable content is key to using social media to drive awareness, hotels can implement a variety of activities designed to engage consumers including creating articles that provide relevant, helpful local information to inspire travelers. This type of content can be featured on a hotel's website which, in addition to providing SEO benefits, can be used as a traffic driver from key social media channels where the articles can be promoted
Property content can also be used to drive awareness. From seasonal photos to local events to awards and recognition, hotels shouldn't take for granted the assets readily available, at little to no additional cost. Social media represents a great opportunity for finding unique and new ways to share basic hotel information with potential consumers. Another example of how brands can repurpose existing assets within social media is the Sleep Inn® Designed to Dream® program. The brand decided to take the already popular on-property items, like printed dream tips in the hotel room, and turn them into digital assets to post on social media.