The Ever Changing Game of Social Media Advertising
By Robert M. Cornell Senior Vice President of Development, Preferred Hotels & Resorts | February 07, 2016
Social media influencers are changing the way hotels and hotel brands are promoting themselves in the digital era. In years past, hoteliers could simply consult a short list of available options to promote their products through paid advertising media. Moving beyond the local newspaper, a GDS terminal sign-in message could offer a "point of sale" purchase that directly targeted travel influencers. At the same time, paid consumer advertising meant print space in Conde Nast Traveler or The New York Times travel section. Advertisers could tally the number of impressions the publication declared through the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) that supported their advertising line rates.. Fast forwarding to the present, surveys say that the new consumer is less trusting of traditional advertising and more apt to be influenced by a colleague, friend, neighbor, or a recognized opinion leader with a strong social media following. While this emergence of new dominant channels has caused hotels and hotel brands to rethink the way they promote through social media, hoteliers shouldn't be too quick to look for a spike in reservations, as this new approach to online promotion is much more complex and presents a separate set of risk inherent options.
In this present online environment, it has been said the number of "Likes" a company receives is an indication that the paid ads bought on Facebook are having a real impact. But, do "Likes" translate into bookings? Quantifying social advertising is still an iffy proposition. "Likes" show active engagement with a brand, and a click-through is real engagement where the reader/viewer has decided to leave the page to interface with the brand and find out more.
While there may be few bookings attributed to a paid social media campaign, the seller and the buyer will remain boastful about the number of views, which is a similar mindset to calculating impressions realized from a paid magazine ad. In both cases, it is near impossible to quantify results, and the cost of media can be high when compared to other marketing tools at our disposal.
With the emergence of new dominant channels, large hotel brands as well as independent hoteliers are incorporating social media promotions into their marketing plans. At issue, however, are the method and, more importantly, the medium selected. Compared to a small roster of online publications and GDS advertising channels five years ago, there are now thousands of would-be endorsers claiming to have authenticity and a significant consumer impact. Will the next channel to emerge be a utopian alternative? It's anybody's guess. Hotel marketers must figure out how to work effectively with an evolving menu of choices for tomorrow's marketing meeting.
Organic vs. Paid. Is there a Best Approach?
Organic social media promotion is a result of articles, comments, and reviews written by an expert recognized for their editorial clout, the quality of their recommendations and the integrity they command from experience and referrals. Messages and images are personalized by the author and spread across popular social networks and picked up or re-posted by other endorsers. It is not always clear to the consumer that the message they are reading may be the result of an engagement between a brand and the influencer.
Paid social media advertising utilizes "established" online media like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to juxtapose a link when a user searches for hotel accommodations. These media buys are employed and set over a pre-determined amount of time as banner ads or pop ups, along with optimized listings whenever a subject is searched. The host site can track the number of unique visitors generated as a result of the placement. It is very clear to the consumer that these endorsements are paid for directly by the brand.