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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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.