News for the Hospitality Executive
December 22, 2011
IN-DEPTH: For any social media strategy to deliver desired results, one needs to understand all of this "actually takes time and commitment”. Its effectiveness is tightly related to how it is being used, says Barbara Pezzi, Director of Analytics & Search Optimization, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International.
A critical step towards measuring Social Media success and making sense of the measures is to have defined objectives from the outset. These will help determine what one needs to measure, and what defines success.
And it is also equally important to evaluate how to go about social media marketing– how much to control within an organization and if being outsourced, then how much reliance on such external partners in order to make the most of such efforts. Some travel companies believe that they know their guests/ passengers best and want their culture and brand attributes to come through naturally to customers on social platforms. For others, it could be better to outsource if social media is not a natural extension of how you have typically operated with your customers as a brand. In addition to this, travel companies have to approach it as an ongoing initiative considering that social media belongs to a dynamic space.
Despite doing all of this, practically speaking one needs to understand that all of this “actually takes time and commitment”, as Barbara Pezzi, Director of Analytics & Search Optimization, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International says.
“(Social media's) Its effectiveness is tightly related to how it is being used, rather than any inherit fault with the channel itself,” says Pezzi, who is scheduled to speak at the forthcoming Social Media and Mobile Strategies for Travel USA 2012, to be held in San Francisco (March 5-6) next year.
As Pezzi explained in an interview with EyeforTravel earlier this year, marketers shouldn't be obsessed with the amount of followers or fans. The metrics and KPIs are to be related to the chosen business goals. There are some “standard “metrics, but in most cases each organization will need its own unique list of metrics. The goal is not measuring for the sake of measuring or reporting, but to gain actionable insights to help you achieve your business goals.
According to Pezzi, there are three main types of metrics: Revenue/Business Development (sales, average order value, request for proposals, etc.), Cost Savings (recruitment savings, online media mentions vs PR agency fees, online customer support vs call center fees, etc..) and then a set of typically qualitative metrics, be it share of voice, brand awareness, NPS (Net Promoter Score) and so on, which should ideally be benchmarked before you start your social media efforts, for pre/post comparisons. The latter group is very relative. If you cannot measure your NPS, focus on what you can measure and makes sense to you, based on the tool and resources you have available.
Pezzi spoke to EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta about ROI pertaining to social media in 2011 in detail. Excerpts:
A recent global study indicated that brands must harness digital more carefully if they are to use it to their advantage and deepen relationships with customers and prospects. It added that businesses are wasting time and money trying to reach people online without realizing many resent big brands invading their social networks. How do you assess the situation from efficiency perspective?
I have seen the study in question and do agree with most of it. There is a certain tendency to follow suit and just embark on a strategy because everyone is talking about it without really thinking it through. However, this applies to everything, not just social media. The same could be said about display, email or even pay per click. A badly planned and executed search campaign could be an even worse waste of time and money, with thousands of dollars being spent bringing unsuitable traffic to a website. No business is the same and it is important to carefully analyze target audiences and actual customer base and demographics, before investing in any marketing campaign, and then to continue analyzing and optimizing during and post execution. What will work for one company might not necessarily work for another, even if they are in the same business.
Taking for example two hotels with the same star rating and in the same location: one has a boutique design minimalist interior, appeals to a certain crowd and mostly relies on leisure business, while the other has a very traditional feel, has a number of corporate accounts and again will attract a different clientele. These two properties will need different online strategies, as their targeted client base will not in principle have the same online behavior.
Earlier this year you told me, the KPI selection might require some creative thinking, but this is an essential part of the planning process each company should go through before they even create their Twitter/Facebook page. Can you share what sort of “creativity” have you seen in this arena?
It is encouraging to see that this is still a very highly debated topic and it has not gone “out of fashion”. Articles and posts are written about it on a daily basis, in addition to a number of books which have been published on the subject. In general, I think most business now understand that they need to invest the time to plan what they want to achieve from their social media activities, before they even start selecting the picture of their Facebook profile. These goals should be a combination of traditional business KPIs together with some social media related KPIs such as reach or even churn rate. In terms of “creativity”, it is important not to get carried away. I have seen some made up calculations like the monetary value of a fan or a Facebook like, completely useless and highly inaccurate in most cases. When in doubt, stick to what would make sense to your CFO.
When it comes to ROI, would it be appropriate to say that the travel industry is still struggling? Or metrics such as direct traffic to sites, sales, leads etc. are encouraging enough to say there is a marked improvement?
Probably, but not for lack of trying. Especially in the hotel sector, we are even more determined to calculate ROI, since we are traditionally resource strapped. Many hotels, especially independent properties, will have small marketing budgets and just one or two marketing staff, if any, so every penny and every activity must go a long away. The issue mainly lies in not having the resources trained to correctly use and set up analytics tools, technical barriers such as external check out pages which cannot be accurately tagged and lack of internal support in investing in the right people and tools. I think this is slowly changing, but admittedly, not fast enough.
Earlier this year you also told me there are three main types of metrics: Revenue/Business Development, Cost Savings and then a set of typically qualitative metrics, be it share of voice, brand awareness, NPS (Net Promoter Score) and so on, which should ideally be benchmarked before you start your social media efforts, for pre/post comparisons. What has been the major learning for you in this regard?
Never assume. This was not a learning unique to social media, but it was definitely more evident in this field. Some posts and tweets performed much better or worse than expected, which was a great insight in understanding what language and content resonates the most. Some initiatives, even if planned in great detail, did not produce the financial results one might have expected, while others did incredibly well. Sharing results on a frequent basis and providing training in interpreting the data definitely helped in motivating the relevant teams to remember to tag all the posts and landing pages.
Finally, keeping record of activities and looking at the overall picture is definitely essential. In many cases, a specific social media activity might have produced “x” amount of traffic from that social media channel, but at times there were overall lifts from other channels, like search, which could be correlated back to that social media campaign. It is important to do a full analysis rather than just focus on the obvious reports/data.
Social Media and Mobile Strategies for Travel USA 2012
Barbara Pezzi is scheduled to speak at the forthcoming Social Media and Mobile Strategies for Travel USA 2012, to be held in San Francisco (March 5-6) next year.
For more info, click here
EyeforTravel is a leading business intelligence provider for the online travel and tourism industry. As well as providing some of the most in-depth research into global online travel markets and trends, EyeforTravel produces a series of senior executive travel conferences on a diverse range of topics including travel distribution, online marketing, social media, mobile and revenue management. For more information visit www.eyefortravel.com.
London, UK: +44 (0)207 375 7197
US Toll Free: 1 800 814 3459 ext. 7197
& Hospitality Brands Need to Make Mobile a Top Priority for 2012
/ December 2011