News for the Hospitality Executive
January 2010 - Ever since social media arrived on the scene there has been speculation that it would be the death of e-mail. Some claim that e-mail is on the decline, and it is the old way of communicating. That is not exactly the case. E-mail marketing is not threatened by social media, in fact it is the home base of all accounts, it drives social web activity, and can work in sync with social media to increase its overall message reach and engagement. We will discuss if social media has affected e-mail usage, explain why your hotel should use the two in conjunction, and give you some tips on how to use the two tactics together.
There have been many research studies aimed at finding out which is the most popular online activity, e-mail or social media. These reports have had conflicting results. The Nielsen Company released a report in March 2009 which revealed that social networks/blogs rated 4th in the most popular online activity – ahead of personal e-mail.1 However, other reports reveal the opposite, such a September 2009 report from Pew Research which revealed that on an average day, 58% of internet users send or read e-mail, as opposed to the 27% who use social networking sites.2
This is not to say that internet users use only e-mail or social media sites, as many people use both. So the next question is, does the use of social media decrease e-mail usage? The Nielson Company speculated that it would, and set up a research study to prove their hypothesis. However the results of this experiment, released in September 2009, revealed that social media use makes people consume e-mail more, not less, as they had originally assumed.3 Below is a chart of their findings on how many minutes low, medium, and high social media consumers spent on e-mail over the course of a year.
This chart reveals that social media doesn’t decrease e-mail usage. E-mail is actually a driver of social web activity and the currency of all social media accounts. Most people who use social media sites have their settings set so that they will be notified by e-mail when there is activity on their social media sites. People who participate in social media may also make new connections, and once the initial contact is made, they often move their communication to e-mail.
Why should your hotel combine social media with e-mail marketing?
“The use of e-mail in social networks will be one of the biggest challenges for direct marketers. Over the next five years, marketers must bridge the gap between social and traditional inboxes with social sharing tools,” states David Daniels, Forrester Research Vice President.4 This challenge is here now. Your hotel can improve the reach and engagement of your messages by combining e-mail with social media. Below is an outline of why your hotel should use the two together.
• You can listen to your audience and develop your e-mail campaign accordingly
Before you speak, you should listen in social media. What are people saying about your hotel, your competition, your city, or travel in general? This could affect the type of message you want to send. For example you might learn that people are talking about an offer from your competition i.e. a hotel package that includes a free ski pass. You can then beat their offer by offering a free ski pass and a free spa treatment.
• Social media comments now appears in search
Social media comments now appear in the search engine results pages which will increase your online visibility and drive more traffic to your website. Google has also added a real-time search feature which streams tweets and articles. Obviously you would never send out daily e-mails, but it is perfectly acceptable to send out daily Tweets which will reinforce your message and create a stronger presence in the search engine results pages.
• Social media can help your message go viral
Social media has a strong viral component and can help your message be transmitted to new audiences. It is important to build up your fans in Facebook and followers on Twitter. Encourage your fans and followers to send your message to their network.
• Social media can reinforce your message
A message that is seen various times will help your audience retain it. You can promote your offer through social media but it should be a softer version than the e-mail campaign, as most people don’t particularly like to be sold to on social media sites. You could also use social media to send out ‘teasers’ of upcoming offers. Social Media can be used to create awareness, and e-mail can be used to solidify a message or encourage a call-to-action.
• Social media allows for real-time, two-way communication
Contrary to e-mail, your fans and followers have the option to respond to your message with questions or comments in social media. This can build trust and develop relationships with your audience.
• Social media allows you to communicate at point-of-need
Often travelers will tweet to their followers that they are going to a certain city and ask if anyone can recommend a hotel for them. If you listen in social media you can catch this, and immediately send a tweet back saying you’d love to have them at your hotel. Tweetbeep is a free tool that will allow you to receive alerts on the words you choose. You could choose to be alerted whenever your city is mentioned in conjunction with the word ‘hotel’.
Tips on using social media and e-mail marketing together
• Co-ordinate your messages and have clear calls-to-actions
Don’t just rush into sending an e-mail out and then tweeting about it. Think about what your message is, and how you can communicate it to your audience most effectively. For example you could develop a social media campaign to generate interest in an upcoming promotion, and then send an e-mail with more details. Co-ordinate your messages and have clear calls-to-action.
• Follow a communication flow
Follow a communication flow and send e-mails to individuals, not one-size fits all mass mailings. For example if someone has inquired about your hotel meeting space, or your wedding services, or your spa, you know they have purchasing intent and you can send emails with specific information, reviews, and offers about that particular segment. Once a guest has booked at your hotel, you could send them e-mails with more details.
You can also send direct messages to your audience on Twitter and let them know you are there to answer any questions they may have. Social media allows you to communicate with your guest before, during, and after their stay with you. Listen to what individuals are saying on their own social media sites to learn more about them. The more information you have about your audience, the more targeted your e-mails can become.
• Put social media links on your e-mail signature
Add icons to your e-mail signature that link to your social media sites. By doing so, you encourage your contacts, through your daily communication, to follow you on Twitter or become a fan of your Facebook page.
• Add Share With Your Network (SWYN) links
Add links on your e-mail campaigns that make it easy for recipients to share your message with their own networks. Most marketers are familiar with the Forward to a Friend (FTAF) feature, but many users may prefer to share your message through their social media sites because it is often easier than sorting through e-mail addresses. Many e-mail service providers include a sharing option that allows your e-mail subscribers to share your message with their friends or followers. The key to motivate people to share your message is good content.
• Promote e-mail with social media and vice versa
You can use e-mail to encourage people to sign up for your social media sites and use your social media sites to encourage followers and fans to sign up to receive your e-mails.
• Create profiles on your audience and learn what social media sites they use
Keep a database of the e-mail address of those who have chosen to opt-in. Create profiles of each person and track if they also follow you on Twitter or are fans of your Facebook page. You can conduct this research yourself or there are also tools available such as Forrester’s Social Technology Profile Tool5 which can help you identify where your target audience is online.
• Measure success
It is very important to measure the success of your campaigns to see what is working and what isn’t. Use Google Analytics to track your social media campaigns. There are many free tools available such as Twitter Analyzer which can help you keep track of shared links. For a longer list of tools see the blog post, ‘16 Ways to Track Links Shared on Twitter or Friendfeed’ by Chris Martin.6
You can also measure the success of your social media campaign by creating a Bit.ly account which is a free link shortener. You can use the shortened links in your tweets and then track how many times your link was shared.
• Incorporate social media in your offline campaigns
Incorporate social media in all your offline campaigns by letting your audience know that they can follow you on Twitter and become a fan of your Facebook page. You may even give them an incentive to sign up. For example if you send a direct mail piece about weddings at your hotel you could then offer a discount on a spa service for brides-to-be who opt to follow you on Twitter. They could enter a special code and you could track the effectiveness of the campaign. You could then follow up with a more personalized e-mail.
Future Trends in E-Mail Marketing
In summary, e-mail marketing is still a very effective way to reach your audience and it is not being replaced by social media. However, it is no longer a stand-alone effort and should work together with SEO, PPC, Social Media, and Traditional Marketing. Many companies are increasing their e-mail marketing campaigns for 2010. Forrester Research forecasts that spending on e-mail marketing is growing in the low double-digits annually, and could hit 2 billion by 2014. They predict that each of us will be receiving about 9,000 e-mail marketing messages a year.4
Below is a chart from the Center for Media Research that shows the type of media marketers are aiming to include in their 2010 Plans.7
It is very important that you send only relevant messages to people who have opted-in to receive your e-mails or you may be losing money. Forrester Research Vice President David Daniels claims that, “by 2014 direct marketers will waste $144 million on e-mails that never reach their primary target.”
Hotels need to become very strategic with their e-mail marketing campaigns going forward. Take a step back and look at your own e-mail campaigns. Ask yourself the following questions:
If you answered no to any of these questions, we suggest you include these tactics in your new year’s resolutions. You do not have to include everything at once. Start by taking baby steps. Any improvements you can make to your e-mail marketing / social media campaign will pay off and put you ahead of your competition.
1 Social Networks & Blogs Now 4th Most Popular Online Activity
2 Pew Internet & American Life Project
3 Is Social Media Impacting How Much We Email?
4 Forrester Forecast: US E-Mail Marketing Spending to Reach 2 Billion in 2014
5 Forrester’s Social Technology Profile Tool
6 16 Ways to Track Links Shared on Twitter or Friendfeed
7 Percentage of Marketers who Aim to Include the Following Media in 2010 Plans
If you would like to learn more about how you can improve your hotel’s e-mail marketing campaigns please call us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
O’Rourke Hospitality Marketing
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