News for the Hospitality Executive
| By Ritesh
IN-DEPTH : Social media isn’t in its infancy anymore. Rather it’s time to be meticulous. It is imperative to work on business goals and strategy, and post this only one can select the relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) which will then be tracked to measure social media marketing success.
With companies, including ones from the travel sector, starting to measure the social media ROI in several ways, social media marketing is becoming an integral part of Internet marketing. Like all aspects of marketing, one should define why resources are being allocated for social media and the same will determine which aspects may fit best an organisation’s needs.
There is no denying that social media is a great engagement tool to reach customers, especially in terms of how they want to be reached.
Be it for setting up own metrics to working on monthly reports to evaluate exposure and revenue generated through such efforts, the talk about social media marketing is much more meaningful now.
From queries like “Why should I be concerned about social media and how will I benefit from social media elements?” to follow-up questions like “How should I go about optimising for social media and measure ROI?”, which were asked quite often earlier, the hospitality industry seems to have made steady progress in this arena. All this seems to be a welcome change from a sceptical outlook that used to be associated till last year. Even till a few months ago, the efficacy of social media as a tool for customer service and sales platform was being questioned.
Assessing the situation, Justin Reid, Head of Digital and Social Media, VisitBritain, says, “I think too many people are forgetting what “social media” stands for, and just because it appears in a digital format it should be based solely around sales.”
“People should focus more on the actual “media” part and place the emphasis on “social” – if the BBC were to run a one-hour documentary on a destination, no one would be complaining about it not being a sales platform or how can we accurately measure ROI –instead we’d shake them warmly by the hand and say “thank you very much,” said Reid.
“This is what we are trying to do with VisitBritain’s social media platforms – inspire consumers everyday, not try and sell to them everyday, but when they are ready to buy, they’ll already be inspired about Britain and know where to come,” explained Reid, who is scheduled to speak at the forthcoming Travel Distribution Summit Europe 2011, to be held in London (May 10-11).
Reid added, “Measures are all there, choose the one that suits your business best and concentrate on that. For an airline, booking seats is paramount, for a destination country such as Britain, brand awareness, engagement and raising the likelihood to choose UK as a destination is more important – therefore engagement and sentiment are the most important factors. If we inspire today we’ll convert tomorrow, if we try and convert without inspiring we’ll likely fail on both counts.”
A lot depends upon the goals set. Depending on what your goal is – Most likely it’s driving room nights, airline seats, or market share. So how do fan bases translate into business? It’s up to marketers to manage expectations when recommending and researching options with social media and its costs. The other quotient is that Facebook, Twitter, Blogs can’t distinguish between whom or what may be a vocal minority or who may be criticising your brand – We all know perception is reality and the fans and followers don’t always know, and in some cases don’t’ care, whether someone is a lone voice or two or a vocal majority. But this much is true, if you don’t monitor this medium, you are going to end up on the short end of the conversation and potentially compromise your brand’s strength and equity in the long run.
Experts believe that problems arose when a number of people in the industry “jumped” right in to social media, specifically Facebook and Twitter, without a strategy or an agreed upon measurement of success. Of course you have to build a loyal following first and engage the community. However, in the long-term metrics like special promo codes, call to action items and actual booked revenue needs to be part of the performance measurement. “It may be all good right now to sit in a hotel owners meeting and say the number of fans or likes has doubled over the last week, but as we continue to move into social media as an expense line in the budget, we will be asked to prove the ROI on it,” A Couple of Chicks e-Marketing’s CEO Alicia Whalen told EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta in an interview.
Whalen said good measurement will come out of a defined strategy for a brand’s social media efforts.
For example, if the strategy for a Destination is to encourage brand champions and locals as ambassadors, then having a defined goal of attracting users who are going to be active in posting to the community and number of responses or “likes” may be a key point in measuring success. For a hotel, perhaps Twitter specific specials tracked through booking codes is enough to achieve a level of success that makes that time and resources spent worthwhile. Travel marketers must do like they do in any other marketing channel – develop a plan, execute the message and measure based on key goals, said Whalen.
The first step should always be to establish your business goals first, before you even look at a dashboard, says Barbara Pezzi, Director Analytics & Search Optimization, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International.
You cannot start measuring, if you do not know what is it that you are trying to accomplish.
Once you have set out your business goals and strategy, you can select the relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) which will then be tracked to measure success.
“This also does not necessarily mean that it is only about revenue and that for example your Twitter main KPI should be to generate x amount in sales every month. One should take into account the revenue opportunities as well as the potential savings,” says Pezzi.
Citing an example, she said, a KPI could be to generate a certain amount of quality media mentions which would equate in certain amount of PR value, or to achieve x amount of links with brand related anchor text, which again could easily be monetized in terms of SEO savings.
“The KPI selection might require some creative thinking, but I personally believe this is an essential part of the planning process each company should go through before they even create their Twitter/Facebook page,” added Pezzi.
Hoteliers believe that how can one translate engagement on social media into more revenue is the direction that needs to be taken. One needs to understand and study how engagement translates into a financial model that can measure ROI. That can be a simple measurement, such as customer satisfaction, and companies with high satisfaction ratings are also the most profitable.
Reid recommends that engagement with the consumer is most important for optimising for social media and measuring ROI.
“If you can’t build engagement and trust with the consumer on social media you certainly won’t sell to them via this medium,” said Reid.
Marketers acknowledge that it is essential that brands are aware of and monitor conversations that are happening about them real-time so they can understand how their customers feel and can also protect their reputation where necessary. It is imperative to find the best way to measure benefits from analysis of feedback gained from UGC since companies are putting manpower resources as well as automated tools for such content emerging in the social media space.
Reid says: “If you can, always go for manpower analysis rather than automated (options). Work hard on your channels and build up that base of advocates who will answer and act on your behalf, this is a far stronger voice in the community than having internal people copying and pasting answers.”
Also, data is easy to collect and reports are easy to produce. The hard part is interpreting the data and translating it into an actionable strategy that makes sense to your business. No tool in the world can do that for you. They can just simplify the process.
Travel Distribution Summit Europe 2011
EyeforTravel is scheduled to conduct its flagship event, Travel Distribution Summit Europe 2011 in London (May 10-11).
For more information, click here
EyeforTravel is a leading media company specializing in business intelligence for the travel and tourism industry. EyeforTravel provides a series of senior executive travel conference on a diverse range of topics including travel distribution, online marketing, social media, mobile and revenue management. EyeforTravel also provides some of the most in depth research into global online travel markets and trends. For more information visit www.eyefortravel.com
Rosie Akenhead- TDS
Phone: +44 (0) 207 375 7229 (London, UK)