Erin Jelmini | GCommerce Solutions | Senior Marketing Strategist
The current hotel digital advertising climate is “pay to play,” meaning that major platforms now prioritize paid advertising over organic posts, making it extremely hard for your hotel’s organic posts to gain any traction in the online marketplace. This being said, an organic social presence is still very important in the hotel space. When consumers are researching hotels they often turn to social media to help make their decision, and not having a social presence could come as a red flag.
Six reasons why organic social media content is still important in the hospitality industry:
- It’s cheap! You can post as much as you want on all your platforms for literally no cost (minus the man-hours involved of course).
- It’s authentic. Unlike paid advertising, organic social media content gives you the chance to showcase who your brand is and what it stands for without promoting or selling anything.
- It compliments your hotel’s paid advertising. If a consumer is served one of your ads and then later researches the hotel, they expect the messaging and content to match up.
Complimentary messaging comes off as both authentic (see above) and balanced. Why not reinforce your ads with free, organic content?
- It fosters engagement. With paid advertising taking over the digital space, organic social media has become a space to spark conversation and engage your audience. Use the opportunity to connect with your audience by asking questions, encouraging responses, and creating a space for conversation.
- It helps build up your audience. Audience size matters when it comes to hotel digital advertising, there’s no question about that, but did you know organic engagement can help with that? Through Facebook, you can create a retargeting audience based around people who have engaged with your Facebook page, and then from there create a lookalike audience to assist in pulling more people into the booking funnel.
- It serves as a help forum. Consumers and hotel guests are increasingly using social media pages as a way to contact your brand directly. Whether it’s to leave a review or send a direct message with questions, social listening is extremely important. If a consumer visits your page and sees there hasn’t been a post within the past couple of months (or even years!) that may lead them to think the page (or even property) is abandoned, leaving them without an outlet for contact.
Now that we’ve established how important organic social media is for a hotel’s brand presence and awareness, let’s dive into a few of our recommendations for the top players in the game!
- Facebook is huge when it comes to social listening. Make sure to check your contact outlets at least once per day (direct messages, comments, and community posts). Guests will often reach out through these channels with questions, concerns, complaints, etc. You will want to respond within one day, especially if it’s a complaint. Often consumers use public social outlets as a cry for help or a last resort when no other contact options have worked.
- When it comes to public complaints or negative comments, you’ll want to make sure you are also responding publicly and taking steps to alleviate whatever the issue is.
- General posting: at least three times per week
- Organic posts don’t need to be complicated. Posts could showcase amenities, your pool, the onsite restaurants, drink specials at the lobby bar, user-generated photos, property updates, community involvement, etc.
- Although posting on Twitter isn’t as big of a priority as Facebook, we still recommend pushing whatever you post on Facebook to Twitter. Using a social publishing tool (like Hootsuite) is an easy way to do this.
- Similar to Facebook, Twitter is also a place where people will try to contact the brand. Be sure to check your mentions and direct messages daily.
- Aside from social listening, Twitter can also be a great platform for contacting influencers, sharing information from similar companies through retweets, and showcasing your brand voice in a fun way.
- Unlike Facebook, Instagram is a much more instant and in-real-time experience. This means you can’t just schedule out a bunch of posts ahead of time; you need to be actively engaging on the platform multiple times per day.
- General posting: at least five times per week, or every day if you can. The more active you are on Instagram, the easier it will be to build a follower base and get your posts seen by your audience.
- Include relevant hashtags in all your posts. We recommend starting with at least 10 and utilizing them in each post. Hashtags can include your hotel name, local hashtags, industry- related hashtags, or event hashtags. Make sure your hashtags have a large usage around them as well and not tags that have little to no use (Instagram will tell you how many times that hashtag has been used).
- In order for your Instagram program to be successful, you need to have a large following.
Here are a few tips for creating a follower base:
- Be active in your own Instagram to show potential followers that you are worth following.
- Start engaging with similar brands; follow them, comment on their posts, and interact with their followers.
- Start following people who follow your competitors and/or similar brands (you can always unfollow these people later).
- Interact in other brands’ contests.
- Make sure you are replying to all comments and direct messages.
- Make sure your Instagram handle is readily available (on your website, linked on Facebook, in your blog content, etc.).
- Utilizing Instagram stories is also important, especially with younger audiences. Because Instagram’s algorithm is now similar to Facebook’s, stories are a great way to have your content seen by more people.
- Additionally, you’ll want to create Story Highlights on your Instagram page and save your relevant stories there. Category ideas could include amenities, local attractions, food from an onsite restaurant, hotel activities, photos from your guests, etc.
- Instagram Stories are also a great way for people to learn more about your property during the research phase, as they are front and center on the page.
- Once you’ve established yourself on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and are ready to start exploring other options, Pinterest can be great for your hotel’s brand awareness. If your property has fantastic imagery, space for weddings, or is located in a buzzy neighborhood, creating and sharing boards on Pinterest may work in your favor.
- We especially recommend Pinterest for properties that host weddings or have great image assets. It’s not uncommon for a bride to turn to Pinterest for her wedding planning needs, so getting your wedding imagery out there is a great way to advertise your beautiful space. The best part that is all you need to do is share it once and then you can rely on the Pinterest world to keep sharing and reposting your content. This also goes for hotels located in large, metro areas, like Los Angeles for example, as many consumers use Pinterest to plan vacations.
- Make sure your boards are relevant to your property, include accurate descriptions, and updated. Photos within boards don’t need to be specific to your property either. Be sure to share similar photos to encourage sharing from other Pinterest users.
SOCIAL MEDIA CONTESTS
- Although social media contests usually include some paid elements, they can still fall under the organic funnel. Whether you are looking to build up your followers, create more engagement with your audience, or increase your email list, social media contests can be majorly impactful.
- Before you begin, make sure you are up to date with all the contest rules on your platform of choice. They are ever-changing, especially on Facebook and Instagram, and you want to be sure you are following the correct rules, as well as having your own Terms and Conditions page attached.
- If your goal is to create more engagement with your Facebook and Instagram followers, we suggest a contest encouraging them to comment on and like your post. For example, one client recently held a contest to give away a free night stay and asked their followers to like the post and comment why they deserved to win. This not only garnered hundreds of comments on their post but helped the property create meaningful conversations with their audience.
- If the goal is to build up your list of emails, then we recommend doing contests through a company called ShortStack. ShortStack helps you create visually appealing landing pages, sign up forms, and offers analytics on your contest in real-time. All you need to do is create the landing page, attach your Terms and Conditions, and then start running your contest, either via organic posting or paid advertising. Once the contest has ended, ShortStack makes it easy to download all the emails you collected straight from the platform which can then be used for digital retargeting and email marketing (make sure this is explicitly stated in your terms and conditions).
USER GENERATED CONTENT (UGC)
- When it comes to social media trends, UGC is at the top of the list. What is User Generated Content, or UGC for short? It’s simply just that, content that is generated directly from your users. And when it comes to authenticity, you almost can’t do better than utilizing UGC.
- UGC is great for organic posts because it helps foster conversation. Guests are more likely to comment and share photos that came from consumers like them because it’s more organic. UGC is also huge for the hotel space because the photos are real and more accurately depict your property than the photoshopped images housed on your website. In other words, potential guests trust UGC and trust the companies more that use it.
- There are a few ways to gather UGC, including social media contests, asking your guests to share photos using certain hashtags, or just by asking to use photos yourself. However, gathering UGC can be very time-consuming. We recommend going with a UGC-specific company to take out all the legwork. Using UGC software is much more efficient because their technology will pull in the images for you, file them, make asking permission a breeze, and even help identify potential influencers. There are many UGC platforms out there, so choosing the right one will come down to need, cost, and ability.
- We all know how important video is to digital advertising, and the same goes for organic social media. Facebook prioritizes video, both for paid and organic. We highly encourage you to use video assets on Facebook and especially on Instagram. Because Instagram is more interactive, you’ll want to use video assets both in regular posts and stories.
- If you’re interested in learning more about video advertising and why it’s so important, check out this blog post we wrote a few months ago.