by Peter O’Sullivan

People have busy lives, with many different activities and responsibilities surrounding their lives. People of all ages and of all professions are trusting hotels to provide them with accommodation whether it be to relax, conduct business or even to conduct huge life events such as marriages. All these people are potential clients and must be catered for in the best way possible but there is one tether that joins them all – social media. It doesn’t matter who they are, every person will have interacted with social media at some point in their lives and it can be a real focal point of generating not only business, but also retaining customers.

How can a social networking site help my business?

The main sites we are talking about here are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Although many businesses will see these as methods of procrastination, when utilized correctly they can offer promotion in a way unimaginable a few years ago. What is the first thing a potential visitor will do? They will Google your hotel. This is where social media can be an amazing promotional tool and also a huge comfort for the customer.

Let’s take a look at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, a very popular place to stay. Searching their name will bring up their website and this is all well and good but what people want is the feedback of other real people, which they can’t trust from the establishment’s own web page. A search for MGM Vegas in to Facebook will return their self-run page . Let’s look at some of the key features offered by one of these pages:

• Contains direct information from the hotelier to the customers

• Ability for previous customers to leave feedback and reviews

• A rating system that will draw the eye of potential customers

• Ability to freely upload photos, videos and updates

• Connect with customers on a personal level through answering comments and questions

The use of online analytics

The use of social media doesn’t just benefit the customers but can provide a fountain of knowledge to the management team as well. Many social media sites offer someone who has set up a business page (or fan page as they’re often referred to) the analytics to dissect who is visiting the page, who is liking the page and where in the world they’re from. With these details you can gauge the scope of your audience and even develop a target demographic you didn’t know you had before. Feedback can also be invaluable as the majority of feedback you get will contain positives and improvements that you can develop on as a team to improve your business.

Dealing with feedback

The ability to leave these comments also allows you to interact with your customers on a personal level, which shows a greater deal of customer care. A business that interacts with its customers is far more likely to retain them. Using the comments section you can respond to any negative feedback and even highlight that you have fixed the problem so people investigating your hotel will see you actively improve upon feedback

Using Twitter and other tools effectively

Facebook is not the only tool out there, Twitter offers you a way to connect with customers, other hotels, local events and attractions that may well endorse your hotel through ‘retweets’ if you are actively engaging and talking about them in your Twitter feed. Hashtags (#) seem to have developed into a thing your 15 year old uses to describe their daily life but they can also be used effectively for business promotion. A Hashtag can be used like a search term or keyword that future customers can recognize. People not directly looking for your business may see it listed in someone’s post. This functions as a digital equivalent to word of mouth and can increase your viewership as your brand is spread through use of hashtags.

TripAdvisor is also becoming a more common occurrence that a lot of hotels are aware of, yet some might not even know they are on there! Seasoned travelers will use TripAdvisor to once again look up your hotel and collect feedback from other people from a third party website rather than hand-picked comments from your own and use these to decide on their stopping points. Although not as personal as other social media outlets, TripAdvisor is also something which hoteliers can collect valuable feedback from even if they can’t quite connect on the same level.

With social media still booming and the online world developing and growing every day, it’s more important than ever that hoteliers cease to rely on simple word of mouth. With more hotels, especially branches, sprouting out of nowhere it’s critical that you establish an online presence to reinforce your business as a hotspot because nobody wants to be the hotel who gets Googled and comes up with zero search results.