By Nancy Huang
Facebook has made a lot of updates to its business pages lately, releasing new features so fast we almost forget that they’re there.
From innovative advertising opportunities to expansion into live video streaming, the following post looks at five of the latest features with tips on how your hotel can get the most out of its Facebook presence.
Facebook profile and cover videos
Just recently, Facebook began testing a new feature that will allow users and businesses to upload videos in place of cover images. The new cover videos feature first appeared back in April on the Facebook page for Netflix drama Narcos, and it’s recently been added to the Flixel Photos Facebook page.
Cover videos can be anywhere from 20-90 seconds long and automatically begin when a user visits the page. Like all video content on Facebook, the audio is defaulted to mute, but there’s an unmute button in the lower right hand corner.
This latest move could prove an especially fruitful one for hotels: according to a study by Google and Ipsos MediaCT, two out of three U.S. consumers watch online travel videos when they’re considering a trip. Given that Facebook is increasingly being used for trip planning, cover videos offer a new way to instantly engage with these active users.
For instance, a cover video could be used to promote new amenities, push the latest promotion, or showcase the surrounding destination. Multiple videos could even be shot and rotated throughout the year to ensure content remained fresh and relevant.
Most notably, cover videos would allow hotels to engage with audiences from the get-go, rather than relying on them actively scrolling down a News Feed to discover new content.
While still in the early stages of testing, we’ll be looking out for more cover videos on Facebook as the roll out continues.
Updated design for Messenger for Business
Facebook Messenger now has a reach of over 2 billion active monthly users, making it an invaluable tool for brands to communicate with customers. In the hotel industry, it’s especially helpful to swiftly answer concerns and questions as they arise, minimizing the chances of complaints from disgruntled guests.
Recently, we discussed how Facebook has now begun expanding the range of features within messenger. For instance, brands can now send Sponsored Messages to anyone who strikes up a conversation with them, and the company has also been experimenting with News Feed-style ads inside Messenger.
In another new move, the Messenger interface now tells you when a brand is “online” and encourages you to “start a conversation.” You can see an example of this on the Facebook Pages of Row NYC and Altstadt Vienna Hotel.
Similarly to cover videos, this new tool means that hotels can communicate with customers right at the start of their Facebook browsing experience. Instant connection like this provides a great opportunity to answer questions and build rapport as travelers consider their accommodation options.
In general terms, messaging apps arguably represent the ultimate communication tool. According to Business Insider, the top four chat apps (WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat, Viber) have more combined active users than the combined active users on the top four social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn).
With its own huge base of users and these latest enhancements, being active on Messenger should be considered essential.
People are now consuming more online video content than ever before. A huge 100 million hours of video are watched daily on Facebook, and by 2020, experts predict that video will account for more than 75% of the world’s mobile data traffic.
As video consumption soars, travel brands have yet another golden opportunity to use Facebook to engage with customers, including through Facebook Live.
The daily watch time for Facebook Live broadcasts grew four times over the course of a year, and one in five videos are now a live broadcast. Aside from their growing popularity, Live videos also rank higher in News Feed when they take place, which boosts overall reach compared to a traditional video post.
Airbnb are one example of how Facebook Live can be leveraged to huge success. Last year, they used Facebook Live to promote their “Live There” campaign in partnership with Disney for the movie premiere of The Jungle Book. The post earned an impressive 112,435 views, 1,700 impressions, 259 shares, and 1,619 comments.
Its recent surge in watch time indicates just how powerful Facebook Live could become for advertisers. In particular, it’s ideal for hotels to give live tours, showcase the local area, or host interactive Q&A sessions. All of which can help to create a more natural and intimate relationship with guests compared to pre-recorded video content.
Facebook Shop & Product Book
Facebook has also started enabling businesses to sell physical products, turning their Facebook Page into an online shop. Adding a shop section to your Page is completely free, and once products have been added, you can share them on your Page’s Timeline to boost exposure and awareness.
While this new feature is primarily for e-commerce retailers, it also offers a way for hotels to generate additional revenue. This could involve selling in-room items and furnishings such as bathrobes, spa products, room diffusers, bed linens, and even mattresses.
Kimpton Hotels already have their own dedicated online store, while guests staying at select Aloft hotels can buy items of furniture that they spot around the property. A catalog containing 23 items for purchase are left in guest rooms to encourage people to browse and buy.
A growing number of both chain and boutique hotels are now looking to distinguish themselves by furnishing their properties with unique, locally sourced products and decor. This in turn offers a retail opportunity to sell items to guests that take a liking to a funky chandelier, an antique-style desk, or an unusual piece of artwork.
While Facebook’s shop section may represent a small revenue-maker, its biggest benefit may lie in getting to showcase the kind of unique furnishings or in-room luxuries that guests can expect to see during their stay.
More advertising opportunities than ever
Facebook has been extremely busy increasing where it sells ads of late. As its News Feed stream becomes pushed for space, the social media giant has branched out into new areas to drive revenue.
This year, Facebook allowed advertisers to run ads in the middle of publisher’s videos, which can begin once a video has been rolling for 20 seconds. By working carefully alongside video creators, advertisers will be able to target evermore niche audiences with timely and relevant content.
In addition, Facebook has begun selling advertising space inside Instagram Stories. The Stories feature allows users to share photos and videos in a slideshow format similar to Snapchat. Boasting 200 million daily active users, Stories offers huge potential to reach new audiences within Facebook’s expanding advertising universe.
As previously mentioned, the company also ran ads inside Facebook Messenger during a small trial in Thailand and Australia. According to VentureBeat, this function is now being rolled out worldwide. So as well as being able to send sponsored messages to users that contact a business, ads will also show up on the Messenger home screen.
What’s clear is that Facebook is intent on increasing its ad inventory, which means there’ll no doubt be additional opportunities for advertisers to benefit in the months and years ahead.
Harnessing the potential of Facebook
Social media now plays a significant part in the travel journey. When people are looking for inspiration to plan their next trip, Facebook has become a go-to platform. It’s the place where friends and family share recommendations, and it’s also where brands are increasingly able to strike up conversations and influence decision-making.
As Facebook continues to roll out the kind of features just described, your hotel can reach potential customers in a whole range of ways, many of which require minimal effort and expenditure.
By taking advantage of these latest features, you can inspire guests early in their trip planning, communicate more effectively with them on-property, and build brand exposure on a platform that looks set to become increasingly influential in the travel industry.