This blog post has been originally published as a guest post on the Trosmith blog, Social Media in Travel and Hospitality.
Social Media is the cornerstone of any online marketing strategy today, and Facebook is the king of social media, especially in the travel and hospitality industry. Show me a hotel that doesn’t have a Facebook page and I’ll buy you a glass of French Champagne!
The problem is, most hotels aren’t doing it right, and they feel that the time they’re investing on their Facebook marketing efforts is not worth the small benefit they receive.
The only result they see immediately is that prospects and customers use their page a a new channel to communicate with them, be it questions or complaints about their service and offering.
But responding to endless questions or complaints is not very sexy, or rewarding, even if you have to do it. The goal is to increase bookings! But more often than not, the tactics used in service and hospitality are the wrong ones.
But Facebook marketing for hotels can be very efficient without speding that much time or money. Let me explain…
#0 – Your Facebook page is not a booking page
Booking is your primary objective, right? And Facebook is a new communication between your prospects, clients and you, right? Then, to get more bookings, you just need to put your booking system out there, on all channels. If your prospects can book directly from Facebook, Twitter, Pinstagram and Myspath, your sales will boost, right?
People don’t book a hotel room or a trip from a Facebook page, that’s now a proven fact. So why do most of the hotel pages we’ve benchmarked for this article still use this approach? Probably because they still haven’t found a better way to get more sales from Facebook.
Facebook will definitely help you engage with prospects and clients, and that’s great! But engagement alone is not going to build enough reward for your investment of time and money on Facebook. Worse, implemented improperly or with the wrong people, it may well end up being a waste of time and money.
There is a better way, and I’m giving it away, just because I love you! 😉
#1 – Leverage Facebook AND mobile to turn your clients into fans during their stay
I’ve watched a lot of hotels and travel destinations use Facebook ads in an attempt to gain more fans. What a waste! Facebook ad money is bringing you fans who don’t know you, don’t care about you, and generally come along with the hope to win a free night or vacation. After a short period of time, most of these ‘fans’ will ignore your content in their newsfeed. Eventually, this will bring your entire edgerank score down, further limiting your reach and visibility to those who really care about you. Thus, brands continually complain that evil Facebook will not allow them to reach their fans for free. But, who’s fault is this?
The only fans you want are the people who know and love you! In a travel and hospitality context, your best fans are the clients you have, and the best time to convert those clients into Facebook fans is when they are enjoying their stay with you.
Very few hotels and travel destinations do this.
Facebook is mobile, as are most Facebook Page apps. It’s pretty easy (and cheap) to launch a Facebook only giveaway that your clients will be able to enter while enjoying their stay with you!
Aren’t they giving you the best of their attention while they are in front of you at the reception desk or stepping to the door of their room? Wouldn’t these the best times to tell them, “Hey, we’re so happy you’re here, we’re offering you a complimentary welcome cocktail! Just scan this QR code with your smartphone, like our page and you’ll get a coupon you can show to any of our staff by the bar!”
I’ll bet you’re already giving your guests free stuff to get them to love you. Why not ask for a like in return?
Even better, do you offer free wifi? Just give them the wifi code in exchange for a like! You’ll get a TON of new fans, and they’ll thank you for being so generous with them…
Worried this is too complex and expensive to pull off? Wrong! It takes less than 10 minutes to set up and no more than $100 in design.
Just select a vendor that offers facebook applications such as a welcome tab or a Facebook coupon, make sure they work on mobile devices, create the design images for the “fan gate” and the “thank you page” and the voucher for your free gift. None of this should not cost you more than $100 in total. Then, go to a free QR code generator or a paid one if you want more tracking and dynamic options, generate your code, and create the design for your on site flyers or doors signs. Again, no more than $50 to $100. You can even use an online printing service such as Uprinting. Done!
With less than 2 hours of your time, and $200 to $300 you’ve just put together the best strategy to quickly and effectively recruit your best fans- the people who are in the process of falling in love with you. Compare these results against the thousands of dollars spent in recruiting scavengers who will bring your page’s visibility down, and I think you’ll find you’re finally on the right track.
Facebook fans are nice, but they’re not enough. You’ve got to keep them, and build your email list too!
#2 – Use the right application to build a great email list with your Facebook page
Now that you know how to get the best fans for your page at minimal cost, you can use the same strategy to gain a super effective email list. You’ll need a third party app with all the right features. Here’s how to choose selectively.
When choosing your Facebook application, make sure it offers a customized qualification option.
Personalize your qualification forms (are you a member of our rewards program? What number? How often to you stay with us ….. ?, etc)
Make sure you can tag your fans (more on that below) and easily download all this data to your CRM or emailing system. It’s that easy.
So, now you’re not only gathering your best fans for free, you’re also building a laser targeted email list and CRM database, that is not costing you a penny more.
#3 – Identify potential returning visitors and focus your efforts on them
Now that you’ve got your fans, and all the information you need in order to target them effectively, you need to monitor their activity.
Don’t waste time in engaging with the ones that are unlikely to come back. Instead, identify the ones who like you, interact with you and express their intention to return. How? Rank them by engagement level to quickly identify the ones that are worth your time! Your third party app should provide a Facebook CRM suite which makes this possible.
Once you know who they are, make sure you communicate with them on Facebook AND through email (since you’ve got them now, remember step 2!). Make them feel they are important to you, and they’ll be customers for life.
#4 Leverage your “real” fans to build social proof and gain more new clients (then repeat from step # 1!)
You’ve got the best fans, you have their emails, you’ve spotted the ones that really LOVE you and will come back. Now, you want them to recommend you. They can do it on Facebook. This is the last step and probably the most important one for your ROI.
Make it easy for them to do so (send them the right link so they just have to click and write a review). Remember to make it available on Tripadvisor and Yelp, too. Then, monitor the all the traveler’s opinion site, and when you see a nice review, don’t hesitate to reach out to them and thank them for having done so.
Now, their friends will know about you, and the next time they check your hotel on Tripadvisor or Facebook, they’ll be MUCH more likely to trust you and choose you against the local competition.
Congratutaltions, you’ve just built a killer social media marketing machine for your business with less than $300 and a couple of hours a month.
Still wondering if there is ROI in Social Media? Try this strategy and you’ll be happy you did, I guarantee!
Your turn now, I want to hear about your experience on Facebook. Have you used Facebook to try to generate bookings and returning visitors? Have you been frustrated or happy with the results? Let me know, I always like to know what others are doing on Facebook.