Columnist John Donnelly discusses the role that social media plays in travelers’ planning, experience and evaluation and explains how hotel marketers can use this channel to better serve guests.
For the modern traveler, planning a trip is a lot more involved than packing a suitcase. The prominence of travel review sites, fare aggregator engines and home-sharing services are all part of the new way that travelers plan, experience and evaluate their trips.
Social media plays a role in each phase of the travel experience; consumers use social channels to seek advice on locations for a honeymoon, share photos from their excursions or voice feedback about the five-star meal they had at a resort.
As the largest forum for consumer opinions, social media offers a wealth of insights to marketers on the different factors that influence consumers’ travel decisions and brand loyalty.
Hospitality brands and hotel marketers need to understand how consumer conversations, opinions, affinities and trends discovered on social media can help inform strategies to better serve guests and drive business goals.
Based on a recent report (registration required) Crimson Hexagon, my employer, completed on the travel and hotel industry, below are three ways social media insights can be used to shape hospitality marketing.
1. Understand who your travelers are
Guests at an economy hotel are often a different crowd from those at extended-stay properties or at lifestyle or boutique hotels. Understanding the type of traveler your hotel attracts is step one to ensuring on-target marketing efforts.
Social intelligence can help brands dig into the specifics of their audience and what they look for when planning a vacation. For example, social media conversations about economy hotel brands skew younger, while discussions about extended-stay hotels are dominated by the 35-and-older crowd.
Females also participate in extended-stay conversations more than in conversations about other hotel styles. Combining that knowledge with the fact that in general, women’s travel discussions focus on family-friendly travel could help an extended-stay hotel refocus its marketing on this specific target demographic.
Additionally, social media intelligence can provide a good snapshot of your guests versus those of your competitors. In a comparison of Marriott and Hyatt brands, we found that the social media conversations about the Hyatt brand indicate an audience of “techies,” while the conversation about the Marriott brand reflects a business-savvy persona.
When looking at the luxury hotels within these brands, the Marriott audience skews toward a sporty persona, while Hyatt’s demographic is composed of foodies. With this information in mind, marketers can gauge the next step for their specific initiatives: If this persona matches the messages they’ve been currently distributing, do they continue, or if it’s a new persona, how should marketers pivot?
For example, marketers can use the affinities of consumers discussing particular hotel brands on social media to identify key influencers for their particular audience, create dining promotions or content in a more tech- or business-savvy voice.
2. Be where travelers seek out their information
It’s not enough to know who your customers are to run a successful marketing campaign. You also need to know where they are so that you can reach them.
Among travelers, forums are popular social platforms for conversations about hotels, with Flyertalk being a top site for comments. It’s useful for marketers to understand how travelers use such forums compared with other channels.
While Flyertalk users discuss everything from hotel recommendations to in-depth reviews and travel reward programs, Twitter travel conversations focus mostly on one-liners about hotel accommodations or customer service. This insight is handy for informing marketers on what type of information to present on each channel, such as promotions for redeeming credit card points or galleries of past guests’ photos of the resort.
3. Know what perks drive guest loyalty
Conversations about rewards, points and credit cards account for 40 percent of hotel discussions on Flyertalk about the Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott brands. More specifically, the conversation focuses on reward program evaluations and recommendations for the best reward and credit cards.
Because many travelers discussing rewards programs are seeking advice on whether to switch programs or sign up for new credit cards, marketers can use social media intelligence to uncover how consumers feel about particular aspects of a rewards program.
Negative conversations about hotel rewards were dominated by mentions about the quality of breakfast, inaccessibility to club lounges, and overall lack of upgrade options. However, positive buzz surrounded honeymooner conversations about where to stay and how to exchange points for nights, representing an opportunity for marketers to attract new loyalty members.
Within social media conversations about hotel amenities, the most mentioned perks were breakfast, parking and swimming pools. Looking specifically at the most important meal of the day, breakfast is so essential to travelers that they would consider switching loyalty programs if food quality did not live up to their expectations. This social media insight can help marketers — and kitchen staff — focus on the thing that matters most to guests: food.
Marketers across industries are realizing the value of social media insights, and the same is true in the hotel industry. With greater insight into what travelers want and expect from their rewards programs and experiences, marketers are better equipped to attract and engage prospective guests with messages that will resonate with them, drive deeper guest loyalty and, ultimately, lead to increased revenues.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.