Facebook’s algorithm is changing to demote “engagement bait,” so hoteliers need to focus on organic and authentic content.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Facebook recently announced it would demote content it considers “engagement bait”—those posts that ask users to like, share, vote, tag, comment or react in some way. That means Facebook page owners might need to rethink their strategies to continue to be seen in users’ crowded news feeds.
“It’s the latest move Facebook has made in its battle against clickbait,” said Tim Johnson, LBA Hospitality’s corporate director of e-commerce. “Spam-like posts that try to attract likes, clicks and shares—such as, ‘Like this post if you’re committed to success in 2018,’ or, ‘Share this post to win a dream vacation’—will be relegated in Facebook users’ news feeds.”
He said Facebook claims its algorithms will detect different types of engagement bait and discern between spam and authentic posts. For example, posts asking for shares to round up travel tips or top-rated hotels from friends won’t be demoted or dismissed.
“What Facebook wants to achieve is that users and their communities start to use more common sense and provide more valuable content that resonates with the audience,” said Are Morch, a social media consultant for hotels.
He said Facebook lists three primary keywords for users to focus on in their feeds: relevant, meaningful and authentic. And those are the three pillars hoteliers should keep in mind when they are building their strategies for Facebook content.
How to create engaging content
Aside from demotion due to Facebook’s algorithms, it’s best to avoid engagement bait because it turns off consumers, sources said.
“Established hoteliers should focus on steady growth through organically engaging content rather than turning to engagement bait for spikes in followers and likes,” said Whitney Reynolds, director of social media at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. “If people find your content interesting and relevant, they’ll stick around.”
The way to do that, Johnson said, is to make sure posts are authentic.
“Authentic content can often turn into a modern-day testimonial,” he said, adding that LBA’s primary focus is to create a voice that is helpful, reliable, human and resonates with its target audience.
“Everyone wants to feel welcomed, right? The best way to welcome others and naturally increase engagement is by creating a genuine and inviting tone,” he said. “We use our social presence to hold real conversations. Anyone who sees the trail of conversation will immediately think of us as being engaged and more genuine.”
Fiona Boyce, director of social media and content marketing for Two Roads Hospitality, said it’s important to give followers a reason to engage. Thus, call-to-action posts can encourage engagement—as long as they are authentic. For example, asking followers to share a memory tied to an image can help to spur engagement.
In fact, Reynolds said most social channels thrive on images.
“That’s what compels people into action, or shares, likes and comments. If you’ve got what we refer to as a ‘thumb-stopping image,’ you can stop people in their tracks as they quickly scroll through their news feeds,” she said. “We’ve found that posts containing our best, most powerful images outperform posts that contain lackluster images—or worse, stock images.”
Johnson agrees that compelling imagery is critical to social-media success. “Images and video convey real-life visual experiences which can help people imagine what it’s like to stay at one of our hotels.”
For example, during a recent winter storm that hit the East Coast, LBA’s Hilton Garden Inn Charleston Waterfront/Downtown hotel posted a “snowplace like home” video on Facebook inviting area visitors to warm up with hot chocolate at the lobby bar. Then, the Weather Channel commented to ask if it could share and feature the video, which expanded the campaign’s reach.
Kimpton’s Reynolds said that sort of relatable content is the “not-so-secret” secret to social-media engagement.
“If people can picture themselves somewhere you’re describing or identify with a feeling that you’re sharing, they’re more likely to engage and feel pulled into the story,” she said. “It’s even better if the images are coming from the consumers themselves, which lends an extra layer of authenticity.”
Two Roads’ Boyce said another best practice for garnering engagement is to post when followers are online. To do that, hoteliers need to use the data Facebook provides on their business pages which tells them the best time to post.
She also recommended testing posts at different times with different types of content. For example, her team has found that videos posted in the mid-afternoon on a Friday perform much better than those posted first thing in the morning on a Monday.
“You might be surprised to see the types of content your fans engage with at different times of the day,” she said.
Audience targeting for organic posts is another best practice in the toolbox—especially if these posts are about a specific interest or topic, Boyce said.
“Facebook offers the ability to target fans who have identified having an interest that pertains to the content of the post,” she said. “While you will be decreasing your overall reach, you’ll be reaching more of the right people.”
Morch said whatever strategy hoteliers use to gain engagement, they need not be worried about the changes to Facebook, which will see the social-media platform get back to its roots as a way to connect with friends and family.
“I will emphasize that this is not a bad change for the hotel industry,” he said. “It is more a change to utilize services that are more familiar and to go back to doing the things hotels do best: providing a unique customer service.”