In the ever-fraught world of social media, what type of content creator is the right fit for boutique and independent hotels?
LONDON—With so many social media and traditional outlets available for marketing purposes, hoteliers have to work even harder to make sure the promotional channels they chose are credible and produce meaningful returns on investment, according to sources.
Mistakes can prove very costly to both the bottom line and to reputation, speakers said during a panel titled “Press, PR, social media and influencers” at the Boutique & Lifestyle Hotel Summit this week in London.
Hoteliers needed to be savvier with social media, said David Gabriele, CEO of Swayy, a firm that monitors the effects of influencers.
“Have a look at (influencers’) engagement rates. If it is about 2%, you are more than on the way on finding someone credible. And look at the types of people following them, which takes only a few seconds and could save you thousands,” he said.
“It is all about relevance, resonance and credibility,” Gabriele added.
In a world festooned with fake news, panelists said, hoteliers must be wary at every step of their marketing strategies.
“It is easy to buy fake ‘likes,’ so you do need to delve a little deeper,” said Amber Hoffman, founder of social media consultancy WHIT Media.
Hoffman said some hospitality companies have taken dramatic steps to counter recent social media developments. She cited as an example United Kingdom pub-chain JD Wetherspoon, which last month closed down all its Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, citing trolling, misinformation, social media addiction and the inordinate use of staff time as reasons for the decision.
Still, social media remains huge for the hospitality industry, including hoteliers.
Benoit Racle, senior director of AC Hotels, said his brand, being very “design-driven,” relies heavily on social media.
“Instagram is big for us, Facebook, too, and Twitter is where the two-way conversation is,” he said, adding the brand, which is under the Marriott International umbrella, also still employs traditional journalism.
“Do not plan your social media strategy without first seeing what people are saying about you already on social media,” Racle said. “We look at social media interaction as an art.”
Gabriele said she sees hotel marketing focusing more on Instagram than on any other social media channel.
Emily Manson, a journalist and founder of her own marketing-for-hire company, Articulate Content, agreed. “Instagram is ideally situated for boutique hotels as both share the same degree and idea of creativity,” she said.
Hoffman said no matter hoteliers’ channel of choice, engagement is key.
“Even if you are not active on Twitter, people are speaking about you on Twitter, as this is where people go to complain. There is no point spending thousands on your new façade if you do not look after social media,” she said.
Gabriele added: “One in every five minutes on mobile is spent on Facebook and Instagram.”
Eyes on the prize
Panelists said as hoteliers concentrate on repeat and new guests’ dreaming and planning stages, there is a danger of the industry becoming too dependent on those it supposes have their fingers on the pulse of public opinion and desires.
“There should be more focus on quality content. We’ve all become a little fixated on the term ‘influencer’,” Hoffman said.
Manson added that content hasn’t changed much. “Photography still reigns, and relationships with press associations remain worthwhile because of their large membership bases,” she said.
AC by Marriott’s Racle said the main challenge is “how can you get the right person to talk about your product in the right way?”
Getting those content generators on board and aligned while keeping content credible and independent is at the crux of the current debate, panelists said.
And it is a challenge fraught with pitfalls.
“Influencers produce a cause and effect, a call for action, but there are a lot of people who call themselves influencers who do not do this. Having followers does not make a success. You are probably better off with micro-influencers, who might only have 100 followers but do have trust,” Gabriele said.
Racle said his brand “looks for people who will be very genuine with the brand, share the same passion for what we do and understand our target audience.” If they fit that mold, he said, “they will share.”
Enthusiasm from influencers might sound refreshing, but hiring passion can also lead to costly errors, panelists said.
For example, they said, giving away free nights’ stays and other hotel perks have evident costs and do not always produce benefits.
“Track the ROI on everything. What is being delivered? Getting a quick win often does not help either side,” Gabriele said.
Hoffman added relationships with influencers should be longer-term than a one-night stay. “And you do need 52 weeks of interest and stories. Ask who is best suited to create that content,” she said.
Other considerations, panelists added, include:
- Do stay requests go to the marketing department, or the GM, or someone else? Who has the large picture of a particular hotel and its content creators?
- A big disconnect with professional Instagrammers is that often they are millennials, and their followers are millennials, but is your target audience anywhere near that age and income group?
- Has an influencer stayed at a competitor the previous week or month?
“Boutique hoteliers are time-poor and social media-poor. Data is where boutique hotels fall short,” Gabriele said.
“And there are a lot of freebie-hunters out there,” Manson added.