Why some social platforms aren’t worth hoteliers’ time
Why some social platforms aren’t worth hoteliers’ time
22 JULY 2016 8:14 AM

Hotel companies must take advantage of social media to market to and engage with guests, but not every platform out there meets hoteliers’ needs.

GLOBAL REPORT—Producing content for social media is an investment for hotel companies.

Each channel takes up time, resources and money, so hoteliers have to make sure they’re not focusing their efforts on platforms that won’t realize returns, said Bryan Segal, CEO at Engagement Labs.

With even short videos requiring significant time to shoot and edit, Segal warns that advertising becomes fragmented with too many platforms.

“Most brands don’t advertise on ABC, NBC, CBS and every specialty channel and every magazine,” he said. “You pick what best fits your target.”

Brands look into how many users engage on the various platforms and for how long, he said. If one doesn’t align with other channels, he said, they might have to switch it up.

Fading platforms
While user numbers and engagement remain high on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, some platforms, like Foursquare and Vine, have fallen out of favor after being incredibly popular years ago. Others, such as Google+, had the potential to be something great, but never truly took off because they seemed late to the party.

All of these networks had potential, but they misunderstood their target audiences, including users and advertisers, said Andrew Hutchinson, writer and moderator for Social Media Today. He explained via email that this misunderstanding, coupled with increased and more innovative competition, “seem to have come back to bite them in the end.”

Yotel uses Google+ to help rank natural listings, said Fergus Boyd, VP of digital and IT for Yotel, by email, but that’s really its main value as not many customers actively use it. Google+ feels at times like it was a bit late to the market, he said, and people these days don’t have time to be active in multiple channels.

The company doesn’t use Vine as the platform doesn’t have much traction in its target audience, he said. Similarly, the company doesn’t use Foursquare as the more popular Facebook has mostly usurped Foursquare’s initial selling point of check-in at a location.

“In general, we found that Facebook is the prime channel for friend collaboration,” Boyd said. “Vine wasn’t picked up by many celebrities or brands, as they just don’t have much canned short-form video to share. Yotel, like many other brands, prefers to take time and to craft professional videos. Foursquare has re-invented itself a few times and has widened beyond location check-in, but Facebook does similar and has much greater market share.”

Lack of monetization, differentiators
While initially popular, the user base for Foursquare and Vine has dwindled over the years. The two platforms struggled to establish themselves because of the lack of monetization options, Hutchinson said, which in turn slowed growth and brand interest.

“If they can’t be used to reach an audience, brands aren’t going to be overly engaged,” he said.

Foursquare’s core problem is that Yelp is better, he said, and other options, including Facebook, offer similar services through their systems that people were already using. The platform recently announced it will work with Twitter to add location services to tweets, which means the platform will likely act as a supplemental service to bigger players.

Segal said Facebook’s inclusion of location services was enough to quash excitement around Foursquare, even though that platform was the first to market with the idea.

“The differentiators that Foursquare had became obsolete, because Facebook had all the features, the apps, the whole thing combined was a suite of features available through Foursquare,” he said. “It had everything in that channel that was much larger with more eyeballs. What hotel folks look for is reach and frequency.”

The latest reports on Vine suggest that activity has dropped as it’s lost its audience to other options, most notably Snapchat, Hutchinson said. The six-second limit on Vine clips forced content creators to think creatively, he said, but the platform has since changed to enable users to create longer videos in an effort to boost appeal.

“But those Viners are moving to other platforms because they can make more money there,” he said. “Vine’s failed to introduce an advertising system, which would have benefitted both brands and creators, and now, people can do pretty much the same on other, more popular platforms.”

Instagram is another platform that took Vine’s place as an outlet for emotional and picturesque visuals, Segal said, which allows hotel companies to reach guests’ wallets through their hearts.

“It all comes back to data,” he said. “When you’re getting engagement and eyeballs with other channels, you have to pick your ponies. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram won the race.”

Lack of differentiation
Google tried to copy Facebook but do it better when creating Google+, Hutchinson said, but differentiation is key in social networks. If people can do all the same things in Google+ that they can already do in Facebook, where they have friends and connections, he said, there’s little incentive for them to switch.

Google+'s main value propositions are in added Google search rank, which might or might not still be the case, along with strong communities.

“Google+ communities are some of the most informed and intelligent you'll find, but the fact that you had to go looking to find them made them less popular,” he said. “Concurrently, that's also what likely made them more popular with the exclusive groups that use them. Brands can still tap into Google+ communities, but outside of that, the benefits seem to be limited.”

The platform was a big opportunity for Google, given the company’s reach and the personification of its business, Segal said. However, for the hotel industry, what Google+ offers is already out there with Facebook, which can add apps and widgets to make travel shopping easier as well as compile user reviews.

“Facebook puts everything in one place and it’s easy for hoteliers looking for mass reach and opportunity,” he said.

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