The hospitality industry traditionally excels at listening to customer feedback. Whether it’s through surveys, interviews, or a simple “How was your stay?” the industry relies on customer interaction in order to thrive. That is where social media comes into play.
Social Media: The Final Frontier
When nearly one in five travelers uses social media for traveling suggestions, you can’t let your social media strategy stay on the back burner. However, understanding which platform to use — and how to use it — is crucial before putting resources toward social media efforts.
Visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest hold huge potential for destination hospitality. Showcasing the surroundings, events, people, and attractions in your area can keep travelers drooling year-round. Smart destination marketers can carefully select Instagram hashtags or even create inspiring Pinterest boards to attract even more views.
While Twitter may be a less visual platform, it really shines where reputation is concerned. A recent study revealed more than 50 percent of travelers under the age of 34 use Twitter when planning vacations and holidays. Strategic follower growth and relevant conversations can go a long way in the Twitterverse.
Surprisingly, the biggest social media platform, Facebook, is the most underutilized. Seventy-two percent of travelers actively post photos of their adventures while still on their trips. This huge opportunity is largely unrecognized by the hospitality industry. Capturing feedback, sharing additional options, or encouraging likes are just a few of the many opportunities available, thanks to Facebook’s robust targeting options.
How to Optimize Your Social Media Presence
The sheer volume of social media options is staggering. How many times a day should you post, and on which platforms? Should you post that photo on Facebook, or is it better saved for Instagram? Before the social media fire hose overwhelms you, set strategic goals and stick to them:
- Take guest satisfaction surveys to the next level. Almost every hospitality company does some kind of guest satisfaction survey, but not all of them leverage the power of social media to gain immediate feedback. Sending out surveys via Twitter (where customer service reps can respond immediately) turns that data, which is normally shuffled away for careful analysis, into an active conversation with customers.
- Don’t forget communication is a two-way street. Social media opens a communication channel with both your biggest fans and your most frustrated friends. Happy travelers are eager to share good experiences with their networks, while disgruntled ones will take to the internet to express their displeasure. Both types of feedback are highly valuable and provide you with the opportunity to respond to customers directly. Consider thanking or rewarding happy guests who leave positive testimonials, and be sure to immediately reply to disgruntled customers with a potential solution to rectify the situation.
- Follow your audience, not trends. In the hospitality industry, there’s always a new platform that people are using — right now, it happens to be Snapchat. Hospitality brands must figure out where and when their customers are on social media. Then, and only then, should brands begin engaging with them. Speaking the social media language won’t matter if no one is there to hear what you have to say.
As social media continues to close the gap between customers and brands, the time is right for the hospitality industry to show what it’s made of. Instead of watching from the sidelines, take initiative by communicating with your customers how they like to communicate. Trust me, they’ll notice the effort.
Shea Davis is the senior vice president of Mitchell, an award-winning public relations firm that creates real conversations between people, businesses, and brands through strategic insights, customized conversations, and consumer engagement. The agency is headquartered in Fayetteville, Ark., with offices in Chicago and New York City. Mitchell is part of the Dentsu Aegis Network and has more than 300 offices in 145 countries. Shea’s focus is on brand reputation for the hospitality and travel industries.