I have been privileged in the last week to speak to two experts in the field of digital and social media hotel marketing – Are Morch and Sébastien Félix of Influence Society. Both had a similar, and important messages. In this post, I am looking at what this means for smaller independent hotels.
First, with the online travel agents controlling how many people see your hotel, you need to make sure that you are seen by potential clients. This means using all available opportunities to gain visibility. Are you prepared if booking.com puts you at number 38 on their list tomorrow?
The second is that in these days, with hotels being so commoditized, the success of your hotel is, more than ever, dependent upon the feelings people have for it. Competing on price is tough – competing on emotions is a way to bypass the importance of price. You can create good feelings by being great hosts – but you can additionally create good feelings digitally. By having a beautiful website with great professional photos, helping your guests with information about the area, and keeping in touch after they leave.
Social media and digital marketing are great tools to create these good feelings and higher visibility. Sébastien points out that currently 90% of all travel searches are online, of which 51% are mobile:
“Consumer behavior changed! Real time. Relevant. Frictionless. That’s the experience consumers now expect when they turn to a device to find, do, or buy something.” says Sébastien.
This is a changing world, and hotels that are prepared for it will do better. There are so many hotels to choose from, all in front of you, all looking good, and making the decision can often come down to good impressions. In this environment, simple things, like replying to online reviews in a courteous and friendly manner, can improve the feeling that the searcher has.
As a smaller hotel, you don’t have the resources to hire someone to manage your social media. You probably don’t have that much time to invest either. So here are some of the simpler things you can do to improve your standing.
Coming high in a Google search for “cheap hotel in Newcastle” can be the difference between a lot of (commission-free) bookings and none. There are many factors involved in getting up there on the page, but it is very achievable. There are books available on this subject (I recommend buying one), but brief tips are:
Make sure that it looks professional and has great photos. Make sure that reviews (for good reviews and even more so for bad ones) are answered in a friendly cheerful manner. A negative review is always mitigated by a friendly response and a promise to address the issue. Also, make sure your booking.com and Trip Advisor profiles are similarly maintained. Ask for good Trip Advisor reviews – these make your hotel higher on their ranking list (which is based on a more straightforward algorithm).
When you type your hotel name into Google – whose website comes up first? Usually, it’s booking.com with an advert for your hotel. They are trying to steal your customers – to either get a commission on the booking for your hotel or to direct them to a competitor. If you have a good name that people will search for, you may want to consider paying to make sure you come up above booking.com – stressing that the best price (and maybe eg. free upgrades where possible) is available only directly on your website.
But also, you can get business using Google pay-per-click advertising for search terms like “hotel in Newcastle”, “cheap hotels Newcastle” or “best hotel in Newcastle” and all combinations of the words you are looking for (I would try to list them all rather than allow Google a broad match – which can be very broad). Highlight the key benefits of your hotel (eg. “best breakfast in Newcastle”, “price from £49”) and the benefit of booking direct (“best price direct on website”). One other tip is to check the clicks you are getting (location, search term) to make sure that they are not being wasted by being targeted at the wrong place. With these bookings, you don’t pay OTA commission but instead, pay for the clicks depending on desirability. You will pay maybe around $1-$2 per click – find out how many clicks you need for booking and decide if it is good value.
You can normally get a free $100 (approx.) coupon if you search on Google for spending around $25. So why not try it?
Once you have paid the OTAs to get your customers – make sure that you keep them. It is much harder to get a new customer than keep an existing customer, so make every effort to keep their good feelings. You can keep in touch through your Twitter or Facebook account – broadcasting special offers and new blog entries. You can also send them emails from time to time, keeping them updated (make sure they opt-in).
Consider this: 20% of people remember a text, but 80% remember a picture. The moral is; be sure to look memorable! That’s why promoting your hotel through Facebook and Instagram is essential.
Once your page and account are ready, and you have started to grow your natural community of followers and get some good reviews, you are ready to start a good advertising program.
There are two ways to make ads on Facebook & Instagram:
Don’t forget to install a Facebook Pixel on your website and booking engine, it will allow you to efficiently track the behaviour of your leads.
There are many strategies possible with Facebook & Instagram advertising. Here’s the selection from Influence Society:
We strongly recommend these speed tests:
This means well lit, professionally taken photos. Show the food, show all the rooms, the bathrooms, the garden. Put attractive photos of everything that looks nice as well as good information on your hotel and the surrounding area.
Also, give good information to guests about all the amenities they are getting. If you want people to book directly (or even through an OTA) they need to know all of the good things that they are getting.
Register for Google Businesses so your hotel and ratings come up in a Google hotel search. You can even pay extra for Google Hotel Ads to be more prominent here. Register with Trivago, HotelsCombined and other amalgamation engines. Look around for local registers of hotels and make sure they link to you. These registrations both help drive traffic and increase your search engine ranking.
You can read more on Are’s blog and by getting in touch with Sébastien. And if you like this blog post – sign up for our newsletter below (mobile) or on the right (desktop). You can also download our free book.