Hotel Advertising: Why Bother When Social Media is Free?
By Laurence Bernstein Managing Partner, Protean Strategies | October 19, 2014
There are three points that make the question "Why bother with hotel advertising when social media is free?" slightly absurd: first, social media is not, in and of itself, advertising, and second, social media is not free; and thirdly the two concepts (SM and advertising) are not on the same plain and, as we'll see, are not interchangeable) As we'll see, once these contradictions are explained, it is easy to understand why bothering with advertising as well as SM makes a lot of sense.
Social Media is Not Free
Hotels that have embarked on do-it-yourself social media activities, such as a Facebook page combined with a twitter account, have found that it takes resources to keep these things current -- not necessarily money, but inevitably people. The common approach -- Susie in sales is young and understand this stuff, so let's have Susie do the tweet and Facebook stuff -- soon turns out to be problematic. For one thing, Susie, though young and definitely a star in the F&B division, is not an expert in social media, and while she may know the rudiments, she does not know how these channels really work as promotional vehicles (if she did, she would be working at a digital agency making two or three times the salary she is making in the hotel); and even where this is not complicated, Susie soon gets bored either with her real job or her extra-curricular job. One way or another, Susie is not going to be doing this "free" -- either her day-job will have to be cut back, or her social media responsibilities will suffer. Or both. In the end, the social media responsibility will be outsourced to an individual or a company that specializes in social media strategies and will do a more effective job…but not free.
And this is talking about "organic" social media... paid social media marketing is definitively not, as the name implies, free.
Even thinking of social media as not "free" (per se) but "inexpensive" or even "cheap", is only partially true. It is an inexpensive way to reach many people, but unless refined and targeted, most of the people you are connecting with are not likely to be interested in your property or likely to book rooms at your hotel. And those that are, are those that were already likely to book with you because they already know you and want to stay with you. This is because effective organic social media is fundamentally based on engaging the consumer in a meaningful dialog, and who would want to meaningfully dialog with somebody they don't already know?
A few statistics bring home this point: