Future Implications

As a marketer, more than likely at some point in your career you will be asked the question “Does marketing provide a solution for a customer’s need or does it create the need?” In a similar fashion, one might ask “Does the change in technology impact customer behavior, or is it the change in customer behavior that drives the change in technology?” Personally, I think the answer to both questions is somewhat the same, each side of the equation impacts the other and vice versa. So where does social media fall within this equation? Well smack-dab right in the middle of it. That being said, I would argue that historically, a lot of the changes in technology might be considered the sparks that have given consumers the initial push in changing their customer behavior, and once it started to change, that change in turn pushed a continued development in technology. It is this underlying theory, which is what we are seeing unfold before our eyes over the past few years via social media. While the topic of the video below is focused on how technology impacts customer behavior, I think the moving force behind it in most recent history is the advent of social media, which in it of itself is a balance between technology and human behavior (i.e. the whole concept of being social).

Needless to say, it is critical that brands and companies understand the power customers now have with social media becoming more main-stream. And, similar to other technological advances over the past few decades’ social media is no different. This is evident in the recent history of social media and the continuing flux in the number of and capabilities of the various social media platforms that come and go (some of which you may have never even heard of). So, it is key that brands and companies continuously monitor their consumers preferences, to make sure that the social media platforms the brand / company has chosen to use to communicate / socialize with its consumers is indeed the most applicable one for the company / brand to actually connect with their target market.

So, when it comes to the future, given this continued flux in social media platforms, and consumer’s ever-changing platform of choice, what does a brand / company need to do? What are some implications a company / brand should be on the lookout for, which might impact their social media program? Well, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Mobility – It is hard to deny the impact the advances in mobile technology has had on our lives as a whole, not to say our use of social media. We are now connected 24/7, anywhere there is a broadband connection, and are able upload content instantaneously, be it pictures, thoughts, news, etc. Furthermore, having this ability to connect anywhere, gives customers even more power to research certain products / services, making impulse buys even more common, as customers are able to research these products as needed, and gain friends and people’s opinion on the fly. It is recommended that companies spend resources on their mobile strategy, making sure they are able to provide their content and market their brands / products / services via this extremely impactful channel.
  2. Visual Content – One of the continued growing areas within social media is the use of visual aids in catching consumer’s attention for written content. In fact, we have also seen over the past few years the emergence of visual social media platforms, starting with YouTube, and others like Vine, Pinterest, Instagram and others. Several articles, reports and surveys have been done, such as this one, or this one or this one, which further support this claim. Furthermore, the leading type of content that tends to go viral is video In fact, if you have the time, I would suggest watching the following video, which provides a lot of good insight about visual content:

It will be important for companies to include visual content (i.e. pictures, infographics, videos, etc.) if they want to have a successful social media program down the road, one which helps drive traffic to the company’s website, blogs, and/or help convert prospects to actual paying customers.
While it is safe to say that there are a lot of additional changes that are predicted to take place with social media in the coming years, I think the two suggestions listed above, are the two leading ones which will 1) help shape the future platforms social media users will use the most and 2) help drive social media tactics within a social media program. That said, as we stated at the onset of this post, it is important to continuously monitor your customers on a regular basis, and key your finger on the social media pulse to make sure you don’t “miss a beat”.

Additional suggested reading:

http://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2377715/the-future-of-social-media-paid-vs-organic

http://www.cnbc.com/id/102029041#. (11 Predictions on the future of social media)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jayson-demers/how-psychology-will-shape_b_5534545.html

http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/what-most-popular-content-shared-social-media

http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/photos-generate-engagement-research/

http://www.news.com.au/technology/online/what-will-social-media-look-like-in-the-future/story-fnjwnhzf-1227010476798

http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/files/2014/08/visual-content-future-social-media.jpg

http://www.jeffbullas.com/2014/03/13/what-is-the-future-of-social-media/

 

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Viral Marketing Initiative

As social media becomes more and more main stream, and content marketing (both written and visual) is proving to be one of the main marketing tools that help generate brand awareness, increase traffic to the company’s website and help generate sale leads it is no surprise that more and more companies / brands are attempting to make their content go viral. This in turn begs the question, why do some marketing campaigns succeed in going viral while others do not? Is there any sort of formula marketers should follow?

In today’s post, I will examine a few of the elements I felt were most applicable to helping marketing content / campaigns go viral. But first, before we delve into the actual elements that help make a marketing campaign go viral, we need to understand the end goal, which is to generate unique, high quality content which is able to break through the noise that consumers are exposed to on a regular / daily basis, content which is able to lead to a viral coefficient greater than 1. With over 400 tweets a day, the staggering amount of content shared each day via Facebook, the large amount of hours’ worth of videos uploaded to YouTube each day, not to mention all the traditional marketing “noise” consumers are exposed to via more traditional promotional channels such as TV, Radio, Print, etc.  it is amazing if a campaign is able to go viral at all. A marketer’s goal is to generate content that leads to a vial coefficient, which examens if the number of new viewers generated by one existing viewer is greater than one. If the viral coefficient is greater than one, it basically suggests that a campaign has viral growth where as if it is below one, it does not.

So now to the interesting (and fun) part – The elements that help marketing content go viral:

  1. Get your foot in the door: Getting your foot in the door is usually the hardest step in the process, be it for sales personal trying to sell products, be it for people trying to get an interview, or in this case, getting consumers to read / view your content. The first thing people tend to see online is the headline / tag of an article and/or video. It is this headline or tag that will spark their interest and have them take the next step, which is reading or viewing your content. For a headline to help content go viral, it is suggested that said headline / tag is:
    1. Able to grab attention
    2. Is particular to a target market
    3. Is specific
    4. Is able to generate curiosity
    5. Promote powerful benefits

2. You’re in the door, now make it memorable (tell a story, don’t just sell a product), make it emotional: Within this element I think it is important to distinguish two sub-elements. The first is the ability to make your content memorable, take the time to tell a story, not just try and sell your product. One example of this is Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches campaign, which can be viewed in the video below:

In this example (which was published on YouTube in April of 2013), the focus of the content is not the product(s) dove is trying to market, but rather the story behind how people feel about themselves vs. how others tend to view them as. The link to the product is really only made at the last few seconds of the ad, but it is the underlying theme of beauty that dove is actually promoting. To date, this video has accumulated over 4.8 million views.

Another example is Johnnie Walker’s (JW) “A Gentlemen’s Wager”, which can be viewed below:

Published on YouTube in July 29th, 2014, this video has managed to accumulate a massive number of views, 11, 132,152 as of today, October 31, 2014 (i.e. just around 3 months). Similar to Dove, JW’s ad focuses on telling a story, with the underlying theme being the uniqueness (“nothing like it in the world, rarer than rare…”), making the link to the product (JW Blue label), which is referred to by JW itself as their rarest Whisky.

The second sub-element, which makes people want to share, is emotion. Personally, I think this is the most important elements which is found in all successful viral content. According to an article from Kelsey Libert and Kristin Tynski, striking the right emotional chord is key for people wanting to share your content. Overall, negative emotions were less commonly shared while other emotions, such as curiosity, amazement, interest, astonishment and uncertainty, as well as admiration tend to be more common in viral content. Personally I think that happiness (i.e. content that brings laughter and joy) are also positive emotions that lead to sharing content. One example that had an emotional “kicker” was a video posted by Cardstor.com for mother’s day – “The World’s Toughest Job”:

Published only in April of this year, this ad managed to generate 21,949,556 views as of today. While the ad starts off somewhat emotionless, as people are interviewed for a certain job, we start to feel some astonishment and curiosity about this job as we learn about what people are asked to do as part of this job (e.g. work 24/365, no breaks, work harder on holiday’s, etc.). And then, towards the end, the interviewer provides an example of those currently holding this job – mothers. It is at this point that the emotional barrier is reset making the interviewees and viewer’s feel strong emotions towards their mothers, leading to the desire to buy cards for mother’s day….

Another example, equally moving (at least for me, being a father of two girls), was the ad from Always “Like a Girl”:

Similar to the video from Cardstore.com, this ad managed to generate 49,967,426 views as of today, since it was published in June 26, 2014. Amazing!

  1. Now that you’ve made them cry / laugh, help them share it: While providing your reader / viewer with a detailed story line, one which leaves an impression, and has an emotional impact is extremely important (i.e. it is the reason people want to share in the first place), helping them share it is just as important. If your content is not easy to share, the reader / viewer may give up on it, and move on. One example of a website that helps people add share-ability to their content is Addthis.com. There are other companies out there that help with the sharing process, some of which are listed here.
  2. Anything else? Yes, there are other elements, such as:
    1. Give them free stuff: Let’s face it, we all like to get free products, or see people get free products, as it makes us want these products more. Two examples for this are two ads from Coke:

b. Include a call to action: Depending on the basis of the ad, if there is a call for action, such as the recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, or Kony2012, having a relevant cause to work towards leads people to share, as it makes them feel as if they are contributing to something important, that has an impact on their surroundings.

Needless to say, there are multiple aspects to marketing content go viral. The elements shared with you above, are those that in my opinion seem to have the largest impact and seemed to be the most common amongst successful campaigns.

In addition to the useful information I have shared in my post above, I thought I would share this link with some additional successful viral videos. Enjoy!

Some additional suggested reading:

http://blog.mswarsresearch.com/?p=689

http://blog.bufferapp.com/shareable-content-social-media-research

http://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-storytelling-3/

http://blogs.constantcontact.com/product-blogs/social-media-marketing/socially-shareable-content/

https://www.marketingtechblog.com/make-content-shareable/

 

Additional References (not embedded in the post as Hyperlinks):

Brightcove. (2013, October 1). New Research Shows Increasing Reliance on Content Marketing to Drive Brand Awareness, Inbound Traffic and Sales. Retrieved October 31, 2014, from https://www.brightcove.com/en/company/press/new-research-shows-increasing-reliance-content-marketing-drive-brand-awareness-inbound-traffic-and-s

Libert, K., & Tynski, K. (2013, October 24). Research: The Emotions that Make Marketing Campaigns Go Viral. Retrieved October 31, 2014, from http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/10/research-the-emotions-that-make-marketing-campaigns-go-viral/

Differentiation – Marriott vs. Hilton

As you may have gathered from some of my prior posts, having a social media presence in today’s market place is paramount for any and all hotels. This is evident in the various infographics I shared previously, like this one, and this one.  Needless to say, a hotel without a social media presence would be like a teenager wanting to become popular, go to a party, and stand in the corner all night and not socialize with anyone, or like a business not having its address found on a GPS (i.e. you might be able to ask for directions, or in the case of a hotel ask for recommendations, and end up finding it yourself, but it would take much longer, and you may give up before you do).  In this current post I will be focusing on two hotel industry heavyweights Marriott and Hilton, specifically how these two compare when it comes to their social media tactics / engagements, with the goal of trying to identify one that is managing to differentiate itself from its competition.

About the Subjects of our discussion:

From the start Marriott and Hilton have a lot of similarities with respect to their operations and what they have to offer their customers.  This is evident in a comparison performed by Business Bee in July of 2013, which provides some information such as the number of hotels (M:3,700 vs. H:4,000) room count ( M:660,394 vs. H:659,293), both have multiple brands (M:19 vs. H:10) each of which targets specific market segments, both have reward programs (Marriott Rewards & Hilton Honors), and according to ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) have similar scores (M:82 vs. H:80). As of the date of this post, Business Bee’s survey at the end of its post, which included 779 total votes, has Marriott leading over Hilton (54.81% vs. 45.19%) on which brand the voters would prefer. Another comparison of the two brands, which was done by Knoji.com, also shows a lot of similarities between the two. That said how do the two compare in the social stratosphere?

A few ground rules:

As we mentioned above, both brands have various sub-brands, each of which has its own social media strategy and platforms, such as various Facebook pages for the JW Marriott, and the Courtyard from Marriott or the Doubletree and the Hampton from Hilton. While we could spend a lot of time analyzing each of these sub-brands, for the purpose of this post, I have focused on the parent brands, i.e. Hilton Hotels & Resorts and Marriott Hotel & Resorts. Furthermore, both brands make use of various social media platforms, such as Hilton’s use of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Foursquare, as well as Chinese social media platforms like Tudou and Sina Weibo, or such as Marriott’s use of Blogger, Tumbler, etc. However, for the purpose of this comparison, I have limited the scope of discussion and what is deriving the level of the two brand’s engagement level to 3 main platforms – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Finally, please note that the numbers presented below are as of today’s date (9/11/14).

Social Media Strategy Overview:

So, before we delve into the comparison of the level of social media engagement of the two brands, I think it would be important to understand their overall social media strategy. For Hilton, as Andrew Flack, Hilton’s VP of global brand marketing, stated “Our brand promise is to ensure every guest feels cared for, valued and respected, and our social media channels are an extension of this promise…. Our strategy for managing guest feedback includes four main goals: listen, respond, resolve and implement. We have teams in place who closely monitor our brand social channels 24 hours a day to ensure that issues are acknowledged and addressed” (Wharton, 2012).

In addition to that, the following video from Vimeo does a great job in explaining just that:

Additional info about Hilton’s strategy can also be found here.

As for Marriott, while a bit late to the social media game, only starting with Facebook and Twitter in 2012, their focus has been on the younger generations, generation X and Y. As Michael Dail, VP of global brand marketing for Marriott, stated “We have a straightforward social media strategy: To become a forum for dialogue and be more relevant to Gen-X and Gen-Y.” This is evident in one of Marriott’s recent campaigns “Travel Brilliantly”, which was geared towards the younger crowed.  That said, Marriott does more than just try and converse with the younger target market, and has a more robust strategy, as Dail indicated “We actively monitor the page seven days a week and incorporate three detailed, meticulous sweeps on every comment on a daily basis… We aim to acknowledge the majority of posts and resolve any negative issues within (a) six- to 12-hour timeframe depending on the nature and severity” (Wharton, 2012). Another good example of the use of social media in promoting the brand can be found here.

Main platforms of engagement:

Facebook: Marriott seems to take the lead with the number of likes (1,489,977) vs. Hilton (1,2369,871). That said, Hilton seems to have the lead on the number of visits to its Facebook Page (6,407,871) vs. Marriott (3,278,851). Given the larger spread in the number of visits vs. the spread in the number of likes, I consider Hilton having a slight edge over Marriott via this platform.

Twitter: Marriott has 140K followers, 17.5K tweets, and 623 photos/videos posted. Hilton has 158K followers, 32.7K tweets and 965 photos / videos posted. Here to, we can see a clear winner – Hilton.

YouTube: Marriott has a total of 544,709 views, vs. Hilton which has 570,390 total views, giving Hilton the overall edge via this platform as well.

Klout Score: As we have seen above, Hilton seems to surpass Marriott in engaging with their customers at all 3 major platforms. So, it is no surprise that Hilton has a higher Klout score (75) Vs. Marriott (73) That said, I was not expecting the score to be that close, so I had to do a bit more digging.

Bonus Points: While I am not sure the following would impact the brand’s Klout score, it looks like Marriott does not only use social media to promote its brands externally to its customers but also internally to its employees. This can be seen in the following video:

Given this additional use, I awarded Marriott some extra “bonus points” regarding their use of social media as a whole.

And the Winner is….?

When we review the brand’s socialization with its customers, it is clear that Hilton has the edge on Marriott, based on the number of likes, followers, number of tweets, views of videos and overall Klout score. That said, Marriott’s innovative use of social media, not just externally towards its customers but also internally with its employees in my opinion levels the playing field. So, put another way, when it comes to the use of social media I feel that it is too close of a call, and should be considered a tie!

Perhaps before you make up your mind, I would recommend you also read through the recommended additional reading section below.

What do you think?

Recommended Additional Reading:

http://simplymeasured.com/blog/2014/02/28/5-social-media-lessons-learned-from-hotel-brands/

http://digiday.com/brands/how-hilton-reached-1-mil-facebook-fans-fast/

http://contently.com/strategist/2012/06/13/marriotts-five-star-twitter-strategy/

http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-strategy/take-off-the-social-media-blindfold/

http://www.brafton.com/news/social-media-stays-for-longer-than-one-night-in-hotel-industry

http://skift.com/2013/10/21/the-best-hotel-social-media-campaigns-of-2013/

http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/big-brand-theory-hilton-hotels-and-resorts

https://www.hashtags.org/how-to/marketing-how-to/social-media-branding-according-to-hilton/

http://recruitloop.com/blog/marriott-hotels-facebook-social-recruiting/

References:

Wharton, S. (2012, December 28). Top hotel brands share social media tactics. Retrieved September 11, 2014, from http://www.hotelnewsnow.com/Article/9603/Top-hotel-brands-share-social-media-tactics

 

 

 

 

 

 

IS USING BLOGS and TWITTER EASY AS 1, 2, 3…?

So, you want to “go social”? While starting a blog and posting your thoughts, opening a Twitter account and tweeting or opening a Facebook account and “facebooking” is a great first step, depending on what your end goal is, you may want to follow a few basic steps, i.e. best practice. After all, at the end of the day, going social is all about being social, generating a buzz and networking with others (i.e. follow or be followed, become friends with /of , etc.).

In my prior posts I discussed topics such as the application of social media in the hospitality industry, pros and cons of “going social” and the impact of mobile social apps on the hospitality industry. In this post, I will provide you, my readers, with what I feel are some best practice steps for both blogging and tweeting. Note that these recommendations are applicable to both the hospitality industry as well as others, and are somewhat applicable (in theory) to other social media tools.

While there are underlying similarities between blogging and tweeting (main idea is to share your thoughts with your public), there are some differences. So, first off, let’s start with best practice recommendations for blogging. So, let’s start off with an infographic, which provides a great summary of the key blogging best practice recommendations:

Promotional Tactics

Source: http://blog.surveyanalytics.com/2014/05/top-5-infographics-of-week-blogging.html

(Note that the source of the above infographic also provides additional infographics worth reading through.)

Here are some of the key best practice recommendations:

  • Post about something you love and know about – Find something you are passionate about. If you write about something you love, it will usually come through. People read blogs or follow others in areas of interest. When the blogger talks to the heart of his/her readers it makes the posts all the more enticing, and believable, something social media is all about.
  • Be consistent – Pick a regular time and day of the week or month that work best and post on a regular schedule. This is something that readers appreciate. Similar to products and services, consistency is always appreciated by your customers, i.e. your readers.
  • Be visual – Readers appreciate visual additions to posts. While the text in your post may be the meat of your post, consider the visual additions the gravy. It is what takes your “dish” over the top.
  • Include links – including links helps your readers find additional useful data they may be interested in finding after reading your post. It is also important to provide a link to either 1) your own website (if you have one) and/or 2) to any other social media tools you tend to use.
  • Be sure to promote your post – It is always important to promote your blog / posts, be it organic growth or paid growth. As discussed under including links, promote your blog / posts on other social media tools. Email your contact / follower list. And, if needed, use paid options to promote your blog.
  • Use Key Words – Using key word in your blog will help make your blog more visible to the world via search engines. After all, the goal of your blog is to spread your thoughts on a certain topic with readers that are interested in the same topic(s) as you.
  • Engage with your readers – This is the basis of being social, engaging with your readers and followers. By doing so, your readers may end up promoting you on their own blog or other social media channels. They may see that you are worth talking with directly or working with which in turn can lead to new business ventures.
  • Make it beneficial to your readers – Readers usually read social media in order to obtain something, be it material, emotional, spiritual or educational. The goal is to provide your readers with something that will benefit them. After all, this is why they are reading your blog in the first place.

I would also recommend watching the following video which provides some good tips associated with blogging:


And now on to Twitter. When it comes to Twitter, the recommendations I made above still hold true. That said, the so called meat of your post is now limited to 140 characters.

  • Think before you tweet – the limitation on the size of what you can say in a single tweet, while limiting, makes what you tweet even more important. It may make sense to tweet something less than 140 characters, say 120, to leave room for people to retweet you.
  • The use of hastags, use it wisely – Use the hastags used most widely in your industry if you want it to be found easily. And, only use hastags if and when key words are unavailable or ineffective. Make sure the Hastag being used is simple and unique.
  • The number of tweets per day sweet spot – according to some research done (Hunt, 12/2013), the ideal number of tweets per day is between 0 and 5 with 10 tweets per day being the max.
  • Don’t overdo it – be sure you don’t try and oversell anything via Twitter, this might end up being considered noise.
  • Timing is everything – When it is breaking news or something of the utmost importance, tweet it right away. Otherwise, try and learn the best time to tweet certain things. This will depend on your followers’ preferences.

In addition to these recommendations, here is a video associated with best practice recommendations for Twitter use:

As you will see under my additional suggested reading section, there are a lot of other tips and best practices worth reading about. When it comes to the hospitality industry, mainly hotels and restaurants, I would also suggest reading the articles found in the following links, as they may have some additional tips that are more industry specific:

http://www.reviewpro.com/nine-best-practices-hotels-on-twitter-27740

http://www.hsmai.org/knowledge/summary.cfm?ItemNumber=10929

http://hotelexecutive.com/business_review/2992/how-to-shine-online-best-practices-for-hotels-looking-to-win-customers-doing-pre-travel-research

http://www.hotelnewsnow.com/Article/5591/How-hoteliers-can-best-use-Facebook-and-Twitter

http://socialmediarestaurant.com/best-practices-%E2%80%93-restaurants-using-twitter/

If you feel that I left anything out, please feel free to share your thoughts. After all, aren’t we all her to network and socialize with one another?

 

Additional suggested reading:

Blogging:

https://www.socialmediatoday.com/tags/blogging-best-practices

http://socialmediab2b.com/2009/06/business-blogging-best-practices/

http://www.socialquickstarter.com/content/55-blogging_best_practices

http://waywardjourney.com/2014/07/30/best-practices-for-blogging-and-posting-on-social-media/

http://www.campaignercrm.com/en/community/blog/crm/post/10-best-practices-for-corporate-blogging/

Twitter:

http://denovati.com/2013/12/twitter-best-practices

https://business.twitter.com/best-practices

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenkrogue/2013/08/30/31-twitter-tips-how-to-use-twitter-tools-and-twitter-best-practices-for-business/

http://www.steamfeed.com/10-twitter-best-practices-2014/

http://www.businessesgrow.com/2014/04/29/twitter-best-practices/

http://mashable.com/2009/06/24/twitter-brand-best-practices/

Both:

http://www.businessesgrow.com/blog/page/4/

 

References:

Morris, J. (2014, July 30). Best practices for blogging and posting on social media. Retrieved August 9, 2014, from http://waywardjourney.com/2014/07/30/best-practices-for-blogging-and-posting-on-social-media/

Edelstein, M. (2014, January 10). RingCentral Blog for Businesses | US. Retrieved August 9, 2014, from http://blog.ringcentral.com/2014/01/5-business-blogging-best-practices-friday-five/

Cohen, J. (2009, June 4). 10 Business Blogging Best Practices. Retrieved August 9, 2014, from http://socialmediab2b.com/2009/06/business-blogging-best-practices/

Young, R. (214, January 16). 14 B2B Blogging Best Practices from Creation to Promotion. Retrieved August 9, 2014, from http://www.komarketingassociates.com/blog/b2b-blogging-best-practices-creation-to-promotion/

Hunt, C. (2013, November 8). Twitter Hashtags: 7 Tips and a Decision-Making Flowchart. Retrieved August 9, 2014, from http://denovati.com/2013/11/twitter-hashtags

Hunt, C. (2013, December 13). Twitter Best Practices: 11 Tips for Tweeting Well. Retrieved August 9, 2014, from http://denovati.com/2013/12/twitter-best-practices

Best practices | Twitter for Business. (n.d.). Retrieved August 9, 2014, from https://business.twitter.com/best-practices

 

 

 

 

 

Is Going Social Always the Right Path to Take?

pros-and-cons-of-social-media1-350x186

As we have seen in my prior blog posts, there is no avoiding it, social media is everywhere these days. That said, just because it is everywhere, it does not mean a company should just jump into it without first understanding the good and bad that may come with this new and always evolving marketing channel. When a company decides to “go social” (i.e. start using social media to market its products / services / brands and/or connect with and learn about its target market), it must first consider all the pros and cons associated with this up and coming marketing channel. While the use of social media in some industries, such as the hospitality industry, seems to have become more of a necessity than an optional marketing channel, a company would be smart to understand all of the pros and cons in order to put a strategy in place to deal with any potential issues and reap the maximum benefits of this great marketing tool.

In this blog post I will point out the leading pros and cons when deciding to go social.

First, the Good News – The Pros (Ambrose, 2010):

  • Direct communication channel with your target market. Social media gives you the tools to directly communicate with your target market in order to learn about their buying preferences, their thoughts on your brand, etc. leading to brand loyalty. It also gives you the opportunity to promote your brand directly to the target segment.
  • This is where the target customers are. Needless to say that most people that travel tend to use social media during their travels, to 1) share details of and pictures from their trip with others, 2) provide comments on the places they have visited, and 3) look for great deals and sign in to get various promotions.
  • Word of mouth marketing. There is no doubt that one of the best marketing company’s ca hope for is when customers recommend your brand (hotel or restaurants) to their friends, be it via posts, videos, comments, etc. People tend to hold their friends opinions at the highest regard when it comes to brand preferences.
  • Give your brand a personality. Depending on the style and “tone of voice” the company uses in its posts the company can give its brand a perceived personality, to better attract its target segment.
  • Gain feedback. The company can try and gain consumer insights by posting polls or asking their target market questions.
  • Learn more about the company’s target market.
  • Low cost. Unless the company decides to outsource their social media strategy to a third party agency (something we will discuss below), the cost involved in using these marketing channels are usually cheap.
  • Customer service. As I discussed in some of my prior posts, many hotels are now using social media tools, such as Twitter, to improve their customer service (e.g. concierge services via Twitter). This is a major aspect for the hospitality industry.
  • Crisis marketing. If and when something goes wrong, many customers will not want to wait for a press release before forming their own opinion. Social media is a quick channel to use when trying to set something right and avoid any bad PR.

And Now For the Bad News – The Cons (Ambrose, 2010):

  • Going social is time consuming. When implementing a social media strategy, the company will need to continuously monitor the various social media tools it chooses to use. The company will also need to keep monitoring the various trends in social media to make sure they are up to speed with any up and coming trends. This is critical for both hotels and restaurants who want to make sure their target market is always listening, and their hotels and restaurants are found.
  • Long time before a company gets an ROI. When applying a social media strategy, waiting to see an increase in sales or brand loyalty, i.e. a return on investment (ROI), usually takes time.
  • Risk of negative comments / feedback. One of the main pros mentioned above is to learn about your customers, the likes and dislikes by direct communication and their comments. However, there is a chance that some customers will give negative commentary about the brand, which in turn will hurt the brand and/or company’s perception.
  • Lack of control. When using traditional marketing to “push” your brand the company can control what is being said. However, in today’s open dialog world, the company has little control as to what the market can say about the brand / company.

Another aspect that should be considered, especially given the time and resources needed to make the most of this marketing channel, should be outsource vs. in house. Here are a few pros and cons when it comes to choosing which way to go (Rajan):

Outsourcing Pros:

  • When outsourcing to an agency that specializes in marketing via social media, they are usually experts in using the various social media tools available, making the best of these tools in the most efficient way.
  • Given the exposure these agencies have in implementing these tools with other companies, they already have a feel for what might work and what might not.
  • The company can learn from the way the agency does their work and implement the agency’s methods elsewhere (i.e. other franchises, hotels, restaurants, etc.). Or, the agency can help the company in building a strategy for them to implement in house.
  • The company will not have to devote a lot of in house resources to perform the tasks associated with marketing via social media

Outsourcing Cons:

  • The company will have to inform the agency of what is going on within the company, something which will need to remain confidential.
  • If they are not located within the same market, the company may need to spend time in educating the agency about the market. This is critical for hotels and restaurants.
  • The company may have a difference between how the brand is positioned and how it is presented (or talked about) via social media. The company will need to spend time educating the agency on these differences.
  • There is a chance that the company will not learn from the agency and never develop any expertise on how to use social media in house.
  • While the agency is more than likely experts in social media (which is why the company hired them in the first place), they are not necessarily experts in dealing with guest issues, which is one of the reasons to use social media in the first place in the hospitality industry – to improve guest service.
  • These agency services may be very pricy, and be far higher than paying someone in house to do this.

In House Pros:

  • The company will always know where things stand with this marketing channel and focus efforts where needed.
  • The company knows the “voice” of your business, and how to “talk” to your target customers.
  • If guests use social medial to complain, or comment, the company is able to reply immediately and how to resolve any potential issues or complaints.
  • Keeping this in house will help build a social culture within the company.
  • As the company gains more experience with these tools it will be easier for the company to implement these tools across the various hotels / restaurants and make changes to the company’s strategy.

In House Cons:

  • Depending on who will be doing this work, the company may need to spend a lot of time learning these tools and finding out which work best for the company’s brand.
  • Given the lack of knowledge the company may not be efficient in this marketing channel and spend too much time on it.
  • The company may not know how to reach new customers and make use of new tools out there.
  • If it is not natural for the company, the target customers will notice.

In addition to considering the general pros and cons of going social as well as the pros and cons of having these services in house vs. outsourced, the company should also consider the pros and cons of each of the various social media tools (i.e. which are best fitted with the company and its brand and which resonates in the best way with their target market). While I understand that social media tools come and go, and change on a regular basis, the following infographic provides general pros and cons for a few of the leading social media tools currently out there.

 

Social-Media-PROS-and-CONS

Source: http://wordviewediting.com/pros-cons-of-6-social-media-channels-infographic/

Final Thoughts:

When it comes to going social, the company should consider both the pros and cons of using social media in the first place. The company should also consider the pros and cons of outsourcing or keeping the social media marketing tasks in house. And finally, the company should consider the pros and cons for the various tools available (i.e. which is most fitting for the brand / company in question and which most relate to its target market).

Additional suggested reading:

http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/how-social-media-is-changing-the-travel-industry

http://chefforfeng.wordpress.com/2010/06/16/when-to-and-the-pros-and-cons-of-out-sourcing-your-social-media-for-restaurants-and-lodging/

http://marcsontag.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/is-social-media-for-hotels-overrated/

http://reknown.com/2010/05/pros-and-cons-of-hotel-blog/

http://canadabusiness.ca/eng/page/2655/

http://dhbusinessledger.com/Content/Commentary/Commentary/Article/Pros–cons-of-social-media-marketing/5/30/2092

http://www.psprint.com/resources/social-media-marketing-pros/

http://fredericgonzalo.com/en/2013/09/22/is-social-media-enhancing-or-ruining-the-travel-experience/

 

References:

Rajan, R. (n.d.). Social Media: In-house or Outsourced? What Are The Pros and Cons? – Rethink Hotels. Rethink Hotels. Retrieved August 2, 2014, from

http://www.rethinkhotels.com/social-media-in-house-or-outsourced-what-are-the-pros-and-cons/

Ambrose, M. (2010, October 5th). What are the Pros and Cons of Social Media Marketing?. Social Media Today. Retrieved August 2, 2014, from

http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/what-are-pros-and-cons-social-media-marketing

 

Calling on the power of mobile apps in the Hospitality Industry:

In my prior post I discussed a few applications of social media in the hospitality industry. The post ended with an infographic illustration of this topic which provided, amongst other points, some important statistics associated with mobile use, which includes:

  • By 2015 9 out of 10 consumers will have mobile phones
  • 29% of travelers have found flight plans via mobile apps
  • 30% of travelers have found hotel deals via mobile apps
  • 85% of travelers use their smartphones while they travel
  • 46% of travelers check into a location while on vacation using apps such as Facebook and Foursquare.
  • Top Five Uses of smartphones while traveling include: taking pictures, using maps, searching for restaurants, searching for activities and/or attractions and checking in prior to flying.

Source: http://www.besthospitalitydegrees.com/social-media/

There is no denying that mobile applications are all the trend these days, especially when it comes to ways for companies to better interact directly with their target consumers, something which is key in the hospitality industry. Similar to social media, the hospitality has taken to and fully embraced the power of mobile apps as yet another tool to socialize directly with and learn from their target consumers. While this holds true to all the subsectors in this industry, the focus for this post will be around the hotel and restaurant subsectors.

Hotels:

When it comes to the hotel industry, most if not all of the major chains have their own mobile apps which allow the consumers to perform various tasks, such as search for rates, booking, communicating with the hotels, etc. The benefits of having mobile apps are clear, and include:

  • Appealing more to Gen Y or time conscious travelers (e.g. business travlers), who prefer self-service. Mobile apps give these demographics the ability to do so, such as bypassing the front desk to access the room faster.
  • Catering to the Instant gratification generation – Apps such as “i-Guest have the capacity to transact a plethora of services, including mobile check-in/check-out, housekeeping requests, room service ordering, requesting valet parking or scheduling spa or restaurant reservations — all possible without the guest having to chat on the phone or being inconvenienced by needing to visit the front desk” (Davidson).
  • Greater staff efficiency through mobile technology – As Chris Davidson suggests in his article in the Hotel Business Review “As guests are becoming more autonomous during their stay by leveraging the use of their mobile devices, hoteliers can also deploy personnel much more efficiently. With fewer guest-staff interactions needed, hotel employees can be more attentive to tasks at hand, and remain more customer focused, while requiring fewer workers to be on the job at any given time” (Davidson). Another benefit, according to Davidson is that “Hoteliers can also benefit greatly from apps that include a housekeeping scheduling function, which can help prevent frustrating guests with maid service at inconvenient times, ensuring guest satisfaction. (Davidson)”
  • Using Mobile apps to strengthen brand awareness and brand loyalty – Davidson provides yet another example in which the apps help contributing to the overall brand. “Modern-design hotels use apps in lieu of compendia, providing a comprehensive collection of relevant hotel information that is both browseable at the guests’ convenience and interactive, not to mention sleek. There is practically no limit to the amount of information a hotel can put into such a digital compendium — plus unlimited images that highlight revenue-generating aspects of the property — allowing the hotel to communicate its offerings in a non-static way that is easily digestible and completely thorough. (Davidson).”

The two following YouTube videos below provide some additional insights into why mobile apps are important and how hotels are making use of these apps:

Restaurants:

For Restaurants, the available apps seem to be endless. Many of them circle around giving the users the ability to find restaurants near their location, provide comments / reviews on the restaurants and the food they just had, share pictures, etc.

The Daily Meal (thedailymeal.com) provides a slide show of the leading 22 restaurant apps:

http://www.thedailymeal.com/22-best-free-restaurant-apps-slideshow

Of those, some of the well-know ones might include Zagat, Urbanspoon and Yelp, which according to an article from Stephanie Crawford, ranked as some of the top 5 restaurant apps (http://adventure.howstuffworks.com/destinations/travel-guide/tips/5-phone-apps-for-finding-restaurants.htm#page=1)

Other apps, such as Chownow, allow for online ordering and helps connect between consumers and various online content, such as a restaurant’s menu, Facebook page and website. Apps such as Tabbedout give consumers the ability to “open a tab”, pay and “close the tab” by entering credit card information. Other apps such as Diner Connection let consumers sign in and let’s them know when their table is ready (Shih, 2012).

The following YouTube further illustrates the use and importance of mobile apps when it comes to the restaurant subsector:


Final thoughts:

So, when it comes to the hospitality and mobile apps, you can see, the possibilities are endless. And, from the nature of the industry, personally, I feel that these are all considered social in nature. After all, being social is the basis of the hospitality industry, and the source of its revenue.

As always, I will leave you with a few infographics that further illustrate the importance and use of mobile apps in this amazing industry:

infographics-on-hospitality-mobile-apps-e1378399892809
Infographic-Mobile-And-Social-Optimization-For-Hotels35-top-restaurant-apps-infographic
The source websites to each of these can be found once you press on the infographic illustration.

Additional Reading:

For Hotels:

http://www.hotelscheap.org/discount-travel-blog/planning-your-trip/25-best-web-apps-sites-for-travel

http://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/4061490.html

http://www.hotelnewsnow.com/Article/11006/Mobile-tablet-apps-could-change-industry

http://her-consulting.com/5-reasons-mobile-app/

http://hotelexecutive.com/business_review/3313/hospitality-is-on-the-move-how-mobile-apps-are-empowering-guests-and-boosting-hotels-bottom-lines

http://inventorspot.com/articles/top_five_hotel_mobile_apps_32924

http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/best-smart-phone-hotel-apps

For Restaurants:

http://lifehacker.com/5852314/five-best-restaurant-discovery-apps

http://blog.softwareadvice.com/articles/retail/6-mobile-restaurant-apps-1080812/

 

References:

Davidson, C. (n.d.). Hospitality is on the Move – How Mobile Apps are Empowering Guests and Boosting Hotels’ Bottom Lines, by Chris Davidson. HotelExecutivecom Daily Headlines. Retrieved July 23, 2014, from http://hotelexecutive.com/business_review/3313/hospitality-is-on-the-move-how-mobile-apps-are-empowering-guests-and-boosting-hotels-bottom-lines

Shih, S. (2012). 6 Mobile Apps Restaurant Owners Should Know About. 6 Mobile Apps Restaurant Owners Should Know About. Retrieved July 23, 2014, from http://blog.softwareadvice.com/articles/retail/6-mobile-restaurant-apps-1080812/

Social Media in the Hospitality Industry:

One of the industries that has done a great job in embracing and taking to social media has been the hospitality industry. While many other industries view social media as purely a marketing tool, one they can use to 1) converse directly with their target market and promote their products, services and brands, and 2) learn about their target consumers and their buying behaviors, the hospitality industry has done a great job in using social media in a variety of ways to build customer loyalty and product / brand awareness.

Here are just a few examples of how the hospitality industry has been thinking outside the box, and made great use of various social media tools:

  • Extending Concierge Services: Having the concierge use a social media tool such as twitter might allow him to communicate with guests from their guest rooms, prior to their arrival, while they are out and about touring the area. In using such a tool, they can also see other guest’s Q&A with the concierge, some of which might answer their own questions or provide them with ideas of things to see and/or do during their stay
  • Customer Service: Hoteliers can customize their customer service, going above and beyond and provide their guests with a personalized feel. The hotel / restaurants can offer personalized promotions / gifts to those that sign in to the hotel or restaurant via tools such as Facebook or Foursquare. Restaurants, for example, can also take to go orders via Twitter. All of these are geared to make the customer feel like they are getting personalized attention.
  • Story telling: Another way to use social media is to have the guests of the hotel or patrons of the restaurant help tell the story of the establishment, be it via Facebook, YouTube, Flicker, or blogs. One example of this is the Roger Smith hotel that has embraced this method, as can be seen in the following YouTube video.
  • Last Minute Deals: Yet another way for the hospitality industry to use social media, especially for hotels or for flights, is to promote last minute deals.
  • Facilitating Guest Communities: Guests at hotels that are members in the hotel chain program might elect to share tips and advice as it relates to the hotels they stayed at, restaurants they ate at, or places they visited, in order to make the stay of their co-members benefit from this information, which they themselves one day might find of use from another member such as themselves.
  • Emphasizing Unique Properties: Both hotels and restaurants can make use of social media in a traditional (and some may say cheap) way, and market and promote their property via social media tools such as Flicker, YouTube, etc. An example of this is the way Hilton used YouTube to market their hotels. Others might use tools such as Twitter to share promotional information for their properties.
  • On Site Merchandizing: Combining the strength of social media with that of the mobile world, such as geo-location feature of an individual based on his cell phone. A hotel or restaurant can use this to provide certain promotional gifts, such as free drinks, or gifts if and when someone walks into the establishment.

The following Infographic from Best Hospitality Degrees provides a quick snapshot on some of the examples raised above as well as some important factors to keep in mind for this industry:

 hospitality

Source: http://www.besthospitalitydegrees.com/social-media/

What about you, have you used social media while traveling or dining out?

Have you stayed at a hotel or dined at a restaurant that made use of social media in a way that was unique and caught your attention?

If so, share your story.

Additional Recommended Reading:

http://socialhospitality.com/category/topics/social_media/

http://www.traveldailynews.com/news/article/57405

http://www.wihphotels.com/publication/is-social-media-the-future-of-hotel-marketing/

References / Source data:

http://mashable.com/2010/05/24/hospitality-social-media/

http://mashable.com/2010/10/18/hotel-industry-social-media/