Is Going Social Always the Right Path to Take?

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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

 

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