As consumers spend increasing amounts of time on social media networks, businesses are rushing to follow them. A common expectation now exists that an online marketing strategy is a must for any business seeking to get a bigger slice of the target market pie, and this is especially true for those in the hospitality sector.
Businesses in the hospitality industry need to jump on and follow suit if they haven’t already. But why should you?
Hospitality is driven by reviews and recommendations. While people make their purchasing decisions based on different criteria, recommendations and peer reviews are gaining popularity as methods of persuasion. Consumers are flocking online to share their (good or bad) experiences with brands.
In an industry where customer service is key, it makes sense to create the best customer service experience possible. Social media provides a new and improved customer service channel for businesses. It offers you online visibility and the ability to market your business online, which increases your reach and exposure to potential customers.
Things to consider when deciding on a social media strategy
Think about your goals and objectives when planning your strategy. This will help you decide which social media platforms to begin with.
If you are new to social media, try setting up only one platform. Get comfortable using your chosen platform and see how much time it takes up on a daily and weekly basis. Then think about setting up another platform.
Create a content strategy. In other words what will you be putting out on social media and how often? Always think about your customer when you decide on the content. Does your customer want to be bombarded with promotional materials or would they benefit from a useful article you found and decided to share?
In order to make social media work you have to use it regularly and make sure you are participating in conversations.
Choosing the right social media platform
When using social media as part of your marketing it is important to understand which platforms to use:
Twitter allows businesses to connect with customers, other businesses and individuals on a global or local scale. If fast customer service is important to your business, you can use Twitter to reply to comments, questions and complaints customers might have, in real time.
This may not seem like a marketing strategy but immediate, real time customer service is marketing in itself. It will generate positive sentiments amongst your followers and promote word of mouth recommendations for your business.
Think of your brand’s Facebook page as the online “headquarters” of your business. It can be a mini marketing hub where customers can gather to see what you have to offer. As part of your online marketing strategy give your Facebook fans exclusive information about upcoming deals and specials (however make sure not to be excessive). You can also set up Facebook check in deals that reward your customers for checking into your business by granting them discounts or coupons.
You can use blogs for marketing in two ways. First, you can set up a business blog on your website. Secondly you can find influential bloggers to review your products or services and direct readers to your website.
A business blog can be used to position your business as an expert in your field. You can also use the blog to post company milestones customers may be interested in, such as moving into a new office or securing a large client.
A review from an influential blogger can give your business broader online exposure, especially if the blogger has a wide readership. While you have no control over the content the blogger will produce, you can plan ahead to ensure they have a positive experience with your brand.
Youtube can be a way to use meaningful and fun events in your business as a marketing strategy. Giving customers an insight into your business will stimulate curiosity and create an emotional association. To increase the effectiveness of your video, post it on all of your social media platforms.
Pinterest is the newest addition to the social media scene. It allows you to “pin” images onto boards that you can create yourself. As part of your marketing strategy you can create a board to display your new products, photos from business events and even happy customers. The biggest benefit is giving your customers a visual overview of the business.
You don’t have to be an expert to incorporate social media into your marketing strategy. Even though there are many options, the key is beginning with small steps that are in line with the objectives of your business and building on your social media gradually, until you are comfortable with the online space.
– Kylie Tabrett is account manager of GoHospitality, an online business directory servicing the hospitality industry.