WEST HILLS, California—The key to social media marketing success is customized, quality messages, said Kent Schnepp, chief strategy officer for search engine marketing firm EngineWorks. Schnepp talked about social media marketing strategy last week during a webinar for the Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association, based in West Hills, California.
“With social media marketing, we don’t want to just put out a bunch of noise,” Schnepp said. “The signals need to be interesting and of value to the people you are targeting.”
“Think of social media not as advertising your brand, but more about the experience of staying with you,” Schnepp said. “If you are top of everything going on in Vail, Colorado, for example, you are the resource that (potential customers) go to.”
There are several other best practices that hoteliers should consider as they form their social media strategies:
— Explore the available social media sites, and determine which are best for the property to focus on. Although Facebook and Twitter boast millions of users, those social media sites are not necessarily the best audiences for all hotels, according to Schnepp.
“Consider what is right for your business, and not what the latest trend is,” he said. “One size does not fit all in social media; it has to be customized to your user.”
Hoteliers first must determine which social media services their target guests are using. For example, Schnepp uses sites such as tripadvisor.com when researching his vacations in obscure locales that offer saltwater fishing.
“I am so targeted that Facebook may not be the best way to reach me,” he said.
At the same time, many hotel companies and brands have had great success using Facebook. For example, Dots, a young women’s clothing line, has developed more than 11,000 relevant fans on Facebook.
“Their demographics are very strong on Facebook,” Schnepp said. “If they would have tried the same approach on LinkedIn, they would have failed.”
To find out which social media sites are popular by industry and to keep up with social media trends, Schnepp suggested visiting mashable.com, traffikd.com and doshdosh.com.
— Speak the language of the users on each specific site instead of sending out a mass message to all social media sites.
“What works on one site may not work on others,” Schnepp said.
— Optimize the hotel’s profiles on social media sites so guests can find the property’s sites on search engines.
“Social media marketers don’t realize how much (search) optimization can be done to their profiles,” Schnepp said.
For example, on Facebook, hotels can create a URL directly to their Facebook page, which will help the hotel’s Facebook listings show up in search engines. On Twitter, hotels should incorporate key words, such the property’s location, into the biography section. In LinkedIn profiles, hotels can use key words in the user name, create a URL directly to their LinkIn page, and add up to three additional links in the profile.
— Track the performance of your messages on social media sites. Facebook has a proprietary tracking system, as does Bit.ly and TweetStats.com
— Stay relevant.
“I want you to take advantage of relevant opportunities you encounter each day,” Schnepp said. To keep up the hot topics that people are talking about, Schnepp suggested using services such as WhatTheTrends.com, Google Trends, Google Analytics and Twitter.com.
—Keep it real. For example, Comcast has improved its customer service by focusing on solutions to customers’ problems on its Twitter page, ComcastCares.
“They have focused on valuable communication, not shameless self-promotion,” Schnepp said.