34 – Social Media: Prepping For The Slow Season
In this episode of the Suite Spot, we help hoteliers prepare their properties for the slow season by discussing the best ways to optimize their hotel’s social media profiles. Kelly Albritton, Senior Product Analyst, joins host Ryan Embree to share insights from her experience working in Travel Media Group’s social media department.
Ryan and Kelly cover important topics in this episode, from setting up automated messages on your social media accounts to leveraging social media ads to target new guests. Kelly suggests ideas on posting and how to measure the success of the social media campaigns your hotel runs. This is episode is a great guide on how to get more likes, engagement, and followers to your hotel’s social media profiles.
If you are looking to learn more information about our social media solution or want to submit a question for future episodes, call or text 407-984-7455.
Our podcast is produced as an audio resource. Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and human editing and may contain errors. Before republishing quotes, we ask that you reference the audio.
Ryan Embree: Welcome to Suite Spot where hoteliers check-in and we check out what's trending in hotel marketing. I'm your host, Ryan Embree. Hello, hello everyone this is your host, Ryan Embree and welcome to the Suite Spot. In today's episode we are going to talk about the up and coming slow season that is approaching, historically when we get in the winter, we know in the hotel and hospitality industry seems to - the wheels start turning a little bit slower. So we're going to try today to give you some tips and best practices on how to use social media during the slow season to help with occupancy, help with ADR, help with social media growth. So in saying that, I've got an expert special guest with us today, senior product analyst, Kelly Albritton who works at Travel Media Group's social media department. She has been with the company now for almost five years. So we're really excited to have her on. So thank you Kelly for joining me today.
Kelly Albritton: Thanks for having me.
Ryan Embree: So let's jump right in and talk about social media during your slow season, what would be kind of the first tip or best practice that you would tell a hotelier to get ready for the slow season?
Kelly Albritton: Well the first thing I would tell them is to optimize your accounts and make sure everything is looking right. Making sure that your Facebook and your social media accounts have a fresh look and their a fresh destination every time that your potential guests might come visit your page. So you need fresh pictures. Think about the last time that you took property photos. Do they need to be updated? Then you can also use the images to transform your cover images, so you have the ability to create a slideshow or add videos to your cover image. So the first thing they're seeing is always different.
Ryan Embree: We talk about expectation when it comes to travelers and when they're researching your property, whether it be on OTA sites, Facebook, other social media platforms. You want to make sure that those pictures that you're presenting them are the best representation of your property. One, but also sets the right expectation. So it's absolutely vital to make sure that those pictures are being refreshed. Now there's a couple of things that you guys do with adding some of Facebook's features for hotels. What are some of those things that you can add to a Facebook page for example, for a hotel?
Kelly Albritton: Well probably the most important is adding a book now button on the top right corner of your page just so that it's easily available and you want to make sure during the slow season that this is leading to the correct website. So make sure you check your book now button and the about information to make sure all the information is correct.
Ryan Embree: And you can actually track some of those analytics with Facebook data, correct?
Kelly Albritton: Yeah, it tracks the amount of times someone clicks on your links in the post and on the about section.
Ryan Embree: And that's a great way to kind of look at maybe when you need to tweak things is based on that conversion over the course of time. So one of the really important things we talk about when it comes to social media is using it as a form of communication for our travelers and for our guests. Some travelers might be reaching out for questions about the property, some guests might be requesting some inquiries or just giving feedback during stay, so what do you suggest to hoteliers when it comes to social media messaging? How should they prepare for that?
Kelly Albritton: So as hoteliers, you guys are always busy and we want to make sure that you are ready to have the answers for the guests when they come up. So you can add an automated messaging system to your Facebook account that will automatically reply to specific questions that you're going to get on a normal basis. So you can answer like, if you need the contact information, the location, how to reach the property, any custom questions that you might always get and your front desk can help you answer those and figure out the best way to answer that. And that way you are stay on top of the frequent questions, but also have the ability to check in when there is a different type of question that's not a normal question that comes up on a regular basis.
Ryan Embree: Can you customize those questions for the automated messages for your hotel?
Kelly Albritton: It is a little limited, but you can customize the questions that might not be pertaining to every industry. So they do give you that ability, but it might be a little limited.
Ryan Embree: So that's a great feature that hoteliers might not know about with that automated messaging because it's gonna save them time. Let's move into taking ad spend or your social media to the next level through ad spend. Talk to us a little bit about how we consult with our social media partners on how best to use ad spend.
Kelly Albritton: The first step of any social media ad spend is to set up a Facebook account, set up an ads account, and then start poking around there. There's a lot of things you can do on there. And so the main idea is to zero in on what your goal is for social media. Think about why are you on social media? Do you want to reach a lot of people, like a billboard does, then impressions is probably the way to go. Do you want a lot of comments and clicks on your posts? Then engagement is the way to go. Do you want to build your follower account? Then you need page like ads. There's different ways of reaching your goal and you can have a variety of goals, but you need to define those goals in order to get your ads working correctly.
Ryan Embree: I think that is so important when we talk about ad spend on social media because it is really something that you could just throw money into without any sort of, like you said, goal in mind. So make sure that you have targeted ads and when someone asks you why you're spending, have a really clear and concise answer on what you're looking for. So speaking of that, you know, one of the things that Travel Media Group that we do with our social media solution, is we put a lot of ad spend to not just post out there but we customize a post. Because we know every single hotel is different and we know the amenities, location, you know, even what's going on in the local area is completely different for hotels. So talk to us a little bit about if a hotel wanted to do some custom type posts, you know, where's a good starting point?
Kelly Albritton: We want to focus about your hotel, we want to know about your area and in order to do that we want to know more about you. So we have made a one track communication with the content writers so that what you want the audience to see and know about you, that we know that as well so that our communication is great. We want to focus on the property itself, highlight unique amenities depending on the season. So we might highlight the indoor pool that's heated during the winter time, but during the summer we'll highlight the outdoor pool that you have or maybe during the winter time we want want to highlight your outdoor pool to bring in those people for the summer, thinking ahead. And we also want to make sure that we're giving the possible guests your website and contact information so that stuff is readily available. We also want to spark the interest of potential guests so we want to make sure that we are letting them know about potential events that are happening nearby and letting them know about the events, before the event is sold out. And so keeping track of is this event going to be a sell out, then I should probably schedule that at least three months in advance or right when the tickets are being sold. And then if there's also events that you as a local like to go to, then you also need to post those so they get to explore the area as a local.
Ryan Embree: Absolutely and just to add, you know, we talk to hoteliers all the time. We know during big events you're most likely going to be sold out, but the purpose of putting this on social media is, first to get that out there about your hotel, but it's also to direct them straight to your website so that they're not finding you on an OTA or Booking.com or Expedia where there might be a commission involved. They're finding you on Facebook and you're directing them straight to a website so that you're getting that booking commission free. That is super important when it comes to your really, really busy times and making sure cutting down on those commissions,
Kelly Albritton: It's all about getting travelers interested in your location and so you want to highlight why you love your city. Share that love for the city as well as share any trending information or attraction information that you might know but a traveler might not know. So every little detail that you know and you love about your city needs to be shared with the world.
Ryan Embree: And we talk about that all the time with this generation looking for unique adventures. You know, that has been one of the cause for the rise of Airbnb because they want that local unique experience. So if you're sharing those types of stories, if you're sharing those types of events on social media, that is going to attract that generation. So let's talk about scheduling posts. A huge part of our program, but also social media in general is the timing of your posts. You and your team do a lot when it comes to making sure that you're posting at the right time to get the most engagement and the most impressions. I would talk to a hotelier and they might tell me, you know, what's the difference between me posting in the morning or posting late at night? And there really is a huge difference. So can you kind of talk about post timing and when you guys are pushing out those posts?
Kelly Albritton: Yeah, there's a difference with that. Every customer and audience is different. So you need to think about every unique audience member that you are targeting. Does your posts target moms or does it target solo travelers? So you would schedule those at different times and you need to put yourself in their shoes to know exactly when you would post it. When would they be most likely on social media. If a mom is taking her kids to school, you wouldn't schedule it during that time because they probably won't see it, but a solo traveler might. So think about that a lot and make some lifestyle assumptions and go with your gut kinda on that and you can compare down the line and see what is working for that specific demographic.
Ryan Embree: So how do you, what are some ways to know if it is working?
Kelly Albritton: So you want to set up a baseline, figure out what is a good engagement for your post. So every property is different, but you want to see what is good for your property. So you want to compare how many people have engaged with the posts versus how many actually saw the post. So take each individual post differently just for some easy math. Say you have five people saw a post, but all five engaged with that post. So that looks great. You have 100% engagement rate, but say you have one with 10 people saw it, but only five engaged with it, that's not as much engagement as the other posts so that post might still need some tweaking for the future if you want to reuse it somehow.
Ryan Embree: And I think that's so important, I love that phrase, creating that baseline to hoteliers always are comparing themselves to other hotels, competition. But when it comes to social media, every single hotel is at a different point and space when it comes to their social media accounts. So you comparing yourself a suburban hotel off the highway, you're not going to get as much engagement as a hotel that's downtown. You might not have 5,000-10,000 followers. But the example, I love the example that you just made of saying how many people are viewing it and how many people are engaging in it. That is a great percentage to take a look at because that's going to show you the success where you can start to come up with a strategy and that's what this is all about. So let's get back to the content calendar because I think that is absolutely critical because what we don't want is you sitting at your desk at five o'clock after a shift and saying, "I've got to come up with a social media post right then, right now." It's so much easier to plan ahead, get that calendar and have that content already ready, than just trying to come up with something creative and engaging right from the top of your head. So talk to us a little bit about some tips about planning posts.
Kelly Albritton: It's hard to come up with a topic on the spot. So the idea is to think of social media on a constant basis and then when you're busy and you're like, "Oh, I should have done this right now" you can take a note and save that for later, for next year. So if you didn't do it this time, you can have it ready next year. And then you can also focus on planning ahead depending on the season. So if it's cold outside and you want to draw people you might talk about museums, but in the summertime you might talk about the outdoors. So focusing ahead of time and knowing what would you be doing during that time as a traveler in your area and giving them the best tips to do that.
Ryan Embree: And with that planning comes consistency, right? We want to have a plan as far as how many posts we're doing per week, what type of posts that we're doing, you gave some great examples there. Talk to us a little bit about the consistency of social media posting.
Kelly Albritton: Social media should be your priority as high as a customer experience. It's the same thing as customer service. Your front desk, that is the face of your company and you want to think of that as a high priority. And in order to do that you have to have dependable people that will help you throughout on a consistent basis. And you need to be able to schedule in advance and schedule content that you are gonna like and making sure that your social media doesn't go stale.
Ryan Embree: So speaking of going stale, how can you vary the content of your post?
Kelly Albritton: So you want to make sure that your content is eye-catching. So you need to change up what type of posts you're doing. So do you want just plain text or images or links? Change it up every once in awhile, have a variety. You can also change the topic of your posts so that you're not getting tuned out by your followers. Nobody wants to follow an account that's only talking about themselves and that's why you have that other content that will help the user. You don't want to always target them for book now because they're not gonna listen to you, they're gonna tune you out. And so varying the topic will help you a lot. And it would also help you figure out who your audience is. So if you see some content is performing better, then you can continue to do some more content like that. And if the some content isn't performing as well, then you can kind of take those away a little bit and start working away and seeing who is watching your social media pages and getting to the bottom of who they are and learning more about them.
Ryan Embree: Yeah, and you have tons of analytics when it comes to social media now and data to really position your post to make sure that it's attractive to your entire audience. I think, you mentioned, this is a misconception when it comes to social media in the hotel industry that they do have to be constantly selling all the time. And that's not what social media is really used for. If you're constantly putting posts out there saying, "On sale now," you know, "Rooms low, low, low," like all of that selling, no one wants to see that, think about the way you personally use your own social media out there. If you were seeing that constantly on your feed, that is going to become a time where you just unfollow that because we get enough advertisements, we get enough marketing every single day of our life. You know, social media users are looking for things that add value to them, something that, that is not necessarily a blatant advertisement. So definitely, definitely take that under consideration when you're planning your posts. So let's talk about goals. So we've kinda gone through the whole entire process here from creating and optimizing your page. We talked about taking it to the next level with ad spend, talked about customizing your posts and those custom posts, the timing of them. You talked about setting some goals with ad spend, what should be a goal for social media and hotels?
Kelly Albritton: So it really depends by location. And social media also is ever changing. So as your location changes, so is social media. So you really have to think about how unique your specific hotel is and compare yourself only to yourself and not other businesses. Setting up that baseline on that we talked about earlier and paying attention to if there's a spike in the engagement or in the page likes what did you do right during that time and then focusing on other times where you might not see much improvement. What did you change during those times? Being realistic with yourself about how can you improve this and what improvement are you making? And it's just a constant game of watching and adjusting your strategy.
Ryan Embree: And I love what you said about setting goals when it comes to whether it be engagement, impressions. I mean a goal for social media for a hotel could be as simple as in the next three months I want to see my follower growth by 25 users or 25 followers or I want to put posts out there that are at least getting two to three likes per post. It can really start as simple as that and grow because what we want to do in the slow season is we want to build that follower growth to as big as we can. So come that summer season when we're really busy, all of a sudden we had that bigger growth, we had that bigger audience and it's almost like as a social media snowball effect because then you grow that audience in the summer and now you've got an even bigger audience to market to and attract in your winter and slower months. So Kelly, now that you've given us all these best practices, can you explain a little bit what Travel Media Group does to help hotels with social media and kind of all the tips that we talked about today?
Kelly Albritton: Yeah, so we're always looking at the type of content we're posting, how can we improve it, what is actually working and what is not? And then being able to look at across multiple properties and seeing a trend also helps us a lot. In addition to that, we have the OneView planner that helps you let us know what events and features you want to highlight on a specific time. And we have the monthly calendars, so you can let us know this month I want to focus on bike week or this month I want to focus on my renovations at the property so we know what is going on and we can focus on specific topics.
Ryan Embree: Awesome. Thank you so much Kelly, for all the tips. If you have any other questions about some of the best practices that we do at Travel Media Group or even our social media solutions that we provide for hoteliers, this is a great time to learn more about it, especially going into the slower seasons. So you can contact us, as always, at (407) 984 7455. Thank you again, Kelly for joining me today.
Kelly Albritton: It was a pleasure.
Ryan Embree: And we will see you all next time on the Suite Spot. To join our loyalty program, be sure to subscribe and give us a five star rating on iTunes. Suite Spot is produced by Travel Media Group, our editor is Anne Sandoval with cover art by Bary Gordon. I'm your host, Ryan Embree, and we hope you enjoyed your stay.
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