Is Your Hotel Ready for Direct Booking on Social Media?
E-commerce on social media has traditionally remained in the retail realm.
Companies use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat to sell jeans, shoes, backpacks and jewelry. Feeds endlessly target consumers with offers for mobile games, fitness programs, beauty products and tech gadgets. Even real estate firms showcase their listings with glamorous photo spreads and video.
But for hotels, resorts and hospitality venues, social media as a business tool has been largely about building brand awareness and increasing visibility. Social media users can’t book their stays directly through their social media apps.
We believe that’s about to change. The possibilities are vast, and they also could be extremely profitable.
Hospitality groups should start working diligently now to make the most of what could become a transformative way of attracting and booking new guests. Here are some practical steps you can take so you aren’t left out of the next revolution in hotel reservations.
Hospitality and Social Media Already Have A Strong Connection
For highly visual social media platforms like Instagram, hospitality is a natural fit. A quaint collection of lakeside cottages at sunset. A stately landmark hotel amid the bustling downtown nightlife. A serene seaside resort at sunrise. Any of these make for a winning post.
Companies like Vrbo, Airbnb, Expedia and Hotels.com are constantly flooding social media channels with offers. Large chains also have invested heavily in campaigns that are competing for eyeballs and clicks as well.
But independent owners and operators don’t necessarily have the same resources or strategies to take full advantage of featuring their property on social media. Nevertheless, we believe it’s not going to be a big leap to move potential customers from browsing your property to booking a stay within the same post.
O’Rourke already works with clients to create compelling social media campaigns with imagery, video and content. What we’re planning for now is a distinct call to action that takes social media to the next level.
Social Media Will Give Hotels Multiple New Ways to Attract and Book Customers
So how can you ensure you’re ready for this next hospitality booking revolution? First, you need to be on social media. You should be actively promoting your property with regular updates, engaging with customers, sharing, liking and resharing their posts.
Having an established foundation of social media activity will help you better take advantage of the new ways those platforms will help you attract and book customers.
Here are the specific areas we see the hospitality industry boosting revenue with social media:
Today’s Social Media “Shops” Cater to Retail. Why not Hotels and Resorts?
Shops are the digital storefronts that companies can set up on social media. On an app like Instagram, the “shop” is indicated by the little handbag or shopping bag icon.
If you visit the shop, Instagram will show you any brands you’ve interacted with that have those products. It’s like having a curated personal shopper experience.
But that experience remains very retail oriented. And the catch is that right now you have to be using one of the established e-commerce platforms (e.g. Shopify) in order to set up a storefront.
Other posts might actually be an ad. Tapping on the image might generate a pop-up bubble, “Summer breeze shirts, $99.” That functionality is not yet there for hotels. But it’s coming.
Social Media Influencers Become Your Commissioned Sales Staff
The hospitality industry has used social media influencers to feature their properties in their posts in exchange for compensation. The hope is their audience and their endorsement will translate into an increase in visibility and bookings.
Determining whether you’re getting a reasonable return on your investment is tricky. Posts don’t include a direct link back to your property, so drawing a direct line from their promotion to your bottom line is speculative at best.
In the future, we expect social media channels to provide tools and plug-ins that allow hotels to turn influencers into sales associates who can earn a commission for every booking they facilitate.
If a stay at your resort can be purchased directly through Instagram and their incentive to promote it is by getting a kickback through commission, you have greater assurance your social media investment is paying off.
Booking Will Be Easier With Clear Calls to Action
Let’s say you have a post featuring your picturesque waterfront cottage. Instead of being purely informational or visual, the post could include a “Book Now” button.
The next thing they know, they’re over in the booking engine planning their next vacation. That option is just not there yet for independent hotel owners and operators.
Now is the Time to Contact Your Booking Engine Vendors About Social Media
Your booking engine or central reservation system vendor may already be working on integrations with social media. Ask them if this is something they’re planning for. Is there a beta version that you can test?
You also need to ask whether they’re planning to integrate with Meta/Facebook/Instagram to enable Action buttons so that you can have direct links to your booking engine from your social media posts.
You Can’t Afford to Miss the Next Social Media Trend for Hotels
Each of these trends will create a new, low-cost avenue to drive bookings directly to your property, presumably without giving up a huge percentage to a third-party agent.
Travel and lodging is a competitive marketplace. Having a strategy to take advantage of the next social media trend is essential in staying ahead of the competition.
If you’re ready to see where O’Rourke can take you, let’s talk.