Social Media (SM) is growing substantially and now hotels are using it more than ever to engage with both new and existing customers. Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp are the most popular sites used by hotels. However, small business sector has been slow to enter social media world. Small hotels are better placed than other hotels as they do not need to invest a lot if the hotel owner is managing the online presence. An increase in online reputation will allow the organisation to increase its prices without compromising on market share. Currently, more than 4.5 billion people now use the internet, while social media users have used increased by more than nine percent (321million new users) to 3.8 billion users in 2020 (1). Faced with such statistics and views, hotels need to harness the power of social media in order to stay ahead of their competitors. The benefits of social media include:
SM is a powerful marketing tool that can be used to attract customers, build customer loyalty and extend a product or service’s brand. Entry costs for social media are low and profitable customers tend to be more loyal and essentially desire to be loyal. Many businesses are now taking advantage of introducing SM into their marketing programs. The idea of marketing products using social media has increased, and this rise in usage has attracted many hotels to follow suit. Thus, many hotels now view social media as essential for their future plans. An organisation should, however, not be tempted to jump onto the newest social network, it must strategically align itself with SM networks that make sense to the business. Thus, knowing and understanding its client base is key to choosing the social media marketing mix that is perfect for the business. Any social media site can be effective for marketing if organizations take their time to understand what type of content performs well and get creative about how to provide the product in a way that would be appreciated and accepted. The marketing team should be more honest, transparent and more engaging. The number one deterrent of SM for small businesses has always been the time commitment required to keep profiles active. It is therefore crucial for small hotels to decide where to spend their social time based on the desired results and the likelihood of payoff. “It’s not about who has the most money, it’s about who is the cleverest”.
Although small hotels embrace SM, they fail to maximise its opportunity. 62% of the hotels in the UK weren’t offering extras during online booking process and only 38% have the guest option of buying additional products (2). This is a missed opportunity and a lot, can still be achieved especially in revenue generation. If customers are always complaining about the prices a hotel offers, the management can implement discounts in its revenue strategies thus meeting social media at its point of need.
Social media gives an opportunity to connect in a very personal and meaningful way with customers. Through new communication channels such as Facebook which has over 32,000,000 users in the UK and 1.65 billion users worldwide; Twitter with 20 million; and YouTube and LinkedIn with 19 million users (3). The hotel can send out a mass message and can even receive immediate responses through the same channels. This allows an organization to respond quickly to customer support issues, share and praise compliments about the organization. However, it is important for company leaders to stop controlling everything that has been said on the communication platforms, they must get into the role of a facilitator. Unless an organisation has someone to check its social media accounts several times a day, disgruntled customers or employees can publish negative comments that are not always removable. A minor issue can escalate into a full-blown crisis, causing serious damage to the brand’s reputation. Therefore, the benefits brought by SM can turn against an organisation generating more damage. Thus, a two-way communication will reap more benefits.
4.Customer Relationship Management
SM can generate leads; for example, after booking, more than half of travellers go straight to Facebook to announce their upcoming vacation status and “like” pages related to their getaways and when their trip is over. The hotel can then implement its marketing techniques to that group. However, a large number of “likes” does not necessary translate into meaningful outcomes. But if the guests press the “like” button, the small hotels can start a conversation. Its Facebook pages can therefore be viewed as a way to extend its relationship with customers.
SM can also help hotels to connect with other businesses. For example, the hotel can create a profile on LinkedIn which will permit it to connect with other businesses and professionals. If a business restricts itself to its own narrow network of contacts it becomes comfortable and limits the generation of more ideas. Failing to establish contacts with other businesses, small hotels will lose out on the opportunity to bring people together who are likely to become open minded to its ideas. On the contrary, if a business does not restrict itself new possibilities may open up, for example, a new approach to doing something.