Trends in Hotel Marketing: Social Search, Utility Marketing and Converged Media
For hotels, the first priority in online marketing is to make sure travelers find you when planning trips. That?s become increasingly challenging in the realm of paid search, where online travel agencies, big brands and now Google Hotel Finder dominate results, driving costs up and organic results down.
Why even try to compete? Instead, shift resources to where you?ll get a bigger bang for your buck: owned and earned media.
Paid vs. Owned and Earned Media
Whereas paid media is purchased content like cost-per-click and display advertising, owned media is content you own on platforms you control: your website, social profiles and listings on third-party sites like TripAdvisor, Google Places and OTAs.
Earned media is user-generated content (UGC), or content your guests and other third parties post about your business. It includes reviews and ratings, blogs, media articles, photos, videos and social endorsements like pluses, shares and likes.
Unlike paid and owned media, you can?t control earned media, but it?s more influential because consumers trust the opinions of other consumers more than any other advertising source. (Nielsen?s?Global Trust in Advertising?survey, 2012).
Plus it?s free. Well, almost. To maximize reach and impact you must incorporate earned media into marketing strategy.
But first, how to generate earned media? Above all, it?s cultivated on property, in that fertile ground between guest expectations and results. Simply put, pleasant surprises generate positive reviews, social endorsements and visual content sharing. Then it?s a matter of leveraging the power of this content on the social Web.
Search Meets Social
Online we have two primary audiences: travelers and algorithms. Google, Yahoo and Bing run on algorithms, as do Facebook and TripAdvisor. They decide how content is displayed based on ingredients like relevancy, quality and importance.
Increasingly, the type of content that influences travelers also influences algorithms. This includes fresh, local content and ?social signals? that a business is popular and relevant. Social signals are essentially earned media.
The integration of search and social is everywhere. TripAdvisor was an innovator with its Facebook integration, and Yelp offers a similar feature. Facebook friend activity is layered into Bing search, and Google+ activity into Google search. Most recently, Facebook?s Graph Search allows users to search within a walled garden of friend activity and interests.
The Social Website
Don?t let Facebook and Twitter distract you too much; your website remains the primary platform for promoting your hotel online. But to maximize effectiveness it must become a living, breathing, social entity that integrates fresh, local content with user and expert content.
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