As a hotelier, you would have to be a Neanderthal to be unaware of the impact of social media on your business. Well into the throes of its growing pains, one concept that most knowledgeable marketers are now aware of is that the most primitive social statistic — likes, followers, etc. — is not the supreme measurement of influence. Instead, we look for more complex metrics like levels of interaction, website clickthroughs and rates of sharing. Moreover, we look to the content-marketing side of things, analyzing what generates activity and what contributes to the white noise of cyberspace.
All this is under the auspices of gaining social influence, which in turn will heighten the public trust of your brand and increase the chances of a sale. Because that’s the ultimate goal — more revenue — even though the pathways in this regard are especially nebulous.
What I emphasize is that social media should be treated as a relationship-building channel, developing rapport and one-on-one connections with prospective consumers. But the “personal” aspect of this pursuit is often stymied by the drive for larger upon larger numbers of fans, especially when there is a (somewhat naïve) drive for immediate results measurement. Each individual voice gets lost in the herd, per se.
What’s next is a radical idea to consider, so first let’s frame it around real connections in real life — your friends, irrespective of social networks. How many genuine friends do you have? These are people who you talk to or see on a weekly basis. You know intimate details about their goals, their pitfalls, their mannerisms and their eccentricities. If you factor in your family and your career for a healthy life balance, you probably won’t have much time for more than two dozen such individuals. Maybe your number is higher than this, but regardless, it is without a doubt far less than your digital counterpart.
Now imagine what it would be like to maintain the same level of familiarity with all your online connections as you do your actual, real-world friends. Kind of tricky, huh? Disregard getting work done at the office and scrap your weekend “me time” plans because you’ll need every waking second devoted to phone calls, text messages, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and so on.
We simply can’t do it; time is the limiting factor. We have our genuine friends, and we have varying degrees of relationships with people’s online personas. This shouldn’t come as an epiphany. We all know the definition of an online friend is very different from the corporeal equivalent. The takeaway from this comparison is one of qualifiers. What criteria does each of us have in place to decide who we want as actual friends and who we keep as mere acquaintances?
Now apply this thought process to your brand’s online fan base. Out of the entirety of your mass following, how do you find the individuals who are wholeheartedly passionate about your product and service offerings? How do you find the people who will give you honest feedback about your distributed content and what best appeals to them? These are the people who you should seek to build higher levels of engagement with so they will feel valued by your organization and help you grow your business via word of mouth.
Trying to pick two such brand advocates out of a group of 10 is easy; trying to pick those same two out of a silent crowd of a thousand is fatiguing. Thus, there’s a sensible rationale for purging your following in order to shine a light on your core. Excising the “fluff” will allow you to better service and develop deeper relationships with those brand advocates who truly care. And once others see the effort you are putting into each person (and far less confusion to obscure this exertion), more likeminded people will come aboard; your core will bloom.
The main counterargument to the notion of a purge is the bandwagon effect or crowd theory. That is, people only follow or pay attention to what others are already following. So, a social media brand purge is likely something that you should only consider if you have already passed the threshold of critical mass. But that figure is different for each property and each region, which only adds to the confusion. It’s a bit of a Catch-22, so perhaps “purge” is a bit too strong a word to describe what I am suggesting.
Think of it more as waning. Make subtle changes to prevent the watering down of your social media metrics, like eliminating fake Twitter accounts, forming lists, creating email subgroups. No grand strategy — just month-over-month reviews to see how your relationships with prospective guests are improving. You also be using a competition-comparison methodology, but this too has its own faults as your competitors likely didn’t commence their social media efforts at the same time as you nor did they use the ancillary support tactics.
The bottom line is that social networks are relationship-building platforms, and you should not stress how large you will grow but, more importantly, how deep. Even though you are using a social-media-monitoring program, client confusion and fatigue are recurring issues, and if this is impacting your business then a slow, subtle brand purge may help you refocus your efforts to push your social influence to the next level.
(Article published by Larry Mogelsonky in HOTELSmag on July 22, 2014)