Social Media is Earned Media

Social media is an electronic extension of the day-to-day conversations that occur in real life. People chitchat and build rapport with one another, all the while recommending various services and products that they believe the opposite would benefit from consuming. To view social media through a similar lens is to use your digital pages as outlets for content that your fans will find useful. The challenge is that in order to sell them your rooms, your food and your amenities, you’ll have to earn their attention at each and every turn – or, as many prominent gurus would call it, you’ll have to first get their permission in order to market to them.

So then the billion dollar question is: how do you get their permission? The simple and short answer is to give them utility, give them value, give them meaning and be entertaining. Here are three general pointers to help get you on the right track:

1. Your core is your engine

In any given social media situation, there are many who will only be mildly interested and others who like what you’re serving but aren’t willing to tout their horns over it. The key to propagating an effective social media presence is to find and elicit the support of those special few who are not only enthusiastic about your product offerings, but are also quite vocal about it. These individuals who interact with your content are the ones who will drive the silent others – the majority – to respond in kind. Your mission should be to find this core group and continue to deliver content that spurs them into action. Call it crowd theory, social proofing or whatever buzz phrase is currently popular; the point is, people will be more inclined to talk to a brand that others are already talking to.

2. Content is forever king

The only way to find your core is to first give them some delicious bait. Let’s face it: if you’re only putting up promotional offers and the reactions you’re getting are mediocre at best, it’s time to reevaluate your efforts. Again, it’s all about utility; give before you sell. Design content that, even for a fleeting second, will enrich the livelihoods of those who see it. This will gain their trust. If you can persistently demonstrate value to an audience, then that crowd will be more receptive to your straight-up marketing messages down the road. Furthermore, you must take into account that all people are different, so what is useful for one person may be negligible to another. If content is king, content variety is his closest advisor.

3. Aim to share

It’s very often the case where the most important stats that hoteliers follow are the likes and the followers. These are an iota of the significance when compared to the amount that each fan is talking about your brand. Think about it this way: would you rather have 10,000 followers and only 500 that will talk about your product, or 5,000 followers and 1,000 who are genuinely enthusiastic? On paper, the first is a bigger number – double in fact. But most of those followers are passive and not helping you breach new social circles. Aim to convert fans into sharing fans by, again, posting content that appeals to their personal tastes and interacting with them to develop rapport.

In abstract terms, these three steps make sense, but the execution is a whole other game. And that’s where we hoteliers find ourselves today. Everyone knows to some degree how social media marketing works, but the practical application requires real work in real time. This cannot be viewed as an ancillary operation; social media has earned its place as a task requiring your full and undivided attention.

(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky in eHotelier on March 13, 2013)

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