In my previous blog on ‘the evolution of travelers’, I spoke about how travelers have progressed over the last few decades. From being solely dependent on traditional travel agents, and booking over phone calls to replacing the travel agents and planning their own itinerary; they have taken full control of their travel planning.
I also spoke about the 5 stages of travel by Google (dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing and sharing) and in this blog post, I emphasize on capturing the traveler’s attention in the first two stages. I will focus on how online channels play an influencing role at these stages.
The traveler is usually influenced in two ways when he is dreaming and planning: by word-of-mouth recommendations of peers and online reviews.
Travelers hear about a destination from their friends and family and get influenced to plan their travel. They also get influenced by online ads, posts or pure instinct to travel which leads to researching online.
Social media is believed to play a major role in influencing the new-age travelers. When people check-in to a hotel, upload vacation pictures or write posts; they automatically become a huge influence on the ones who are in their circle and outside. Social media has been influencing many in the form of recommendations from friends and family. A random holiday post by a friend becomes the deciding factor for others to follow and start researching about it.
In a way, this also works well for hotels as they receive free advertising from travelers who have stayed in their property. Once the traveler starts researching, out of the many social media platforms, Facebook is particularly a great influencer due to the several hotel pages, city pages and more to choose from. For example: If a traveler is planning to visit New York, he would probably look for pages related to the city that shares a lot of information with pictures and comments from other travelers.
Social media influences travelers in a positive manner; when travelers research about a destination, they see facts posted by other travelers and there are higher chances of them having a good experience as they know what to expect from the hotel! But, hotels should know how to use this platform; once you have created a page, you have to maintain it by acknowledging the reviewers, posting regular updates and keeping the page fresh. It is not advisable to create a social media account just for the sake of it and not do anything. This will reflect poorly on the hotel.
Here are some quick tips to enhance visibility:
Although posts and pictures are a normal way of attracting guests, many hotels have started using Facebook Boost to increase their reach. A boosted post is a paid post that appears higher on the newsfeed, hence there are more chances of a wider audience seeing it.
Identify the travelers’ online behavior and analyze the pages that they would have liked such as ‘TripAdvisor’, ‘I Love New York’, ‘The New York Night Life’ and use Facebook Boost – Page Like option to reach out to them. It is not a very expensive option and can be implemented by smaller independent hotels easily.
Although this is a paid campaign, it has positive chances of winning you more guests as Facebook is the most powerful platform to influence travelers. As per research, 1.32 billion people log on to Facebook at least once a month, an increase from 1.28 billion in the last quarter and 63% of users engage on a daily basis. (Source: jeffbullas). So, if you’re using this platform, use it wisely!
Twitter: It’s about time your hotel starts using hashtags on Twitter to attract the right audience. Appropriate use of hashtags will ensure that users find your tweets in targeted Twitter searches. Keep your tags simple and direct like #budget hotels, #hotel in #NewYork so that people easily find you. Avoid using long and complicated hashtags which are neither search-friendly nor commonly visible. Also, avoid using excessive hashtags as that will denote desperate marketing. It’s good to use 1-2 hashtags while posting Tweets.
Instagram: Use Instagram as a visual platform to lure people to your hotel. You could highlight your hotel’s most attractive side or a local attraction that is minutes away from your hotel. This will instill curiosity in the travelers to visit your city, hence the hotel. Get creative and play with a lot of pictures.
Online reviews are probably the biggest influencer on travelers. Travelers from all around the world, of all age groups research online before booking a hotel. Based on the number of reviews and ratings, they decide a hotel and most of them consider hotels that have received ratings of 3 and above. Review media sites are a platform where travelers (dreamers and planners) trust others’ reviews and it’s startling to see how people get influenced by other travelers who they haven’t met in their life. See for yourself; if you have to visit a destination; would you prefer going by a friend’s suggestion or go by seeing an ad somewhere? Recommendation definitely impacts more than the other factors.
Reviews are available on most of the online channels like Social Media and Online Review Sites. TripAdvisor is the most trusted and liable platform for travelers to find reviews. These are earned reviews that matter a lot to the travelers as well as the hotel industry. So, make sure your hotel is listed on review media sites and you are closely watching its performance. With performance, I meant that hotels should keep a check on the kind of ratings and reviews it receives; be it positive or negative and always acknowledge and encourage your guests to write reviews. Visuals also play a large influence on travelers and according to TripAdvisor, hotel listings with photos engage travelers more. Photos have the power to capture the visitor’s attention more than text.
Further, listing your hotel by the travel directory becomes important when travelers use a filtered research. For e.g. if your hotel is eco-friendly, you could list your hotel in the green hotels category on TripAdvisor so this will make sure that your hotel appears to travelers who are researching for specific green hotels at the research stage. Same logic applies to the property types such as B&Bs, resorts and hostels. Look out for property specific sites and get listed there. The more you list, the more you win!
Associate with local events: Another good way of attracting more guests would be by associating with a local event in your city which has chances to get more tourists.
Alternatively, your hotel could get associated with organizations/ brands with similar propositions like if there is a musical event taking place in Woodstock where your hotel is, tie up with them to run your hotel’s ad on their page. Or you could try the Facebook Boost here to promote the event and your partnership.
Map your hotel: Mapping your hotel to show how close it is to stations, airport and business centers will make your hotel be perceived as resourceful when travelers look for hotels around these places. Mapping local attractions like museums, zoos and more will also give your hotel an added advantage over others, so don’t neglect important destinations close to your hotel.
Tap into existing guests: Utilize your existing guests to attract the new ones, specifically from their circles who would naturally read their reviews, see their vacation pictures and also the hotel they have checked-in to. If an existing guest shares or likes an offer on your social media page, it will also be seen by their circle of friends.
The first two stages where the traveler dreams about a destination and enters the planning phase to research online are highly important for a hotel – if you attract them at these stages, the battle is half won. Look out for my next blog, where I will cover more ways to attract your potential guest.