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What hotels need to know about Facebook marketing

How Facebook’s changes for brand pages affect your hotel’s social media strategy

Facebook certainly hasn’t been getting many fans (or likes) with marketers lately. In one of its recent announcements, the social media giant essentially told brands that if they want their fans to see their content, they will need to pay up. Starting January 2015, Facebook says that “pages that post promotional creative should expect their organic distribution to fall significantly over time.”

For hotels, this means that sharing items such as special booking offers and events on Facebook Pages will require paying for ads. Facebook claims that this is to improve the quality of everyone’s News Feed by reducing the number of “overly promotional” posts, and that brands with quality content will still be able to reach their fans. However, Social@Olgivy has found that overall organic reach for brands has significantly decreased this year and may approach close to zero by the end of this year.

Many have cried foul, with some marketing experts declaring that brands are wasting time and money on Facebook and Twitter. But Facebook has more than 1 billion members, and Americans now spend 40 minutes a day on the social media site — more time than they spend with their pets, apparently. With those numbers, it’s not something that consumer-facing brands can simply boycott.

The takeaway for hotel marketers?  Facebook is no longer a “free” marketing channel.  To get any sort of reach — paid or organic — to current or potential fans, hotels will need to pay something. However, by understanding the platform and its potential, hotels can stretch their marketing dollars much more effectively.

For hotels, Facebook marketing generally falls into two categories: brand engagement and conversion-driven promotions.

Brand engagement via day-to-day Facebook posts

One of the primary activities on hotels’ Facebook pages is the posting of day-to-day content that reinforces the brand to current fans. Post by post, hotels can tell their story through the destination, people, culture, sights, and more. Take for example, W Taipei, winner of Hotels magazine’s 2013 Social Hotel Award for Best Facebook Page by Property. The hotel posts daily tantalizing photos highlighting celebrities, food, fashion, and the general cosmopolitan lifestyle of Taipei’s trendsetters.

Facebook pages can also be a channel for sharing content that ties into an overall brand campaign, as in Marriott’s “Travel Brilliantly” initiative. The hotel chain uses its brand page to share content from the Travel Brilliantly microsite, while also mixing in other content.

When Facebook first introduced its brand pages, the goal was to garner likes — so long as fans liked your page, then you could easily communicate with them by posting content that would then show up on their respective News Feeds. But because of Facebook’s new algorithm, relying solely on organic reach is no longer possible.

Now hotel marketers will need to rely on Boosted Posts, a simplified form of Facebook advertising that increases the reach to your current fans and friends of fans. You set a maximum budget for how much you want to spend to boost your post (minimum $5), and Facebook will ensure that more of your fans see the post in their News Feed. If your fans engage with what you post (by liking, commenting, or sharing it), then the post may reach their friends. You can also target your boosted post to groups of fans based on keywords, location, age, and other factors.

facebook boosted post

For hotels, not every Facebook post needs a boost, and not all boosts are equal. Consider the type of engagement you want, and what the ROI should be. Generally, posts about events or special offers have a greater ROI in terms of potential revenue and bookings, but their engagement potential is lower (people may choose to click on a 20% discounted booking offer, but may not choose to “like” or share it). Informative or entertaining posts — such as a hotel’s inclusion in a press article or destination guide on your hotel’s city — have much more viral potential, but the ROI is less about revenue and more about brand building. For more tips, Wix has a great guide for understanding how and when to boost posts.

Conversion-driven promotions via targeted Facebook ads

When it comes time for your hotel to do a big promotional campaign or sales push, Boosted Posts are not enough. Instead, it’s far better to create an actual ad campaign with a specific, fine-tuned target audience. Facebook has even created a new platform, Facebook for Business, that guides companies on creating ads and promotions to achieve specific business goals.

facebook for business

First you decide on your hotel’s specific objective. Is it to increase awareness for your hotel to a specific market? Increase conversions for a booking promotion? Increase signups for your hotel’s loyalty program? Once you’ve decided upon the intended action, Facebook guides you through the multiple types of ads that you can create.

Hotel marketers will be able to use the Facebook Ads Manager to define a target audience. For ads, you are not limited to just your fans; instead you can choose your audience based on geography, gender, age, interests, and purchasing behaviors. For example, hotels can choose to target California business travelers between 35-45 who have returned from a trip within the last two weeks. It’s that fine-tuned.

Once you have defined the audience, you will be able to set an advertising budget and bidding type (optimized for clicks or impressions) and design your ad. You can also create multiple versions of the same ad — unlike Boosted Posts, Facebook ads have the benefit of being able to be set as “dark posts,” ads that look like News Feed items, but do not actually show up on your brand page’s timeline. Though this seems counterintuitive, it actually has the benefit of allowing you to A/B test your ads, as well as run different promotions to different audiences simultaneously.

No matter what you choose, quality content trumps all

Whether you boost posts or create an ad campaign, Facebook has just one piece of advice for all marketers: make it interesting. Quality content is the key to the success of Facebook’s News Feed, and the company has gotten very good at adjusting its algorithm to display the type of content that people want to see. Facebook has become in many ways an “ad critic,” an arbiter of what is good or bad quality content.

But whether you agree with Facebook’s practices or not, you’ll get more mileage of your marketing spend if you create content that people want to engage with. As more people like, comment on, or share the boosted post or ad, organic and paid reach increases. Additionally, ads and posts will also display on users’ feeds with the preface that their friends “like this” — a little reassurance for anyone unfamiliar with the brand.

Facebook ads have the potential to go viral if the content is engaging enough.
Facebook ads have the potential to go viral if the content is engaging enough.

Ultimately, your hotel’s Facebook strategy is only as good as your knowledge of how Facebook works and how it continually evolves. Understanding these new changes — and working with an agency that knows how to master them — is key to a successful social media marketing strategy.

Nancy Huang

Nancy Huang

Nancy is the Senior Marketing Director at Pegasus and expert in strategic communication, brand development, and content marketing. She is an admitted travel junkie and loves finding amazing hotel deals when booking direct. Contact her at nancy.huang@pegs.com.

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