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How Hotels Can Prepare for a Changing Facebook

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If your hotel’s strategy for marketing on Facebook is sharing photos or blog posts to your Facebook page, I have some bad news.

Not only has this been a low-performing strategy for the past four years or so, it’s about to be a non-performing strategy.

If you aren’t paying, you aren’t even trying.

Why Facebook?

If Facebook ads have never worked well for your hotel, you aren’t the only one.

At the same time though, you also know your hotel needs to put effort into its Facebook page, as 50% of consumers find your Facebook page more useful than your website. Even more striking, some 95% of Facebook users claim to use the network for travel-related activities before taking a vacation.

Google AdWords has long been the digital advertising method of choice for hotel marketing. This is because users’ searches show clear purchase intent. When someone searches for “new york city boutique hotel deals,” it’s fairly obvious what they are looking for.

Facebook has historically fallen behind in this department, but things are most certainly changing thanks to some new features on the platform.

The death of organic reach

“Organic what?”

Organic reach is the rate of “people you can reach (for free) on Facebook,” and it has been on a steady decline since 2014 due to Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm changes.

In 2012, many Facebook pages saw around 16% reach. In early 2014, this dropped to two percent. In 2018, after Mark Zuckerberg’s post on the upcoming changes to improve the social network, even the most optimistic social media marketers expect one percent for organic reach.

We started making changes in this direction last year, but it will take months for this new focus to make its way through all our products. The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups. As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. —Mark Zuckerberg

Is your team spending time and money sharing content on Facebook for only a handful of people to see it? You can do better.

Preparing your hotel’s Facebook strategy

A lot of hotels have used branded content marketing to slow the decline of organic reach, but it’s arguably becoming less and less effective. Though many savvy hotel marketers have used Facebook ads to generate revenue for their hotels, even this is under threat.

If the underlying message in Zuck’s latest post wasn’t clear:

  • Facebook’s ad space is about to be squeezed
  • Organic reach will decline further
  • Competition for ads will increase
  • Ad prices will be driven upwards

This means:

  • You will either need a greater ad budget, or
  • Your ad budget will need to be spent more wisely (hint: it should be the latter)

Believe it or not, there is actually good news ahead. Facebook ads continue to go overlooked in the hospitality industry, so there is still opportunity for hotel marketers looking to try something new.

Let’s take a look at why Facebook can be a great opportunity for your hotel.

Facebook ads are still very affordable

It’s most likely any digital marketer’s experience that Facebook ads campaigns are cheaper than those on Google AdWords.

The latest credible data shows that the average “cost per click” of Facebook ads in the U.S. is $0.28, while Google AdWords averages $2.32. Keep in mind that results will always vary based on location, competition, and plenty of other factors, but as a general rule Facebook ads as are more affordable than Google AdWords.

Conversion rates are higher on Facebook

Your conversion rate is the percentage of bookings, leads, or sales that you receive in relation to the number of clicks your ad received.

The Travel & Hospitality industry on Google AdWords’ Search Network averages a conversion rate of 2.57%.

Though not substantially higher, Facebook ads for this same industry see a 2.82% conversion rate. Combine this with cheaper advertising costs, and it means you can spend less to get more sales.

Facebook advertising benchmarks- average conversion rate

Custom audiences

While Facebook’s custom audiences option has been around for some time now, the rate at which your list of guests can be matched to the social network’s users continues to improve.

In a recent campaign, 16,000 hotel guest names and the city in which they live were taken from Maestro PMS. This list was used to create a custom audience where 43% of these guests were matched to Facebook accounts.

If this number doesn’t seem very high, consider that these contacts were missing a phone number and email address.

In a world where OTAs are trending towards giving hoteliers less and less guest information, this can be a powerful tool. Think about how many guests you aren’t able to contact due to a missing phone number or email address. With audience matching, now you can.

By including an email address with this list, the match rate increased to 80%. The more guest data you have, the more the match rate will increase.

With your custom audience built into Facebook, you can advertise directly to these people, building loyalty, encouraging return visits to your hotel, or upselling on future visits (such as a reservation at your hotel’s restaurant).

Lookalike audiences

First enabled as a Facebook option in 2013, lookalike audiences have been widely ignored by many hotel marketers. We saw this change in 2017 and predict hoteliers will be much more open to giving them a go in 2018.

Lookalike audiences allow you to “grow” a much larger audience to include those who closely resemble your smaller “seed” custom audience.

Consider the above scenario where 43% of your 16,000 hotel guests match up in Facebook. You have a respectable, but small audience of 6,880 people to reach on Facebook.

Lookalike audiences can match people from one to ten percent based on their demographic information, what they like/don’t like, and a whole host of other information. Even selecting the closest possible one percent, it’s likely your 6,880 people will grow to around 2 million people.

If you get creative here, it’s possible to segment out your initial list to include only your absolute best guests—maybe those who regularly book the deluxe suite and spend big on F&B.

Imagine if you could speak directly to another 100,000 of your best guests?

Dynamic creative

As marketers, it’s very easy for us to fall into the trap of thinking, “I know the right message.” You know that testing multiple messages for your market is important, but more often than not you don’t have time to do it.

Facebook’s dynamic creative option allows advertisers to test enormous amounts of ad variants. With this testing done, you have a platform for creating a highly-optimized advertising campaign.

Consider some of the variables that go into a Facebook ad campaign:

  • Text
  • Headlines
  • Images/videos
  • Descriptions
  • Calls-to-action
  • Destination URL
  • Audiences

In a basic campaign with only five text blocks, five headlines, five descriptions, ten images, and three different calls-to-action, some 3,750 different ad variations are created. Do you have time to create 3,750 ads manually? I didn’t think so.

Now, with over a thousand ads running, your ads can be optimized based on their performance—if they are expensive to advertise and don’t get results, switch them off. If they are performing well, allocate more budget.

Given time, you’ll end up with a campaign that gets maximum return on investment.

Offline conversions

Owners and investors want results, and marketing campaigns are no exception. Historically, Facebook has been great at assisting sales. While your marketing efforts on Facebook don’t directly make the sale, they contribute the trust needed to make it happen via another channel.

Typically, it has been very hard to see a clear link between guests engaging with your Facebook ads and checking in at your hotel. Often this is due to a limitation in being able to track reservations made through your hotel’s booking engine. In other cases, the guest may have simply chosen to use a different booking method.

If a guest books by phone, another website, or simply walks into your hotel, this transaction has previously gone unaccounted for, and in many cases, marketing budget is allocated to the wrong place. Despite your best marketing efforts on social media, your colleagues or superiors “don’t see the ROI” on your effort.

By importing your PMS data to Facebook, you can match your paying guests to those who interacted with your Facebook page and ads, giving you a much clearer indication of how your social media marketing has contributed to real world revenue.

Are you using Facebook to market your hotel?

As you work through your hotel’s marketing strategy this year, be sure to consider how allocating budget to Facebook ads can help your hotel achieve its business goals. You may be pleasantly surprised in the returns.

I’ve given my two cents on how you can prepare your hotel for the future changes on Facebook. Do you already use any of these advertising features in your campaigns? How have they worked out for you?

Have you used any hotel management software that makes it easier to run social media campaigns?

If you haven’t, do you plan to use them in the future?

Please, let us know in the comments below.

Looking for Hospitality Property Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Hospitality Property Management software solutions.

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About the Author

Jase Rodley

Jase is the Principal at Otium Boutique, a digital agency that specializes in marketing for boutique hotels. When he isn’t working with his team to help hotels get more business, you’ll find him hiking or biking in the mountains.

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