Ben Walker of Arise offers shares dependable social media techniques which can be used to market boutique hotel business more effectively.
Marketing a boutique hotel can be a daunting task
Marketing a boutique hotel can be hard. Whether you’re newly opened and desperate for your first guests, or a well-established business, managing the day-to-day and keeping the bookings flowing in is a hard task.
Focus on the techniques which perform best
With this often daunting task on your hands, it’s important to bring a laser-focus to your marketing strategy. You can make the most of your precious time and resources by focussing into the marketing channels that work best for you, those which are proven to work well and provide the best return for your investment.
When it comes to marketing channels, the impact and potential of social media is hard to deny – with an estimated 3.484 billion (and counting) active social media users around the globe, it’s difficult to find a better platform than this to promote your hotel from.
Social media provides an exciting return
Losehill House, four-star hotel and spa in Derbyshire, are a great example of the difference a good social media marketing strategy can make to an independently run hotel.
Since engaging in a program of digital marketing primarily focussed on Facebook, they saw an increase of over eight times in the revenue generated through online bookings and purchases. Losehill’s owner and manager, Paul Roden, puts this encouraging return down to his shrewd investment into a digital marketing strategy.
“Investing in our digital marketing has been extremely worthwhile. We have been able to communicate with a large proportion of our customers in new ways which has seen our revenue increase,” says Roden.
Social media is clearly a marketing channel worth pursuing, but too many owners and marketing managers lack the understanding required to get the full benefit, and don’t know where to start.
Start with research
Like setting out on any journey, it pays to do some planning first. If you don’t take your time with this important first step in the process, you will end up wasting time and money. Taking time to do proper research and planning upfront makes carrying out your marketing activities less arduous and ultimately more effective.
There are many techniques we use to facilitate this research phase, including comprehensive setup interviews, target customer profiling and empathy maps, but it in reality it all boils down to answering these fundamental questions:
1. Who is my target audience?
What types of guests typically seem attracted to your establishment? What types of guest would you like to attract? Do your best to visualise and describe that person – creating a profile of what you think they’re like.
2. Who are you?
Often a surprisingly difficult question. Take some time to figure out what your unique selling points are, and what it is that gives your hotel character. This is where boutiques have the opportunity to really differentiate from characterless chains.
Use that knowledge
Armed with that knowledge, take the answers from your research and use it to create content with your target customer in mind. Create the kind of content you think they would engage with, focussing on the USPs that appeal most to that type of person.
Imagery is important
Visuals are critical – make sure you have a bank of professional photography showing off both your hotels main offerings, such as photos of luxurious rooms, but take time to capture the details too – whether that’s the little decor touches, dog-friendly rooms, or standout service points such as tea and cake on arrival.
Some rules of thumb for using photography on social media:
- Try not to put text or logos on top of images – let the photos speak for themselves.
- Ensure all images are good quality – if they’re squashed out of shape, blurred or pixelated, this creates a bad impression.
- Don’t use stock photos – you need to show off the reality of your offering.
- Never use third party graphics, especially ones that aren’t relevant to your hotel (usually whimsical or motivational quotes – “Sunday Funday”, “Keep Calm and Drink Prosecco”).
What to write
Every post needs some supporting text – while this text needs to be informative, it should be short and snappy too – usually two short sentences works well. It goes without saying that your spelling and grammar should be employed correctly too.
Keeping in mind your target customer, write in a tone that attracts and reflects that person. That could mean light, breezy, romantic language, or a more down-to-earth, professional tone.
Use emojis sparingly. These can add a little flare, and where appropriate use one or two in your post. Don’t flood posts with smilies and champagne bottles though.
Hashtags are an important consideration too. While we’d strongly recommend adding relevant hashtags on Instagram to help users discover you, people don’t use hashtags the same way on Facebook, so don’t use them there.
On that note, be sure to tailor content to each social media platform – while it can be similar, the audience on each platform, and the way it’s used differs. Instagram is more about the image, whereas Twitter requires less text for example.
A “call to action” in your posts is important too – for example, a link to your booking page. Time this well though, and don’t plaster every post with links as this will turn people off. Not every post is about selling, be sure to also post content that simply showcases what you offer and builds engagement with your audience.
You’ll need to invest some money too
Many hoteliers see social media as “free” marketing, and while the organic potential is still considerable, Facebook are increasingly leaning towards a paid approach.
The good news is that using advertising spend to boost content and offers through Facebook is really cost effective. We’ve seen hotels get decent results from an investment of as little as £20 a month.
Facebook’s clever targeting tools give you the power to reach new audiences, and also increase engagement by promoting relevant content to the relevant audience – e.g. if you offer weddings, you’ll be able to reach out specifically to those who fit your target audience profile and have recently gotten engaged.
Don’t forget the customer service benefits social media provides too. Be sure to monitor and respond to live chat messages – answering questions quickly will help customers get booked in with you. And be sure to respond to reviews that people leave in a timely manner too – the good and the bad.
How often should I post?
Timing is key, and while there are no hard and fast rules about when to post, take time to consider what’s achievable for you and appropriate for your audience.
We tend to find that posting every other day works well in many cases, though it’s important to only post when you have something to say – don’t just post because it’s the time of day that you usually post. Imposing such quotas on yourself usually leads to scrabbling around for content, and in turn, poor quality posts.
Don’t fall into the trap of posting all the time – counterintuitively this won’t give you more visibility. Facebook’s algorithms are set to de-prioritize content from pages that post too often. Not only this, but a flood of posts will irritate your followers, damaging your reputation and nudging them toward the unfollow button.
Helpfully, most social media platforms now come with scheduling tools which can be used to queue content for release at specific times. You can also use tools such as Hootsuite or Buffer to achieve this.
Stay on target
Done well you’ll start to see results pretty quickly, but it is a marathon and not a sprint. Invest time regularly to keep your social media feeds active, and keep the tone and content of your posts consistent with that target customer you first profiled. Stay on it and monitor results as time goes by.
The end result
Social media is clearly a powerful tool that can reap massive rewards for your business when handled with care. Be sure to take on board the advice we’ve outlined and you’ll soon be building awareness and a great reputation online, as well as growing a steady pipeline of paying guests.
Ben Walker is founder of Arise, digital specialists in social media and web design for the hospitality and tourism sectors.