Doing Hotel Business on Facebook
Bookassist's Des O'Mahony explains that the importance of Facebook for your hotel business is on the rise. As Facebook users' habits begin to change, Facebook is beginning to more strongly influence business on and off your hotel website.
Let’s start with what Facebook is not.
Facebook is not a substitute for a high quality website. Facebook is not a replacement for a well-conceived, executed and monitored marketing campaign online. Facebook is not about driving your main direct hotel business online.
So why is it that hotels seem so obsessed with Facebook despite the evidence indicating that it has yet to reach critical business importance?
Familiarity and Ease of Use
Hotels are using Facebook because of familiarity and ease of use - regardless of commercial value. For hotels, Facebook is a simple, non-technical way to interact with your customers online. Hotel staff who use the “official” hotel Facebook page can quickly post stories and comments, and can do so in a more “casual” manner than they might do on the main hotel website.
Many already use Facebook on a personal level, so they feel comfortable doing so officially also on behalf of the hotel and would far rather spend some time online there than working on a blog or website content. For most people it’s just a much simpler and more dynamic medium to engage with on a regular basis than their hotel’s website. And it demands much shorter and less formal input than, say, a blog entry. It’s just easy.
Plus, most users are probably logged in anyway to their personal account so switching over and monitoring the hotel’s account is pretty simple.
Facebook for Business - Unsociable But Effective
Interestingly, despite all the noise about the “social” aspects of social media, there is very little actual “conversation” going on between Page owner and Fan on Facebook. Mostly, its about the Page owner posting and others reading, but not any significant conversation occurring other than a possible “Like”. Facebook can be very social, but that is certainly not how the majority are using it.
On the other hand, the idea that hotels could use Facebook for business has been hotly debated for as long as Facebook’s been around. The argument has always been that, because Facebook is a social-driven site, your viewers or fans are not business-minded or research-minded when they’re on Facebook; rather, they are using Facebook in a more relaxed and casual mode so booking rooms or buying services is not particularly the “mode” they’re in compared to those visiting your website.
For businesses like hotels, many Fans are content to receive regular updates as wall postings and act on them if they are interesting - they don’t necessarily feel the need to actually interact in a truly social way. There is nothing wrong with that of course - if Facebook is behaving like a news ticker for your business then it is certainly of value.
The reality is that Facebook user habits are changing rapidly, and business use is very much on the rise. Facebook is becoming a valuable additional promotional and selling tool for hotels. Even if the conversion on Facebook itself is far lower than that on your own website booking engine, the awareness that Facebook can bring for your brand is clearly increasing, as evidenced by the increase in referrals to hotel websites that we are seeing. If nothing else, Facebook is capable of putting ideas into people’s heads via postings on their wall so that when they are eventually interested in a purchase, your brand has already achieved some additional traction through its presence in Facebook..
Facebook is now a Top 5 Influencer
We’ve looked at traffic figures for a large number of our clients that use active Facebook pages for their hotels. In terms of figures from Google Analytics for the hotel website, we’ve seen Facebook rise significantly as a referring site in the last year (i.e. a site that is sending traffic to the hotel website), to a point where it is typically one of the top 5 referring sites for hotels with an active Facebook page.
Interestingly, this does not seem to correlate with the number of Facebook fans - showing yet again that is it not the number of fans or likes that your page has that matters, but the quality of the interaction that you have with those fans or likes.
Facebook Fans want something different
For those same hotels seeing traffic from Facebook, we’ve also seen significant improvements in special offer sales in the last 12 months where Facebook-only promotions or promo-codes are offered. This again shows that the Facebook user is changing habits and is more aware of the business and bargain opportunity that service providers may be offering via Facebook.
Hotels, it's time to get moving on Facebook and to start taking it a lot more seriously.