With Manchester having up to a million international visitors in a year, hotels are an essential part of the city. By 2013 there were 7,860 hotel rooms around Manchester and with plans to increase this number in the works, it has been said that the figure will jump to a huge 11,137 by 2016. It's all well and good building masses of hotels, but will developers be able to cater for all of Manchester's 1,171,000+ worldwide visitors?
Considering this, events in the city, such as the yearly Christmas markets, constantly growing in popularity and adding £74.3m to the local economy in 2012, there's definitely a gap in the market for new brands to join the hotel world and massive potential to fill the beds.
In this article, we'll investigate which Manchester hotels are making the most of social media and share some of our top tips for creating a strong social marketing plan that will help you attract new customers in the increasingly competitive hospitality market.
Travelling on social media
Research shows that many travel companies agree that direct bookings are often generated by social media and 46% of travellers post hotel reviews online.
Reaching your audience on social media is probably one of the easiest ways of engaging with your potential customers.
Travel is a perennially popular pastime and figures suggest 46% of holidaymakers are using social check-in tools on the likes of Facebook and Foursquare when travelling. Given that 70% are thought to share what they're doing via social when on vacation, this presents hoteliers with the opportunity to directly reach prospective customers through a Facebook status or Twitter post.
We looked into five of Manchester's most popular hotels, examining their use of social media marketing techniques. We investigated how they go about attracting new customers and the opportunities available online.
Hotel: Macdonald Manchester Hotel and Spa
Social Media Statistics:
2, 059 Facebook Likes
1, 742 Twitter followers
We noticed that the Macdonald Manchester Hotel and Spa was frequently posting on social media with exciting new services and news of what's going on in the hotel.
Even though the venue is popular on social, heavily self-promotional posts aren't always the best way to attract an audience. From scouring its social channels you can see that it's easy for a feed to get clogged up with constant promotional posts and virtually no engagement with a target audience.
The timing of your post is essential as to ensure that your tweet/status will be seen, you need to share it at the optimum time for your followers.There are many different opinions on what the average half-life of a tweet is, but research shows it's around 18 minutes depending on the amount of followers you have. So using tools such as Social Bro and other scheduling tools will help you maximise the effectiveness of your posts. For more tips on the best software out there and how to use tools to get more out of social, be sure to take a look at our social media time saving guide.
Sometimes, businesses on social treat it as merely another free advertising platform. But something many fail to realise is the interactive nature of the medium.
In order to increase sales, you have to engage with your audience and have a clear, attainable goal in terms of what you'd like to achieve with your activity. When setting targets on social, it should be measured against a KPI (A performance indicator or key performance indicator) so you know exactly what you're gaining, rather than setting wishy-washy objectives that have no clear benefit.
The rule of thumb for social media is to devote only 20% of your activity to self-promotion. The other 80% should be aimed at attracting followers, sharing interesting content with your key audiences and generally making your brand more appealing. This ensures you're at the forefront of your target audiences' mind when it comes time for them to spend their cash.
Overall, the Macdonald is successfully using social and provides a good example of how easy it is to promote a venue online.
Hotel: The City Warehouse Apartment Hotel
Social Media Statistics:
4, 265 Facebook Likes
This venue appears to be exclusively using Facebook for its social media marketing. Its social efforts are geared towards using Manchester events to lure people in, often offering various discounts on rooms depending on what's happening in the city. For example, they offered discounts for customers who were attending events such as Pride, various concerts and Cirque du Soleil.
This is a great way of using online discounts to draw people in, and it is also a good way of encouraging them to return. Offering regular discounts will let your audience know that when there is an event on, you'll be offering a better deal than your competitors.
When using social for marketing, it's important not to use irrelevant platforms for the sake of it - you always want to be where your customers are. So for example, a more formal platform like LinkedIn wouldn't necessarily be relevant for you to use if you're targeting holidaymakers, rather than business travellers. Choosing a number of platforms that are best suited to you will give a much better return on time, money and resources than a bunch of random ones that might not yield tangible results.
With a bit of research, you can find where your target market lives online - essentially saving you time. Everyone is different, and as the number of social media platforms to choose from is constantly changing, researching a demographic best suited to you will prevent wasting time and effort in the long run.
If you're new to social, The Santander guide to what social media platform is best for a business will assist you in understanding where you're likely to find your customers, but there's no substitute for getting stuck in with a little first-hand research into your key audiences.
For hotels, it seems that Facebook, with its 1.15+ billion users, is the most useful platform to use when sharing news, offers and engaging with potential customers. Figures show that more than a third of consumers will not book a hotel without reading reviews first, which indicates that having a successful page and sharing positive reviews of your company could encourage more people to choose your venue over a competitor.
Replying to posts is a key part of maintaining a successful social media marketing campaign. The City Warehouse Hotel has shown that its rate of response to comments can't be faulted. The example below shows how it has responded to a customer enquiry within eight minutes. Response rate is a big part of building your online presence and gaining trust from your followers.
Not everyone will have the resources necessary to have an employee managing channels 24/7, however. It can often be a good idea for businesses to note that responses will only be within office hours in their bio and/or make sure whoever's responsible for social media management has the company account synced to their phone or tablet to enable instant notifications.
Hotel: The Radisson Blue Hotel
Social Media Statistics:
2, 208 Facebook Likes
This particular hotel has a variety of interesting posting techniques on social media. It hosts various competitions through its platforms, which is a good use of online incentives and promotion. As their prices are relatively expensive - what better way to attract new customers than giving away free stuff?
One criticism of the Radisson is its lack of response to comments. A lot of the time on social media, companies forget that they should reply to all the messages they receive and not just focus on complaints or praise.
Again as with several others we looked into, this Manchester favourite doesn't use any other platforms apart from Facebook, once again, showing that this channel is a firm favourite among the hotels we've investigated
The Radisson has racked up a total of 4.4k reviews through this site, and credit where it's due - they seem to be receiving the least complaints and majority of the reviews are five-star ratings.
Hotel: The Manchester Marriot Victoria + Albert Hall
Social Media statistics:
1,378 Facebook likes
This hotel is a great example of how companies should engage with their customers online. It's constantly posting stories about consumer experiences and positively engaging with potential prospects.
It seeks to make itself a hub for its local area on social mediaby sharing news and engaging posts on the latest events happening around Manchester.
For hotels, it's essential that region is incorporated into social media as people staying in your resort will be interested in what's going on in the nearby area around them.
The Manchester Marriot Victoria + Albert Hall also host various events, which makes its social feeds look more enticing and attractive to a Manchester visitor.
Events, images and food and drink seem to be the most popular types of posts on social media, with a massive 96% of people agreeing it is socially acceptable to share food photos. People love good food, so posting engaging posts centred around your restaurant's offerings will help to attract new customers, also using discounts, offers and vouchers will always encourage people to communicate with you through your profiles. Giving prospective customers an incentive to stay will set you ahead of your competitors, so offering discounted deals for returning and new customers can often be a boon when you're looking to increase your popularity.
Hotel: The Holiday Inn Express Manchester City Centre
Social media statistics: 1.023
The Holiday Inn Express Manchester City Centre is statistically the least popular on our list, however, its social efforts are amongst one of the best hotels we've looked at.
The venue's social team incorporate all departments of the hotel within its social activity and are constantly engaging with people through Facebook.
Similar to the Radisson Blue, it often offers prizes and discounts to followers. Also, the competitions it runs are very quirky and fun which helps add to their brand identity online.
As it is constantly posting fun pictures it shows they're audience that they are a great place to be. Running competitions for followers like the one below are a great way of encouraging people to like/follow your page.
Overall, the majority of the hotels we looked at are quite similar in what they post online, and the platform(s) they choose to use. From scouring through the social activity of these hotels, some of the most popular techniques we can glean include:
- Visual posts are the most popular on Facebook. Sharing pictures of staff around the hotel is a great way of creating a relationship with your audience, as they bond with the staff before they even pay you a visit.
- Sharing images of food, drinks, and other popular services that you offer provide a positive profile to present to your audience. Most people like to see what they're going to get before they arrive.
- Social media competitions will help to increase your follower count. Everyone loves free stuff. Running social media giveaways are a great way of attracting new customers and encouraging returning customers to continue visiting you.
- Offering an incentive on your social platforms is also a great way of creating brand awareness online. You can't guarantee that you will foster any lasting engagement through competitions. And ensuring that your visitors will want to come back to you is essential.
- Just like the City Warehouse Apartment Hotel, we encourage responding to comments as quickly as possible. People love to feel as though they're talking to someone face- to-face when communicating through social, so the faster you reply the more people will be likely to want to engage with you, and when it comes to social - the more engagement, the better.
- One tip that is useful for all hotels is utilising a variety of relevant platforms to ensure your reach is maximised and getting the most out of your activity by using analytics to provide concrete data on how to maximise the reach and targeting of your posts.
The Majority of the hotels we have mentioned are only using Facebook as a marketing platform and for a hotel, there are many other platforms that could be beneficial. As we have said previously, images are a great way of getting your brand out there on social. So for this sector, platforms such as, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram would be very well suited, and for any professional visitors (e.g. conference-goers) - LinkedIn could be useful.
Each networking site has a specific way in which content should be shared. For example on Instagram you would post an image and include hashtags to expand the reach, whereas on LinkedIn they are barely used.
If you're going to do social, do it as best as you can. This means conducting plenty of research and investigating all the right platforms for your business. And also engaging in cross-posting on your platforms to save time and effort and create a cohesive identity across several channels so you're recognised from all areas.
- Our last tip is to be completely honest on social. There's nothing worse than seeing hundreds of amazing pictures online of something that then looks completely different in person. Remember that people are actually going to see the things you post online in real life. Being honest is crucial on social media because if you're not, you'll always get found out and the consequences of this could be highly detrimental for your venue.
As review sites are becoming more popular and 83.8% of respondents said they would trust a user's review over a critic it's essential that you keep on top of what people are saying about your brand.
Linking back to our previous point about response rate, a big part of persuading clients to return is how quickly a complaint is dealt with. Ninety-five percent of unhappy customers will return if an issue is resolved quickly. Honesty is a crucial part of protecting your brand values online and ensuring people have respect for your company.
Have you had any positive or negative experiences with hotels and social media? If so, let us know Twitter or leave a comment below. We love to hear your views so let us know what you think!
We've also put together a free, introductory guide on the how and why of social media marketing for SMEs, so be sure to download it now if you're hungry for more tips:
Image courtesy of Wilerson S Andrade on Flickr