Defining and executing a social media plan is not for the faint of heart.

NB: This is an article from Cogwheel Marketing, one of our Expert Partners

Currently hoteliers are short staffed in every department and sometimes social media is a last priority. But, if we have learned anything through the pandemic, it is not to forget or devalue our transient guests.

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Define Social Media Responsibilities

Whether you are opting to take on this endeavor in-house or outsource to an agency or consultant, there are a lot of considerations.

In-House Considerations

If you are going to task your in-house team or person to manage all things social media, ensure you have the right skill sets to execute. Managing social media access can be very time consuming to be effective.

  • Access – It never fails. An enthusiastic employee is excited to get the social media game going strong. They build pages and a following, then leave and no one has access. Ensure multiple people have administrative access and logins are securely stored.
  • Time – If you are assigning this to a hotel team member, ensure they can devote at least 3 hours a week to social media. Frequently, we see some employees have the enthusiasm, but it quickly wanes after a few weeks given their other responsibilities.
  • Knowledge – Has your in-house team been given any training? While much of social media is self taught and should be an evolving learning opportunity, posting as a business on behalf of a hotel or restaurant is not the same as posting on one’s personal accounts. Hubspot has some free courses on Facebook as well as Google’s Digital Garage.
  • Branding – Ensure your in-house team is equipped with your hotel’s branding. This includes colors, fonts, value proposition, defining characteristics and any words that define your hotel’s personality. (This could also include words you may want to stay away from!)
  • Benchmark – Establish goals and objectives, but be patient. Organic postings are a long term game and what works at one hotel may not work at another.

Agency Considerations

While many of the skills are similar, an agency is going to (or should) have the knowledge base. Make sure you hire an agency that is familiar with your industry and can guide you to cater to specific audiences that align with your brand.

If you are a GM or owner and just want to “check the box” that social media is being handled, hold tight. A marketing agency cannot be successful without someone physically located at the hotel to give direction and insight.

Most digital agencies will do their own market research, find demand generators and educate themselves about the hotel. But, they really need to be fed what is happening at the hotel.

Someone should be sending them pics (and stories) about staff, awards, any charity participation, change in hotel amenities, hotel packages, positive reviews and more.

Developing a Content Strategy

While you are likely quick to post your upcoming holiday deal, slow down. A good rule of thumb is no more than 20% of your posts should be an offer.

Think first of your audience. Who are your followers? What do they care about?

Many hotels are intrinsically tied to their location. Why is it that people visit and why might they visit again? If they have stayed at your hotel, did one of the staff make an impact?

Sit down and try to create a forward looking content calendar. Start with a 12 month calendar and think about the times of the year that are important to your hotel and local area. Include anniversaries, housekeeping appreciation week, seasonal changes (like the opening and closing of the pool), and holidays that affect the hotel. As for the local area, notate festivals, charity events, seasonal openings/closures, even school related events. Compile a list of local businesses and consider reciprocal posting. Then you can fill in posts about hotel amenities, polls or fill in the blank questions, and any ad hoc posts.

Imagery (plus video) is the most crucial part of your content strategy. It will give life to the stories you want to tell.

No Organic Without Paid (and Vice Versa)

“Organic” social media refers to the regular postings that occur that do not cost money. That does not mean that it is not time consuming, thus still holds value.

Nothing is worse than doing a high frequency of posts that no one ever sees.

The purpose of regular organic posts is to engage with your current followers. Your current followers, and potentially those they are connected with, are the only people that may see those posts.

So, if you are just starting, or have a low follower base, ensure you have a defined follower acquisition strategy.

Many people ask, “How often should I post?” That is a hard question to answer. If you are new to developing an ongoing content strategy, start slow. Set a goal of once per week and then increase once you get some momentum and see what is working for your audience.

Developing a Social Media Budget for your Hotel

Whether you are tasking your in-house team or outsourcing to an agency, resources must be determined to dedicate to social media. This includes resources of both time and money. The size of your hotel and competing market can help you determine how to compete. Check out your competition to see how active and engaging they are. Surprisingly, many hotels are still not active. The more outlets and revenue centers you have, the more resources that will need to be allocated.

You can also check the Facebook Ad Library (for free!) to see if your competitors are running any Facebook ads.

Social Media Channel Strategy

While TikTok is fun, and addicting, it is super hard to produce content consistently.

It is hard for a new in-house team to master multiple channels at once, so start by practicing consistency of posting content to one or two channels, then expand once those have been mastered.

Facebook is the easiest to get started. Facebook owns Instagram and the two can be linked together to save time.

If you are a convention hotel or one with meeting space, consider posting on LinkedIn. If you have employees with a decent following, those people can send invites to like the hotel’s page. Also, this channel makes the most sense to cross-promote between personal and business pages.

Pinterest is an underutilized platform, especially for the F&B aspect, along with targeting social events including weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, baby showers, girls getaways and family reunions. You can get away with posting less frequently here, but the pins need to be more unique.

The true value of Google My Business posts is still to be determined. While some locations have been able to post for some time, this is new to hotels in 2021. This strategy may need to entail a stronger reliance on keyword strategy to be truly beneficial.

It is important to note that you can run paid campaigns and drive traffic and awareness without a dedicated organic content strategy.

Goals of Your Paid Social Media Campaign(s)

If your organic social media targets current followers, your paid social media should be targeting future potential hotel guests.

Each social media channel has its own unique targeting that can be done, whether it be Facebook or LinkedIn or Pinterest.

Additionally, many organic posts are never seen due to low engagement.

But, before you start throwing money towards social media posts, first define your campaign goals, objectives and the customer journey.

Objectives of Paid Social Media Campaigns

Objectives can be tricky. Most owners will ask for an ROI or ROAS. While revenue production should be a goal, there are other outcomes that are valuable. As of January 2022, the ad objectives have changed:

  • Awareness – Use this if your hotel is brand new or if you want to cast a wide net to a particular group. It can also help reinforce your messaging and highlight your service offering.
  • Engagement – Gaining more likes, comments and shares increases your overall visibility thus increasing the reach of your ad. Anyone that engages with your ad can also be put into a remarkable pool to target later. Additionally, you can send those that like the post to like your page, thus increasing your followers.
  • Traffic – INcrease exposure to your hotels website or push more visitors to a specific promotion you are running.
  • Sales & Lead Generation (RFPs) – Need an extra boost or extra exposure to your hotels venues for social events? Create an RFP and target your selected audience. For example, if you are trying to tap into the wedding market, create an RFP and target anyone engaged within the last year.
  • App Installs – Get users to install your app.

Remarketing for Hotels

Another easy application, even for branded hotels, is to leverage remarketing. While you cannot place a pixel on your brand site, you can remarket to people that have engaged with your page or past ads. Independent hotels can place a Facebook Pixel on their website then create a Custom Conversion on Facebook for ads to optimize around just like you would with Google ads.

Questions the Team Should Answer

Alignment between the internal hotel team and/or agency is key before you execute a social media, or any marketing, strategy.

  • Who – Do you know which consumers align with your brand?
  • What – Does it make sense to align yourself with specific demand generators in your market? What action are you hoping they are going to take?
  • When – Does the potential customer have awareness of your hotel or brand before hitting them up with an offer?
  • Where – Platform selection is key to your objectives, depending on your content medium and target audience.
  • Why – Most importantly of all, why should someone care about your ad? Does it generate an emotional response or invoke a memory? Is it funny or unique in any way?

Quick Tips and Tricks for Social Media

Social media is a tactic that one can learn over time. Trial and error and taking notes of performance is key. Here are some things we have learned along the way.

  1. Some ad types allow for a customizable call to action button, while others do not.
  2. Increase followers to your Facebook page by sending a (free) invite to those who like the posts of your ads.
  3. Use Facebook Business Suite to easily check comments on multiple Facebook pages.
  4. If you are a branded hotel, make sure your hotel is connected to the brand page via a parent / child relationship to ensure future fail proof access in the future.
  5. Hilton and Marriott provide access via Sprinkler to manage your social media pages.
  6. With Facebook ads don’t use to many data layer for targeting allow the algorithm to use the Pixel to do the job.
  7. Create the ad creative per size requirement instead of just uploading the images.
  8. Create Custom Conversion to measure more specific customer actions and run ads optimizing your delivery and reach for them.
  9. If your hotel has hiring needs you can create an open position and allow applicants to apply to jobs from your Facebook page.

First Step is Getting Started

Social media is important for hotels because it allows you to connect with guest pre-stay and post-stay in a 2-way interface. If you want to handle it in-house, remember you still have to devote time and financial resources to the effort. If you plan to outsource, don’t forget you still need someone on-site to oversee the partner. Overall, it’s more important to be consistent than everywhere, so start with one or two channels that you can manage consistently.

Read more articles from Cogwheel Marketing

Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from