Okay so I am really frustrated.  Well… that’s dramatic.  I am more confused, and too busy to gesticulate in the air and ask this question to the windows and fluttering leaves outside my office…. what in the hell is the point of Facebook for a hotel brand anyway??  I think a lot of people are using the Pareto Principle to organize their time in “doing” social media, as suggested earlier last week *here*.  I was going to try and find all the examples I have run into in the last year, but instead offer into evidence exhibit “B” – that time management is a very impacting conversation mentioned over and over because we are so dang busy and REALLY want to figure out what is important, and what isn’t.  So what’s important about Facebook?  Frankly, I am starting to lose my enthusiasm, especially since the stream change I reference right *HERE*.

Whether “Hotel Pages on Facebook” work isn’t a cut and dry question to say the least…. whether they are useful, or whether they are actually hotels to begin with is where we can start.  For example, if you search “Hotel” on Facebook, then filter so that only “pages” appear, the first 3 pages of over 500 results does have a hotel or two, but the majority of pages are for a band, or a page devoted to hating said band, or one of 15+ (I stopped count around 13) of Facebook Pages for the wonderful, if not somewhat antiquated, “HOTEL” board game.  Sure I enjoyed the game too, as you fair readers are just reminded of how much fun it was when you last played.

But this is no longer kid’s play.  This is business… and I want to make sure we are not wasting our time.

Two Important Questions, the latter being more impacting: “WHAT HOTELS ARE USING THEIR FACEBOOK PAGES THE BEST???”… and then the *really* important question….”THOSE HOTELS USING THEIR PAGES THE BEST… *what* *is* *the* *benefit*?”

Basically.. I would love to hear the positive, happy Facebook stories about hotels with groups or pages?  I am at a loss for any real examples of how it is “business”, or can be used effectively.  Like… none.  I know we have to be on FB… there has to be a presence.  But what am I missing guys?  I note this has come up recently, like *HERE*… but there hasn’t been much follow up.

I see people on hotel pages saying “I love your brand/hotel”.  I have also seen people upload a picture here or there.  But I *do not* see anything deeply meaningful or anything really happening (IE commerce, business, or jumps to booking engines, etc).  I know that the restaurants and especially lounges seem to like to use it as a place to update events, etc…. but most of the fans on a page would be previous guests, presumably not locals?  I have always thought hotels should ingratiate itself to the community, but there are only so many events and specials that you can target the community with, as they aren’t going to always be your strongest base or the people the pay the bills.  For brand image you need them happy, but they aren’t your guests.  What’s more, if you do constantly focus on locals… you are missing out on the bread and butter, which is rooms.  It is complex… is the page for a local clientele, for potential guests, for past guests that are part of your culture?  All 3? It’s almost like Hotels focus on the locals not because they *want* to.. but becuase, by default, they *have* to… as they don’t know how to reach others.

I for one haven’t the foggiest how you would get a potential guest to your facebook page, and what’s much, *MUCH* more important… is why?  Why would I want to get a guest to a page without much information, meaningful content, or a booking engine?  Isn’t the potential guest someone we want to end up on our hotel site?  Even the SEO premise is interesting, but if people aren’t searching or using FB to find brands, what’s the point of getting them to your page when they can’t do anything?  What’s more, if a FB page is basically a one sided twitter or RSS feed of brand info, wouldn’t you want your potential guest on your branded site instead of a dead-end of non-interactivity?

So what is the page for?  For now I have a couple things:  brand awareness (news, etc), SEO (your link on FB), contact info, (but FB’ers aren’t using pages as a yellow page, nor are they using it as a resource), events, specials.   Let’s look at some hotels and how they successfully use FB:

Hotel Costes – 25,000 fans, zero wall posts, obviously just a “front” or online billboard.  I think this may be the most effective use of a FB page out there.  Just build a nice page, and walk away.  I hate to be cynical, but it might be the simple best page I have seen, albeit a little tongue in cheek.  I will say that “Hotel Costes” is also famous in the younger scene for having downtempo lounge DJ’s playing, and have an associated line of CDs which may be part of its popularity.  Whatever the case, one of the hotel pages with the most fans, and they aren’t doing anything at all.

Hilton – 21,107 fans, with 8 posts on the wall in the last 14 days.  Those posts are the typical “Hilton is the best,i love it”…  meaning relatively benign, fairly non engaged commentary.  They aren’t posting anything, not even RSS.  I have seen some hotels pull back from posting, as the change FB made has wall posts injecting into people’s conversational stream like spam.  Hoteliers are confused how to handle this, and even I have found brand updates annoying as all get out (and I am the type that is meant to be tolerant of them, being my profession and all).

Hotel Aladdin – I love this example, because they are actually interacting with their 10,000+ fans.  You may not speak Spanish, but you can tell they are updating the wall, and people are actually participating.  So what is this meaningful interaction from a hotel doing a good job with their page?  People thumbs up, IE “Like This”, by clicking on the feed post and that’s about it.  Comments are frequent, but I still don’t see business.  People liking you doesn’t necessarily translate into “time well spent”.  They did have a contest where they gave away 3 rooms, which is a great way to garner attentions and fans… but does it make a booking down the road?

St. Julien – Obviously using the page, as they moderated a question I asked about their page.  They had a Earth Day special that got some attention, and some fans.  However… they got fans on the pretense of planting trees.  People joined, they announced 70 trees in those new fans honor.  But what now?  That first post since the event is about 20% off in the spa.  They have 216 fans right now.  Any wagers on whether the amount of fans goes up or down in the immediate future?  I *assume* new fans will tire of spa ads in their stream and de-fan pretty quick.  Whatever the case, are they spending time that generates business or justifies time spent?  Exactly *who* fans pages right now?  Who fanned St. Julien for that promo – people that wanted a tree planted, or people that wanted to know about the hotel?

HotelChatter mentions some more hotels that have pages, and that are potentially doing interesting things:

Whist at Viceroy Santa Monica with 125 fans is basically sending a dinner offer once a week, and nothing more.

High Peaks Resort, frankly, seems to do everything right when it comes to social media.  As much as their stream looks solid, with 300+ fans, I still wonder what sort of commerce or interaction happens…

The Jane, with 52 fans, hasn’t really posted anything *since* the hotel chatter article.  This isn’t indicative of them doing anything wrong, I simply think it is indicative of no one really knowing how to create meaninful conversation on FB.

I could keep coming up with more pages, but these are simply a couple hotels whose pages have already been chatted about in the social media conversation.  I notice most people aren’t doing anything, when they do it is usually a contest to garner more fans (to what end I am not sure anyone knows) or a special on wine at dinner , etc.  All this just lends itself to a couple points:

1) Social Media is about conversation, which is something I see on very few pages.  On FB, it is basically a one way pushing of information.. deals, news articles etc.  If FB had reviews that could be fused into a page, or some “game” like Hyatt developing one of those “what’s your travel personality” quizzes, it might create better interaction… but very few have the time, money, or justification to do anything like that.

2) Social Media is open, which FB is not – meaning that most of the time, on Flickr or Twitter you can actually have a chance of interacting with potential clients, while FB only has those that already know of your property, IE locals looking for a good deal on wine at dinner.  How many people is that for?  What percentage of fans will be local, and will actually utilize that deal?  Who is your target on FB?  Why is that your target?  What are you attempting to achieve with FB?

In the end -I think that question sort of zinged even myself… “What are you attempting to achieve with FB?”

I for one don’t have a clue.  I just know, even worst case scenario, it’s great to have your link out there in a place with a high page rank.  So that is why I am there, even though why I started was totally different… it was to regale guests, interact with them, create stories and remember moments…. but now, I feel relegated to checking it once in awhile, staring blankly, and then moving on.

I think a lot of hotels set up a page, have absolutely *ZERO* idea how to meaningfully interact with potential guests, and resort to offering locals dinner deals in their restaurant, because there isn’t really a way to reach a prospective client on FB (and don’t get me started on their advertising program… because we know that doesn’t work.  No conversion tracking, Lack of results, users not seeking advertising, and the Social Media Ad Model is broken anyway).  You can only reach people that know about you, and that can act on offers, deals, and last minute specials.  These aren’t clients that provide a powerful revenue stream to your hotel, and often, as we have seen with dropping rates to garner occupancy… the people looking for a deal aren’t really the clients you want anyway.

Are we wasting our time?

I did find some other great pages on FB about hotels….Hotel Rwanda, Hotel for Dogs.. and I am reminded people are passive.  They want to watch a trailer, or be told about a brand or product… but consumers on FB don’t necessarily want to interact with the brand yet… nor are many looking to become a vocal endorser and push your hotel page to their friends and network.  Basically, it is just something to click… and a page is something to ignore until it annoys you and you de-fan.  What’s more, you can’t tell consumers about your product if you aren’t able to reach them within the closed network.  It reminds me of Mashable’s comments that “Facebook needs to convince users to SEEK advertising.

Very complex stuff.

Cure my cynicism.  Tell me why I am missing the point, the bus, and target?  How has a FB Page saved your hotel brand, and made things better for you?  I want to hear stories now because I am quickly feeling like a page is nothing more than the 80% not actually causing any real impact.  Time to cull, and focus on the effective 20%…..

Is FB part of that 20% that gives you 80% of results?  Let me know!  Otherwise… I might be encouraging clients to build the page, and simply move on.

Share your experiences and thoughts!

About Michael

5 Responses to “Facebook for Hotels – What are we trying to achieve? So far… seems to be nothing.”

  1. Josiah Mackenzie

    Another great investigation, Michael. You’re right on – looking through Facebook usually turns up little more than “I love Hilton”-type comments. Meaningful activity seems to be absent.

    I plan on linking to this Friday, and I hope these case studies help people re-think their strategy here.

    Cheers
    Josiah

  2. RobertKCole

    A few good hotel examples I have found:

    1) MGM Grand – 5,000+ rooms: 51K+ FB Friends / 18K+ Twitter Followers. Highly engaged.

    2) Wynn Las Vegas – 5,000+ rooms: 9K+ FB Friends / 335K+ Twitter Followers. Interactive conversations.

    3) Kimpton Hotels – 55 properties: 14K+ FB Friends / 6.7K Twitter Followers. Social media is extension of customer oriented operations.

    4) Joie de Vivre Hotels – 30 properties: 3.9K+ FB Friends / 8K+ Twitter Followers. CEO Chip Connelly is a strong social media supporter. Website also has strong user generated content & customer engagement.

    5) Drake Hotel (Toronto) – 18 rooms: 2.5K+ FB Fans / 8K+ Twitter Followers. Proof that you don’t have to be big to have it work (their club also helps a lot.)

    (Not nearly as many as there should be…)

  3. Michael Hraba

    I understand followers & fans, but even with some of our most populated pages, there is little interaction. For example: Kimpton – a lot of “yay” from guests, MGM & Wynn – same thing – but how much meaningful interaction? It’s hard to measure. I do agree there should be more, and I agree you have to have a presence…. but with the amount of fans/followers it doesn’t seem like much real or meaningful relationship building so much as one off “we love you” comments. That’s the power of a big brand tho…

    But thanks for this research, and thanks for some good example of people doing a good job. You rock sir!

  4. Pierre drake

    I do understand your points, but would like to point out there are always exceptions to the rule. I have created Facebook pages for several businesses, from different industries and have found that the hotel industries really are one of the best types of industries suited to a Facebook Page.

    For example, hotels can directly interact with new guests and old, keeping your location in the top of their minds, reminding them of what a great time they had with you, encouraging repeat guest and referrals of new guests. (Verble referrals being very important to hotels).

    Gaining a locale following, all hotels have high and low seasons, locals might mean anything from 100 yards to 1000Km, they do use local hotels for meetings, dinning and take short breaks, weekends away etc. and are often asked for advice by friends that visit their area on where to stay and eat. Local guests for example in our case are not affected by political problems, volcanos in Europe etc.
    Having a strong local following protects you in slow times and gains you good steady traffic from the referrals locals give you. This is not to be underestimated.
    We have learned over the years that financially this is a great tool and thank god has been over looked by the bigger hotel chains up until now.
    Direct referrals have another advantage, that is always forgotten by the industry, with its heavy reliance on agent sties to sell rooms for them, is that an agent takes in most case 20% of your room revenue, were direst bookings do not. Add that up over a year how much more could a hotels spend on direct marketing including Facebook and social media.
    it does not take much though, to realise that hotels are an integral part of peoples holiday, and big ticket item for most people, they want to share this with friends and family when they return home it does not take much to encourage them to share this with a wider forum and social sites like Facebook are great for this.
    Feel free to browse our facebook page and see how much interaction is going on and how much of it is from our guests and not just us pushing us.
    Our page for a 40 room resort in the middle of know where on a very small island 60km from the nearest land over 200km from the next big-ish town has now over 20,000 likes and very loyal following and I can’t state enough how it has assisted us in becoming as successful we are.
    http://www.facebook.com/castawayresort
    I can’t see how this would not be a useful tool to any Hotel of any size, and is truly easy to implement, it just takes a little bit of cash and a little bit of thought.

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