The Truth About Social Media Marketing for Hotels


Every once in a while, a well-intentioned article comes to our attention, providing hoteliers digital marketing advice that flies in the face of our current thinking.  It challenges us to re-evaluate our thought processes to determine if our hotel marketing best practices rise to meet the moment.  

Today, just such an article came to our attention.  It suggested that hoteliers should eschew social media marketing in favor of more reliable and profitable channels.  The argument goes that in these challenging times, hotels have limited budgets (true) and that hoteliers are paying particular attention to the channels that provide them the most profitable returns (also true).  Therefore, because hotel social media requires significant investment without congruent returns, marketing on those channels should be an effort of last resort (wait a second).  

It would be easy to make an argument that marketing on social media is a vital part of an overall compelling brand presence, helping consumers throughout the buying journey personalize the experiences a property has to offer.  It would make sense to draw a line from social media to the ever-important process whereby a traveler stops taking stock of the features a property offers and instead starts to internalize the benefits.  We could point to studies that show how much impact can be garnered from loyal customers speaking on a brand’s behalf.  But those somewhat hypothetical arguments take a back seat to a simple truth; hotel social media campaigns produce an immediate and measurable return on investment.

We don’t believe that the article in question was written to deceive or coerce in some way.  Upon reflection, we realized that we simply have more dynamic visibility into the real-time performance of hotel social media campaigns, and we have the benchmarking to compare those campaigns to all other forms of digital marketing.  Through Summit, our hotel digital marketing reporting suite, we know that in many cases social efforts are the most efficient and highest-producing campaigns in a marketing mix.  Cost per acquisition on these channels often pales in comparison to more expensive channels like Paid Search. Nevermind the immeasurable brand-building benefits, hotel social media campaigns are high powered Ferraris begging to be driven.  When you see the returns that they generate in real-time, it's difficult to imagine deliberately handicapping their production.

Take for example one of our digital marketing clients, a resort in Georgia.  At a time when ballrooms stand empty and catering kitchens suffer from underutilization, we launched a Facebook lead generation campaign targeting wedding planners and newly engaged couples.  The hotel social media lead generation campaign generated 162 leads during a 90-day wedding campaign from 7/1/2020 - 9/30/2020 on a budget of only $465.  The return on that investment can be measured both in terms of incremental revenue, but also in the eyes of staff members as they watch those celebratory guests breathe life back into the property. 

As travelers’ travel habits migrated away from air travel and towards the classic (and safe) road trip, one of our larger hotel management companies looked to capitalize.  Deploying custom imagery and messaging only afforded to advertisers on social media, we were able to generate a 44:1 ROAS during August 2020. As icing on the proverbial cake, we launched a 72-hour sale in the midst of the campaign that alone generated a 108:1 return.

Not to be outdone, one of our digital marketing clients, a resort in Tennessee, generated a 75:1 ROAS through social media advertising during September 2020.  The stories abound, but always with the same throughline;  social media advertising performs.

Ultimately we believe that every hotel digital marketing strategy, every campaign, every digital channel should be accountable to a higher purpose.  In better times, that purpose could embody more long term vision and brand building.  With limited resources and an instinct to simply survive, short term profitability has come into sharp contrast.  Under those intense lights, with the help of some ingenious data and tracking capability, social media marketing not only makes the cut; it shines.