As the hospitality industry continues to grow and independent properties gain even more traction, it’s key to look into the marketing trends that will define the year. Marketing is a powerful tool that has the ability to make or break a business, or even an entire destination.
Take Iceland, for example, which did such a great job at marketing that they now have an overtourism problem. While Iceland might be the extreme example, it just goes to show the power of marketing. No matter your property size or marketing budget, there are a lot of things you can do to put your property in an opportunistic position.
Local SEO has gained traction over the past few years as internet directories and review websites have become more popular. Examples of local SEO opportunities include Google My Business, Bing Places for Business, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and even large OTAs like booking.com or Expedia.
Local SEO’s goal is to help the person searching for something find relevant, local results. Usually, when we discuss local SEO, we’re talking about how people within a certain destination find results in that destination. But in the case of travel, local SEO comes in handy when people are planning their trips as well.
Almost all online directories, including Google My Business and Bing Places for Business, are free. All you have to do is claim your listing and fill out your profile in its entirety. Usually, this includes your address, phone number, operating hours, and a description which you should use to include relevant keywords. Relevant keywords could include things like “best hostel in Belgium” or “cozy cottage in New Hampshire” – anything that will help potential travelers find you. For help on local SEO and what to prioritize, we suggest using Moz’s library of content.
Building Community with Social Media
It goes without saying that social media will continue to remain an important part of business to consumer marketing strategies. Social media evolves at a rapid pace, and the strategies that work in years past may not be optimal anymore. For example, Facebook regularly updates their algorithm, and in January 2018, they announced that the Newsfeed would start to feature more updates and posts from friends and family, rather than brands and publishers looking for engagement.
Facebook is seeking to rebalance users’ feeds. Therefore, posts that are passively consumed, like a static image that has been turned into a video to “trick” the feed will soon lose their virality. But, there is a way around this, and that’s through building a community and then tailoring your content to them. Facebook will rely more on engagement metrics, like shares and comments from friends, to gauge what to place in your feed. Posts that promote discussion and action will win.
This means hard sales and pushy posts will not do so great (they haven’t in a really long time). Whether we’re talking about Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, the focus should turn to building an audience of people who care about your business and feel a certain way towards it. It doesn’t and shouldn’t push a sale, or booking, or whatever else. In the long run, what’s most beneficial is sharing knowledge, tips, insights, and building community.
Some ways to build community: create a Facebook group for past guests to connect with one another or for people who are huge brand advocates. Or on Instagram, find relevant hashtags and comment thoughtful things on peoples’ posts to build an audience.
Reputation Management Continues to Be Important
Whether we like it or not, reputation management is here to stay for all business types. Review websites, like the ones we discussed in the local SEO section, have incredible power. Not only are they some of the top results on search engines, they’re actively sought out by travelers. Most consumers today will not book without first looking at at least one review site. And most of the time, if they’re booking on an OTA, they reviews will show up right alongside the “book now” button.
Reputation management is part proactive and part reactive. To be proactive, properties should directly ask happy customers to leave reviews – therefore positively padding your online presence.
Regardless of whether a review is positive or negative, someone from your property should respond to the review. In both, the case of a positive or a negative review, a response shows that your property cares and listens to feedback. For negative reviews, always try to find a resolution, ideally off the public forum.
For 2018, create an action plan for reputation management that includes both asking for positive reviews and responding to any and all reviews on the most important sites.
Content Becomes the New Driver of SEO
SEO and content marketing go hand in hand. It has been a long time since creating a super optimized website with static content has been enough to get discovered online. Over the past few years and countless algorithm changes – websites that make frequent changes and have regular quality updates are in the best position to do well. Share timely content, city guides, local events, and other interesting information about your property and destination. You don’t have to be extremely well versed in technical SEO tactics to set yourself up for success. Do keyword research on a topic, and include them in your posts. Moz has fantastic learning center to get you started.
Communication is key and live chat windows, either on your property’s website or through another platform like Facebook Messenger, are among the newest and most effective communication channels
Over the years, we’ve been introduced to countless different mediums of communication. From SMS and email to Facebook Messenger and chatbots, there are countless ways for customers to get in contact with you.
Live chat works well because you’re able to supply information and fulfill requests in real time, unlike emails which may take longer to respond to. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are poised to be two of the next big things, especially in service industries like hospitality. The possibilities with artificial intelligence are endless, and we’ll soon fewer paper guides and maps in properties. The technology already has the ability to replace in-room guides, but artificial intelligence will take it to the next level and for guests to experience a new level of personalization without even talking to someone.
However, the chatbots and the artificial intelligence that will power them are still a couple years away from making their prime time debut, especially for independent properties.
A Wider Distribution Network
Specifically regarding the travel industry, one of the best ways to market your property to a wider audience is through distribution partners. Online travel agencies (OTAs) big and small offer properties of all types and sizes the ability to reach new and expansive audiences.
Large OTAs like Expedia, Hotels.com, or Booking.com cater to millions of travelers every single day – even if you are compared side-by-side to nearly every single one of your competitors. And then there are smaller, more niche distribution channels which help your property reach people of certain demographics or travel types. Take for example a company like Hipcamp. They cater to the young, adventurous camper who is looking for their next off the beaten path destination.
Reaching new customers in today’s market can be relatively painless, especially with the help of a channel manager. With the right technology, you can list your property’s inventory on many different sites without the fear of overbookings. This year, consider researching a few new channels that may be worth your while.
As we make our way through 2018, new marketing trends relevant to the hospitality industry will inevitably pop up. Changes to traditional marketing practices like SEO, social media, and new technologies are widely reported on. It’s all about keeping your ears to the ground and finding what works for your individual business.