Effectively managing all your social media platforms can be a time-consuming challenge. Each social platform has a different interface and many do not allow you to schedule posts. But, thankfully, there are many free and cheap tools out there to help hoteliers save time and execute an effective social media strategy. Here are the best social tools to empower your marketing strategy today.
Note: Before you dive in, remember to decide upon which networks to use to market your property. Read our previous articles: Social Media Tips for Small Hoteliers, and How to Create an Engaging Social Media Strategy.
One of the most time consuming parts about social media is posting to every platform frequently. Much like trying to update every OTA manually, every platform’s different mechanism can be challenging. As part of your social media strategy, you likely set up a posting schedule and monthly goals. Thankfully, distribution software can help you meet your goals without taking away all your time. The following social media distribution tools help you update many social networks at once.
Hootsuite is one of the first and oldest social media distribution platforms. They allow you to manage your social accounts from one central location. You can post, schedule, engage, and monitor your performance on the most popular social networking sites. Hootsuite allows you to easily add feeds (or streams) so that you never miss a prime opportunity to engage with your guests. Example feeds include Twitter mentions, Facebook wall posts, and direct messages on various platforms.
Because Hootsuite has been around for a long time, they connect to almost all the social channels you could ever want. Hootsuite is also one of the few online distribution platforms that integrates with Instagram. A lot of the expensive social media solutions (like Sprout Social or Curulate) also integrate with Instagram, but are costly. This connection is worth mentioning because Instagram has become a powerful network that can work well in many social media strategies.
Hootsuite offers a free tier that allows you connect up to three social profiles and lets you schedule your posts. The Pro version, which starts at $9.99 per month, includes up to 50 social profiles and allows more advanced scheduling. The advanced scheduling includes a calendar view, which allows you to visually see your posts over the month. There is also an enterprise version, but for the majority of users, it is unnecessary. You can explore the different pricing plans here.
Of all the tools we will cover in this guide, I would choose Hootsuite if forced to pick just one.
Buffer is similar to Hootsuite, but there are a few significant differences. Buffer is primarily a scheduling and distribution service. They have functionalities to watch feeds and monitor your social presence, but Hootsuite is much better at this.
One of Buffer’s best features is the ability to set up a specific schedule. You can set up a schedule that allows you queue social posts automatically. It is a simple tool that saves a lot of time. You essentially can dump social posts in a bucket. Buffer automatically sends them out to your social channels at your designated times. It’s a simple feature that you won’t find anywhere else at this price point.
The Buffer free plan lets you add one social profile per platform. On the individual free platform, they support Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn. The Buffer plan only lets you schedule 10 posts at a time, which is a potential problem for many businesses. We suggest upgrading to the Awesome plan.
The Awesome plan is $10 per month and lets you connect up to 10 platforms on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. They let you scheduled up to 100 posts and gives you access to the calendar. These are just the highlights. You can see the full list of features on their pricing page here.
Crowdfire is the best tool to manage your Twitter account for follows, unfollows, and discovery. Twitter alerts you when someone follows you, but not who unfollows you. Crowdfire quickly and efficiently shows you who doesn’t follow you, who you don’t follow back (called fans), recent unfollowers, recent followers, and inactive followers.
When you are trying to grow your Twitter following, you are going to have to a bit of follow/unfollowing to keep your following to follower ratio in check. You should approach a follow/unfollow strategy carefully. I do not advocate mass following/unfollowing because you will only gain disengaged followers. Instead, attempt to follow and engage with people who have mentioned traveling to your destination or expressed previous interest.
While it may seem silly to track who unfollows you, it is helpful to know who is leaving, and for what reasons (such as the type of content you shared that day).
Crowdfire also allows you to inspect other users, see their followers, and follow them if you wish. This tool is helpful in building a following and saves you time searching for people who are likely to enjoy your property. For example, you could put in @Expedia, and it will list everyone who follows them.
You can similarly search for people who follow certain topics or hashtags. So, you could search for #TravelTuesday and see everyone who has used that hashtag. Twitter is notorious for not offering many tools to effectively find users and Crowdfire fulfills that need.
These two tactics help you find Twitter users who are not only already your happy guests, but new guests you can market to. It’s a good tool for finding new guests who can praise your property to their large networks.
Crowdfire’s free tier is extremely powerful and lets you unfollow 100 people per day and follow 100 people per day–a tactic used to grow your Twitter followers. Crowdfire offers more functions like sending automatic direct messages (which I do not advise, since no one likes talking to robots) which you can see here alongside their paid tier plans.
Tweetdeck is the most powerful way to monitor Twitter. There is a desktop and downloadable application that operate the same way. You set up columns for different types of streams including your home feed, notifications, activity, hashtags, users, and search. You can create as many streams as you like, although it may start to slow down if you add too many.
You can monitor your property’s name when you set up a search stream. For example, if you were the San Diego Waverunner Beachfront Hotel, you can create a stream that only displays tweets that display that name. Or, if you have a branded hashtag, you can create a stream to display tweets that include it.
Tweetdeck saves you a lot of time because you no longer have to individually search for your name, hashtag, or an event you’re tracking.
Although you can set up similar streams in Hootsuite, Tweetdeck is generally more accurate and has more options because it is owned by Twitter. If you are serious about your Twitter strategy, I highly recommend using Tweetdeck.
Tweetdeck also allows you to schedule tweets, unlike the Twitter web client. If you do not use a distribution platform like Hootsuite or Buffer, this is a great solution to schedule tweets.
Iconosquare is a platform that helps you navigate your Instagram account on the web. In its infancy, Instagram was not available on the web, and to this day, their desktop experience is very different from the mobile app. You can only access your feed and profile, while the search functionality remains minimal.
Iconosquare shows your feed, posts, posts you’ve liked, your followers, and your following. But, most importantly, they offer an analytics dashboard. Instagram offers no readily available analytics dashboard, unlike Twitter and Facebook.
The analytics Iconosqure offers are powerful. It has a graph that shows you the best times to post based on past performance, which indicates when your community is online. It also shows which hashtags perform the best and compares them to the ones you currently use.
It also shows you follower and engagement trends over time so you can accurately gauge your efforts. They offer a lot of different data that you can sift through to better engage with your followers and create impactful content.
Iconosquare is unique because it is one of the few platforms that offers any sort of Instagram metrics. In order to execute your Instagram strategy effectively, you will need to measure it. We highly recommend this platform.
Until recently, Iconosquare’s analytics were free, but now it costs $28/year for Plus and $149.00/year for Elite. You can test it out with a free 7 day trial.
In order to save time and implement your social media strategy, we suggest using one or more of these tools to streamline your processes. When you add another social media platform to your strategy, it will always take more time and effort. But, with these tools, it is easier to manage the many different platforms.