The rise of the digital age is quickly transforming the way hotels can communicate with their customers. Over the past year, social media users have gone up by 176 million and now make up about 30% of the global population. Facebook alone adds ½ million users every day (socialmediatoday) . With these astonishing numbers there is no doubt that social media can be a powerful tool for getting noticed in the digital marketing world. As the year comes to a close, a look into the most influential social media trends gives us great insight into what will be popular in 2016.
1. “In the Moment” updates and live broadcasts
The need for immediacy in social media has paved the way for all of the most popular social networks of today. Applications likes Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are allowing users to instantly share thoughts and photos wherever they may be. Periscope additionally allows users to instantly video chat with others in the network from anywhere in the world. Facebook has also recently conformed to this trend by implementing live broadcasts & suggested videos that automatically play within your news feed. Social media posts are no longer confined to a plain text status, people want to know and see what is happening right now.
2. In-App functionality
When many social applications were first introduced, there was very little room for multitasking. The digital world is changing and advancing to keep up with the needs of more connected millennials. New features and ways to search and share information means users are staying in applications for longer periods of time. Instagram introduced the ‘explore’ feature letting users venture out past their followers photos while facebook now has instant articles giving users the ability to publish information. Pinterest is in on this as well, utilizing ‘buy’ buttons to give customers purchasing power right from their page. With all of this extra information floating around, facebook is addressing the issue of exposure by providing more privacy features to its users.
3. Interest guided search
This new features is especially taking off due to to the need for more personalization capability. The fact is, people don’t want to spend time feeding through information to find something that interests them. Many applications are now giving people the ability to find things based on their keywords and recent searches. For instance, Facebook allows you to find relevant articles and videos based on a keyword search. Pinterest similarly uses visual search, where the customer can click on an image and is provided with similar items they can buy. The use of hashtags has made it easier for twitter, facebook, and instagram users to quickly navigate to what is trending.
4. Social Media Advertising
Over the past year, social media ads spending increased 33.5% to nearly $24 billion (emarketer).The high volume of site traffic is reason enough for companies currently building a following through social media. Facebook sees an average of eight billion views a day from 500 million people and that number is only increasing (socialmediatoday). Expanding company information to the various forms of social media is a sure way to increase online presence, especially through the use of sponsored ads. Social media is also a way for companies to invest more in customer service. In a global survey about the future of hotels, 96 % agreed that ‘hotels will need to develop strong social media ‘listening skills’ to understand how customer needs and perceptions of brands and service quality are truly evolving’ (fastfuture).
5. Social Networks in the Workplace
Although there are some concerns with this trend, the use of social media by companies is creating new opportunities in employment. The Society for Human Resource Management found that 77 of companies surveyed reported using social networking sites to recruit candidates, noting that the use of LinkedIn and Facebook provide a valuable tool for identifying good candidates (eeoc). Aside from hiring, employers are finding new ways to use social media for employee engagement, such as knowledge-sharing and policy information boards. Slack, a messaging app for teams, gained 1.25 million active business users in just 2 years, proving this trend is catching on (fastcompany).
What Does this mean for Hotels?
With growing competition from OTA’s and lodging services like Airbnb, hotels must be up to date with such trends when constructing their online presence. Over the past year, the emerging millennial market has influenced change not only in the digital world but also in hotel trends. As the standards for hospitality transform, hotels will definitely have to shift their marketing efforts to remain competitive in the new year. Here are the top 5 things to keep in mind for 2016:
1. Food & Beverage Changes
A survey by Travel Market Report reveals that some of the latest shifts in the hotel industry stream from changing preferences in dining. To name a few, travelers are preferring bars over restaurants, ‘grab n go’ options over room service, and food sampling over large menus. The common dining experience is no longer appealing to this generation of travelers that are always on the move and more intrigued by taste than portion size. Many hotels are also renovating their common spaces to accommodate to traveler needs. Removing boundaries between lobby and restaurants has become a popular trend, as 36% of visitors prefer working in the lobby rather than their rooms (travelmarketreport).
As the age group with the most desire to travel, it is no wonder that millennials are at the top of the list for travel spending in 2015. A younger, tech-savvy market means a change in preferences and desired hotel amenities. Peter Yesawich, vice chairman of MMGY, explains how millennials are less concerned with brand names; rather they are on the ‘search for novelty’ (travelmarketreport). Big brand name hotel companies will need to engage new visitors by offering an experience that exceeds the idea of a standard hotel stay.
3. Social Media Advertising
Social networks have become a sure way to reach more visitors, expand brand awareness, and build valuable connections in the digital world. Utilizing the various social media applications will get you noticed on many different levels; however, simply having a presence on social media is no longer enough. Companies need to be aware of social search optimization techniques, such as hash tags, and invest in sponsored content to make it easier for users to find your brand through simple keywords. Social media accounts posting more frequently are also likely to be featured in top search results on google.
4. Video Marketing
The use of video is bringing online marketing to the next level. In fact, 70% of companies now say video is the most effective tool in their online marketing (fastcompany). Online users are naturally more drawn to image-based content, as posts with videos attract three times as many inbound links as plain text posts (slideshare). Video marketing must be strategic however, people are most attracted to visuals that they can relate to. Creating a marketing video that tells a story about your brand and relates to your travelers needs is key to customer likeability.
5. Mobile Optimization
Mobile applications are the epitome of convenience for today's travelers. The freedom to plan, purchase, or book right from your smartphone is now a necessity for consumers in the y generation. With last minute travel planning at an all time high, mobile bookings are making it easier for business and leisure travelers to quickly find a hotel room. However, ease of use is taken into consideration by travelers; mobile users must be able to navigate efficiently or it becomes very frustrating when on the go. 95% of people believe that by 2020, ‘hotels will increasingly look to new technologies to drastically increase efficiency, reduce costs, personalize the customer experience and improve service’ (fastfuture).