Lauren Nowack is a trekbible writer and story maker from Pine Valley, California. She and her husband work in the recreation department at a camp. In their free time, they enjoy mountain biking, building out their Sprinter van, and adventuring with their puppy, Shadow.
There is no disputing that social media, whether that is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or a myriad of others, has changed the hospitality industry forever. With access to information, user reviews, up-to-date pictures, and staff just a click away, many hotels, resorts, and vacation destinations have had to change the way they operate or be left behind. Is this for good or for bad, though? There is a myriad of opinions on whether there will be any mom-and-pop bed and breakfasts left in a few years because of the influence and power of social media, but let’s explore a few of the true effects.
Access to reviews just a click away
Customers have access to up-to-date reviews and pictures through a simple internet or social media search. This, for the consumer, can provide spectacular insight into how the customer service and standards are set at a potential hotel or destination. This, in turn, can give customers more confidence and affirmation of their choice of a place to stay if the reviews and pictures are beautiful, fresh, and clean. However, most reviewers are more likely to post if they disliked an experience more than if they were amazed by it. So, the hospitality industry has had to step up to the plate to encourage people who enjoyed their stay to share reviews as well. Without this encouragement, often through incentives such as rewards points, social media can easily negatively impact places who are behind the curve in encouraging good reviews.
Personal response in a public world
We all know and have seen the impact that news sites can have if there is even one negative comment made about someone; the same goes for one negative review or picture. While there are often funny incidents, comments, and complaints, it is important to address each personally. With the rise of social media has come a new challenge for the hospitality industry: responding in ways appropriate to their audience. What used to be done solely in person or through private email or snail mail is now public domain. What I mean by that is people used to express their feelings and opinions in private to the company, but now they are public.
Hotels, bed and breakfasts, and resorts now must accommodate and acknowledge people’s feelings and opinions in a public manner to show their respect and customer service. When this is not done, they will be perceived as ignoring the customer. This is a completely new aspect of interaction with customers that social media has created. To be specific, when someone posts a less than spectacular review, everyone else is waiting to see how the issue or problem will be dealt with. Follow up and accountability are key in the hospitality industry when something does inevitably go awry. Customer service representatives need to respond quickly, professionally, and personally to each review in order to show their customer service styles. If this new task is done well, it can be a huge boost for people to want to book their stay. So, if the hospitality industry is willing to engage with social media and do it well, it can be a huge boost for them.
More work for the industry
It is clear that social media is creating more work for the industry themselves in protecting their reputation and status. So, for large corporations and hotel chains that can hire and create an extra job, this may be simpler. But, for smaller boutique hotels and family run destinations, this is another job to put on their list. However, if done well, having a solid social media presence can boost your customer base drastically.
Branding yourself in the 21st Century
This all being said, social media is not just for the consumer. The industry itself can shape people’s opinions of their offerings through their own pages as well. The ability to create an online profile and personality is one that is brand new to this century. So, hotels can show off their brilliant art collection through a Facebook album, or respond to social events and show their values through tweeting about things. If what draws your customers in is the small, cozy feeling of your room, then the perfect sun-kissed pillow with fresh flowers Instagram picture can quickly become what draws the overworked mom to your doorstep. The ability to curate your style on social media is a gift which needs to be crafted consistently over time in order to be the one establishing your reputation.
Free publicity? Yes, please.
Lastly, social media has created new opportunities for advertising. Yes, there is the paid advertising of filling up Instagram and Facebook feeds with your latest addition, but there is also sneaky free advertising to be had. With trending hashtags, Snapchat filters, brilliant travel instagram accounts, and posts with more likes being higher on someone’s Facebook feed, the industry customers are always wanting to share their travels. If one person tags their story with their location of where they’re staying, everyone instantly knows they can go there for a similar experience. Millenials love to share their travel experiences with the social media world, so make sure you’re making it easy to advertise for you in a fun way.
Social Media has truly created a new way of interacting with customers. From reviews and pictures to curating a reputation, there are new ways of speaking with potential clients that the industry needs to step into before they fall behind. Taking interactions with customers to the public domain may be seen as negative in some ways, but accountability is a huge value in our current society. So, the hospitality industry is stepping up to meet us in the 21st century so that they will not be negatively impacted by the buzz created through these sites.