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Monday, 27 November, 2017, 17 : 32 PM [IST]

What is your social media strategy?

BY PK Mohankumar, Principal Consultant, Turnstone Hospitality
Social media network and user friendly apps are increasingly posing a challenge to the dominance of brand power in the emerging mid-market and economy segments of the hospitality industry all over the world.

With mobile penetration being widespread across the target audience of domestic travel, this platonic shift to access one’s own hand held device to scan multiple choices and book a city centre affordable smart room is the new norm across metros, cities and towns in India today.

The domestic travel for business or leisure has crossed the billion plus mark triggering off a huge demand for peak weekdays accommodation and heavy traffic long weekend getaways. This ripple effect cascading across related segments of the travel trade namely airlines, transport, lodging has caught the imagination of a whole lot of innovative entrepreneurs in the travel related IT segment as much the revenue management professionals.

The new GST regime has also opened up opportunities for these two segments with tax structures favouring exponential growth in inventory as the younger generation of travellers are fancying the natural price value benefits while being convinced that these hotels are location-friendly and fulfills all the basics of hygiene, safety, cleanliness and value for money.

In the context of subjecting oneself to aggressive marketing and perception of established branded hotels when it comes to the crucial choice of accommodation, the travel savvy bookers today are increasingly demonstrating that they are more driven by their friends word of mouth positives and social network rating coupled with their ability to be in control of the price factor (bargainable, best value at that point of time regardless of brand or stature of the property).

Increasingly, travellers today are evaluating hotels or resorts to stay by relying heavily on the credibility of travel and hotel rating companies like TripAdvisor, Trivago, etc., which are specialising in tracking popular hotels, resorts both on experience, service and price. Herein is therefore the challenge for the branded entities hitherto unchallenged in the perception game of being safe, secure and meet expectations of places to stay.

Strategic engagement of this social network can significantly help in driving a high potential sizable audience into getting interested in your brand since it helps to change perceptions about brands being inflexible on the trending preferred criteria of price value proposition. Changing consumer preference are disruptive in nature wherein even the so-called premium and luxury users are tempted to go in for the lucrative offers and value quotients of mid market and economy packages especially when it comes to personal spent.

Access to accelerated usage, hashtags or Instagram is leading to a self-dependent approach to such crucial decision making. Such disruptive behavioural changes are influencing many owners / promoters / management teams in the family, branded or standalone single unit brand category to focus more on the experience quotient of the captive guests. This in turn impresses the satisfied repeaters or first time goodwill ambassadors to brag about their ability to spot good lodging places at a good price.

Reversely, an irate guest could be potential badmouthing volunteers going all over the social network to vent their ire which could be disastrous in terms of perception and image as the netizens are gullible to even stray adverse comments without discounting it to be an isolated incident just for one guest.

The new and more affordable versions of virtual reality are now lowering the barrier to entry. Hotels now look to guests as content creators – see goodwill ambassadors of individual hotels to influence social media to generate top stars in a series of virtual reality videos. Dependence on brands alone is increasingly being replaced by social network influencers, with credible perceptions and reputation, to induce potential bookers to their preferred resorts regardless of brands - but more on star rating/ price value proposition.

Does your hotel or resort have in place a well thought out strategy to address reviews and perceptions gained from social media influencers? Research clearly indicate that in today’s travel related decisions, more than 60% of them make their bookings through online portals and nearly 90% state that they are influenced by their network rating while taking the final decision. It is abundantly clear that whichever brand or single standalone hotel/ resort manage to feature more frequently in the social media buzz stand to gain immensely on the ultimate conversion factor.

The views expressed within this column are the opinion of the author, and may not necessarily be endorsed by the publication.
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