PALMA DE MALLORCA, SPAIN—Very few things seem more impersonal than communication via social media. Storytelling is compromised, embellished by edited images and saturated with content. Influencers set the stage, and we just follow. Despite social media’s very unsocial aspects, it does present many opportunities, especially in the travel sector.
It seems ironic that millennials, who constantly seek immersion and experiences, would take to a handheld device to feel connected, but this just happens to be the case when it comes to travel.
The social media landscape is changing for the better, with content that encourages and inspires. Meliá Hotels International, wanting to capture that change, has partnered with Hootsuite to develop a social media strategy to support travel inspiration.
“Like all organizations in the tourism sector and hospitality industry, Meliá Hotels International was greatly impacted by the change in behavior of current travelers who primarily rely on digital and social media platforms to capture their travel journey,” said Santiago García Solimei, global head of social media for the company.
According to AdWeek, 83% of travelers share content relating to their hotel stay and experience on social media, and 52% report that their travel plans were inspired by a friend’s photos.
“It became clear that social media was the source of the next seismic shift in this industry,” García Solimei said.
Meliá already had a sizeable global digital presence prior to the partnership—around 130 properties had individual social media profiles—but the company was lacking a centralized tool to manage brand consistency, review and amend content, report on social media activity at a global and regional level, and monitor all incoming and outgoing messages from social media.
“Working with Hootsuite, Meliá developed a comprehensive social media strategy to support our global presence, which includes 380 properties in more than 40 countries, with a global and scalable solution,” he said.
The new digital approach implements Hootsuite Enterprise, a platform that, from a single dashboard, allows the company’s social team to amalgamate and visualize Meliá’s entire network of social channels, García Solimei said, allowing the company to quickly and easily see generated content across all hotels and geographies.
“After choosing to use Hootsuite, our total number of followers on social media grew from five million to six million in the first six months of 2018 (an increase of more than 15%). On Instagram, we saw an impressive 67% increase in followers,” he noted.
These followers are vital as they represent online presence and, importantly, growth, helping Meliá to increase brand recognition and drive website traffic.
According to García Solimei, visits to Meliá’s site from social media grew from 9% in 2017 to 12% worldwide in 2018, while in Europe, visits increased to 16%. Mobile sales also increased by 491% from 2016 to 2017, generating $37.6 million (€33.8 million).
The partnership also drove talent recruitment through the internal ambassadors program, helping to bring in applications via job postings.
Much to the interest of guests, the new social strategy offers a human approach through Hootsuite Amplify, a brand advocacy and social selling app, driving impressions and sharing posts from company ambassadors.
The industry is certainly seeing a rise in company ambassadors and social media influencers, groups that can drive not only impressions but possibly sales—and can do so authentically.
“Influencers have become somewhat imperative in helping hotels gain greater relevance and authenticity with their target audiences,” García Solimei said. “Through the use of Hootsuite’s dashboard to amplify our brand content provided by influencers who are sharing personal experiences, we were able to identify, analyze and better share these influencer relationships and their experiences with our followers.”
García Solimei said that these efforts resulted in 1.7 million interactions and a potential reach of 74.7 million social media users in 2018, based on 40 influencer marketing activations for the Me By Meliá brand.
“We are seeing that hotel-related content that is shared on social media by influencers—as well as our loyal guests—is being considered thoroughly by potential or existing guests looking for inspiration regarding their next vacation,” García Solimei said.
He added, “Hotels are also creating experiential and content-rich strategies to increase their appeal to the communities of influencers and Instagrammers. A hotel being portrayed on a relevant influencer profile can attract thousands of bookings.”
Meliá is also looking to its own employees as brand ambassadors, especially through the employee advocacy initiative, which focuses on brand recognition through online company content. García Solimei said that this not only engages staff members on social media, but personalizes the brand and increases recognition in the process.
“Hotels understand the need to implement a professional approach with digital and social media. Overall, most hotels are now present on social media with a dedicated strategy. However, not a lot of properties have a different strategy for each network and, instead, tend to copy/paste content from one profile to another,” he said.
García Solimei recommends that a brand should have separate and dedicated content and execution strategies for each social media network, but to not spread itself too thin across platforms. For example, brands should concentrate on a specific social media platform with a concentrated strategy (e.g. Instagram). He also believes that these channels should be managed from one central dashboard.
“Hotels should first understand their business pain points and the needs they have in relation to social media, setting out clear, measurable and achievable results before starting to strategize. The second step is to have a social media plan and strategy agreed upon by all key decision-makers. Third, ensure they have adequate dedicated social media budgets per platform and tools to monitor performance and professional resources (owned or contracted),” he said.
With technology inevitably comes change, especially with a medium that moves with the click of a button or the double tap of a thumb. Ever-evolving platforms present some challenges, and although partnerships such as this one aim to keep up, companies have to constantly evaluate their online strategies.
“Platform algorithms are being updated constantly and as the rules of engagement change, companies need to adjust their strategies in a short time frame,” he said. “Another challenge is the need to invest in social media amplification, as organic content, unless it goes viral, has a more limited reach. A paid social strategy, and social media management tool, therefore, is a must for any organization.”
Ultimately, strategies like this one are meant to grow the brand and connect more with guests, while also allowing travelers to interact with each other.
“Being active in this environment has given us the opportunity to share information about our company more effectively and to better understand our clients and interest groups, resulting in a stronger, more transparent relationship with them,” he said. HB