Social Media: Are You Getting the Most from It?

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Transitioning from our recent posts on measuring social impact with Google Analytics and Using Google Analytics’ Multi-Channel Funnels, we presented a webinar for the Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII) discussing ways to measure the results of using social media, and tools to help make the best use of your time. The presentation is below, with general commentary (not a transcript) below.

What is our objective?

Without defining a goal for social media, we can’t really tell if it is of any value. Goals might include a large number of followers, engagement with your followers, visits to your website, or bookings at your lodging property.

Virtually every social network will tell you how many followers you have. A big number is impressive, and certainly some measure of word of mouth may help with brand exposure, but for a small business, followers alone are hardly a practical goal. Systems also can tell you whether your followers are valuable, but these systems do not measure whether they have monetary value to you. They measure whether your followers have a lot of followers, whether they seem to have influence, or whether they share your posts with their followers. They may also place value on whether your followers interact (engage) with you.

Facebook’s Insights show how well your followers engage with you. Engagement can have value, as with ‘word of mouth’ marketing, but in and of itself, it is of little value to a lodging property. That doesn’t mean you don’t want followers or engagement – only that followers or engagement, themselves, are not the measure of value we are looking for.

Website visitors from social sites can be a bit tricky to measure – all the more so because links in Facebook or Twitter posts (as well as others) are usually shortened, using a link shortening service, which can affect the accuracy of the analytics reporting.

Google Analytics’ original Social report simply counted clicks on a Google +1 button, or a Facebook Like button, etc. In the past couple of weeks a Google Analytics update now has a Social report that shows a number of areas, including measuring Goal or Ecommerce conversions that resulted from a social referral. While the data may be imperfect, it is a big step forward in tracking these sources. More on this later.

For this webinar we asked some of our industry vendors for information on referrals from social sources to their client properties. The information is contained in a chart, and is shown on slide 7. These are averages, and some innkeepers saw much larger growth, while others saw less. It is also safe to say that those who are active on the various networks saw far more traffic to their websites than those who don’t participate very actively. Pinterest visits increased by 100% because it wasn’t available a year ago. Foursquare may show no traffic in our sample of inns, either because none of the guests use it, or because the innkeepers aren’t active there. A third possibility is that it is not an effective traffic source.

Tracking booking sources is always tricky, but it is certainly the best measure of value.

Measuring Success

Guest reports on where they found your listing are highly inaccurate, at best. Traditional Google Analytics referral sources are not much better, since (a) they only show the last source before the booking, and (b) they do not show any source if it was visited more than a month before the booking. While still not perfect, Intell-A-Keeper does a better job at aggregating multiple referral sources.

Google Analytics’ Multi-Channel Funnel (MCF) report helps by showing multiple sources that contribute to a Goal. You must have Goals set up in GA, or MCF will have no data to work with. Once set up, and data is gathered, MCF allows you to see the various sources that led to a conversion (and, assuming a booking is set up as a goal, the sources that led to a booking). With Ecommerce set up, you can also see the transaction sources and value.

GA’s new Social reports appear to be a special use of MCF reporting, to show the various social media contributions to conversions, and also include a Social Visitor Flow report, so you can see where the visitors from a social network are spending their time, and where they abandon the site.

Which Social Networks Should You Be Using?

The simple answer to this question is that you should use the networks your target guest demographic uses. Consider the age, income level, education, and, if appropriate, gender, of your target market, and see what networks fit that demographic. That is where you should be.

The chart on slide 12 shows the general demographics of several social networks. The data there is a generalization extracted from a larger set of information at mashable.com, so you may want to look through the full set of data to see if the details change anything for you.

How Do You Manage Your Time?

Being on social networks, especially several of them, can be time-consuming. However there are several ways to control the time you spend.

  • Hire someone else to do your social media
  • Schedule and commit to spending time on social media
  • Automate at least some of the social activity.

There are several tools that allow you to post in multiple places simultaneously. Some ‘experts’ have recently indicated that your followers are more likely to comment on, or repost, your postings if you do them all manually. That may be so, but if posting manually means you post far less frequently, then posting automatically is better than not posting at all.

Slide 14 shows several services that will allow you to post to multiple sites simultaneously. At this point none of these can post to Google+, though HootSuite is in a closed beta test of that service. Hopefully it will become public before too long. Bear in mind that not everything you post is appropriate for every service, so chatty items may be more appropriate for Twitter than for Facebook. In those cases, don’t automate the post.

Slides 15 & 16 show extensions for the Chrome browser that do work with Google+. On slide 15 are extensions that allow you to post to Google+. Slide 16 shows extensions that allow you to share a post you enter on Google+ with other services.

What Should I Talk About?

Finally, some innkeepers, especially those new to social media, ask what they should talk about.

Consider the “voice” you want to use – serious, funny, silly, etc. What kind of topics would you like to talk about? Is the voice consistent with that? By the way, this is one reason you may not want to hire someone to do your social media – their idea of the voice to use may not match your business style.

Become an expert on your area. What do people come there to see and do? Make sure you know the answers, and write/post about them.

Give information away – guests will book because you are so full of information.

Social media is not about selling. Not directly, anyway. The fastest way to get a follower to stop following you in social media is to “sell, sell, sell.” Some innkeepers just keep posting, day after day, things that, in essence, are nothing more than posts saying, “Stay at my inn, stay at my inn, stay at my inn.”

Think of social media as a cocktail party. You would never just bend someone’s ear in that setting, telling them to stay with you over and over again. People are not offended by the occasional pitch, but if you give away information, they are much more likely to pay attention, and then come to you when they are ready for more.

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