Social Media Generates Bookings And ROI

by , Oct 30, 2012, 6:16 AM
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Everyone agrees that social media is important and on the rise. But I still come across so many skeptics on a weekly basis when it comes to getting support for social media providing a strong return on investment. Maybe some of these impressive stats will help convince those naysayers. 

  1. AirAsia used social media to sell over 800,000 tickets in a 48-hour period.
     
  2. Expedia saw 70,000 incremental bookings on their site over a 60-day period because of their Facebook page and promotions. They also saw the average time users spent on their website rise by 156%, according to data provided by Compete.
     
  3. In that same Compete study, 75% of the users also indicated that a brand’s Facebook page had some influence over their purchase decisions.
     
  4. Mary Kay and BlogHer drove a 260% increase in purchase intent from social media.

  5. According to Lab42, more than half of travelers who use social media to plan their trips end up changing their plans based on the social media research and information they uncover. Of those modifying travel plans, about 43% of the people switched hotels or resorts. 

There are a variety of ways to track ROI when it comes to social media. You can easily create a promo code or special rate for Twitter or Facebook users to obtain special social media discounts. That would be a basic method to track direct bookings. My social media team has also had success with fans registering and clicking to RSVP on Facebook to attend various live events at a hotel. We have promoted TweetUps that bridge the gap between the virtual and real world. Your hotel might offer TweetUp attendees a discounted drink or food item to increase revenue during the event, and it is fairly easy to track. 

The social media world could take a few pages from the display advertising world when it comes to tracking view-through conversions. Even if you do not attribute 100% of the bookings from a view-through conversion, it is still a partial contributor to increased sales influenced by display ads. You can see more detail from TNOOZ about this edgy topic here. Research from Clickz supports this notion in the social media realm: They found that 99% of sales generated from Facebook ads came from users who did not click the ad.

Of course, there are some social activities that are harder to track than others. About 70% of travelers post about their vacation while they are on vacation. So all of their friends and family are then exposed to your destination or travel product. It can be difficult to tally up all of this unofficial viral exposure and social chatter that was not a brand retweet or Facebook comment on your brand page. Some travelers do, in fact, check-in, which is something that can be tabulated, but many just post a photo or comment about their trip. 

You cannot just track the small amount of bookings you might see from adding a booking engine widget to your Facebook page. That approach is only capturing a part of the picture since social media is ubiquitous and part of the consumer lifecycle. Fellow MediaPost blogger Harvey Chipkin just wrote a great piece about social media success stories, and the common thread was that Amtrak, VisitBritain and Royal Caribbean all used social media as part of a larger integrated media program that also included electronic public relations, event marketing, video production and TV advertising. It will be very exciting to see future studies that track conversions across platforms and screens as we move constantly during the day from smartphone to laptop to iPad to TV screen. 

Social media does have other benefits and a variety of bonus opportunities for your ROI even beyond bookings. Many companies are using it for marketing research and customer feedback, not to mention customer service and support. Some airlines actually have over 10 people manning their Twitter customer service account as they take some heat off of their call center. So invest in your social media future with confidence knowing it will generate more bookings and enhance your customer engagement. 

5 comments on "Social Media Generates Bookings And ROI ".

  1. Robert Gilmour from Innfinite Hospitality Ltd
    commented on: October 31, 2012 at 9:26 a.m.
    I hate the use of the word 'skeptics' and 'naysayers' - its like these people are taboo/ostracised when it comes to SM and that's a nonsense usually, the true fact is they don't use it/believe in it because it produces little or no results, that's a perfectly acceptable stance and a good reason for prioritising things that do. Innfinite has 223 UK hotel clients with access to all their analytics, and the commercial results from social media activity are just pathetic in the main.
  2. Max Starkov from HeBS Digital
    commented on: October 31, 2012 at 10:31 a.m.
    Robert, I fully concur with your statement. The example of AirAsia provided in the article means that the airline has been out of parity in their social media channel. They could have achieved exactly the same or even better result if they had sent out an email-only promotion with a discounted rate. In my view, travel marketers and hoteliers that are still trying to use social media as a distribution channel are the ones trying to find some kind of meaningful ROI to justify their efforts. Smart hoteliers understand that social media is not a distribution channel in hospitality and therefore use a different set of metrics to gauge success. Despite the monumental efforts by many hotel marketers in the past five years to use social media as a “new and revolutionary” distribution channel in hospitality and travel, they all failed miserably. Today the social scene is littered with the abandoned corpses of hotel and other travel-related profiles. Why? Because a distribution channel is primarily a one-way street: the owner or aggregator of travel inventory/information pushes inventory/information through distribution channels which have been accepted by interested parties such as the traveling public, travel agents, group planners, etc. These distribution channels have been incorporated in travel planning technology and marketing solutions like GDS, travel supplier sites, OTA sites, etc. Social media is not a one-way street. It is a multi-street maze of peer-to-peer, marketer-consumer and consumer-marketer engagements and relationships. In other words, in travel and hospitality, social media is a customer engagement channel and a customer service channel, not a distribution channel. Hoteliers should use the same performance indicators they apply to customer service and branding initiatives.
  3. Camilo Olea from cancunissafe.com
    commented on: October 31, 2012 at 11:43 a.m.
    "In other words, in travel and hospitality, social media is a customer engagement channel and a customer service channel, not a distribution channel. Hoteliers should use the same performance indicators they apply to customer service and branding initiatives." Boom. Beautifully nailed by Max. I agree wholeheartedly, most of the people that report social media as "a failure" are saying so because they are trying to use it as a simple distribution channel, when it is not. In my job as Social Media Strategist for Royal Resorts, I've seen only a few bookings coming from Social Media, but I see more and more volume of customer communications every day. I've resolved many customer requests, problems, etc and every day more customers contact us through Social Media. Furthermore, I've read that many big hotel brands are using now "Social Concierges", which only confirms this trend. This is where hoteliers should be investing their money in Social Media. Best regards from Cancun, Mexico.
  4. Robert Gilmour from Innfinite Hospitality Ltd
    commented on: November 1, 2012 at 10:03 a.m.
    Well said Camilo, I'm a huge fan of concierge of any kind - in person, on website, m-concierge, e-concierge, f-concierge, as a crucial component of CRM &c &c - and its you reaching out to the customer, rather than the other way round
  5. Ryan Bifulco from Travel Spike
    commented on: November 2, 2012 at 10:02 a.m.
    Guys, thanks for your comments and feedback as I do agree that social concierges have plenty of upside. In the last part of my article I too stated the positive ROI from customer service and customer engagement when it comes to social media. I also agree that if a brand is using social media as a one way channel to push sales that it will fail. But many brands do have a social media strategy and do use social media as a 2 way communication channel which does lead to stealing market share and increased revenue. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, comScore, Clickz, eMarketer, Expedia, Travel Weekly, Mashable, MediaPost, Compete, Business Insider and many others have research showing that social media produces bookings, conversions and ROI. If you have personally seen otherwise that is fine but to say that social media does not work for an entire industry is not accurate. My article was actually saying that if you only measure direct bookings from a Facebook widget then you are missing the true ROI from social media. Social should not be looked at as a separate distribution channel, but rather a part of an integrated marketing approach.

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