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.
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.