Hotels, Social, and Direct Digital Marketing

Josh GordonIn researching an upcoming article I'm writing for Hotel Interactive about the less is more value proposition of good direct digital marketing programs for the hospitality industry I discovered a fascinating report from Forrester Research's Henry Harteveldt entitled, "Hotels Will Rely on the Web To Survive 2010." The report is a great read giving plenty of context to the importance of direct selling for hotels (though the value of direct selling is increasing in all industries right now).

The report also lightly touches on the value of social media for hotels. Unsurprisingly, the inherent difficulty any company encounters getting real, measurable profit from social media is present for hotels, too. If selling directly to consumers is important for business in any industry, social may superficially appear direct, but does not deliver the results expected from direct communications with consumers.

One of the chief hurdles for companies seeking to make money by using social media actually comes from the various social media entities. Offering services for free supports rapid adoption and growth, which in turn creates bulging technology costs for expansion and sustainability. Paradoxically, the value of social media for business is to leverage the audience that already exists, as hosted by the social media entity. If Facebook or Twitter, for two examples, must begin charging the public for use, then businesses would be less inclined to advertise or use social because audience volume is dramatically reduced. In short, it’s risky to ask consumers to pay to use social media. Marketers gravitate toward eyeballs, and social media will have fewer eyeballs in a pay-for-use environment.

Interestingly, while social media seems to masquerade as a direct channel, its most broad application and usefulness is found in mass awareness. Social media allows large numbers of consumers to interact with a single message, but creating profit from those interactions is still a cumbersome process and a drain on resources.

Marketers must also remember that expectation setting for any new marketing channel is vital from day one. Social media still qualifies as a new marketing channel. A business that uses social media exclusively for creating awareness of special offers and discounts only is conditioning its “fans” to expect that out of any interaction with social media. Therefore, any attempt to use social media in a different respect will likely be met with criticism and attrition.

The point is, when it comes to direct digital marketing and opening a direct line of communication with consumers, the primary direct digital marketing channels of email, Web (specifically the website) and mobile are still the best bet for real, measurable profit. Social media is tempting, but it is difficult to make a strong argument for its value as a direct channel.

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  1. […] buying business with extreme discounts just to keep the doors open. While the pros and cons to leveraging social marketing channels to grow revenue have already been touched on, the value of direct digital marketing is gaining […]

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