In 2017, Social Media Marketing has decisively encompassed all four types of communication: written, verbal, nonverbal, and visual. While every few months brings digital marketers a barrage of trends to research, perfect, and deploy across an ever-growing list of platforms and channels, a few will stick while most will fade as fast as they appeared. When adapting any of the latest trends to travel and hospitality this year, Social Media Marketers should commit to a solid strategy that not only spans the path to purchase, but uses all four communication types to do so.
Written: Written storytelling won’t be disappearing from marketing strategy any time soon. If content is king, blogs remain at the top of the digital marketing hierarchy. Simple and effective when using the right SEO strategy and cross-channel support, this written communication is an easy way to drive new traffic to your site and keep existing fan bases checking back for more. Not to mention, you’re constantly adding to the number of indexed pages on your website and increasing your SEO value with every publication. Written communication allows you to better illustrate (and stay true to) your brand pillars by being descriptive and incredibly detailed, not to mention controlling your own narrative. Got an exclusive event coming up? Working with your Executive Chef on a new themed menu? Revenue team putting the pressure on to broadcast that new package or special offer? Write about it from your branded blog page – then repurpose the written content throughout the rest of your marketing funnel that month. Let blogs published by your brand (or your brand ambassadors, guests, and influencers) feed your social media content calendars from the top.
Be aware- the days of flowery, over-descriptive, shakespearean sales language are behind us. While there are only so many ways you can describe a hotel room – remember that guests are increasingly more digital savvy and advertising aware. They don’t want to use a thesaurus or dictionary to decipher what amenities are actually included in their stay or what activities are happening while they visit you. Having the ability to be descriptive and detailed in a blog is a great thing – but keeping it simple and easy to read will cut down on the guest service inquiries (or complaints) down the line.
Verbal: Social media is, of course, social. For a long time in hospitality marketing, that has meant being social with your fans and followers through written communication: comments, reviews, event listings, photo descriptions, etc. In 2017, more than ever before, social media will mean real-time and face-to-face communicating. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and yes, even Twitter have all unveiled live-streaming video capabilities. This means that your social media management team needs to brush up on their public speaking, and even interviewing skills, to move the needle for your brand this year. Hosting a live-stream cooking class with your F&B team, answering FAQ’s via video, or interviewing your wedding coordinator to show off your event capabilities while at the same time taking live questions from prospective guests are just a few ways to get started.
Additionally, maximizing your digital marketing efforts to be compatible with voice search and voice commands is another step to upping your verbal communication strategies. With the rise of Cortana’s and Alexa’s and Siri’s alike – changing the way you write and verbalize on social media in 2017 to coincide with how guests might be voice searching can again increase your search rankings. The next time you start writing that post about the upcoming band playing in your lobby, think about how you might voice search for something similar. Would you ask for “live music Denver” or instead inquire, “are there any good bands playing for free in Denver tonight?”
Nonverbal: In an article from Social Media Week, Emojis have quickly become the fastest growing language of all time. Replacing written language with symbols and Emojis can prove effective these days in our scroll-happy society, when marketers may have less than split-seconds to grab attention or communicate a message effectively. Luckily enough for the hospitality and travel industry, existing Emojis span the industry quite well. Whether your specific social media post is focused on travel types, a hotel room, food and beverage, mountain or beach themed, there’s an Emoji for that. If you’re way ahead of the curve, work with your graphic designer and developer teams to create your own branded Emojis and publish them in your app, on your website, on print collateral, and in your social media marketing. Social media users are always on the lookout for the next best thing, so deploying your own set of Emojis for guests to use while they are in the stages of planning their trip, actually on-site, or posting photos and videos after their stay is a great way to encourage sharing and, in turn, more traffic to your website and social media brand channels.
In another meaning, perhaps its most obvious meaning, being nonverbal in social media marketing can simply mean one thing: listening. This one simple thing can draw huge conclusions, too. While social media is in fact social, this equally important part of that relationship is being able to take back actionable items and real time feedback from your guests to your management teams. Identifying keywords, positive and negative sentiment, and recurring themes in reviews and conversations via your channels can and should allow for real time change in a market that grows continually more and more competitive.
Visual: Visual content has dominated the social media sphere like never before in 2017. Each of the communication types above include deliverables where visual content is possible and highly recommended. That being said, it is often the combination of visual and nonverbal communication that can be the most effective in social media marketing. The challenge for your content team will be finding, curating, and posting photo and video content that can stand alone and still convey the message you’re after. Keep in mind that visual storytelling and marketing doesn’t have to be expensive – a simple iPhone series can be spliced and diced into an easy 15 second Instagram-ready video clip showcasing an easy check-in procedure or time-lapse trip from room to spa.
Travel content is one of the greatest chapters of visual communication. We’ve all been there – vacation planning, only to suddenly realize we’ve been watching beautifully curated videos from a far-off destination for way longer than we thought possible. Often we’ve found ourselves endlessly scrolling through a visitor bureaus Instagram account and liking photos from months past. This is proof that there is no shortage of creative content to be using in your 2017 marketing plan – and one of the best places to find said visuals is the guest themselves. Repurpose your User Generated Content into your organic (and paid!) social media marketing efforts – just be sure you have photo permission from the user.
While it’s easy to single out strategy behind each of these communication types individually, using them in conjunction with one another will ensure a cohesive message across all channels. You wouldn’t want to post a blog full of only Emojis, just like you wouldn’t want to post a Facebook video with two paragraphs of explanation text. Different audiences are attracted to different platforms, and visit them at different stages of the path to purchase, and knowing your audience at each channel means you can decipher and translate your marketing message to the communication type each audience prefers. While websites, Reddit, and in some cases Facebook, are better for written and verbal communication, other platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are better for visual and non-verbal communication types.
Also know that with each audience type, different levels of customer service involvement will be expected and can oftentimes make or break a booking. Sometimes, no matter how clear and concise your communication may be, guests at all levels of the path to purchase and throughout all platforms will have different means of communicating back to you.
Ensuring that your social media team takes dedicated time out of their day to scour for reviews, questions, and concerns from prospective guests will usher them into the next phase of purchase.