If you’re like many property managers, you’re probably going to be spending the next few weeks finalizing your overall online marketing strategy and budget for the year ahead. One piece of your strategy that you’ll likely need to spend a significant amount of time thinking about is how you intend to get more value and ROI from the time and effort you put into social media marketing in 2018.

The social media marketing space has gotten much more competitive for businesses in the last few years. If you don’t have a clear strategy in place for how you intend to cut through the noise and actually leverage social media to drive more bookings and profit for your business, it can feel like a pretty big waste of time and money.

Despite what some critics might tell you, investing in social media can still drive real ROI for your property business. In fact, based on the following facts, it’s possible that working to engage authentically with your target audience is more important now than ever before:

  • 59% of Americans with social media accounts think that customer service through social media has made it easier to get questions answered and issues resolved.
  • According to a survey conducted by Sprout Social, 90% of people have used social in some way to communicate directly with a brand. What’s more, social surpasses phone and email as the first place most people turn when they have a problem or issue with a product or service.”
  • 71% of consumers who have had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others.
  • Over the last year, 30 percent of people who used social networks for less than 1 hour per day were shopping for travel reservations, such as hotel rooms or auto rentals – and 26 percent of users made a purchase.

If you’ve been spinning your wheels and not making much of an impact when it comes to your social media marketing efforts, It’s time to put a new plan in place.

This article will provide you with 6 actionable ideas on how to drive more bookings through social media engagement next year.

1. Build a New Strategy

The first step you need to take in order to boost more reservations through your social media efforts is to build a new strategy for the coming year. As mentioned, without a clear strategy in place from the get-go, it’s very difficult to make an impact or measure success along the way.

If you’ve never really spent time proactively building an ROI-driven social media marketing strategy for your property, here are the components you’ll want to make sure you include:

  • Audience: You should clearly understand who your audience is, what they care about, how they spend their time online, and which social sites they use the most.
  • Goals: You should spend time thinking about what your specific goals are when it comes to investing in social media marketing. Are you trying to drive more brand awareness? More traffic? More engagement? More email sign ups? More reservations? In order to measure success, you need to first know what to track. In a perfect world, you will have multiple goals that fall under different priority levels (first priority, 2nd priority, 3rd priority).
  • Presence: You should pick 1-2 social media sites that you want to create an active presence on for your property. Remember, it’s not about which sites you know best—it’s about which sites your prospective guests use the most. For the hospitality/travel industry, Facebook and Instagram are both good places to start. It’s important that you focus on only a few channels until you start seeing actual ROI. Investing in too many channels at the same time can quickly lead to burnout.
  • Voice: You should have a clear understanding of what you want your brand voice, style, and personality to be when you’re engaging with prospective and current guests on social media channels.
  • Design: You should have a good idea of the design resources you’ll need in order to effectively participate and engage in social communities. At a bare minimum, you will need designs for profile pictures and cover photos. Work with a designer to develop these resources and set standards about what you want the visuals you create and share on social media sites to look like.
  • Frequency & Timing: You should decide how often you want to publish updates to your social media profiles, and when you want those updates to go live. There are plenty of studies and resources you can find online that will tell provide you with data on when the best time to engage with your community is. Read them and decide what is realistic for your property based on how much help you’ll have (i.e., will it be you scheduling and publishing updates each day, or will you have help?).
  • Posting Strategy: You should have a good idea about the types of content you want to share on your social media sites. The best way to approach this is by thinking in terms of percentages. What percent of the updates you publish do you want to be visual? How often do you want to share promotional updates? What about blog posts? What about third-party articles? Start by setting a benchmark, then measure the performance of different types of updates in order to determine which are most effective.
  • Engagement Best Practices: You should have some best practices outlined in regards to how you want your brand to engage with people on social media sites. For example, how soon should you reply to questions posted by your followers (2 hours? 12 hours? 24 hours?). The more work you can do up front to set expectations and standards, the easier it will be to manage your strategy and scale your efforts over time.
  • Stakeholders: You should have a good idea of who on your team needs to be involved with executing on your social media strategy, and how much time they can give you each month.
  • Tools: You should know which tools you want to use to boost performance, streamline processes, and measure success.
  • Measurement: You should understand what needs to happen in order to measure success. What are the specific metrics or KPIs you want to measure, and how will you measure them? For help in this area, read through this great resource from Buffer.
  • Action Items & Timeline: Finally, you should end your strategy by outlining specific tasks that need to be completed before and during the execution of your new strategy, who is responsible for each task, and when each task needs to be completed.

It might seem like a lot, but building your strategy upfront in this way is crucial to your success. Without a strong strategy in place, It’s very unlikely that you will see any ROI from your efforts.

2. Put Someone in Charge

After you have your strategy in place, the next step you need to take in order to drive more reservations from social media next year is to put someone in charge of execution. Ideally, you should let someone else on your team own the task, instead of taking on the responsibility yourself. As a property manager, you have a lot of roles and responsibilities to deal with on any given day. When things get busy, it’s easy to want to put something like social media on the back burner until next week, but that can’t happen if you truly want to drive real ROI from your efforts. Instead, you need someone on your team who can steer the wheel, pump on the gas, and check in with you every so often.

The ideal candidate for this role should be someone who is:

  • Organized and detail-oriented
  • Creative and able to think critically
  • Able to multi-task and plan ahead
  • Data-driven and interested in digging into metrics
  • A good communicator
  • A strong project manager and collaborator
  • Personally interested in marketing and social media
  • Eager to learn, test, and improve

To find the right person for the job, you may be able to add the responsibilities to an existing employee on your team. If no one seems like a good fit, consider creating an internship or part-time role that candidates can apply and interview for.

3. Automate with Tools

In order to focus on driving more reservations on social media, you have to allow yourself or the person you hire for the role to get away from the tedious tasks typically associated with social media marketing and management. If you’re spending time manually creating and publishing updates each and every day, searching for mentions of your property on Twitter, or trying to manually keep track of how many likes, shares, and comments, you’re not using your time wisely.

To streamline your efforts, consider automating tedious processes and repetitive tasks by leveraging some or all of the following social media management tools:

  • Buffer: This tool saves you time by enabling you to create and schedule social media posts ahead of time.
  • Mention: This tool allows you to proactively keep track and respond to any social media posts that are published by other people about your company. This tool saves you time by making it possible to respond to posts and comments from multiple social media sites within one dashboard.
  • CoSchedule: This tool also allows you to write and schedule social media posts, but connects more closely with your own blog content.
  • Grammarly: This tool automatically checks your writing for spelling and grammar issues.
  • Buzzsumo: This tool makes it easy to curate the right content to share with your followers. It also makes it easy to identify and connect with influencers who may be able to help promote your property to their community of followers.
  • ManyChat: This tool allows you to easily set up sales, marketing, and support automation for Facebook Messenger using bot technology.

4. Leverage More Stories & Visuals

There are two types of content that you should be incorporating into your posting strategy next year in order to boost engagement and drive more reservations to your property.

The first type of content is stories. As social media continues to become more saturated and competitive than ever before, more brands have started developing new strategies for cutting through the noise and grabbing the attention and interest of their target audience. Creating and sharing original, compelling storytelling-based content is one such strategy that brands have been testing out over the past year.

To persuade more people within your target audience to book their first reservation with you, you need to take the time to share stories with them. Stories not only help differentiate you from other local competitors and properties that offer similar experiences, they also help build trust with your audience.

What kind of stories should you share? Here are a few ideas:

  • Stories that feature happy guests
  • Stories that feature your employees
  • Stories that share your origin story
  • Stories that feature other local businesses and business owners in your area
  • Stories that show progress on renovations
  • Stories that help highlight what makes your property truly unique
  • Stories written by your guests (and curated by you)
  • Stories that make people feel like they are missing out by not traveling to your area and staying at your property

The second type of content you should be sharing with your followers to boost engagement and drive more reservations is visuals. In the travel/hospitality industry, visuals are everything. They are an essential part of helping your prospective guests understand what makes you different than everyone else. Because visuals are much more memorable than text, you should be creating and sharing them often on your social media sites.

What kind of visuals should you share? Here are a few ideas:

  • Photos and videos of your property
  • Photos and videos of your rooms
  • Photos and videos of real people enjoying their time at your property
  • Photos and videos of day trips and excursions that people have taken while staying at your property
  • Photos and videos from your employees
  • Photos and videos of the surrounding area
  • Photos, videos, and graphics that offer traveling tips
  • Photos and graphics that promote special deals and packages
  • Live video that features events happening at your property
  • Virtual tours

If you’re not currently creating or sharing any original photos or videos with your audience on social media, start now. Testing is the only way you’ll be able to determine which type of visual content is most likely to compel your target audience to act.

5. Run a Contest

One of the fastest ways to boost reservations through social media is to launch a viral contest or giveaway for your followers to engage in. The purpose of a social media contest is to raise awareness for your company, attract more people within your target audience, and grow your email list.

There are a few tools you can use to create and manage your contest: one is called Gleam, and the other is Heyo. Both tools will allow you to launch a social-focused contest that requires users to provide their email address in order to participate. With Gleam, you can offer extra entries for anyone willing to complete other “actions” that you designate ahead of time, such as visiting a landing page, sharing the contest on social media, or answering a question. The contest page you create within the tools can be hosted externally through the platform, or embedded into your own website.

Wondering what kind of prize or reward you could give away to persuade travelers to enter your contest? Here are a few ideas:

  • An extra free night at your property
  • An entire free week’s stay at your property
  • A travel or vacation gift basket
  • Gift cards or cash for plane tickets
  • A gift box full of food and retail items from your local area
  • A hobby-based gift card that aligns with what you know your audience cares about ($500 for athletic clothes, $500 for golf clubs, $500 for a guided canoe trip, etc.).

6. Pay to Play

The final way to boost reservations through social media is to put money behind paid advertising efforts. On Facebook, you can launch video ads, carousel ads, and photo-based ads. These ads allow you to target lookalike audiences (people on Facebook who share traits with those who have already engaged with your business), custom audiences (a contact list that you upload), and website custom audiences (people who have already visited your website). To learn more about each time, and to decide if Facebook advertising might be a good option for you and your property, explore this resource.

As mentioned throughout this article, social media is becoming increasingly saturated and competitive. In order to continue driving and boosting ROI for your property, you need to be willing to spend some amount of money per day on paid advertising.

Over to You

What are you doing on social media that’s helping you drive more bookings? Tell me in the comments below.