Hotel Digital Marketing: 3 strategies to increase your direct bookings in 2019

Hotel Digital Marketing

The goal of this article is to show you 3 different digital marketing paths that will help increase your direct bookings through instagram marketing, improving mobile experience on your website and adapting to voice search to get more organic traffic. This is not an exhaustive list of digital marketing options to get direct bookings but my goal is to help you get more direct bookings from underutilized channels that will bring you results quickly.

1. Increasing your direct bookings from Instagram

We see more and more hotels focusing on creating engaging visual content to reach more people through Instagram. Instagram is home to more than 500 million users so by reaching more people on the platform you can create awareness for your brand, increase your follower count and drive traffic to your site to get more direct bookings. In order to get direct bookings through Instagram you need to do 3 things effectively:

  • Increase your follower count & overall reach
  • Drive traffic from Instagram to your website and convert them
  • Measure and optimize this cycle

How to increase your hotel’s follower count

Getting more followers for your hotel is not always an easy task. It involves creating content, engaging with your audience and finding ways to reach new people. But just reaching new people is not enough. It’s important to create a targeted audience that is interested in your property and engages with your content. What do you think is more valuable? Having 1.000 loyal followers who like your content or 10.000 followers who are somewhat indifferent? The answer is quite obvious, it’s better to have a targeted audience and build from there.

There are several ways to increase your hotel’s follower count on Instagram, and this is something that we will analyse even more in further articles. But two of the key things to get more followers for your hotel are to create quality content and to engage with your guests, which are both briefly explained below.

How to produce quality content for your hotel’s Instagram

I understand that it’s tough to create quality content for your Instagram page that your guests will enjoy. It’s hard to find ideas and to capture & edit nice pictures. But it’s also the only way to highlight the amazing things that stand out in your property and get people to engage with your content. In order to find ideas for new engaging content you have to look no further than what your own guests are posting. Monitor what guests post on your location, hashtags and mentions and take note of the most performing content to get new post ideas.

You can then either ask your guests for the right to post their content (User-generated content) to your own page if the quality is good and the image contains something that you would like to highlight in your own page. This way you can get free content without having to go through the whole process of capturing and editing new images. The more impressive thing is that multiple studies have shown that user-generated content performs better than branded content, so it’s important to include UGC in your Instagram content strategy.

Of course, it also makes sense to produce your own content so that you promote anything that you’d like to but make sure to monitor what works well on a large scale so that you can capture an image at a great spot, find the perfect color combination and use the right hashtags to reach a larger audience.

Engage with your guests

Guests who post their pictures of your hotel publicly will be happy to hear from you in a comment. This is a process commonly known in the marketing space as Community Management. It’s important to engage with the customers who post pictures of your property in order to improve loyalty, get e-word-of-mouth followers for your own instagram page and show your appreciation for guests who post content that promotes your hotel.

By commenting on your guest’s posts, you’re likely to get new followers from their follower list who may be your future guests as their friend’s image acts as social proof that your hotel is a great place to be in. In order for your comment to be seen by as many people as possible, it’s important to engage with content as quickly as possible. Remember to keep your comments short and maintain a very friendly and positive tone. Most of the times, posting an emoji that’s relevant to the image posted or a short thank you message is more than enough.

Measuring total reach

As in anything else in the marketing space, it’s important to measure and analyse your instagram marketing efforts so that you can find ways to improve and reach even more people. You should keep track of the total number of posts that mention or contain your property, so that you know how much content is generated by users. As a byproduct, you should also measure engagement on your own posts but also your guests’ posts so that you can identify great content and to measure how much other people enjoy the visuals from your property. When reaching a more advanced level you can also track user sentiment in comments across all content so that you can have more qualitative data regarding your content which allows you to hone your instagram marketing strategy even more.

Converting instagram fans to bookings

There’s only one place on Instagram where you can drive traffic to your own booking engine and that’s the bio link on top of your profile. In order to convert your instagram following to bookings your site needs to be mobile optimized. If your site is not mobile-optimized, then much of your hard-earned traffic will go to waste. On special occasions such as promotions, you can create posts and drive traffic to specific landing pages, just be sure to update the bio link.

Verified profiles (blue-tick) with more than 10.000 followers, can add calls-to-action (CTAs) to their instagram stories and redirect users who swipe up from stories to specific links. Reaching this milestone will help you convert more of your instagram followers to newsletter subscribers or guests.

2. Designing Mobile-First Experiences

Most users in 2019 use their mobile phones for just about anything, from bank transactions to booking their travels.  With so many travelers using their handheld devices to book their stay, it’s no longer an option to offer a subpar experience for mobile users.

Converting customers in a mobile-first world

In order to convert your website’s visitors to guests in a mobile-first world, your website needs to be easy-to-use and highlight your best content. You need to have a responsive website that adjusts to your user’s device size, ideally it should work great in smartphones, tablets and desktop computers. A lot of times, a responsive website is just a narrowed-down version of the full width website which is not a great strategy. You should work closely with the company or employees who maintain your website and work on a design that highlights your best content on all screen sizes.

Offering a seamless and integrated booking experience

The same rules that apply to your website in terms of usability and highlighting your most converting content apply to your booking engine as well. So at a minimum, your booking engine should also be mobile-friendly. If you want to take it a step further and improve your conversion rates, you can also look at booking engines that offer a seamless and integrated booking experience. What does that mean? It means that your users are not redirected to a separate page to complete their booking. Instead, they can select rooms, dates and complete every step of the checkout process within the website while maintaining a consistent experience.

You can take a look at Liquid by Bookwize as an example of an integrated booking experience

3. Adapting to Voice search

Multiple studies show that voice search will amount for 50% of Google searches in 2020 and as smart speakers and digital assistants are growing this is projected to increase even further.  What does that change for you? It means that you need to adapt in terms of SEO to rank better for queries using voice search.

Ranking for long-tailed searches

Voice searches tend to be more conversational and are usually longer than typical searches. This means that while a user would type “pet-friendly hotel London”, when using voice search they’re more likely to use a more natural and vocal way of searching, like “which hotel is closest to manchester airport”.  In order to rank for queries like these, the content in your website needs to respond to these questions.

In order to experiment with more questions and vocal search I recommend trying a tool called AnswerThePublic

Optimizing your hotel website for voice search is not just a trend, it’s necessary to start preparing. As voice recognition algorithms are constantly improving and voice assistants are used more you will need to adapt to stay ahead of your competition.

Final thoughts

As we all know, it’s hard to compete with OTAs and their huge marketing budgets. Investing and monetizing the media that you own such as your website and social media pages needs to be a core part of your direct bookings strategy. Luckily, creating authentic content, engaging with your guests and winning their hearts is something you have a lot of control over and it will reward you by improving brand awareness and loyalty.

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