The State of Social Media Marketing in 2018

These five developments in social media marketing for hotels should influence and shape your strategy this year. Here, we share how and why.

Social may not command the biggest slice of your marketing attention, so you can be forgiven if your social strategy has stayed the course and gotten a bit stagnant. With that in mind, we distilled and combined the industry’s developments over the last few months and forecasted the year ahead into five bite-sized storylines to pay attention to when thinking about your hotel’s digital marketing strategy in 2018.

#1: Ephemeral Content, for the Stuff that Doesn’t Need to Stick Around

When thinking about social media, we’re still stuck in a feed-based mindset, ignoring the two other “places” within social media that people are sharing: messenger apps, which are used by 2.5 billion people every day, and ephemeral (that is, disappearing) “stories.” The format – created by Snapchat and (successfully) copied by Instagram and others – lets people and businesses string together photo and video posts throughout the day in a single story that will disappear after 24 hours. It’s a sign of how big ephemeral content is that NBC made time on its primetime Olympic coverage to promote its Snapchat content, over any other social channel. Stories are in a different spot than regular posts in the Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook apps. They’re also more dynamic and flexible than in-feed posts that stick to your profile permanently.

Takeaway for Hotel Marketers: Stories are perfect for those posts that may not be “feed-worthy” but are still interesting to your audience – think the weekend forecast, little promotions you’re running, or even slightly goofy or offbeat videos that show off your hotel or wedding venue’s personality. If you create an Instagram Story you really like and don’t want to lose, you’re in luck: Instagram recently introduced Story Highlights, which pin select stories to the top of your profile.

#2: Video to Keep Followers Engaged

There’s no doubt video is the most engaging media format for social. It’s been proven to get more engagement than text and photo posts, Facebook prioritizes video content over static posts, and it’s also very durable and reusable – a two-minute video can be shared on YouTube, published on Facebook, cut up for Instagram, etc.

Takeaway for Hotel Marketers: There are plenty of ways hotels can get creative with video. Don’t have a budget for professional video at the moment? That’s OK. Pick up an iPhone and start shooting footage yourself. Facebook even has a sound collection that you can draw from for background music to give the video a little polish. You could also try live video – it’s easy to start on Facebook and Instagram, and we wrote about how hotel marketers can do it here. Also, keep an ear to the ground for the debut of the debut of V2, the forthcoming spiritual successor to Vine.

#3: The Reality of Crumbling Organic Reach on Facebook

Anyone who manages a Facebook business page understands this one: It’s brutally difficult to get much organic engagement these days. There are a few main factors at play here. The first: The reality that the News Feed is designed to deliver people the most interesting, relevant content in their life, and you’re just one of dozens (if not hundreds) of pages they follow, not to mention their friends. Another factor is that your organic struggle is literally Facebook’s business model – they want you to have to pay for promotion. Finally, Facebook has been emphasizing the shift to focus on friends and family and what they post, which means even more decline in organic reach for media and brands.

Takeaway for Hotel Marketers: Sure, it was nice when you didn’t need a paid social marketing strategy to reach your audience, but this is the reality. Particularly on Facebook and Instagram (which Facebook owns), you’ll be missing out on a big driver of attention and social media’s most sophisticated ad targeting system if you choose to ignore it.

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#4: You Can Follow Hashtags Now

In December, Instagram launched support for following hashtags. So now, in addition to following your best friends and beloved brands, you can follow your favorite topics, in the form of hashtags. Basically, a mix of algorithmic and human editors will determine the best (based on recency, quality, and relevance, among other factors) posts each day for a given hashtag – say, #sunsets – and those posts will go into followers’ feeds. Up until this point, Instagram hashtags have been used to growth hack by cramming them into your caption. Now, they’re more important, and relevance and quality is key.

Takeaway for Hotel Marketers: You can’t hack your way into having Instagram showcase one of your hashtags, but you can try to capitalize on popular, trending ones specific to your destination. For example, if you’re a resort in Miami and there are 20,000 people following the #artbaselmiami hashtag during the big annual art fair, and you’re able to get gorgeous, relevant photos or videos featured for that hashtag, you’re getting exposure to a big, new audience. It doesn’t have to be geographically based, either – if your resort is in a popular wine region, you could research and go after wine-related hashtags.

#5: The Big Players Remain Your Biggest Marketing Opportunities

Facebook and Instagram are the only two must-haves for hotel marketing strategies at the moment. Let’s call Twitter a “should have” – it’s awesome for social listening and responding to guests who mention you, but it’s a less natural spot to publish than Facebook and Instagram.

Takeaway for Hotel Marketers: Unless you have a sizable budget to allocate toward social, other services like Snapchat and Pinterest can safely be put to the side for now. For Snapchat, it’s a matter of the primary demographic using the platform and its ephemeral nature – you’d need to invest a lot to build traction. Pinterest is a great inspiration tool, particularly for travel, but the way re-pinning works, marketers lose out because the original poster (your hotel) doesn’t show up. Build out your boards and do a little maintenance work, and leave it at that. In other words: Better to use the time you do have on the channels with the best chance at having an impact: Facebook and Instagram.