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Facebook Could Be Your Best Value Channel in 2018

Back in 2012, most Facebook Pages saw around 16% reach. In early 2014, this dropped to 2%. Now, in 2018 even the most optimistic social media marketers expect 1% Unfortunately, the days of getting results from sharing impressive, well crafted content on your hotel’s Facebook page are over. If you aren’t paying, you aren’t playing. This is due to the ever dwindling rate of organic reach; the rate of “people you can reach for free on Facebook”. Similar to a Google search engine algorithm change, Facebook has, and continues to do the same with their newsfeed. Back in 2012, most Facebook Pages saw around 16% reach. In early 2014, this dropped to 2%. Now, in 2018 even the most optimistic social media marketers expect 1%, with seasoned realists happy with anything north of 0%, so how much time does your team spend on Facebook content for only 6 people to see it? For many hotels, branded content marketing has helped to slow their decline in organic reach, but the reality is, it’s only heading in one direction – and it’s not the one you want. Facebook’s network, which now includes Instagram, has become one where a requirement for any meaningful results is ad budget – if you want results, it’s going to cost you.

It's Not All Bad News! In fact, there’s great opportunity in this network. Ask any digital marketer – it’s most likely their experience that Facebook Ads are cheaper than Google. In fact, latest data indicates average CPCs for Facebook Ads in the US is $0.28, while Google AdWords averages $2.32. Results will vary based on location, competition and loads of other factors, but as a general rule it’s unlikely you’ll see Facebook Ads more expensive than Google AdWords unless you’re targeting incredibly specifically. If you’re sitting there thinking, “Facebook Ads have never done much for our hotel”, you aren’t alone. Google has always had an upper hand with hotel marketers, where they can show clear intent behind their users’ searches. However at the same time, you also know your hotel can’t neglect social media, considering 50% of Facebook users say they find a brand’s Facebook page more useful than their website. Even more striking, some 95% of Facebook users claim to utilise the social network for travel-related activities ahead of taking a vacation. So, I’m writing today to tell you that huge opportunities exist for marketing hotels on Facebook, and the ad platform is only going to become better and better for hotels.

Custom Audiences While custom audiences on Facebook aren’t anything new, matching your lists to users of the social network is only getting better. On a recent campaign where 16,000 hotel guest names and locations from Maestro PMS were used to create a custom audience, the network was able to match 43% of these people. This is despite the fact these contacts were missing a phone number and email address. Think about how many guests you aren’t able to contact due to a missing phone number or email address? With audience matching, now you can. Including an email address, this match rate increased to 80%. If you have more information again, the match rate continues to improve. Meaning that with your audience in the system, you can advertise directly to these people, encouraging return visits to your hotel or upsell on future visits (such as a reservation at your hotel’s restaurant). It’s also a great opportunity to exclude these people from certain advertising campaigns. After all, if an Australian guest checked in to your Canadian ski resort hotel last week, chances are they are unlikely to return for another booking in a few weeks time. Why spend advertising budget on people who have already booked when a different message may be more appropriate? (Hint: Ask them to leave a review.)

Lookalike Audiences Though they first came about in 2013, Lookalike Audiences are finally getting some traction in the hospitality space. Consider the scenario above where 43% of your 16,000 hotel guests match up in Facebook. You have a respectable, but small, audience of 6,880 people. By using a lookalike audience, you are able to grow this audience and advertise to those who closely resemble your smaller “seed audience”. You can choose a lookalike match rate from 1-10%, but even selecting the closest possible 1%, it’s likely your US based audience will grow to around 2 million people.

Dynamic Creative When it comes to digital marketing, testing is hugely beneficial, but it is often a massive consumer of time and energy. Facebook’s Dynamic Creative allows advertisers to test enormous amounts of ad variants, then take actions such as allocate budget to only the best performing ads. Consider the variables that go into a Facebook Ad campaign; headlines, images, videos, descriptions, calls to action, destination URLs, audiences, device type and so on. In a basic campaign with only 5 headlines, 5 descriptions, 10 images and 3 different calls-to-action, some 1250 different ad variations are created. To create these ads manually would take plenty of time! Now, with over a thousand ads running, variations can be optimized based on their performance – if they are expensive to advertise and don’t get results, switch them off. If they are performing well, allocate more budget. Given time, you’ll end up with a campaign that gets maximum bang for buck.

Dynamic Ads for Hotels Not as exciting as I’d like, Dynamic Ads for Hotels allow you to “retarget” your custom audiences. This feature is most suitable to reach people with specific purchase intent, demonstrated by the actions they have taken on your website (for example, searched on availability dates but not made an actual booking). It isn’t revolutionary – “abandoned cart recovery” is a form of remarketing marketers have been performing with email, Google AdWords and Facebook for some time now. Dynamic Ads for Hotels differs in that it enables advertisers to upload an inventory catalog, and encourage people to book now based on their online behaviour, or demographic information.

Offline Conversions Hotel owners want results, and marketing campaigns are no exception. Historically, when it has come time to report on the effectiveness of your Facebook campaigns, it hasn’t always been possible to show a link between Facebook and a credit card used at your hotel. If a guest books by phone, another website or simply walks into your hotel, this transaction has previously gone unaccounted for. Despite your best marketing efforts on social media, it’s unlikely your colleagues or superiors are able to see the link. By importing your PMS data, Facebook will match their users to people who made a transaction with your hotel, giving you a much clearer indication of how your social media marketing has contributed to real world revenue. As you develop your hotel’s marketing strategy for 2018, make sure to consider how allocating budget to Facebook Ads can help you to build your hospitality brand on social media. You may be pleasantly surprised in the returns. Article by Jase Rodley, Principal at Otium Boutique.

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