There are a few companies that have done a wonderful job of bundling together a phenomenal amount of attention. Facebook and Twitter with social media platforms and Google with search and video collectively have an audience that all traditional television and radio networks can envy.
This is a superlative opportunity for businesses, like boutique hotels, to direct some of the attention onto their product.
But through the popularity of these platforms, the companies responsible now have a good sense of the price they can charge for sharing the value of the attention they’ve collected.
Gone is the time when clever copy and good timing could combine to “organically” harness a significant social media audience. These days, paid hotel social media campaigns are a necessary tool for connecting with an audience of potential customers.
This post — a companion to my previous one on hotel blog social media sharing, and a continuation of the series that also includes 22 hotel blog post ideas and this guide to hotel blogging — will take you through what you need to know about using paid social media ads to promote your hotel blog content.
A Short History of Organic and Paid Social Media
Compared to the internet as a whole, social media is a relative newcomer. Facebook was founded in 2004, Twitter in 2006, and Instagram in 2010. Ads were very primitive display type banners in the beginning.
Given that Facebook was a network restricted to university students, it’s no surprise that most of them were flogging campus parties or seeking cheap student labor.
It wasn’t until 2010 that Twitter rolled out the ability to promote tweets, more visibility with a promoted account campaign, and the option to pay for hashtags to appear at the top of their trend list.
Even at that point, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone went to great lengths to highlight the distinctions between promoted tweets and traditional advertising. In a widely shared blog post, he wrote, “It’s non-traditional, it’s easy, and it makes a ton of sense for Twitter.”
In the second half of the 2010s, social networks shrugged off many of their qualms about accepting money to treat certain messages preferentially. In Q2 of 2017 alone, Facebook pulled in a bit shy of $10 billion in ad revenue. Twitter was well behind at about $500 million, but that’s still a very large haul.
The bottom line for us as marketers, trying to share our boutique hotel blog posts with future guests, is that social media is no longer free — especially given the declining reach of organic Facebook posts, now estimated to hit just 2% of your audience.
Guidelines for Paid Hotel Social Media Campaigns
It might be helpful to think of organic social media as sailing and paid campaigns as powerboating. They both have a destination in mind, but in the latter case, you spend resources to get there more directly and more quickly.
That’s the first guideline for your paid hotel social media campaigns — have a destination, an objective. Today we’re focused mainly on driving traffic to blog posts, but some of the other examples could be:
- Brand awareness and social proof
- Sign-ups for an email newsletter
- Letting guests know that your social team is available to help make their stay more enjoyable
- Developing a database of customers who might be interested in a new service
Keys to Achieving the Objective of Your Paid Social Media Campaign
Once you have the destination picked out there are a few rules of thumb to stick to from the beginning:
- Always measure: Results versus resources spent is a good gauge of success. As discussed in our post on hotel social media analytics, there are a few advanced tools that will open the possibility for more robust measuring and tracking. Facebook’s Pixel and the UTM codes that connect with Google Analytics are two that will help you understand what visitors to your site do once they arrive.
- Start small: With advertising on social networks, even as little as $25 – $50 can be enough for a first experiment. Once you know what works, scale up and then start reinvesting the added revenue into more growth.
- Split test: Take advantage of any opportunity to test two (or more) options against each other to see what works best. This is often known as A/B testing and can help you pick the best option for several different attributes of a campaign.
These three pointers really are a starting point for advancing your paid social media objectives.
Facebook as the Bedrock for Your Paid Social Media Campaigns
For digital advertisers, 2017 was the year that Facebook’s dominance of social advertising became undeniable.
It’s easy to assume that with billions in ad revenue, Facebook must be focused mainly on the big guys spending millions. But a Reuters report from April 2017 put the total number of advertisers at 5 million companies.
That’s up 2 million from about the same time in 2016 but is still less than 10% of the 65 million businesses with a Facebook presence.
Naturally, Facebook didn’t get so many clients, spending so much, by luck alone. As well as offering a huge potential audience for ads, Facebook also has two advantages over traditional alternatives: It couldn’t be simpler to buy your first ad, and there are an unmatched number of advanced options and metrics for buying your 100th ad.
In more detail, the spectrum of options open to advertisers on Facebook ranges from…
If you’ve published an update to a Company Page on Facebook you’ve definitely seen the blue “Boost Post” button or been encouraged directly by Facebook to take that step. This is the easiest way to get started with Facebook advertising — especially for amplifying the reach of your blog posts.
There are definitely some of Facebook’s robust targeting features under the hood of the boosted post option, but many commentators make a passionate case that advertisers only get full value for their ad dollars when they dig deeper. This means jumping into the Ads Manager or Power Editor.
The next most advanced option, that is still easy to comprehend, is the newsfeed post. (Keep in mind that we’re focused today on the Facebook advertising options that will help draw attention to your boutique hotel’s blog posts.)
When Facebook first launched this ad option a few years ago it was commonly known as a Dark Post because, unlike a Boosted Post, it didn’t have to start with one of your regular, public posts on your business page.
In a nutshell, the process for creating these ads is about picking an objective, setting a budget and a timeline, choosing an audience, and designing the content of the ad.
You also have the opportunity to determine where the ad is displayed — despite the common name, they can appear outside the newsfeed in the right column, within Facebook’s Messenger platform, on Instagram, and several more options.
With our eye on promoting our hotel blog posts, the Traffic objective is best suited to our purposes. (Engagements could also be appropriate if you think you have a post that will do well as the center of an on-Facebook discussion.)
Not all blog posts are built from text and images. Sometimes, a video will be the content you want to promote and in that case, the Video Views objective should be at the top of your list. These campaigns give Facebook the go-ahead to seek out an audience made up of people who are likely to watch your creation to the end.
Throughout our introduction to the best practices of hotel blogging, I’ve underlined how important it is to post a variety of content on a regular basis. Once this is accomplished, you’ll want to showcase the range your blog posts cover with a carousel ad.
This is an ad type available to some of the options for campaign objectives which puts a series of photos or videos next to each other with a headline and the opportunity to include a button with a call to action.
Facebook’s Dynamic Creative Picking Tool
We’ve spent a lot of time on the framework — the bones of your ad — but what about the content? You can start with an existing post or design one from scratch. In the latter case, new Facebook ads users are often left with a bunch of questions: what image will stand out? What headline grabs attention? What copy will lead readers to take the action you want?
As of fall 2017, Facebook started offering the Dynamic Creative tool through their Power Editor and API. Using this, you can input up to 30 options across these parameters: headline, photo or video, call to action, text, and description.
What Instagram Can Do for Your Paid Hotel Social Media Campaigns
Obviously, the content on Instagram is visual and the audience tends to be in a mindset focused on improving their lifestyle while they browse, so its fertile ground for boutique hotels looking to advertise their blog content. Like other networks, the overwhelming amount of content and competition means that you should seriously consider using the paid ad options to reach your desired audience.
Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, and the two networks have a similar photos-with-text in a timeline format, it makes sense that there is plenty of overlap when it comes to ad options. On Instagram they are:
- Photo ads: Basically, the same as a regular photo post but with a “Sponsored” tag and call to action that can range from “Book Now” to “Contact Us”.
- Video ads: 60 seconds of moving content either square or rectangular, and also with a call to action.
- Carousel ads: Here we get to show our audience a series of photos and videos — but they better be good because we’re depending on the user to scroll through them.
- Story ads: Offer the chance to tap into the more casual, ephemeral side of Instagram that is getting so much user attention. In some ways, this is a totally separate ad product.
Similar to Facebook, we’ll want to zero in on objectives like Website Clicks or Video Views that are designed to help put our content in front of users who want to consume it.
Creating Instagram Ads
More than most other social media platforms, Instagram has always pushed its users (businesses included) to access the service through their mobile app.
As more functionality was added for businesses looking to advertise on Instagram, this rule began to flex.
It’s still possible to create an ad on the mobile platform — Instagram uses a prominent “Promote” button that works much like Facebook’s “Boost Post” button. But the best way to create an Instagram ad is through the Facebook Ads Manager or Power Editor.
Paid Hotel Social Media Campaigns on Twitter
Campaigns on Twitter divide roughly into four types, ones that seek:
- or website traffic.
Naturally, all four have at least a secondary connection to our topic, but for supporting hotel blog posts, the website traffic campaign type is most relevant.
Zeroing in on a particular audience is the next step of creating a Twitter ad campaign. Twitter lets businesses focus their campaigns on audiences determined by:
- Demographics: Standard attributes like age, gender, location, and mobile device can be used to determine who sees your Twitter ads.
- Interests: From hobbies, to professional focuses, these groupings can unlock an audience for your Twitter ads.
- Followers: If there is a competing or complementary business (or, even better, set businesses) who has built a following you want to reach you can pay to advertise to their followers.
- Behaviors: For certain markets (the U.S. and U.K. for now), Twitter campaigns can be set to target people who have very specific buying behaviors, such as what brand of e-reader they buy books for.
- Tailored: These are similar to Facebook’s Custom Audiences and are about targeting Twitter users who are in your customer database or have visited your website.
More Options for Paid Hotel Social Media Campaigns
As I mentioned in last month’s post about hotel blog social media sharing, the big three networks aren’t the only ballgame in town when it comes to paid promotion. When you’re thinking about paying to put your blog content in front of an audience, options abound, including:
- Youtube: Ads on the Google-owned video platform are particularly good at connecting with a dedicated audience seeking deep knowledge on a specific topic. This is the place to feature that content you created to help solve guests’ problems with tutorials or guides.
- Pinterest: Remember how we talked about Pinterest as a trip-planning dream board in the previous post about hotel blog promotion? There’s no need to limit your efforts to the free functionality of this attention goldmine. With a few simple tactics, promoted pins can give a real boost to your conversion efforts.
- LinkedIn: Sure, boutique hotels offer rest and relaxation, but they can also be an ideal spot for a team-building retreat or a business traveler’s reminder of home. Apply some strategy to your use of Promoted Posts on Linkedin to connect with this market.
Successful Paid Hotel Social Media Campaigns
Regardless of which platform you choose for your paid hotel social media campaigns, there are common guidelines to keep in mind.
- Steer your ship towards a destination (your objective) that you’ve picked out before departure.
- Focus on choosing your audience as much as your ad’s creative content.
- Keep track of results and compare them against resources spent.