By Meg Towner
With the world outside constantly in flux and life seemingly shaped in 24-hour news cycles, it can be challenging for hospitality businesses to grasp when, where and how to communicate their status with their audiences. Even as the hotel industry emerges from the COVID-19 lockdown and economies begin to reopen, everyone is experiencing events of the day differently, so it is important to be mindful and create digital communication strategies that relate to broad audiences. Navigating this takes finesse and thoughtfulness. As situations around the world continue to evolve, so should your social strategies, which will vary from location to location and business to business as local policies and advisories allow. While no one “best practice” fits all, grasping the options is the first step toward successful communications. Hawkins International has curated some helpful tips to allow you to execute the strategy that works for your business.
General Tips and Tactics
Creating a new social strategy can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind as you dive in.
- Use the talent you have and what you know. You likely have staff whose role has changed in the last few months, but that doesn’t mean their knowledge and skills aren’t still valuable at this moment. Leverage your team in a social content series on IGTV or Instagram Live to foster an emotional, human-to-human connection with your audience.
- Get a gut check from your team. Everyone is experiencing and processing this global pandemic differently—when building out a content calendar, source a few opinions to ensure your posts resonate.
- Don’t try to be something you’re not. Just because everyone is doing the TikTok dance challenge, doesn’t mean you have to launch a new platform. Play to your brand’s strengths and build content based on what you and your in-house experts know. From there, you can decide which platform will best serve your audience.
- It doesn’t have to be perfect. Now is the time to use cellphone cameras, go live and play with Instagram Stories. Get out and start conversations, and you’ll learn that you can connect with your audience even without highly produced final products.
- You don’t have to post every day. In fact, we recommend scaling back your posting cadence to two to three times per week. This way, you won’t create audience fatigue or seem like you are capitalizing on a global crisis.
- Don’t hard sell with any “book now” messaging. That time will come back; now it’s time to pivot to service—more on that next.
Pivoting requires a bit of creative thinking, so don’t be afraid to try something new! While you may not be able to talk about your standard offerings for various reasons, you still have something to offer. In this time, the services you provide should still mimic the spirit of customer care you would enact during regular business times. Think about your audience’s needs while they continue to shelter in place or start to adapt to a “new normal” during phased reopenings. What insights do you have that could bring them much-needed advice, a welcome distraction or entertainment? Tap F&B team members for cooking tips, interior designers for decor advice, or wellness experts for self-care tips. Above all, make sure you are conscious of the climate and building brand equity through this content by being there when and where your audience needs you.
Deciding what content to tackle can be a difficult choice. We recommend starting with whichever platform currently has your most engaged audience—whether it be YouTube, your company’s blog, Instagram Stories or a newsletter. Test the waters with a platform you are comfortable with before expanding your content elsewhere and optimizing for different platforms. To keep yourself organized and on a regular cadence, we recommend creating a schedule (also known as a content calendar—see more below) to help you plan ahead. Lastly, don’t be afraid to get a little trendy; if you see a surge in cocktail recipes one week, and you have a killer signature cocktail, go ahead and share it! Audiences naturally latch onto what’s trending, so you can ensure your brand is a part of the conversation.
Here are a few easy content marketing tips:
- Audit your existing asset library. Before spending time and energy on developing new content, review existing photos and videos to see if they are usable in this time. Do you have a series of consecutive photos that can be transformed into a stop motion video? Raw video footage that can be edited and shared on IGTV? Old videos can take on a new life with new text overlays or simple graphic intros and transitions.
- Develop a regular content calendar. While this requires a bit of extra planning, a content calendar will help streamline your social media posting efforts. Tap into topics that are trending every week—#TastyTuesday, #WellnessWednesday, #ThursdayThoughts to strategically plan out content efforts at least a week in advance. This also trains your audience on what to expect and keeps them returning for the content they like best.
- Take advantage of free resources. Many platforms and tools have opened up complimentary access during this time. Here is a comprehensive roundup of various marketing platforms that are currently accessible at no cost.
- Follow notable platforms. During this unprecedented time, brands large and small are learning from each other and optimizing content plans in real time. To stay up to date on content trends, follow a variety of accounts. We’ve included some of our favorites below that provide our team with inspiration:
- @Creators – a channel that Instagram developed to help creators learn best practices
- @InstagramForBusiness – another Instagram-managed channel that gives advice to businesses that use the platform
- @Forbes – they’ve been producing a lot of interesting Instagram Live content recently.
- @IAmWellAndGood – the wellness publication has latched on to trends very early but does an excellent job of tailoring to their audience.
Content creation and strategy pivots are a lot of work, and you’ll want to keep tabs on all your accomplishments. Enter reporting. All of the major social media platforms have native reporting options that can help you measure engagement rates, reach and click through. Alongside quantitative data, it is essential to take a look at qualitative data as well. Get to know your audience by reading comments and direct messages and looking at share rates. Identifying what resonates with your followers will help you better connect in the future through a more highly tailored content series. Listening to your customers during this time is a key part of reporting.
Monitor content performance on a weekly basis. Now is the time to be especially nimble in content planning in order to pivot strategies as necessary. If you lay a solid foundation now and define a baseline, you’ll be able to maintain a data-proven strategy as things trend back toward “normal.”
As you change your digital communications plans to meet the changing times, don’t forget to turn to trusted advisors for help and guidance. And remember: When the world changes, you can always change them again.
Drawing upon nearly a decade of experience in brand management, digital strategy, audience acquisition and influencer marketing, Meg Towner heads up Hawkins International’s Digital division. She joined HIPR from the founding team at Understood, a Webby Award-winning nonprofit. There she built their social and paid digital strategies from the ground up. Throughout her career, she has worked to create and execute digital and social campaigns and partnerships for brands including Waldorf Astoria, Conrad Hotels and Resorts, A+E Television Networks, Lifetime Television, Cipriani Hospitality Group, Skype and the Finger Lakes Region of New York.
This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.