A recent Dubai School of Government (DSG) report on the growth of social media penetration in the Arab World has prompted some hospitality marketers to refocus their attention on developing attractive and sustainable promotional packages rather than simply adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to social media communications.
Speaking on the sidelines of World Travel Market in London, where Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel, Seven Tides’ flagship property is participating as a part of the Dubai Tourism & Commerce Marketing (DTCM) exhibit, Michael Scully, Managing Director – Hospitality at Seven Tides said: “It’s all very well to jump on the social media bandwagon, but if your basic core proposition doesn’t hold water, then all the online marketing support in the world won’t keep it afloat. Indeed this virtual marketing space is becoming crowded with promotions so offers should be relevant, genuine and attractive.”
It is easy to see why hotels have embraced social media marketing so readily. According to the DSG report, the number of Arab Facebook users grew by 50% year-to-date, to reach 32 million in August, with the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Lebanon leading the growth. The number of Arab Twitter users has also reached 1.1 million, with more than 22.7 million tweets posted in the first quarter of 2011.
In addition the US-based Hospitality e-Business Strategies released its 5th Annual Benchmark Survey of global hotel chains earlier this year. The survey tracks social media perception and activity, and reported that almost 75% of respondents increased their Internet marketing budget in 2011 with 43% of respondents adamant that social media has the potential to drive higher ROI and results. In 2001, almost 50% of respondents also reported a shift in budget allocation from offline to online.
“These are compelling figures, but are there effective measurement tools in place or are we, as an industry, simply following the Gen-Y pack for fear of being left behind and losing future market share? Online media is multi-layered, and channels such as Facebook and Twitter are designed not only as vehicles through which to push tactical offers, but are there to help companies engage with their target audience, stimulate ongoing discussion and ultimately create brand ambassadors out in the real world,” said Scully.
Supporting Scully’s point of view, a Q1 2011 report from Millward Brown and Dynamic Logic, in co-operation with the World Federation of Advertisers, in which 24 multinationals were surveyed on their social medial strategies, paints a different picture. Half of the respondents said that they were unsure of the return on social media, 27% rating payback as poor to average.
“It is precisely because social media is so much more cost-effective than offline marketing that often the quality of the proposition is poor, something marketers feel can be repeated over and over again until it works.
“Clearly if it didn’t work first time around, it’s unlikely to work, period. All that happens is consumers get irritated by the constant barrage of email and brand ambassadors become brand detractors, potentially losing business instead of generating additional revenue.
“Social media is here to stay, but so is delivering the promise and creating brand loyalty, which is the best form of low cost high impact advertising,” added Scully.