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Unleash Your Social Media’s ROI Potential


How hotels and restaurant can take their social media strategy from passive to aggressive and effective

In today’s social media-driven world, savvy operators in the hospitality industry are using technology to engage customers, reward them and drive revenue. Whether it’s tracking business trends, responding to customers who mention the company, or tying social media into a loyalty program, companies can connect with consumers — and their followers — to grow their business in ways they couldn’t in the past. However, social media cannot be a “set it and forget it” functionality. It must be driven by strategy and bolstered by the latest available software applications.

Social as a Service: Hear What Social Media is Telling You

Software might be eating the world, but social media could be said to be running it. As consumers’ daily lives are often consumed by social media, brands that can succeed at leveraging social media to drive business objectives will be positioned directly in the sightline of the customers they want to woo. This all starts with one key sense — hearing.  

“We do a lot of listening,” says Jillian Glenn, director of marketing at Innisfree Hotels (, based in Gulf Breeze, Fla., and operating 28 hotels and resorts, along with seven restaurants. Glenn explains that her team will tap into conversations that might not be directed toward the brand using Sprout Social ( “If someone is on the beach near our hotel or restaurant, we will reach out and say we have a meal and a table waiting for them,” she says.

The company also taps into conversations about local events, such as a music festival in Orange Beach, Fla., letting customers know they have a great hotel for them to stay in. And after the recent hurricane, they reached out to first responders and others who might need a place to stay, Glenn explains.

“We try to find as many engagement opportunities as possible, because we want to interact with new people,” she notes. “We follow certain hashtags and locations for each property, and respond three times a day to comments. We try to start a conversation before people get to our hotels and then follow up with them afterward as well.”

Any social strategy needs start with listening, and software, such as the aforementioned Sprout Social, Hootsuite ( or Crimson Hexagon ( allow a company to do that, says Michael Brito, executive vice president of digital and analytics at Zeno Group (, a global consulting agency based in New York. There are software options available for large and small companies that enable companies to listen to conversations on a variety of social media outlets, he says.

“Software can find anyone who mentions your company on social media, writes a review on Yelp, or comments on Reddit, and it can pull it and put it in front of you,” Brito explains. “Just like any relationship, social media is 80 percent listening. Smart companies are taking this social data and addressing issues, responding directly to customers and creating content to address customer needs.” 

In addition to seeking out customers and responding to those who mention a company, many social technologies allow for companies to collect content and data from a variety of social outlets, and also organize and schedule marketing materials for the future.

“We use it primarily to schedule our content, and have an approval process that it goes through, in addition to reaching out and engaging in conversations,” Glenn says. “We are also able to field negative reviews and quickly respond to
our guests.”

Realizing ROI through Retargeting

While responding to and engaging customers should be a key part of any social strategy, technology that allows a brand to listen can reveal to that brand more about what customers want, what they think about the brand, and can drive new business as well.

 At Innishotels, the social team is always linking people back to the company website, tagging links and checking Google Analytics to monitor and measure performance. Then once a customer clicks the link and goes to the website, the company will start retargeting them with ads via Facebook. 

“Our biggest goal is to bring our online audiences back to our website, so we can retarget them with ads,” Glenn says. “We also do a lot of Facebook ads, which has been very helpful for us. Once they go to our website, the marketing strategy starts from there.”

Retargeting can be thought of this way: If McDonald’s sees someone mention the brand anywhere on Facebook, or someone likes or shares an article on Facebook that mentions McDonald’s, then the company has the ability to place future content and ads in front of that person through retargeting, Brito explains.

 “When you target someone who has an interest in a product or service with good content, you can track to see if that person comes in. That is where the return on investment comes in,” he says 

Since working with Sprout Social and using Facebook’s Ads Manager to dive deep into the analytics of their ads, Innishotels has seen website traffic “skyrocket,” and they now have a team of 12 people who manage the pages for all hotels and restaurants three times per day, Glenn reports.

Social as the “Not-so-Missing” Link to Loyalty

Kung Fu Tea (, took its LevelUp ( loyalty program and app up a notch after learning about the company’s integration with Popdeem, ( which allows a company to reward its loyalty members who share the brand on social media. 

With the brand’s target demographic being 18- to 34-year-olds, Kung Fu Tea knew social media was a major part of their customers’ lives, according to Mai Shi, marketing and public relations lead at the New York-based company that operates 160 U.S. locations plus tea shops in Australia, Canada and Vietnam. Customers are automatically enrolled into the loyalty program when they pay using the app in stores, and they receive “bubbles” for each dollar spent leading to a free drink. As they collect rewards they move up in rank from “white belt” to yellow, red and black.

Using Popdeem, Kung Fu Tea is able to run contests and offer additional rewards. The company has more than 300,000 loyalty members. Since launching Popdeem in September 2016, it has 65,000 active members connected to the platform, and the number of loyalty members connected to Popdeem is now growing by 10,000 users per month.

“Fans or customers who regularly post via social media through the app and Popdeem can be provided with additional rewards for high engagement or continued loyalty,” says Shi. “We launched a collaboration with a video game company for the new game Guild Wars 2, which was a daily sweepstakes where people would post their drink and be entered to win digital downloads for the game or a limited-edition item. This got around 30,000 engagements in the app.”

The company also ran a Halloween campaign and customers who posted a Halloween photo of themselves in costume at any Kung Fu Tea location using the hashtag #KFTHALLOWEEN would get 50 cents towards a free topping, she explains. Customers upload the photos via the app, but it shows up on their connected social media accounts, reaching their followers and extending the brand’s reach. Using unique hashtags for each promotion allows the company to track how many customers engage in the campaign, and then how many cups are sold as a result. 

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