With the advent of technology, any business organization that intends to sustain itself in the face of throat-cut competition must ensure that it embraces the technological advancement in the field of marketing and service promotion. The importance of social media cannot be underrated in any industry, although for service-based organizations such as the hospitality industries, the use of social media tools is doubly effective. With the help of social media tools, most of the small and emerging hotels in today’s world, collect valuable data of from the consumers regarding the service offered, since it allows them the least expensive way to interact with the consumers and gain consumer loyalty (Tuten and Solomon 2014). The use of social media has emerged to be a mandate for the hospitality industry, since the companies operating in the hospitality industry are service-based organizations that need to interact with the consumers on a regular basis, so as to acquaint themselves with the new consumer trends and the level of consumer satisfaction. With more than a billion number of users currently present on Facebook, and nearly a quarter of the world’s population being active on more than one social networking site, it has become easier for the hotels to develop highly personalized and contextual customer experiences that lead to competitive differentiation. Right from knowing what the consumer has to say about his or her experience in a hotel till earning recognition amongst the potential customer base, the effective use of social media can enable a company achieve enormous success in the coming years.
The hotel chosen in this report is City garden hotel located at 9 City Garden Road, North Point, Hong Kong. This hotel is situated near Causeway Bay, which is one of the biggest shopping and dining areas in Hong Kong. As an award-winning hotel, the hotel has achieved much recognition, despite being an emerging one, for the variety of dining options, the luxurious rooms, and the extravagant infrastructure (Armstrong et al. 2015). However, the restaurant is yet far from being one of the most popular and recognized hotels in Hong Kong. The absence of a potential social media strategy has been identified as a chief reason behind the same. Hence, the present report intends to critically analyse and evaluate the social media strategies adopted by City garden hotel, and offer effective recommendations the hotel should implement in near future.
In today’s highly competitive world, it has become a business imperative to embrace the use of social media. The popularity of different social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Whatasapp, as well as the increased habit of social networking amongst the young and middle aged population has helped the hotel industries harness the power of social media in order to improve consumer satisfaction. It might be interesting to take note of the various social media strategies adopted by the hotels and the effectiveness of the same.
First used in the year of 1999, Web 2.0 is defined as the second generation of the World Wide Web that is distinguished from the first version, owing to its functional ability to collaborate as well as share any form of information online (Belk 2014). The advent of Web 2.0 technology resulted in the transition from static HTML WebPages to a more dynamic, user-generated content.
Figure 1: Web 2.0
Source: (John 2013)
Although there are various advantages the Web 2.0 technology offers to its users, the common ones are the availability of the data at any place and in time, ease of usage, wide availability of media options, that enables the users to collectively classify and find dynamic information that flows two ways between the site owner and the site user by means of evaluation, comments and reviews (Fuchs et al. 2013). It is also interesting to note in this connection that the Web 2.0 sites provide APIs to allow automated usage by an app or mash up like it provides location metadata that can be processed by a simple browser tool.
Social Media and its Effectiveness in Today’s World:
The social media are defined as the computer-mediated technologies that enable the users to create as well as share ideas, information, career interest, and other forms of expression with the help of different virtual communities or networks. It is interesting to note here that these interactive Web 2.0 Internet-based applications allow its users to create service-specific profiles for a particular website or app, and accordingly share a variety of user-generated contents in the form of text posts or comments, digital photos or videos, and data generated through all online interactions. In this connection, it should be noted that the social media is highly distinguished from the paper-based media or even any form of electronic media, as it operates in a dialogic transmission system, as opposed to the monologic transmission system.
As it becomes clearly evident from the above discussion, the social media tools have gained much popularity amongst the masses, as these social media sites such as Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter have more than 100,000,000 registered users (Perrin 2015). It might be equally interesting to note that Facebook alone has 1.04 billion active users, Youtube has 1.3 billion users who watch almost 5 billion videos per day, while Instagram has around 700 million users (Duggan and Smith 2013). It might be interesting to note the advantages and disadvantages of social media in this context. First of all, the social media tools help in enhancing an individual’s sense of social connectedness with the other members of the society, and thereby it not only helps in keeping people connected with each other, but also enables them to battle with problems such as loneliness and depression. The social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook as well as social blogs help in disseminating vital information about the world, its current happenings, thereby updating the users regarding the latest affairs of the world. The social media tools help the emerging and less reputed business organizations gain recognition among the new customer base, interact with the clients, promote products or services and enhance customer loyalty. However, the disadvantages of the social media tools should not be overlooked as well. Cyber bullying as well as hacking of personal social site profile have been the two biggest disadvantages of social media sites. Besides, although social media sites are known for aiding in effective communication amongst the people, people might do or say things they wouldn’t in real life because there are minimal rules for communication in social media (Lenhart et al. 2015). However, this form of exploitation of rights to say anything, and post any negative comment or feedback often hurt the sentiment or personal emotions of an individual, and especially in case of business organizations encountering negative feedback on a social media can even malign the reputation of a company forever.
Different Kinds of Social Media And Their Application In Business:
There are different kinds of social media, and each one of them can be used in order to boost the sales growth, enhance customer loyalty and develop brand recognition. The first and most foremost social medium tool in this category is the social network. The social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are used for connecting with people online. Although usually these are referred to as nothing more than the “relationship networks”, these sites help the business organizations in conduct research on the changing preferences of the consumers, improve customer relation and enhance customer loyalty, interact with the potential clients and develop brand awareness of the products and services (Scott 2015). Next, the media sharing networks have also gained much popularity among the youth generation today. These social media tools help in sharing any kind of media file, such as photos, videos, live videos. These social media tools such as Instagram and Snapchat can be beneficial for the hotels as well for sharing attractive pictures of the hotel interior, or post an interesting story of a family going on a vacation and enjoying their leisure time at the specific hotel. Again, the micro blogging sites such as Twitter and Tumbler are also important forms of social media. Twitter is usually used for passing on short, disconnected messages of 140 words and yet the micro blogging site is largely beneficial in connecting with a wide range of people (Scott 2015) The hotels employ the use of Twitter for creating a unique hash tag, fit for the kind of hospitality business it engages in, so as to help potential consumers know about the company, its services and daily conversations. In fact, the hash tag feature of Twitter also helps the hotels in using the hash tags for efficiency customer service, enquiry and support. Some of those micro blogging sites also offer some advanced customization features, such as Twitter Advanced Search facilitates the identification of people near to the location of the hotel.
Relationship Between Hotel Industry And Social Media:
Research reports suggest that the general managers of different hotels and hospitality organizations rely on the use of social media tools in checking the online feedback of the consumers, rather than going through the occupancy and room rates of the hotels. Usually it has been observed that in most of the cases, the consumers after having visited a hotel, usually share their experience on the social networking sites. Since usually the names of the respective hotels are tagged, most of the hotels hire a dedicated team to monitor the comments on the social networking sites, and reply wherever possible. While gaining an insight into the social comments and posts of the consumers, help the hotel managers comprehend and even quantify the level of consumer satisfaction, the same also helps them gain consumer loyalty by regularly interacting with the clients (Inversini and Masiero 2014). The hotels nowadays also share the pictures and videos of the hotels rooms, the swimming pools, or the spacious lawn on social media sites in order to attract the consumers. d the role of social networking sites in acting as an information disseminator can never be underestimated. Sharing pictures, online videos, creating interesting stories related to the hotel service, can largely impact consumer perception of the hotel brand. Different social media channels are suitable for sharing different types of information an. The use of Google+ can also enable a hotel experience huge business growth, by connecting, interacting and sharing hotel business related posts with the interest-based community members only. Owing to the presence of almost all the hotels on social media platforms, the number of “likes” also determines the popularity and recognition of a specific hotel, precisely explaining the reason why the hotels should remain active on the social media sites. Hence, remaining present on online platforms has become pivotal for the purpose of maintaining the brand image of a hotel, and needless to state that the negligence of the social media sites can potentially devastate a hotel (Fan and Gordon 2014). To sum it up, the use of social media sites can help in increasing customer engagement with the brand, enhancing customer satisfaction and improving customer retention rates.
Figure 2: Social Media Use In Hotels
Source: (Amaro et al. 2016)
It is clearly evident from the above discussion that the social media marketing tools are the cheapest and most convenient methods of marketing available to the hotels, and yet the use of this strategy is not free from potential challenges. First of all, a consumer who might have experienced a not-so-good experience in the hotel may share an unfavourable online post on social media site, and if that goes unobserved, it may end up maligning the reputation of the organization. Besides, on the social media pages of a hotel, the consumers with unsatisfactory experience are likely to post unruly, rude and impolite comments and each of these negative feedbacks need to be handled with sufficient care and patience. In case the social media expert of a specific hotel also starts confronting the consumer with impolite comments, it would only aggravate the situation and attract negative publicity, leading to the loss of potential consumer-base. Although the use of social media is deemed as a cost-effective marketing strategy, given the inescapable need to invest time and resources into managing online reputation, business leaders often question whether social media is a cost centre (Zeng and Gerritson 2014). With a variety of social media sites out there, often hotels encounter the difficulty of identifying the most effective and suitable social networking site. Facebook, Google, Twitter and Instagram have become largely popular amongst the masses and choosing the best media site and at the same time, effectively maintaining the same, turn out to be challenging for the hotels (Kim et al. 2015).
The methodology of any research report is an integral aspect, that offers the theoretical framework regarding the systematic approach undertaken in order to collect the relevant data for the report. Since while conducting any kind of research, the data play an important role in gaining an insight into the issue, the data collection methods deserve special mention. There are various kinds of data collection methods- such as review of literary articles, survey, interview and focus groups (Kumar 2014). The following report employs the use of secondary data that is the data has been collected via secondary sources, and is being reviewed accordingly. The literary articles, business reports of City Garden Hotel, the online journals, annual reports of City Garden Hotel, relevant business trade publications have been critically reviewed and analysed for the sake of collecting the data. Hence, the qualitative data collection method has been used whereby the descriptive data has been used for getting an insight into the research issue (Silverman 2016). This report intended to evaluate the social media marketing strategy of City Garden Hotel, and hence it has derived a wealth of information from relevant business reports of the hotel, as well as the different business management theories, in order to develop comprehensive idea regarding the effective social media strategies undertaken by the hotel organizations across the globe. Besides, the benefits of the social media tools, the latest trends in social media marketing and communication process, as well as the scope and purpose of the same has also been explored in the process (Smith 2015). This is the reason why the research report has also adopted an exploratory research technique, whereby the exploratory research design has been adopted. The research report has accordingly intended to investigate and examine the effectiveness of social media marketing strategies of City Garden Hotel, point out what the strategies lack and which are the areas of concern, compare it with some of the most recognized hotels around the word and offer recommendations accordingly.
Considering the enormous impact the social media has on the way any business is being conducted, more and more organizations are embracing the use of social media tools, in interacting with and informing its clients, as well as in creating a strong brand awareness among the potential customer base. It is needless to state in this context that City Garden Hotel is also no exception in this regard. In order to enhance customer experience as well as to earn recognition in a competitive sector, the City Garden hotel has been able to harness the power of social media to a considerable extent, though it still lacks in more than one area.
First of all, while explaining the social media strategy of the company, it is important to note that the company remains highly active on its official website that allows it to keep on updating multiple pictures and posts, as well as updating the clients regarding the details of information, related to booking and cuisine online. The customer care support team of City Garden Hotel remains active 24*7, and consequently any form of doubt or query from the guest’s end gets solved quickly. The official website of the hotel is not only well-maintained, but it also has a rich gallery sharing interesting pictures of breakfast buffet, air-conditioned luxurious bedrooms, modernized amenities such as Wi-Fi facilities as well as happy faces of the customers checking in (Leung et al. 2015). The official website page also offers a review section where the customers can rate and review the service and share their experience of staying at the hotel as well. The consumers can also get an idea regarding the overall quality of service from the reviews only and accordingly choose to visit the place. However, it is important to mention here that the customer care team despite being highly active on the official webpage of City Garden Hotel, fails to handle the negative feedback in a proper way. Often they would respond to the negative comments in a harsh and impolite way that can easily destroy their future prospects, by offending the existent customer base (Gibbs et al. 2015). While conducting business, especially in the service sector, it becomes imperative that the social media experts are able to handle the clients with proper care, or else they would tarnish the reputation of the hotel. Besides, another significant shortcoming that has been observed in this regard is that the contents of the hotel website are not regularly updated. In fact, it is imperative to ensure a good flow of pictures and posts every day, and yet the website has been using pictures for at least six months. It is important to keep on updating the very first page only and in case there is a lack of new pictures, the website managers should keep on re-sharing the old images and share them on the very first page. According to a research, 75% of the customers never go past the first page of the official website and hence the first page must have the richest and most informative contents that the company wants to uphold about its service in front of the customers (Floreddu et al. 2014)
Despite the incredible popularity of Facebook, the Facebook page of the hotel is mainly active. The Facebook page of any company is often regarded as the best Public relations representative for the concerned company, as it helps a hotel share pictures and posts, offer interesting discounts and offers, update the consumers regarding new offers and interact with the clients as well. More than 50% of Hong Kong population (4.4 million) employ the use of Facebook for connecting with friends and family as well as updating themselves about the recent trends (Sobaih et al. 2016). While City Garden Hotel should have grabbed this chance by remaining highly active, it seldom comes online and merely shares pictures and posts that are already accessible on its official web page . Studies indicate that images are the second factor right behind pricing in terms of influencing the choice of property to stay in. The hotel authority should manage to click pictures of their clients coming to stay at the hotel, and with their consent, tag them on Facebook. This would have helped them gain recognition amongst the family and friends of those tagged visitors, as well as build a sense of love and loyalty amongst them. The City Garden Hotel maintains a social page on Facebook for the sake of it, as it does not literally help the company create rapport with its customers. It is important to keep on updating content over the websites to gain more followers and “likes ad shares”. However, as far as City Garden Hotel is concerned, it does not even update its contents on a regular basis. In fact, the only thing that the social media experts engage themselves in, is sharing and re-sharing pictures of the interior of the hotels. The Facebook page should be offering something new and interesting, such as inviting its followers for a price-winning competition, or a concession on their next visit to the hotel. However such innovative strategies are totally absent here. Besides, the page and colour of the Facebook page prevents the chance of organizational differentiation, as the hotel overview page cannot be regarded as fun, interesting and informative.
It is not sufficient for hotels to merely use Facebook, as a hotel can enhance its popularity as well as visibility if it can consider the effective tools like Instagram and Pinterest. However, City Garden Hotel is not present on any of the above-mentioned social sites, that is definitely hindering the company from boosting its sales via social media pages. Although the company shares a few pictures on Tumbler, it is not sufficient to share pictures and posts on a social media site (Hur et al. 2017). It is highly important to ensure that the hotel authority is able to engage with the community, present the products in a fun and interesting way as well as offer a variety of pictures and posts that appeal to the lifestyle of the end-users.
As it is evident from the above figure, research suggests that Instagram is one of the topmost and most popularly used social media tool in Hong Kong, and hence the company could benefit largely from the effective use of the same. With 8,500 likes and 1,000 new comments a second, it is obvious that this social sharing network can be very influential (Arnaboldi and Coget 2016). While posting pictures on Instagram, it is not sufficient to post random pictures that are already present on Facebook, but rather edit and make each picture a little more picturesque and add interesting and currently used hash tags to attract the attention of maximum consumers. By following people on Instagram who usually share a lot of food and travelling pictures, can also City Garden Hotel ensure wider publicity amongst the masses. The hotel could open up an Instagram account and give its followers a behind-the-scenes look at the hotel that will not only provide for interesting content, but will also humanize the hotel. However, the absence of the social media on multiple social sites, the hotel is limiting and narrowing down its opportunity to reach out to a large mass of people.
However, the hotel management does employ the effective use of Twitter, for customer service as well as marketing. It is impressive how with the help of popular hash tags the City Garden Hotel not only promotes the delicacies and affordable service offered by it, but also interacts with each client. As and when a customer tweets something tagging the hotel, about checking in, or about its new experience with the hotel, the social media expert instantly reverts him with prompt and delightful response. In fact, @CityGardenforyou has been launched that offers the most valuable and authentic information to its clients, whether they are the current and loyal customers or not. The brand recently hosted the “Hong Kong’s largest focus group” on Twitter to receive feedback on guest experience, and used the findings to implement on-site improvements. Usually 20% of the tweets mentioning the names of the hotels receive response, and yet City Garden Hotel has been able to reduce the response time rate to a considerable extent (Trainor et al. 2014)). In fact, it is equally interesting to note that the way the hotel manages its Twitter account is highly impressive. The hotel has in fact set up a custom Twitter feed that allows it to monitor the specific keywords, such as “hungry”, “wander” and “hotel”, used by the Twitter users for responding directly to the consumers’ queries, informing them about the service offered by the company as well as track mention of the names of the competitors when necessary. However, despite the impressive efforts put by the hotel, it should be important to mention in this respect that the hotel merely endorses its products that can appear too boring for its consumers and followers. Hence, it is advised that the hotel engages deeply with the audience by using common, popular hash tags and share stories via the short posts that can be relevant for its business as well. For example, in case on a sudden post, the company comes across people twitting about going to a good place for summer, it can easily post a picture of its swimming pool, without flaunting its brand directly to the customers. It is important to inform the customers without really making them realize that the company is selling off its brand (Friedrichsen 2013).
It is needless to state here that with the help of the amazing internet speed as well as the incredible internet penetration at Hong Kong has made the use of social media marketing and promotion a great opportunity that every business sector, including those operating in the hospitality industry should harness. Research reports suggest that approximately 64% of the residents of Hong Kong maintain an active social media account, and hence it becomes evident that City Garden Hotel, with the help of effective social media management, will be able to boost its sales growth. A few advices are recommended for the same.
First of all, interaction on social media sites such as Facebook helps to enhance the visibility and recognition of any hotel. Hence, it is advised that the hotel [laces much emphasis on the maintenance of Facebook, considering the incredible popularity of the social site in Hong Kong. Since the guests are offered free Wi-Fi services, they can be asked and requested to share pictures and posts of themselves spending time at City Garden Hotel. This will largely help in improving the visibility of the hotel on the search engines. It is not sufficient to confine the social media activity of the hotel to Facebook, and in fact, it should reach out to larger customer base via multiple social media channels such as Instagram. In order to ensure that the hotel is able to reach out to the most relevant target audience, the hotel should seek the help of Google Plus, that can help in attracting the attention of the relevant consumer base. Besides, in order to engage the customers and attract the attention of the potential customer base, the hotel will need to offer updated pictures and posts depicting the current happenings of the hotel rather than the boring pictures of the rooms and interior of the hotel. The City Garden Hotel should arrange Concerts, exhibitions, conferences, fairs, sporting events within the hotel premise and post pictures of the same. It is equally important to note that as a service-based organization, the hotel should offer he most convenient alternative to its customers so that they can book the tickets and review the service. Hence, it is equally recommended that the City Garden Hotel installs a mobile app, that will help it update its customers the recent bookings and reservations as well as special discounts, that in turn will help in creating a long-lasting bond with the consumers. Valued at an approximate 8.0 Billion dollars (a 6.5% increase from last year’s figures), direct booking through mobile devices are becoming a real factor in hotel’s financial sheets . By following the above-mentioned steps, it is expected that City Garden Hotel, Hong Kong will be able to achieve enormous recognition and ensure its popularity with the customers.
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