There is No Holy Grail in Social Media Marketing

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Five years ago, not many of us had even heard of Facebook, let alone were frequent users. Same with Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest, yet today many of these social media websites are integral to our lives and the marketing plans of many businesses, including hotels and hotel companies. But it's smart not to fall in love with these technologies because their value as marketing tools can disappear as fast as it appeared.

Facebook, for example, has been the Holy Grail of small business marketing for the last couple of years. Many businesses, and hotels are a great example, spend much of their marketing resources and talent on Facebook to foster what they hope are solid relationships with existing customers while also reaching out to potential new guests. I know some businesses, particularly independent restaurants, that have foregone developing websites, relying solely on Facebook as their communications platform to customers. It can be a mistake to put all your marketing eggs into one basket.

Already, and especially since the debacle of its ill-fated public offering, Facebook has become uncool in the eyes of many consumers. While the social media site is approaching an astonishing billion users around the globe, young people in particular are turning away from the site in favor of somewhat-newer technologies like Twitter, Tumblr and others I'm not hip enough to even know about.

Of course, many hotel marketers don't really care prepubescent teens are leaving Facebook since they very rarely book hotel rooms. The largest growing segments of Facebook fans are Baby Boomers and even seniors, the target market for most lodging properties. But even many in these demographics are becoming wary of Facebook, particularly in regard to security and privacy issues. The website could be one major security gaffe away from becoming obsolete.

I'm not arguing you should forget about Facebook. It's an integral part of many people's lives (mine included) and a powerful marketing tool. Just don't fall in love with it. Be always on the lookout for the next big thing in social media marketing because it's bound to appear any day now.

In fact, a panel at next month's Midwest Lodging Investors Summit will look at the evolution of social media as a hotel marketing tool. The panel, led by Chris Jackson of G Commerce Solutions, features an all-star cast of social media mavens in the hotel industry: Gordon Liametz of Revenue Performance, Mark Lomanno of NewBrand Analytics and Brigette Breitenbach of Company B Brand Marketing. MLIS will be held July 16-18 at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place. Go to the conference website for a complete agenda and information on how to register for this important event.

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