For the past few years, HU has worked with Leora Lanz and her Boston University hospitality students. As part of an overall project, future hospitality professionals research and develop problem-solving insights for industry hot topics. Here is the fourth in this year’s series.

Social media is a powerful marketing tool. In 2016, a study conducted by Dscout, a Chicago-based consumer experience research center, stated that the average person will look at his or her phone roughly 80 times per day. Marketers have risen to the challenge of using social media as a tool in order to increase brand knowledge and loyalty. With all the content thronging social networks, it becomes impossible for the average user to view it all. Content presentation algorithms are put in place to ensure the user experience remains as relevant as possible. Understanding these algorithms and their benefits is a vital component of making social media marketing effective.

1. Introduce Unpredictability
By enticing the customer with an unpredictable advertisement, you are more likely to get them to engage with your brand. For example, a stereotypical “Christmas Sale” marketing campaign in December is not enticing to the viewer (see images above). In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, based on consumer decision rules, many social media users have learned to avoid and ignore these “typical” posts. Since the algorithms used by social media platforms are designed to spark joy in users, it is imperative that brands understand how to enhance user satisfaction by using [G1] social media as a tool. No matter the platform, an element of surprise via content and execution can assist in converting viewers to customers.
2. Keep it Human
Customer service is the major component that sets hospitality companies apart from average businesses. However, a human touch is often lacking in digital marketing campaigns. In order to continue to utilize social media as an instrument, marketers must prioritize clients and including relatable characters in visual marketing efforts is an easy way to do so. Showing a person interacting with the company’s product (i.e. food from a restaurant), instead of the product alone, allows potential customers to envision themselves actually using it. Highlighting these instances of human interaction with the merchandize by creating intuitive landing pages is also an excellent way to incorporate customer service and personalize the customer’s experience. According to a study done by VB Insight, a qualitative market research company, 87 percent of companies see a lift in key metrics when personalizing (conversion, engagement, lead gen). For example, if a potential customer was watching a Starbucks ad, it would make sense that the following landing page would contain a store locator, this way marketing efforts immediately converts engagement into a potential sale.

3. Propose an Engagement
When a social media site announces that its algorithm is changing, marketers must check what the modifications mean for their engagement. When Instagram replaced its chronological algorithm in March 2016, the amount of posts which users would view at any given time shifted. Sproutsocial, a Chicago-based social media management company that help brands communicate with customers on social channels, shows that every day, over 95 million posts are shared on Instagram, but only 30 percent of the posts are seen by users. 

As new algorithms on social media generate more competition amongst marketers, brands need to not only create good content, but material that will be seen. Therefore, in March 2016, Instagram marketers posted photos asking users to “turn on notifications” for their brands. This presents even more challenges for marketers since 60 percent of mobile users have already turned off push notifications. Therefore, engagement is key! Studies have shown that the higher the engagement, the higher the ranking of the post. Here are three tips to help increase engagement:  
  1. Schedule future posts.
    1. According to a Sproutsocial study in August 2017, Instagram peaks around 8-9 a.m. on Mondays.
    2. Brands should avoid posting around 3-4 p.m. on weekdays because people are usually finishing up work before heading home.
  2. Post photos on Instagram and videos on Facebook. According to a study done by Buffersocial, a software application that helps brand schedule posts shows that a photo on Instagram receives 86 percent more views than a video but the opposite is true on Facebook where video engagement is higher.
3. Use hashtags!
a. Sproutsocial studies have shown that hashtags help organize and discover content, ultimately leading to higher engagement as well. A post with at least one hashtag receives 12.6 percent more engagement than a post without.
b. Similarly, now that locations can be cited, a post that includes a geotag will receive 79 percent more engagement than a post that doesn’t.
Algorithms are ever changing; Facebook changes the News Feed’s once a week. Understanding the impact of social media algorithms however, will sustain a brand into the next century. Changes to the algorithm are subtle, but they all come with a similar goal; maintaining the highest level of relevance for the consumer. Although social media is taking over the marketing world, it is not an entity to fear. Structures are put in place to enhance the user experience; when understood, algorithms can create a larger, more loyal customer fan base. Engineering a brand’s marketing efforts to work effectively will directly result in customer conversion.