As the world’s largest and most engaged social media network, Facebook provides a wealth of opportunities for advertisers, particularly in the travel space. Not only does the highly visual nature of the platform lend itself nicely to showcasing experiences, Facebook also offers travel specific ad format (Dynamic Ads For Travel).
Organic reach is at an all-time low (2% – 6% as of late 2017) and Facebook is continually evolving their algorithm to “provide a better user experience”, which often comes at a cost for businesses. A prime example of this is demonstrated via a recent announcement that the popular social platform will be cracking down on “engagement bait”, an effective tactic that entices users to engage with post copy blatantly telling users to take a specific action (ex: “tag a friend”, “like if…”, etc.).
We know that social media is an important part of any well-rounded hotel marketing presence, but how can we make the most of our efforts?
Though well-executed organic campaigns can be effective, the simple truth is that you will get the biggest bang for your buck by pairing important organic campaigns with a paid promotion.
Facebook offers several advertising ad formats that can be effective for hotels, though the ad format you choose won’t matter if you do not target the right audience. Honing in on a highly specific audience that is properly aligned with your overall campaign goal can make or break your Facebook ad performance.
Over the years, Facebook has solicited a vast database of information about its users, making targeting options more abundant and sophisticated than ever. Advertisers can now get extremely granular with defining niche audiences to laser-target a specific segment of the platform user base.
If you are having trouble getting started, we recommend first defining the goal of your campaign. Are you trying to generate awareness about a new on-property amenity or a new special/package? Are you trying to generate new leads? Are you trying to increase sales during a promotion? Defining your goal will help you best decide which audience (and ad format) will best help you achieve your goal.
And, keep in mind, sales and revenue are not the only goals of a campaign. While social media can work to generate real dollars for your hotel, social media is far more effective at building relationships with past, present, and future guests. Simply put, social media is just one touch point, albeit an important touch point, throughout the customer shopping journey. Your primary goal should be to be useful, helpful, and relevant at all times – versus being a giant sales billboard. Your fans won’t like your content, they won’t engage and down goes any organic reach in an endless spiral of failure.
Now that we have defined our goal, let’s start exploring the vast array of targeting options available through Facebook and start defining a few guest personas. Keep in mind that, while we will discuss each targeting options on its own, targeting is far more effective when multiple elements are combined to define a specific audience.
Let’s start with the basics.
The first targeting option on the docket, geographic targeting allows you to target users in a specific location. Despite the initial obviousness of this targeting option, there are a few nuances that can come in handy for hotels.
The location targeting features a drop-down menu that allows you to select different “location” definitions. Advertisers can choose to target “everyone” in a location, people that actually “live” in a location, people that were “recently in” a location, or people that are “traveling” in a location. These distinctions can be very important, depending on the goal of your campaign.
Let’s say you are a beach destination and the season is winding down. To gain exposure amongst fresh faces, you might choose to run a campaign featuring a slideshow of this year’s hotel guests having a great time at your property and enjoying all of your unique on-site amenities. You can then target people who were recently at your destination (while also excluding current page fans) to help them remember their trip and introduce your property.
Similarly, targeting people that only live in your location can help promote a “local’s only” deal or build a loyal local following for on-site dining.
It is important to note that, while the default option here is to “include” users in a specific location, you may also choose to “exclude” users in a specific location as well.
The next set of targeting parameters presented by Facebook includes specific demographic targeting options. Outside of the basic “age” and “gender” selections, Facebook allows advertisers to hone in on users based on a variety of other demographic parameters, including education, financial, life events, parents, politics, relationship, work, and more. There are also more specific targeting options within these primary demographic categories. For example, the “parents” category breaks down into specific categories based on how old the child is (parents with preschoolers 3-5 years) and even specific types of “mom personas” (ex: soccer mom, big city mom, etc.).
Several of these demographic categories can be beneficial for hotels. For example, the “parents” category can be great for properties that are family-friendly and can allow you to promote specific amenities that are attractive to certain age groups; babies might love the splash pool while teens will love your waterslides. The “financial” category can help hotels reach personas based on income or net worth. Are you a budget-friendly property? Hone in on users with a lower income (ex: $25,000 – $50,000). Are you a high-end property? Target users with a larger income (ex: $100,000+). Are you a romantic property? Target users by their anniversary or who are “recently engaged”.
The options are only limited by your creativity!
Similar to demographic targeting, interest-based targeting allows advertisers to hone in on platform users with specific interests. Interest categories include business, entertainment, family and relationships, fitness and wellness, food and drink, and much more. And, like demographic targeting, these categories can also be driven down into subcategories. For example, the “hobbies and activities” category can be narrowed down to specific “travel” related categories.
There are several obvious, and a few not-so-obvious, applications here. Travel, of course, can help hotels better define the traveler profile. Options here include important location-based travel elements, like “beaches” or “mountains”, and generic categories, like “vacations” or “adventure travel”. Does your hotel offer a unique emphasis on health and wellness? If so, interest categories like “yoga”, “running” and “meditation” might be highly relevant. Does your property offer eclectic or exciting on-site dining or beverage options? If so, specific food and beverage targeting can help you reach hip, happening foodies.
Just like demographic targeting, interest targeting is only limited by your imagination.
A small, but important, targeting option is also available via the “connections” drop-down menu. This targeting allows you to reach either ONLY specified “connections” or to EXCLUDE specified “connections”. A “connection” is defined by a user that is a page fan, uses your mobile app, or is RSVP’d to an event.
This distinction can be very important depending on the goal of your campaign. Are you trying to build your fanbase? If so, you will obviously want to exclude your current fan base from seeing your ads. Are you trying to push a specific promotion? If so, you might elect to only target fans of your page as they are already familiar with your brand.
Remember, targeting will much more effective if you take the time to build out a specific persona and apply multiple targeting parameters to better match your audience with your ad and offering.
Now that you’ve mastered the basics, let’s move onto more advanced Facebook targeting options.
As the name suggests, “lookalike” audiences are audiences that “look like” – according to Facebook – your current audience. Though their algorithm for finding and defining these audiences is proprietary and under wraps, Facebook does allow you to provide a source for the “lookalikes”. Source options can be pulled from your Facebook page, a page on your website (pulled via the Facebook Pixel – more on that later), or your mobile app. You can also specify the location of the audience on a country or region based level.
Once source and location selections are made, Facebook then allows you to define the size and relevance of your list based on total percentage of the population. We typically recommend staying within 1% of the audience size to reach the most relevant “lookalike” sources.
Lookalike audiences will need to be defined in advance so this targeting option does require advanced planning (though, from our experience, the data populates rather quickly). Navigate to the “audience” tab under “assets” and the Facebook interface will guide you through the quick and easy process.
In a broad sense, custom audiences are groups of users that are highly unique to your particular business page. As the name suggests, the highly custom nature of these user segments can make them highly effective.
Much like lookalike audiences, custom audiences will need to be set up in advance as the data will fill in over time.
There are several different types of custom audiences that can be defined. To get started, navigate to the “audiences” tab under “assets”. From there, select “custom audience”.
The above menu showcases the audience options available. Segments can be created via a “customer file” (ex: email list upload), website traffic (via the Facebook Pixel), app activity, offline activity, and engagement.
Custom audiences can be a great way to retarget or re-engage a warm audience.
A few useful custom targeting options for hotels include:
- Build a custom audience based on website visitors and invite them to “like” your page
- Build a custom audience on previous guests during a specific time (ex: last summer) and drive website traffic to a relevant landing page (ex: summer specials)
- Build a custom audience based on your most engaged page fans to convert those raving fans into leads
Each custom audience requires specific fields or actions to be defined, but the process is very simple and Facebook guides you through the process.
Once you have your custom or lookalike audience created, you can target a specific list via the “Custom Audience” field at the very top of the “audience” section. You can also choose to EXCLUDE specific audiences from advertising as well via this drop-down.
Utilizing The Facebook Pixel
The Facebook pixel is a proprietary snippet of code that is placed on various places throughout a website to track either standard or custom “events” – aka actions that take place on your website. Implementing the pixel can help your hotel not only better reach potential and previous guests through smarter targeting but will also help you better measure the impact of your marketing efforts through conversion tracking.
Implementing the Facebook targeting pixel can help your hotel reach even more laser-focused audiences, particularly for retargeting purposes.
We recommend this pixel to all of our social media clients to truly unleash the full potential of Facebook advertising.
Targeting Best Practices
The most successful ad campaigns will closely match their goal with the intended audience and craft ad copy and creative that brings the two together. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind when defining your Facebook campaign target audience:
- Clearly define your campaign goal
- Build out your target customer persona and combine multiple targeting elements to reach the ideal traveler
- Understand what stage of the travel shopping funnel you are addressing and match your audience accordingly
- Use custom audiences to discover and reach highly qualified targets
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