What a fun question to try to answer!
How can you measure the price of your branding?
Not in hard fast numbers.
Social media is not about “getting” new customers, it’s about retaining current customers and conversion of future customers through branding.
Branding can mean that the 10 minutes you spent writing a blog post about one of your signature breakfast dishes, inspired by your great-aunts traditional recipe from Italy, results in a reservation for someone’s honeymoon weekend in 6 months. How do you measure that?
Branding can mean replying to a like, or a comment on your Facebook fan page or blog post can turn into a future guest reservation or guest referral over the holidays, or come foliage or ski season. How do you measure that?
Social media is the soft sell, which means that direct sales have very little value in customer conversion.
How can you correctly measure ROI in that scope. You can’t.
I still hear this from some innkeepers that don’t believe in spending time on social media: “I’ve been throwing out multiple sales pitches on my social media links daily and have been doing it religiously and have not gotten any new guests from it. So I don’t see the value in social media.” or “I’ve tried dabbling in social media, but its too time consuming.” or my personal favorite, “I wrote a couple of blog posts, tweeted my specials a couple of times and posted my room rates on my Facebook fan page, I haven’t gotten any customers out of it, so its not worth it.”
There seems to be a common misconception about social media: Throw sales pitches at it and you will get customers out of it. Press the Homer Simpson “D’oh” button here.
Think of the days prior to social media: Numbers vary on how many cold calls it takes to make one sale. Estimates between 7-15 points of contact to turn a potential customer into an actual customer, and this is after more then 50% of the people don’t even want the pitch at all.
A warm call can take 3-5 points of contact to turn a potential customer into an actual customer. They have already been softened up by a referal source or some sort of media that they have seen that has been either useful, interesting or different (or all of them) that peaks their interest.
While an innkeeper would probably not be making cold calls to potential guests, they were (and some still do) advertising in print media, magazine, newspaper and on radio and other media mediums.
This is, in effect, the equivalent of cold calling.
If you just spout sales information in your tweets and on blog posts and facebook posts you are also doing the equivalent of cold calling.
Everyone out there is making a pitch. No body cares.
Contrary to what many believe, I don’t think traditional media, aside from social media is dead, nor will it ever be. But social media is social, its not meant to be the cold call. Similar to going to a chamber after hours and socializing. You are still “selling” but it’s a soft sell. (And physical, in person networking should still be a part of your marketing plan.)
What many businesses (lodging amongst them) don’t understand, is that Social Media is the ultimate soft sell.
How can you measure the fact that engaging and interacting with guests and future guests results in return and repeat guests and future customer conversion. You can’t measure that.
Social Media is not the end all and be all of marketing, but it is EXTREMELY valuable for branding and long term retention and conversion.
Ask yourself, How much is my time worth?
Is it worth enough to convert someone to a return or future customer? A guest retained or converted through the soft sell is worth 100 times what a guest “sold” through traditional sales tactics is. I think that’s worth the Return on Investment.
Stop pitching, start engaging.