Research shows social media impact on first and last touch points pales by comparison

~~I came across some research that speaks volumes about how social media is impacting overall marketing efforts. More importantly, it speaks louder about the resources, both human and financial that many hotel marketers are investing in social media. While I do take a position that social media deserves a place in most every hotel marketer’s budget and marketing plan, I am astounded at how (arguably) limited resources are disproportionately being assigned a bigger and bigger role in social media at the expense of mature distribution channels. Based on my experience with virtually all of my clients, most of these mature distribution channels are in need of better management and oversight, as they are underperforming for most hotels. As a result, many hotels are leaving a lot of business up for easy acquisition by some of their smarter competitors.

The research that caught my attention was published by Bizible, indicating how many different first points of touch available to shoppers contribute to bring these shoppers into what was stated as “the very first online marketing touch” in the shopping process. The study was sizeable in that it includes 480,000 leads across several industries, including but not exclusively travel, or more relevant, hospitality. The following results are specific to the travel industry, and speak for themselves:

Search Marketing – 65.0%
Direct Marketing – 25.6%
Referral – 8.2%
Social – 0.6%%
Email – 0.1%

When the study shifts from first touch results only to the relationship between first touch to last touch opportunities to close a sale, social media still plays a near insignificant role. Again, the results below are specific to the travel industry portion of the research:

Search – 42.2%
Direct Marketing – 4.5%
Referral – 1.0%
Social – 0.2%
Email – 0%

Even more damning than the paltry numbers for social marketing efforts are the resources that are tied up in developing campaigns for this channel. Resources were not measured as part of the Bizible research, but are quantified based on my own experience with clients and other published articles. These resources could be redeployed to supplement existing efforts for more mature channels that contribute better results, or assigned to content development for the mature channels; content that is compelling to close the sale once the shopper reads it.

Arguably, most travel purchase decisions are complex and may involve influencing attributes from multiple channels for a single purchasing decision. It is not my intent to argue that social media marketing is a waste of time or money. It’s the proportion of resource allocated to social media marketing where I take issue.

Clearly, social media campaigns are more fun to work on compared to most other channels. Plus, they have little history to use as a baseline for measuring success, making any results look like incremental business, whether or not they truly are. In some instances, social media marketing campaigns are performing better in industries other than travel. The day may come when they make a measurable contribution to hotels. That day appears to be far away based on Bizible’s results. Instead of viewing social media as something hip, new and fun, it is well time that marketing efforts deployed into social media are measured using the same metrics that are assigned to more mature channels. Is anyone holding your marketing team accountable for resources assigned to social media? If not, it’s past time to do so.

Jon Pyle
Jon Pyle

Prior to founding roommarketer in 2003, Jon operated Pyle Marketing Group from 1991 to 2003, and held a senior sales and marketing management position with Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group in North America. In addition, Jon has held sales and marketing management positions with Jetset Tours (North America), and The Hertz Corporation. Since 1991, Jon has worked with dozens of the world’s leading hospitality companies, achieving results that have won him praise from small hoteliers to executives from the world’s largest hotel organizations.


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