5 Ways to Use Facebook for HotelsIs your hotel on Facebook? Statistics say that it should be. In 2011, Facebook surpassed TripAdvisor (the popular travel review site) in the percentage of referrals that led to hotel bookings.

At the same time, the number of people who book hotel reservations through online travel agencies like Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity continues to grow each year. Although this type of booking helps to fill hotel rooms, it takes away the hotel’s direct interaction with the customer. This trend also reduces the revenue that hotels make from those bookings because the online travel agencies have to take their cuts, too.

Fortunately, social networks like Facebook present a significant opportunity for hotels to build relationships that lead to brand awareness, word-of-mouth marketing, and ultimately, sales. Here are five Facebook tips to help your hotel leverage Facebook for long-term, sustainable growth.

1. Provide Useful and Meaningful Content

Don't be Self Promotional on Facebook

If your only goal for being on Facebook is to increase sales, then you’re very likely to fail. That’s because Facebook is not a direct-marketing tool but rather an indirect-marketing tool. In other words, your top priority is to build relationships that ultimately lead to future bookings. This can be accomplished by publishing useful content that your target audience wants and needs.

Follow the “80-20 rule,” where at least 80 percent of your content is non-self-promotional, and just 20 percent (or less) is self-promotional. No one will want to hang out with you on Facebook if you only talk about yourself or publish content that reads like a marketing brochure. Instead, be real, honest, and personable. Your hotel brand should tell a story on Facebook, not bore people to death.

2. Customize Your Facebook Page

Customize Your Facebook Page

Invest in a great Facebook Page design that effectively communicates your brand promise, message, and image. Visitors to your page should feel as though they’re being welcomed into your hotel, albeit online.

There are a number of tools that offer free and affordable Facebook page customization, including Pagemodo, TabSite, and ShortStack. For the more technically savvy, the Wildfire iFrames app is another option.

3. Use Apps, Tools, and Plugins

Use Facebook Apps and Tools and Plugins

Of course, you can advertise your hotel through Facebook Ads, and you should always monitor your Facebook Page’s performance using Facebook Insights. However, you should also use Facebook apps and plugins for promotional purposes across your marketing channels. For example, each of the apps and plugins listed below can help you promote your hotel directly on Facebook, or as an integrated element of your cross-promotional strategy:

4. Get Visitors Involved

Get Facebook Visitors Involved

If you’re the only one publishing content to your Facebook Page, it’s going to get very boring. The best Facebook Pages are highly interactive, so encourage your visitors to publish comments, click the Like button, tag people in photos, and share pictures and videos from their visits to your hotel.

Remember, every time someone publishes a positive image, video, or comment on your Facebook Page, that activity is also published on his or her personal Facebook profile. Those unsolicited testimonials provide free exposure for your hotel and can be a powerful motivation for people to check out Facebook Page in more detail.

5. Turn Your Facebook Page Into a Sales Tool

Use Your Facebook Page as a Sales Tool

As long as you follow the 80-20 rule mentioned above, you can spend some time publishing promotional content on your hotel’s Facebook Page without annoying your community. The trick is to make sure the promotional information you publish adds value.

Consider publishing discount announcements and special offers and deals. For example, the Facebook Deals app easily integrates with your hotel’s Facebook Page as well as with Facebook Places for local promotions. You can also offer exclusive content or promotions for people who Like your Facebook Page. This is a great way to increase Likes to your page, while rewarding your audience at the same time.

More and more hotels are integrating booking engines directly into their Facebook Pages. Other hotels guarantee the lowest prices and offer price matching to guests who make reservations through Facebook. While this type of room booking is still in the early-adopter phase, you can bet it’s going to grow by leaps and bounds in the near future.

Millions of travelers use Facebook every day, and your hotel needs to be there, too. Follow the tips listed above to position your hotel for long-term Facebook marketing success.

[Image credit: nitewind23, stargardener, exfordy, ribarnica, Éole. Alan Light]