Is social media only a marketing function, or can other departments across hotels take advantage of it? When SAS Institute announced its social media analytics about a year ago, Kelly McGuire began thinking about how revenue management could use social media. McGuire, executive director of hospitality and travel global practice for SAS, says she always sees things through a revenue management lens first. To tackle this question, she got together with a group of colleagues from her Ph.D. program at Cornell (she has a master of management degree in hospitality and Ph.D. in revenue management from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration) and they began conducting streams of research.
Instead of seeing social media as a scary new thing, McGuire wants hoteliers to consider it as a new source of data and set of channels. When making tactical short-term decisions and more strategic long-term decisions, McGuire believes revenue managers can use social media as another item in their toolbox to augment the analyses they are already doing.
For example, if revenue managers want to figure out how to sell through an online travel agency, they can analyze the site’s reviews, ratings, and other user-generated content to determine what types of customers are booking their hotel through that distribution channel, and the hotel’s position in relation to competitors on the same channel. “All this social data is public data,” McGuire says. “That’s the awesome thing for the industry.” User-generated content becomes another lever for hotels to use to differentiate themselves on these types of channels.
When people ask, “What’s a social media strategy,” McGuire asks what their business strategy is and how social media can support it. “Think of social media as another data source and channel that you can incorporate, fold into, and augment the existing analyses you’re doing, the existing strategies you’re developing, instead of letting social media dictate the strategy or drive the strategy,” she says.
Social media is an incredible tool to use in market research, but it’s not the only tool that will be used. It will never replace focus groups, structured surveys, and other controlled data collection methods, but McGuire sees it as another opportunity. “Don’t let it drive you. Don’t get lost in it. Just say, How is this supporting my business strategies, and how can I enhance or improve those because of it?”
— Megan Sullivan, Managing Editor, Lodging