The key role of social media in the hotel booking journey

Written by Stewart Moss

30th October 2023

Social media serves as a pivotal tool for enhancing brand visibility and awareness and has evolved into an integral part of the hospitality industry’s marketing mix.

It is also becoming a vital part of the guest booking journey – and not just for research purposes, either. Channels such as Facebook and Instagram are increasingly influential as booking tools in their own right. Hoteliers must therefore review and develop their social media strategies with this in mind, if they are to make the most of the opportunity.

Social media now needs to be seen as more than a mere shop window for the business and more of a way of driving revenue via direct bookings.

What guests are looking for

Just how influential are channels such as Facebook and Instagram in engaging potential guests, and how does this differ between generations?

When researching hotels to book, older consumers prefer using hotel websites, but younger adults are turning to social media. Three in five (60%) of those aged 18 to 34 say they visit a hotel’s social media pages before making a booking — that’s 18 percentage points higher than all other consumers. With younger adults being much more frequent users of hotels than older ones (more than a third of 18- to 34-year-olds have visited a hotel at least monthly in the last six months, and nearly a quarter have done so weekly — twice the average among all consumers) this trend is worth bearing in mind.

Price and location are by far the biggest factors in booking a hotel, but consumers are also looking for amenities, and so it makes sense for hoteliers to look to showcase these on their channels. According to our research, the most desirable amenities are: WIFI (66% of consumers say this is a must have), a restaurant and/or bar (57%), parking (57%) and in room amenities such as a TV or an iron (also 57%).

When looking at younger guests and Gen Z specifically, sustainability, inclusivity, wellness, corporate social responsibility, and employee welfare are also a priority. While these aspects have always held significance, they are evolving into more pivotal factors for this generation, having a significant impact on their decision-making. Consequently, businesses aiming to engage this group must earnestly address these concerns, and social media is a perfect platform to communicate this.

Leverage the power of social media to drive revenue

Social media is also beginning to play a more pivotal role when it comes to encouraging people to click that ‘book now’ button. Forward thinking hoteliers should therefore be looking at ways to use social media to drive direct bookings, in order to boost profits, as well as avoid commission fees from third-party booking platforms.

Hoteliers would benefit from using their social media as more than just ‘shop windows’ for their business. Thinking strategically about what they share via these channels will be vital to encouraging people to hit that all important ‘book now’ button. Firstly, showing aesthetic images of hotel rooms, lobbies, and other communal spaces is a great way to demonstrate the hotel’s best features and encourage people to stay at the hotel. Including a link in your Instagram bio that clicks through to the hotel’s booking platform will also help facilitate direct bookings, turning those looking for a hotel into new customers.

Social media can also be used to encourage people to spend across other arms of the business. Hotels that have F&B outlets, for example, can leverage their social profiles to drive awareness of the great experiences on offer in their bars and restaurants and encourage further footfall from guests and locals alike. Social media is also a great place to promote exclusive deals and promotions on food and drink to encourage people to not only book at the hotel, but to make the most of the on-site restaurant as opposed to dining out.

What’s more, we know that one of the main reasons guests will choose to book with a hotel directly is down to trust. This presents a unique opportunity for hoteliers. By promoting their brand, their company values and their great experiences via social media – and ensuring they are communicating regularly with people whether that is via posts or responding to comments and messages – hoteliers can establish trust with potential future guests, turning lookers into direct bookers.

Now more than ever, consumers want the brands and businesses they interact with to have a human quality to them. Social media is a great way to build trust and demonstrate the qualities that consumers want to see and to encourage them to stay. From engaging regularly with guests, answering queries in a timely manner, to running engaging social media campaigns, demonstrating a business’ authenticity is a fantastic way to drive bookings.

Not only do hoteliers need to frequently communicate with consumers, but their booking platforms need to be user-friendly, up to date, responsive and secure. While only small numbers of consumers have booked a hotel via Facebook (11%), Instagram (11%) and Twitter (9%) currently, many more indicate they would be interested in doing so in the future. In fact, 43% of 18 to 24-year-olds agree that a button to book a hotel directly from social media accounts would make their booking journey easier. Fortunately, it is not difficult to integrate a booking button onto Facebook pages and this is something operators should be looking to do.

Capitalise on guests’ desire for experiences

All this points to the growing influence of social media in the hotel industry but with the channels developing and changing fast, hoteliers need to be ensuring they are future-proofing their approach.

For now, Instagram and Facebook remain the most useful platforms to our sector but, as Gen Z get older and younger generations come through, the importance of TikTok and other channels is likely to increase.

The growth of ‘creator content’ is also important here. Hotel social media channels need no longer be full of self-generated content, marketing teams can harness the power of creators by developing “Instagrammable” moments and experiences. Thoughtful and creative interventions, whether it’s strategically placed artwork or an innovative decorative space, can prompt guests to share their experiences, effectively amplifying the hotel’s reach with their target markets and, in the end, driving revenue.

And, as the desire for ‘experiences’ over products continues to gain momentum among consumers, crafting a purpose-driven strategy, grounded in engagement, and tailored to diverse target groups, hotels can position themselves as more than a mere accommodation-provider. Hotels become creators of desirable and memorable experiences.

As we can see then, as social media continues to evolve, the principles of targeted content, channel-specific strategy and driving direct bookings from the channels themselves will become ever more key to boosting hotel revenues.

By Stewart Moss

Managing Director at High Level Software

With an intensive understanding and passion for the hotel sector and more than 20 years' of hotel knowledge and expertise in hotel management, operations as well as sales and marketing for brands, Stewart leads Zonal's hotel division.

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