Comment: Instagram and Twitter advertising

How hoteliers can make the most out of social media

Martin Kubler is the CEO of Iconsulthotels, a Dubai-based ultra-boutique consulting firm.
Martin Kubler is the CEO of Iconsulthotels, a Dubai-based ultra-boutique consulting firm.

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2016! Have you looked at a Facebook advert in 2016 yet? Of course you have, but do you recall it?

That’s one of the problems with Facebook adverts these days — there are so many that many people simply tune them out. In its most basic form, Facebook self-service advertising is now so easy that virtually everybody is doing it, so your message is likely to drown among the overall, paid for, advertising chatter.

What’s the social media savvy-hotelier to do then? Naturally, we’ll do the same thing we did when the number of Russian travellers to the Middle East decreased or more and more GCC travellers started to take long weekends in Europe rather than in Dubai — we look at new markets. In social media terms, this means that you should really start looking at advertising on Twitter and Instagram. Both platforms opened up their self-service advertising tools in the second half of last year, but aren’t yet overcrowded with advertisers, so your message is likely to stick out more.

Out of the two, Instagram is probably the easier platform to handle for many marketers. It’s a relatively straightforward and very popular platform and, because Facebook owns it, you can use Facebook’s advertising manager to run advertisment campaigns on Instagram.

It’s tempting to run combined campaigns, i.e. on Facebook and Instagram, and often these produce good results, but start running separate campaigns and you’ll really see results and engagement take off.

In the Facebook advertising manager, Instagram is one of several “ad placement” options. Most users now access Facebook via their mobile devices, so I keep “Desktop” and “Right-hand Column” options permanently switched off and channel my entire budget into “Mobile”, “Audience Networks”, and “Instagram”.

If you haven’t connected an Instagram account with your Facebook page, you can do so in the Facebook advertising manager when you’re putting together your campaign. If you have multiple outlets/properties, but only one Instagram account, you can either create more Instagram accounts or connect and reconnect your existing account to the various pages, though you can only use it with one page at a time.

Instagram is a little bit quirkier and a lot more youthful than Facebook, which is the main reason I suggest you run separate campaigns, because you can then target different audiences and use audience-specific images or videos. Consider using Facebook to talk to parents of teenagers and Instagram, to talk to the teenagers — two separate audiences with different wants and needs.

Twitter advertising, unlike Instagram advertising, appears to be still viewed with suspicion by many companies in our region. This may partly be due to the more complicated self-service advertising manager Twitter provides; however, once you spend some time with it and become familiar with the various options, Twitter advertising can definitely provide excellent value for money.

CPE (cost per engagement, i.e. every time a user engages with your advertised content) are often lower than CPC (cost per click) on Facebook or Instagram. Add to that the fact that Twitter is the most popular social network in Saudi Arabia and you’ll realise it’s worth the time to get to grips with it.

In the UAE, Twitter doesn’t yet support a lot of the audience targeting and filtering options it already offers in other markets, however, it does offer a variety of interesting tools. Like Facebook, it lets you import email addresses and build target audiences, and it also offers ways to track conversions similar to Facebook’s pixels.

One tool unique to Twitter is “Twitter Cards” — extensions to your advertising tweets that allow for an additional headline, call to action, and a 320 x 800 pixels image. There’s no additional cost to use Twitter Cards in your adverts, so take advantage of the extra screen real estate. Be prepared to change your advertising content and message more frequently on Twitter than on Instagram.

Twitter loves fresh content, so the older your advertising tweets are, the less they’ll be shown. It’s a good idea to plan a new advertising text every two to three days and have all tweets written out before you kickoff the first phase of your campaign.

Whether you’re using Instagram or Twitter adverts, it’s important that you take time to define your advertising goals beforehand, i.e. ask yourself ‘What do I want to achieve with my adverts? Who would I like to see them and what would I like people to do once they’ve seen them?’

It’s also a good idea to start with a smaller budget and then expand activities as you understand the platforms more and learn more about the likes and dislikes of your audiences. This way, you’ll invest in “market reality” rather than “market research”, your campaigns are far more likely to be successful, and your advertising budget will go further.

Whatever you do: Keep it social!

Instagram & Twitter Advertising — Five things to try today

1. Twitter best practices: Research has shown that advertising tweets with 100 characters or less get 18% more engagement, tweets with Twitter cards get 43% more engagement, and tweets with rich media (videos, et cetera) can get up to 313% more engagement and 52% more retweets. If you have suitable resources in-house, it pays to spend time crafting the perfect tweet, else hiring a copywriter is a good idea.

2. Find the right balance: It’s important that you find the right balance between inspiration and information, particularly on Instagram. Your image needs to be inspiring enough to make users stop scrolling past it, but the post also needs to be informative enough to make them find out more.

3. Keep it real: “Real” images almost always win over marketing creative, so keep things real and use images or videos you’ve taken in your property or outlet in your adverts.

4. Engage: It’s easy enough to get carried away with Twitter and Instagram advertising, but don’t forget that people who respond to your adverts also expect you to engage with them on the platforms. Don’t just look at the advertising analytics, but also engage in real time with respondents.

5. Start small, grow big, test everything: Always start small, campaign and budget-wise, and then increase your activity based on how people react to your adverts. It’s also a good idea to regularly test different images and copy to see what combination engages your audience most.

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