Is advertising in social media really a waste?

March 27, 2011

Last week, Glenn Fogel, Priceline head of worldwide strategy and planning, spoke at the No Vacancy conference in Sydney, Australia. Travel Weekly reported that he basically said “Hotels are wasting their money by advertising on social media as it does nothing but annoy consumers”. Now that’s a bold statement that, sure enough, created quite a stir in the social media in travel community!

He went on to add : “I see a lot of people wasting money hiring consultants who claim to be experts, but they are charlatans and they are stealing your money.” Again, this statement made some waves, and it was interesting to read what some had to say about experts and charlatans:

Is advertising in social media really a waste? According to some, ads on Facebook are equivalent to an “interruption”, because we are supposed to be having conversations, so it’s considered rude and intrusive. But I think that’s a pretty trivial way of looking at how people consume social media, in particular Facebook. In fact, there are various personalities out there, and folks can fall into different categories depending on the time of day, mood or context. So really, while we are often having conversations on social networks, we are also sometimes “just looking”, peeping into other folks conversing or simply watching a fun video on Youtube. If I just finished watching a sick video of a dude shredding through powder in Alaska, I won’t mind seeing “suggested” videos from mountain resorts, where there happens to be lots of powder snow these days. It all boils down to what advertisement ought to seek in the first place: relevance.

In fact, Hotels who are active on social media and own a Facebook page have been seeing positive results and increased revenue, according this recent article. But that’s not adverstising per se, it’s simply having a social media presence, with clear objectives, tactics and measurements of tactics & determined KPIs. However, I do believe that if you have a Facebook page, with dynamic content and a vibrant fanbase, or if you have many reviews on your TripAdvisor profile, with a steady management on comments, than having a social media advertisment strategy is just as much part of the equation to reach new customers as you would for any other acquisition campaign with traditional media. The important nuance is that with social media, you can and should be more targeted, i.e. a hotel property will talk to folks who are considering that city.

So, is adverstising in social media really a waste? No. But I certainly believe there is much that should be done first in fostering a healthy community, where brands can listen to their fans and followers, engage and converse. That’s really where hotels should focus before considering advertisement as a tactical solution in social media.

Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo

Senior marketing and communications expert & speaker with more than 20 years of expertise in the travel and hospitality industry. Consulting since early 2012, I provide strategic planning, social media & mobile development counseling to small and medium businesses alike. Reach me at

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