Word-of-mouth used to be sufficient to plan a vacation, make hotel reservations, and/or visit a recreational venue. Now, the emergence of social media impacts virtually every industry including hospitality.

During the past 10 years, the percentage of Americans with at least one social media account has increased from 24% to 81%. While communicating with friends and family members remains the primary reason for logging into a social media account, 74% of consumers agree the different platforms also influence their purchase decisions.

Additionally, leisure travelers prefer to read around 6-7 reviews about a particular destination prior to making a reservation while 5 out of 6 millennials claim to connect with a brand through social media before deciding to use their service.

Additionally, this infographic shows that 33% of travelers changed their hotel after reading a negative review on social media about the hotel they had chosen earlier, while 40% of vacationers share reviews about a specific activity/attraction on the company’s social media accounts.

As a result, putting your best social media foot forward is a necessity for all focused on increasing your social media following and making more revenue.

Social media marketing also has a huge impact on customer satisfaction. Here are tips to increase your social media following and stay ahead of the competition.

  1. Provide Useful Content

Consumers log on to social media accounts for information. In the context of travel, they no longer rely on a brick-and-mortar travel agent to make a reservation. In fact, 87% of travelers under the age of 34 consult social media for travel inspiration while 52% of Facebook users dream about a vacation when using the platform.

Apart from adding offers on social media, make sure you add a lot of useful content for your readers. Travel tips, places to visit in a particular season, nearby landmarks, traveling on a budget, and sample itineraries are some of the content that inspires visitors to make a travel decision.

  1. Appeal to the Visual Consumer

Hospitality.net notes photographs are the second factor — after price — that contributes travelers deciding where to travel. Videos and infographics also create a long-lasting impression on visitors. Some internet users prefer watching videos or looking at images rather than reading lengthy articles. Add a variety of pictures, videos, charts, and graphs to your social media account so your content reaches the audience that favors visual content.

  1. Provide Exceptional Customer Service

Open your social media account to feedback. Then, be sure to promptly and accurately answer any queries from your visitors. People like being heard. Furthermore, 42% users tell their friends and family members about a positive customer service experience they had on social media and are 3 times more likely to promote the brand to others.

  1. Add Deals and Offers

Many businesses provide promotional items to their followers on social media. For example, the Wynn Hotel and Casino Las Vegas give out compliment glass of champagne to users who checked in while United Airlines and AirTran both offer various deals on their Facebook and Twitter account.

Providing an offer may seem like cheapening your brand, but there are ways to do it to create win/win scenarios. Giving something to your online audience is a great way to bridge the gap between online and offline. It tempts them to transition from an online follow to an in-person customer.

  1. Encourage Your Audience to Share

As discussed above, many travelers make their vacation plans after seeing other peoples’ photos on social media. They find user-generated content more honest and reliable.

You can encourage customers to share more pictures of their travel experience on your social media account by creating photo contests or asking fans to use a specific hashtag for your particular brand.

  1. Monitor Your Social Analytics

Regularly check your page’s analytics to learn about consumer insights, interests, dislikes, and the type of posts that receive the most engagement. This ensures that your posts are tailored to fit the expectations of your fans and loyal customers.

It’s also a great way to learn and audit your social media strategies. If your audience is significantly more Gen X than millennials, for example, you can craft your posts and social media platform selection accordingly.

  1. Think Outside of the Box

Digital technology is all about innovation. Think of distinct ideas to engage your audience. For example, Hyatt Hotels is equipped with Twitter concierge service that allows tourists to merely connect with this Twitter account and have their queries resolved.

InterContinental Group developed an iPad app that gives visitors everything from a virtual tour of the hotel and other relevant information before they reach their destination. Moreover, Marriott Hotels offers a navigator app that provides suggestions for sightseeing, restaurants, and attractions to their visitors.

In short, the hospitality industry is all about giving travelers the best experience. And what better way to serve your guest than with the power of social media?

Author Bio: Alycia Gordan is a freelance writer who loves to read and write articles on healthcare technology, fitness, and lifestyle. She is a tech junkie and divides her time between travel and writing. You can find her on Twitter: @meetalycia