Hotel guests still rely heavily on recommendations from friends and family, but the impact of social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter is negligible.
Or so World Independent Hotels Promotion (WIHP) found in a recent survey of almost of almost 20,000 guests during the second quarter of 2012, asking them how they heard about a hotel.
The study was carried out OFFLINE - an important consideration as many surveys are often produced over the web, so more often than not the results are skewed towards those that actively use the internet.
The "other" in the study is probably where search engines figure.
WIHP ran a similar survey last year, so while the differences aren’t huge they are interesting in terms of what remains a low factor.
Here’s a table giving a comparison to the same data from the previous year.
[table id=3471 /]
The biggest change year-on-year is TripAdvisor, which increased by 2.2% and has moved up to third position from fourth place in 2011.
But, as Martin Soler, marketing director of WIHP, claims, social media "isn't winning at this race". This, he claims, points to the "low level of ROI" on social media marketing.
WIHP believes social media is not a good marketing tool, but serves well as a "great public relations tool", meaning hotels must use it primarily as a channel to communicate to customers and potential guests.
But what makes for a good headline might also be illustrating where there is an increased blurring of the lines between what is seen as the influence of pure-play social media and how it effects "normal" (and offline) conversations and purchasing decisions.
Friends and family might be losing and social media gaining some of their respective influence as channels in the survey y/y, but discussing a recent hotel stay within a personal social network (such as Facebook) is also probably recorded in the minds of others but not necessarily as being considered as the trigger for research further down the line.
At that, annoyingly for marketers, is what makes social media so tricky to measure and, inevitably, often justify back upstairs to the board members in the leather chairs or bean counters in the accounting department.
NB:Hotel welcome image via Shutterstock.