One of the most common questions about social media in the travel industry often includes those rather awkward letters that make some gurus splutter into their cappuccinos: "R", "O" and "I".
Yes, we all know how social media is apparently brilliant for engagement and getting the message out there about travel brands - but the bean counters signing off marketing budgets do have a point: when is the company going to see some results from all its frenzied activity on Twitter, Facebook, et al?
Step forward hotel mega chain Starwood (home to the likes of Sheraton and Westin, amongst others), which has been reasonably active across many social media channels for a number of years, but decided it needed to start showing some reward for its efforts.
The company recognised that previous years had very different strategies - 2011 was all about awareness building (finding fans, getting reach, etc) and 2012 was the year for engagement, talking to the various "communities" it had.
Starwood therefore said 2013 would be charged with being the year when it would try something new.
The results from an idea, which is actually quite basic and not particularly innovative, are rather impressive to date, explained Lawrence Kuok, Starwood's digital marketing manager this week at the WebInTravel conference in Singapore.
Working with the Brand Karma agency, Starwood created a Facebook fan page solely to promote deals from across its myriad of brands.
The Starwood Hotels Travel Exclusives page was launched a few months ago and has already attracted some 250,000 fans.
How did it do that?
Well, the (relatively) old fashioned way - it bought fans by placing targeted (and generally rather cheap) ads on Facebook.
The ROI came like this: Facebook fans generally spend seven to fourteen times more than non-fans, meaning that despite the initial outlay on ads, those that have become fans specifically do so because they want to get deals and are therefore spending their money on the room nights being offered via the page.
Kuok says it calculated (because it can track the buyers from the page) that as of 1 October this year it has made some $2 million net in additional room sales as a result of simply creating a fan page.
Almost terrifyingly simple...