Social Media Interview: Bram van Berkel, Director of E-commerce & Online Marketing– TravelClick

A short description of how and why you got started in social media

My name is Bram van Berkel, I am the director of online marketing at TravelClick. Being active in the fields of distribution and digital marketing, social media is a natural involvement. When I was managing the central commercial operations of a medium-size Dutch hotel chain, social media was popular for social contacts but not so much used (yet) for commercial purposes, outside complaint handling. One of my first steps on social media for the business was to run a trial to see if it was possible to drive revenues for our hotels. My main focus was to be reactive to what potential guests were writing rather than posting a lot of promotions on Facebook and Twitter. We managed to drive some bookings, but eventually decided that for our company, at that time, the effort was not worth the revenue made.

What do you believe are the benefits of using social media for hotels?

Social media provides a huge opportunity for hotels not only to drive business, but to improve the user (booking) and guest (staying) experience as well as to work more efficiently. The first thing a hotelier should look at though, is whether the hotel has sufficient resources and bandwidth to take an active approach to social media – it is not to be taken lightly. If executed well, based on a clear proposition and corporate image, social media can provide higher satisfaction rates through increased guest interaction and improved guest experience (not just of the hotel but also of the destination), additional revenues by generating extra bookings as well as up-selling ancillary services and efficiency by being able to do it all from behind your computer and speaking with multiple guests at the same time.

What do you think are common mistakes business owners make when building brand awareness on social media?

I see a lot of hotels who have given themselves a rule to post “at least once a day” or “at least four times a week”. Because they don’t understand the portion of their guests who are willing to interact with them on social media they end up just sending out promotional material (“please come stay with us on Valentine’s Day”). The keys to successful social media posts are:

-       Engagement: ask for or trigger a response

-       Relevance: make sure what you are saying actually interests your audience and is related to you and your business

-       Unique: do not post pictures of cute kittens or babies

Unfortunately, the amount of posts I see that just say “Happy Monday” or “Have a great weekend” is very high.

What qualities do you think hotel social media managers should have?

Empathy: if you can’t put yourself in a (potential) guest’s position you will not be able to formulate a good response and connect your company to that person.

Creativity: the amount of posts your audience sees is overwhelming, so if you don’t stand out you will not be noticed.

Communication: being able to hit exactly the right string of each individual is an art.

Perseverance and a drive to serve the audience: You will need to go out of your way, your comfort zone and very likely your budget to create memorable experiences for (future) guests – if you are not willing to finish the ride, you will not achieve your goals.

How do Business owners know if their social media campaign is working?

There are many ways to measure interaction, conversion, traffic increase, satisfaction, etc. However, keep in mind not all conversions will be visible (consider bookings via telephone or email). Let the data tell you the story and keep a clear record of KPI’s to ensure your investment (time and money) is worth the output. In the end anything you do needs to contribute to your business.

How do you see social media evolving over the next 5 years …what do you hope to see?

It would be great (from a commercial perspective) to be able to better integrate social media and digital advertising. Even though possible now to some extent on the operational side, the reporting and analysis is still very much broken up. At the moment it looks like social media are trying to push hard to monetize their platforms better. They realise they “own” a lot of users and are now trying to put those users to work to make them money. This is not all bad, but after an upcoming period of “over-monetisation” I believe we will go back to a more balanced situation where personal communication and information are top priority and where purchasing is possible when in the interest of the user.

If you could share one best practice about using social media to grow a hotel business, what would it be?  

Do a good 0-measurement: start by just listening. What was the situation like before you started communicating on all these channels, what are people saying about you? Use that as the foundation for your strategy going forward.

What are your favourite platforms for social media marketing?

I personally prefer YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram over Facebook and Twitter but I believe they each have their different purpose: Facebook and Twitter are more for communication (Facebook having priority because of size) where YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram provide a framework for upfunnel inspirational activity. These last three also require a lot more effort to manage as they involve creating video and images.

What tools do you recommend to manage these platforms? – What are the limitations for these tools?

When a hotel starts out with Social Media, there are plenty of free/affordable platforms out there you can use such as HootSuite or Tweetdeck. However, as you start to build momentum and build your community it could be worth investing in more advanced technology. This will specifically help you on the analytics side of things. The perfect tool will depend on the scale of your business and volume that needs to be monitored and managed.

Describe a hotel social media campaign that went really well.

Through an Instant Win contest on Facebook we gathered information on over 3,000 audience members that the hotel (4*, UK) was able to interact with. Cost per user was much lower than on any other promotion they had ever done.

How should a social media strategy be adapted to the hotel industry?

The main thing is to consider three types of users you will be speaking to and to be prepared and capable of handling all of them:

-       Your prospects: who may come and stay with you if you do well

-       Your current guests: who are in house and need help on a completely different range of things: from concierge services to an A/C-fix or extra blanket

-       Your previous guests: who stayed with you and can be turned into brand ambassadors if you did well. When you didn’t: service recovery.

Manal Bouchacra

Manal Bouchacra

Manal is interested in social media and is working on her creative writing skills. Outside of work she enjoys the gym and hanging out with friends and family.


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