The travel industry is ahead of the curve when it comes to social media,
but in terms of originality and meaningful engagement hotels are lagging
behind. It seems like everybody is posting the same content, in the same
perky, cloying voice. Want to stand out from the pack? Here are a few tips
for strengthening your social media program and developing a singular,
authentic voice to evoke your brand.
1. Oh right Ö a plan. By now most hotels are tweeting
and status-updating their hearts out, but many have only a vague notion
why. A recent survey from HSMAI revealed that only 40% of hotels have a
social media strategy. Oops. Without knowing where youíre going, why, and
how youíll get there, youíre wasting time and creating brand confusion.
Relax, itís not too late. Back up the bandwagon and prepare a simple plan
that defines your strategy, objectives, resources, responsibilities, voice
and frequency. Then you can put the pedal to the metal.
2. Yes, another meeting. Your social media platforms should have
one distinctive voice, but behind the scenes itís a group effort. Approach
it like the revenue management function in your hotel: assemble a team,
comprised of managers and frontline employees from various departments
(ideally including the general manager and at least one social media whiz
kid); appoint a leader; and hold weekly meetings to review feedback and
analytics and to set messaging and objectives for the coming week.
3. Once upon a time there was a boring hotel. Traditionally,
hoteliers are great storytellers. With all the comings and goings of guests,
we have an enviable resource of content to draw from. And yet the majority
of hotel content is trite and uninspiring. If your followers arenít commenting
on, liking and sharing your content, itís a good indication they donít
care. Meaningful engagement means telling compelling stories that capture
the imagination of travelers and make them want to be a part of your hotel
4. Put your guests to work. Even better than hotel-generated
content is guest-generated content. Hold contests to encourage the sharing
of stories, photos and videos, and donít be chintzy with prizes. Search
YouTube and Flickr for photos and videos of your property and ask owners
to share them on Facebook. Grab a Handycam and notepad and go talk to guests
and staff. Et voila, fresh content and new connections.
5. We need to talk about your reputation. Yes, a lot of chatter
is taking place on Facebook and Twitter, but the real decisions are being
made on travel review sites. A recent study by PhoCusWright found that
more than two-thirds of travel shoppers are influenced by ratings. Itís
time to stop the finger-pointing between marketing and operations and to
start taking joint responsibility for monitoring, distributing and responding
to traveler feedback.
6. Drop the mouse and back away. Social media is like a new friend
whoís super-cool but a bit manipulative and kind of needy. Donít allow
it to distract you into neglecting your tried-and-tested old friends in
other areas of marketing. Be disciplined with your time, and constantly
ask yourself, ďIs this important and relevant?Ē If not, move on. And ignore
those ďTen Reasons Why Youíre a Social Media FailureĒ articles; theyíre
meant to scare you into buying services you probably donít need. Only you
know whatís right for your hotel.
7. Beware of the tweet factory. Some of the most inane social
media content comes from outsourced social media companies who clearly
donít get the hotel business. The most compelling, authentic content comes
from on-property, where employees have a finger on the pulse of operations.
Hire a social media strategist to help put together your plan, train staff
and provide guidance, but your ultimate goal should be to bring execution
in-house and to find a voice, tone and vocabulary as singular and authentic
as your hotel.
8. Memo to corporate office: loosen that death grip. Second prize
for inane content goes to corporate offices of chain hotels. Yes, itís
important for brands to have a social media presence, but travelers are
more passionate about individual properties than brands. To complement
brand platforms, corporate office should encourage properties to set up
their own platforms, providing support and guidance along the way to ensure
messaging is on-brand and on the mark.
9. Take the guesswork out. The success of your social media program
is measured not by how many tweets and updates you issue but by meaningful
engagement, conversions and reputation. Use analytics tools to evaluate
your activities and a social media monitoring tool to measure market share
of guest satisfaction. Take the time to understand the numbers, even if
it makes your head hurt, and channel resources to where youíre achieving
the best results.
Daniel Edward Craig is a former hotel general manager turned consultant
and the author of the Murder at the Universe and other hotel-themed books
and articles. His blog is considered essential reading for hoteliers, travelers
and students alike. Visit www.danieledwardcraig.com
or email firstname.lastname@example.org.