By Daniel Edward Craig

On the heels of a wildly successful public offering and with over 230 million monthly active users, Twitter has emerged as an important marketing and guest service channel for hotels.

But the social network has a distinct vernacular that can be confusing and intimidating. Whether you're a novice or a seasoned pro, here are nine best practices for making make the most of your Twitter presence.

1. Write a bio that kicks

Your profile is the most important message you'll ever write on Twitter because it helps people decide whether to follow you. You can't say it all in 160 characters, so choose a few keywords to describe your hotel and then say something that sets your feed apart, such as local tips, a unique passion or a value proposition.

For inspiration, check out any Kimpton property such as @Kimpton and @KimptonInPHL, as well as @DistriktHotel and my all-time fave @Banff_Squirrel.

2. Cultivate a community

The more followers, the greater your reach-but it's not just about numbers. Buying a list or indiscriminately following users in hopes they'll follow back will only result in droids and people with no interest in your brand.

Cultivate a community of users who share an affinity for your hotel or destination by using directories like Wefollow and Twellow and checking out followers of industry partners and hotels similar to yours. Then grow your following organically by being active, resourceful and likeable, by sharing and commenting on interesting, relevant content, and by including links and @ mentions. And use hashtags to find, follow and contribute to topics and to help people find you.

During our recent ReviewPro webinar, All about Twitter, Just for Hotels (#TwitterForHotels), Mike De Jesus, Twitter's Head of Travel, said that Promoted Accounts, a paid product, can help supercharge your following by targeting users by interest such as travel, food and wine.

For inspiration, check out The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, which has grown its following to over 219,000 by tweeting about events, local info and promotions and by keeping things fun, interactive and conversational.

3. Listen first

Think of Twitter less as a broadcast channel than a listening channel. If nothing else, set up a profile to capture mentions of your brand through email alerts.

What makes Twitter particularly unique is that many tweets are sent in real-time, often by mobile device, about what people are doing and thinking right now. That's an advantage for travel and hospitality companies, De Jesus told hoteliers who joined ReviewPro's webinar. "More people use social media to talk about what they're doing in real-time while on vacation or planning trips. There's an opportunity to connect with them in a relevant way."

Sasha Kerman, content and community manager for the luxury boutique hotel operator Red Carnation Hotels, would agree. "We use Twitter as a tool to listen to our guests and provide them with the best experience possible," she told me. This includes sending welcome tweets to guests they know use Twitter and occasionally surprising them with a personalized in-room amenity.

To create efficiencies, Kerman said, "for day-to-day management we use Hootsuite and Twitter apps, as most of our (social media) champions are front of house and on the go. For reporting and tracking we use ReviewPro, Gorkana and Klout. We also use ReviewPro to track engagement and assess the competition."

4. Act quickly

"Customer service is the most effective use of Twitter for us," said Piper Stevens, director of social media at Loews Hotels & Resorts. This includes "being able to answer questions quickly and remedy issues for our guests that are on property."

Travelers often use Twitter to vent, and by acting quickly and taking the matter offline hotels can resolve an issue before it escalates. Done well, you might even turn an upset guest into an advocate.

Corinthia Hotels actively monitors Twitter and has a policy of responding within an hour, said Jason Potter, Corinthia's head of social media. On one occasion the company picked up a tweet from a guest with the hashtag #checkinfromhell.

"We managed to get the guest's personal details via direct message and sent management to his room," said Potter. "Later the guest completely reversed his opinion of the hotel and tweeted his pleasure, using the hashtag #service".

5. Think before you tweet

What to tweet, and how often? There are no hard and fast rules. Tweet when you have something to say that will be interesting to followers and relevant to your hotel or destination. That might include travel wellness, playlists for the road or eco-friendly travel.

Twitter works particularly well as a concierge service, for sharing information about local events, shopping, restaurants and activities. As an example, De Jesus cited this tweet from @PalomarDallas: "Heading to the State Fair of Texas? Use rate code BTX for your stay with us. (Link to website) #dallas #hotel."

To maintain good Twitter etiquette, don't tweet rampantly or sound off. Use direct messaging or start with the @Name to avoid clogging followers' feeds with private tweets. And don't feel obliged to use all 140 characters. Oh, and easy on the hashtags-they can #clutter #the #brilliance of #your #message.

6. Write promotional tweets that get noticed

You don't want to lose followers with relentless selling, but many people follow brands on social networks specifically to receive promotions and discounts. So don't disappointment them.

To maximize the impact of promotional or "direct response" tweets, De Jesus recommended including a compelling offer, a strong call to action and a sense of urgency. Words like "exclusive", "free", "sale" and "win" drive higher click-through rates, he said. He also advised keeping them free of distractions like hashtags, @mentions and imagery.

7. Incorporate rich media

Imagery can be an effective way to grab attention, and Twitter's recent design changes give them higher prominence. De Jesus recommended using photos and videos to showcase your offerings in a visual compelling way.

The Cavendish Hotel's #ValentineVine contest invited users to submit a romantic video via Vine, Twitter's six-second video service, for a chance to win a complimentary stay. The campaign was so popular it reached an estimated audience of 3.5 million on Twitter alone, said publicist Krista Booker.

8. Integrate Twitter into the guest experience

To encourage guests to use Twitter while in house, Loews Hotels and Resorts prints its Twitter handle on keycards with the message "Tweet Dreams." In Vegas, the Mirage hotel has a Twitter Wall in its lobby featuring a live Twitter stream and dedicated hashtag #MirageLobbyTalk. And London's Corinthia Hotel has Twitter TV, an in-room channel that displays hotel tweets, mentions and information to help enhance guests' stay.

During the webinar, Marco Fanton, director of social media at Meliá Hotels International, told us about Meliá Sol Wave House, the first "tweet experience" hotel, which offers Twitter-themed rooms and drinks and in-room hashtags like #FillMyFridge and #AskMe700. The hotel also has two tweet concierges on staff and a closed virtual Twitter community called #SocialWave.

9. Drive and measure ROI

So how to monetize Twitter? During the webinar, RJ Friedlander, CEO of ReviewPro, shared how one client uses ReviewPro to prospect for business by monitoring keywords like "recommend + hotel + destination" and "hotel + event". "It's a way to drive direct, measurable ROI and engage users in meaningful way during the discovery process," he said.

De Jesus discussed another paid product that allows businesses to find users based on keywords in a tweet such as "Thanksgiving" and "holiday" and to insert a promoted tweet in their timelines.

To track ROI on campaigns, use hashtags, booking codes, and landing pages. Tools like Google Analytics and Bit.ly will help track website traffic and conversions.

As a final example, The Cavendish's Theatre Break Competition for the production of Singin' In The Rain received 1017 retweets, over 800 Facebook entries and a 52% newsletter subscription rate, said Booker.

Now that's something to tweet about.

Click here to view the All about Twitter, Just for Hotels webinar. For info about paid opportunities on Twitter, visit business.twitter.com. For more info about ReviewPro visit www.ReviewPro.com

About Daniel Edward Craig

Daniel Edward Craig is a former hotel general manager and the founder of Reknown, a consultancy specializing in social media strategy and online reputation management for hotels and the travel industry. He collaborates with ReviewPro as Industry Advisor. Visit www.reknown.com.

Copyright: © 2013 Daniel Edward Craig

Contact: Daniel Edward Craig

dcraig@reknown.com

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