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A Social Media Refresh for Hotels

How to Manage Social Media Rather than Allowing it to Manage You

By Daniel Edward Craig, April 26, 2010 

Social media programs tend to start with a flurry of activity and then either take over our life or fade into obscurity. At one end of the spectrum is the coordinator whoís issuing updates every thirteen seconds and neglecting her other duties. At the other end is the manager who resents social mediaís insatiable appetite for time and creative energy and is neglecting it in favor of other duties.

The key is to find the right balance: to manage social media rather than allow it to manage you. A basic program can be administered in as little as ten hours per week, with excellent results for your hotelís reputation, relationships and bottom line. Here are some tips for investing your time in all the right places. 

Less is more. Social media is essentially about sharing content in the form of words, images and videos. This can be accomplished via as few as three platforms: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These platforms allow you access to both a mass market and niche markets. You can participate elsewhere if you have the resources, but better to do a great job on a few platforms than a mediocre job on multiple platforms. Social mediaís potential is significant but limited and should be allocated resources accordingly. The best programs are fully integrated with marketing and operational activities.

Listen first. Donít be that guy who barges into a conversation, says something out of context, and gets tuned out. Monitor first. Learn about what people are saying about your property, your destination and the travel industry. Then message. You can facilitate monitoring by subscribing to a listening tool that scans the web for mentions of your hotel and delivers a daily summary to your desktop. Be disciplined: get in, monitor, message, and get out. Otherwise youíll lift your head and itíll suddenly be four hours later. 

Make reviews a priority. If you do nothing else, monitor reviews of your hotel, share feedback with staff, and respond to complaints. TripAdvisor is the largest review site, but reviews are popping up everywhere, and Twitter is increasingly being used to air grievances. PhoCusWright reports that almost three times as many reviews were posted on online travel agencies than on traveler review sites last year. Moreover, OTA shoppers who visit review pages are twice as likely to convert. Yes, some reviews are false or exaggerated, but all the more reason to respond.

Leave out the boring parts. We all know someone who can tell a story about her old vacuum cleaner and have us in tears, and another person who can tell us about seeing his mother eaten alive by alligators and have us glancing at the time. Traveler reviews are compelling because they tell stories populated with facts, trivia, tips and humor. Use these elements in your messaging. Be spare with words and generous with imagery, and use hooks that make readers want to click for more. And remember, the subtext to every good story is your hotelís branding, mission statement and values.

Easy on the smileys and exclamation marks. Your tone should fit your hotelís branding. Be less formal than when dealing with guests in person, but not overly familiar, and always be professional. Show enthusiasm, but donít be cutesy or overly promotional. And by that I mean annoying -- it will cost you friends and followers. If people other than you think youíre funny, then by all means use humor, but never when dealing with complaints, and avoid sarcasm. Each platform has a different audience and communication style, so adapt your tone and messaging to the medium.

Think of social media as a cocktail party. While mingling, we tend to tune out the chatty Cathys, the braggarts and the Debbie Downers, and we donít even notice the quiet shy guy in the corner. Weíre drawn to passionate people who think before they speak and say things relevant to us. How often should you issue updates? As often as you have something interesting and relevant to share with your primary audience of guests and prospective guests, and not a peep or tweet more. That disqualifies photos from drunken staff parties and birth announcements from housekeeping. Unless someone had octuplets. 

Should you start a blog? Probably not. The web is a wasteland of abandoned Facebook pages, blogs and Twitter profiles. Blogs in particular are hard to maintain and time-consuming, often devolving into thinly disguised publicity vehicles or random posts from semi-literates. An abandoned social media platform is like a frayed carpet in your hotel lobby: it speaks of apathy and neglect and is off-putting when stumbled upon. A well-executed blog can give personality to your hotel and drive traffic to your website, but unless you have the skills in-house and are in for the long haul, channel your resources elsewhere. 

Turn guests into advocates. Out of ideas and content? No problem. The most compelling social media content comes not from hotels but from guests. Encourage them to use your platforms and their own to share stories, news, reviews, photos, videos and tips. You may be surprised by their enthusiasm. Itís okay if guest content is a bit amateurish -- in fact, itís more authentic. Be sure to acknowledge their efforts.

Comments or more tips to share? Post them at or email me at

Daniel Edward Craig is a former hotel general manager turned consultant and the author of the hotel-based Five-Star Mystery series. His articles and blog are considered essential reading for hoteliers, travelers and students alike. Visit or email


Daniel Edward Craig

Also See: Sales Leadership Tips for Hotel Managers / Daniel Edward Craig / April 2010
Tips for Managing Online Hotel Reviews: An Interview With TripAdvisor / Daniel Craig / March 2010
Social Media for Hotels: Taming the Beast / Daniel Craig / March 2010
Who is the Voice of Social Media in Your Hotel? / Daniel Edward Craig / December 2009
Does Social Media Make Your Head Hurt? Here Are a Few Helpful Resources for Hotels / Daniel Craig / January 2010

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