By Jordan Jones
In 1991 there was no way of foreseeing the impact that social media would have on the industry. Presently, 2.3 billion people are active on social media, and that number increases daily. Companies should no longer debate having a social media presence but rather HOW to utilize the various platforms to increase the experience for your guests and value for your hotels.
As a privately owned hotel development and hospitality management company, we implement our social media plan adhering to both the guidelines of the hotel brands we work with, as well as, our own ideas about what makes social media successful in the hospitality industry. It is always a collaborative effort to investigate the evolving social media trends, new platform features, and stay aligned with what our guests hope to experience from following our hotels on social media.
Most hotels are dependent on word of mouth and good reviews from loyal guests, which is what makes social media a natural marketing and branding tool. The use of social media platforms has become widespread, and travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their experiences. Whether it is used intentionally or inadvertently, the leaders within the hospitality industry cannot ignore the impact of the social media paradigm on their businesses.
Here are four lessons that we learned to effectively navigate the social media world in order to market our hotels, as well as our company:
- Respond, Respond, Respond
Because our hotels fall under many different brands, we are expected to adhere to each specific brand's social media requirements. For example, some hotels prefer using Twitter and ask us to post five times per week, while others leave the decision about frequency and usage to us.
At all times, we are expected to respond and serve as communicators for the brands, which means that we understand the value of attending to EVERY review that comes in, taking on the responsibility of directing guests to the correct sources as well as those concerning customer service.
It is essential in the hospitality industry to respond to messages within a certain amount of time – usually, within the first few hours. Communication in this format should be viewed in the same way we would treat a guest who is standing at our front desk.
- Treat TripAdvisor Like Any Other Social Media Platform
TripAdvisor is always considered in any hospitality business' social media strategy. As many hoteliers know, it is a huge source of information and perception to your potential guests.
TripAdvisor ranks hotels based on three factors: recently posted reviews, the quantity of reviews, and the quality of reviews. At times, it can seem difficult to convince your guests to engage and review your hotel (unless the review is negative). Trends report that people are more apt to post about a negative experience than a positive one, but our team put a system in place in order to help with quantity and frequency of feedback from guests. We developed review cards featuring Google and TripAdvisor, and we send them to each of our hotel teams to give to guests, hoping that they will be encouraged to post about their experience on the spot.
Overall, the main standard we adhere to is to consistently make sure that all general managers at all of our hotels are aware of any and all reviews – especially the less favorable ones. This is one of the most useful tools we have in order to improve our hotel and guest service.
- Improve Guest Engagement Through Campaigns
Recently, our DoubleTree in San Francisco created a campaign to encourage Facebook "likes" on its page by running a month-long competition offering a chance for bonus Hilton Honors™ points.
As points are always coveted by guests, the Facebook page received 1,500 "likes" in one month and the hotel, in turn, gave away 2,000 bonus points once a week to a random responder who had taken the time to follow the page.
Another successful campaign occurred last year around a Thanksgiving Buffet at Canyons Restaurant + Bar in our Boulder Marriott hotel. Candidly speaking, we were unsure how our audience would react to the offer, as we know that Thanksgiving often revolves around families gathering in a home. However, we posted it out on Facebook as a regular post, and drove it with the message of "a delicious buffet – without any of the dishes" and within a few days, we saw our results surpassed our initial expectations. (It might have helped that we offered – for guests of legal drinking age – a free glass of champagne!)
We then put a small amount of advertisement money behind it and made clear exactly what our restaurant would be serving, and ultimately, we had 65 people attend the buffet, and about 30 confirm that they saw it on Facebook.
- Consider the Overall Guest Experience
We have learned time and again that in hospitality, people don't necessarily care about the hotel they're staying at (especially if it mimics others within the same brand) but they DO care what they can do around the hotel. Is it walkable to landmarks? Are hip bars nearby? Running trails? Kid-friendly stores?
We've found that posting videos is an easy way to get people engaged with the hotel as well as what is around it. Sometimes, hotels send us content about any events they have on property or nearby, or perhaps, if they want to showcase an employee, they will send us a picture and the content behind it. They'll send Christmas trees and Halloween outfits to personalize the hotels so people don't think of it as just another hotel. By posting about associates, we humanize our hotel so our great associates are given attention as well as the hotel culture itself.
As another part of our social media plan, we make an effort to share updated information on things to do in the local area, and we connect with the local businesses nearby that could advise their guests on our accommodation offerings. Is there a local landmark, attraction or tourist hotspot near the hotel? Follow their pages and promote their services to your followers. People will repay the favor.