Thanks to social media, the role of the hotel manager has gotten a lot more complicated. How are they faring so far?
Well, who hasn’t received a friend request in recent months from a sheepish GM who has finally accepted that this Facebook nonsense isn’t going away?
Social media, and review sites in particular, now play such an important role in how travelers make decisions and share experiences it would be negligent for the Fearless Leader not to have a least a basic understanding of how the major channels work. And there’s no better way than to climb into the driver’s seat.
Granted, some hotel staff would prefer their GM stay as far away from the steering wheel as possible. And isn’t a GM’stime better spent kowtowing to guests and haranguing employees than crafting cutesy tweets about doggie VIP packages?
No question. But at a minimum he or she should be providing strategic direction and ensuring that guest feedback receives proper attention and social activities are focused, on-brand and, well, not flakey.
In this third installment of the Dedicated to Social Media series, I interview a GM who is actively involved in social media and enjoying many benefits as a result.
I first met Ciarán Fahy last year at the Hotel Marketing Conference in London, when he tapped on my shoulder and informed me that in less than a year since his property, the 230-room Cavendish London, had started actively managing and responding to TripAdvisor reviews it had climbed 18 spots on the Popularity Index.
In November I stayed as a guest of The Cavendish and sat down with Fahy to find out more about how the property handles the social media function. Here’s a condensed and edited version of our subsequent Q+A session.
Tell us about your hotel.
The Cavendish is an independent four-star hotel situated on Jermyn Street in Mayfair, five minutes’ walk from Piccadilly. The hotel achieves the highest revpar of any four-star hotel in London and has won numerous service awards in recent years, including being the only hotel in The Sunday Times’ Top 100 Best Small Companies to Work For.
As Managing Director I am responsible for all aspects of the successful operation of the hotel. We have no corporate head office; we have to develop and implement all our own strategy. I have an outstanding team of leaders that support me. We work as a team to ensure that we continually invest in the people and the property.
How does your hotel manage the social media function?
The social media strategy is part of the annual sales and marketing plan. It is created by the revenue manager and the business development coordinator, who is in charge of day-to-day tasks (like regular postings) and the creation of less regular but equally important activities like Facebook and Twitter competitions.
We started to get serious with social media three years ago, initially working with our public relations company as a resource. However, we found that to be effective we needed to resource it on property-to ensure we are responsive, able to action guest requests quickly, [publishing] relevant content and, most importantly, building relationships with current and prospective guests.
What role do you play in social media?
My role is to ensure our strategy is resourced. I continually provide suggestions for blogs and content and seek opportunities to gain coverage and align it with our overall communications strategy. We still have a professional PR company for traditional media. I keep up to date with trends and developments and ensure we keep pushing our business forward [and] improving levels of guest service, leadership development and people engagement.
Initially it was recommended that I write the blog [but] I quickly discovered writing is not my strength and it was not an effective use of my time.
Which social media platforms do you find most effective?
Facebook and Twitter. We use them in tandem to drive visitors from Twitter to Facebook and vice versa, and ultimately to our website to generate sales [and to] engage with customers to build loyalty and to understand their needs better.
What distinguishes The Cavendish when it comes to social media?
We have a team member exclusively dealing with guest requests, responding to comments, generating content, coordinating activities and working with our web designers to update the site with content and links. This means that requests are responded to within a few hours and the changes made to ensure they are fulfilled.
We align activity with our public relations strategy and have over a dozen people in the hotel involved to ensure we generate a lot of interesting content.
Tell us about one of your more effective social media campaigns.
We held a cocktail tasting for bloggers that generated a lot of coverage for the bar. A number of Facebook competitions and promotions have combined generated over £30k in new revenue for the hotel.
How do you measure results of social media activity?
We track Google rankings, room bookings generated and growth in Facebook fans. We track activity of hotels in our [competitive] set, their growth in followers, any updates in content, etc. In the monthly revenue meeting all bookings generated from the various campaigns are discussed with the team.
We [also] review all our activity as part of our monthly marketing and sales review. The team evaluates activity against bookings to enable us to monitor the impact of the myriad of activities we undertake both direct and with our distribution partners.
As with most hotels it is difficult to quantify the monetary impact of our investment in social media; however, our objective is to the best in everything we do and we are working to stay ahead of developments. We take every opportunity to take part in online seminars and attend workshops. We leverage social media channels to promote The Cavendish London as a great place to stay and work.
Do you use a reputation monitoring tool?
We use ReviewPro. The hotel manager highlights feedback from ReviewPro at the weekly operations meeting. Any service shortfalls are discussed and a fix put into place. We also use the competitive set ranking in our month end report as an indicator of service quality. ReviewPro enables us to determine how we perform relative to our competition-a useful to benchmark [given that] all our other guest service measures are internal.
Name a company that inspires you when it comes to social media.
Red Carnation Hotels. They maintain regular communication with their clients and convey the personality behind their brand by using lots of content on their people and [showing] how they are different to the major brands.
What advice would you give other hotels that wish to achieve similar success with social media?
Resource it properly and align the activities of sales, marketing, revenue, food and beverage and human resources. Share updates with everyone on the team and get as many people engaged as you can.