I. QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY
When I ask hoteliers what their goals are for any given Social Media campaign, undoubtedly I still get the answer “I want to be in the top listing on Trip Advisor”, or “I want 10,000 Facebook Fans, or Twitter followers” While this is at a minimum very unrealistic for any new campaign, it is not the mindset that is going to generate business or increase customer loyalty. The point I always try to clearly explain is this, Social Media is not necessarily a numbers game, it is more contingent on the quality of the fans, followers and reviews you have on your respective sites. Let’s start with Trip Advisor. If you have 100 reviews, but they all have negative effects in them, you could be number one all you want, it won’t get anyone in your doors, in fact it will drive them strait to a neighboring property.
Looking at Facebook, if you have 10,000 fans, but none of them ever visit your page or interact on the page it is a big waste of everyones time. For a time not so far back, there were a lot of people buying Facebook fans to pump up their profiles. While this was a waste of money, it was also useless as these fans (supposing they were active profiles) were most likely never going to stay at your property, much lesscheck out specials, leave comments and suggest updates they would like to see.
So what is the correct way to find fans, followers, likes or good reviews that will help increase bookings, and generate customer loyalty. The first thing I tell clients may seem so obvious and commonplace, but it is the staple of any quality hotel. CUSTOMER SERVICE speaks for itself, treat your guest right, go the extra mile by embedding this into your corporate culture and training programs, and your customers will move mountains for you. I did a survey awhile back that addressed the common misconception of customers only writing reviews when a negative experience occurred. I found the opposite, and current statistics will tell you the same.
“ The vast majority of consumers who post online reviews are overwhelmingly motivated by goodwill and positive sentiment”, according to survey conducted by the Keller Fay Group, which surveyed some 1,300 online reviewers. (Keller Fay, 2012) If you are positive your customer has had a good experience, make sure your front desk agents are asking your guests to go online and write a review on Tripadvisor. Make certain to print your Facebook and Twitter page url on the bottom of their settlement, and reward them for posting their experience on these two sites. Encourage them to book directly through your fan page as most hotels now have special packages directly bookable via Facebook, which are only available to fans. Use location based features, and offer a free meal to the guest who checks in via Facebook places or any other location feature such as Foursquare the most often that month. Facebook now has a feature that let’s a guest check into an event, as well which then shows up on the users timeline for all of their friends to see. Jet Blue has done an amazing job by offering fans who check in frequent flier miles.
II. SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT ONLY FOR THE YOUNGER GENERATION
Earlier this year I was a convention speaking to a G.M of a large hotel who was convinced that most of their clientele (or the type of clientele this particular hotel would prefer to attract) would not be offering a considerable contribution in most of these social mediums. This is something I had thought was a hurdle we had long since overcome, but this is clearly still a misconception that needs to be addressed. 62% of adults worldwide use some type of Social Medium daily (mashable, 2012), yes daily folks. To bring this to a more tangible example, next time you are out look at the number of people with smart phones, grandparents and grandchildren alike all use them and most of the time they spend on their smart phones is in Social Mediums. Every brand, Independent and chain should have specific campaigns which target different demographics such as market, age, sex, target audience, and finally type of Social Network. With the major success of Tumblr and Instagram hoteliers need to be sure they are represented in these mediums.
III.HIRING SOCIAL MEDIA EXPERTS OUTSIDE OF THE HOTEL TO RUN YOUR CAMPAIGNS AND HOW AND WHEN TO USE CONSULTANTS.
This is a matter of opinion, but the true experts on your property are exactly that, on your property. Hiring a firm to run your entire Social Media Campaign who isn’t living and breathing the daily goings on at the hotel will not be privy to the pulse of your audience nor know how to answer their questions in the way they would expect a staff member to do. As being someone who ran a large Social Media Company at the very start of the boom, I can tell you that the best content always came from my endless interviews each week with staff and guests at the hotel.
Nothing I could drum up based on my years of marketing experience could compare to being there and experiencing the day to day issues and celebrations that properties should use in daily updates. This is not to be mistaken with Social Media companies which have tracking software, multi platform update capabilities, reputation alerts, and offer consultancy expertise. These are vitally important in obtaining an accurate picture of your efficacy in multiple networks, and if you are new to a specific medium they can offer the best way to navigate and positively engage users on that particular site. They also come in very handy if you want your Social Networks to be uniform with your brand design. As API Codes on Facebook are ever changing, (and ever frustrating to the user) and new networks with entirely different coding pop up monthly, this can be a daunting task to even the most experienced designers.
My contention is simply this, hiring someone in a different city or country for that matter to deal with your social networks so you don’t have to will never be half as effective as using your own staff. The beauty of social networks is the ease of use, and the quick response time. Potential guests need not wait on hold to get answers to their last minute questions, and best of all it doesn’t tie up endless customer service agents.
The problem facing everyone today, is lack of expertise and general know how to both run and capitalize on all fronts concerning social media. To do social media well you really need to be a bit of an all a-rounder Not only is it crucial that you can navigate the site, spell correctly, and avoid grammatical errors, you need to be good at marketing, strategy, analytics, reporting, customer service, and communication… and it helps to have an individual who can keep calm, as these sites can be daunting and stressful. There are not too many people that satisfy all these areas, I know of about 10 myself who I can say without a shadow of a doubt have it down to a science, and having been one of them who designed and implemented large scale campaigns for hotels and hotel groups I can tell you it requires a lot of dedication, interest and a personal investment in seeing it through. Just like your public relations, or your marketing representatives, this person will be the voice of your brand and speaking directly to your consumers.
You do NOT want to hire the wrong person for this job. You can do a whole load of damage very quickly, and wind up a social media blunder that we point out as what not to do for future clients. Do not fret, it isn’t as ominous as it seems, I myself have trained several people to use these sites and use them well, I simply want to stress the importance of this role and the understanding that time spent on research is imperative in your hotels success. The biggest reason companies fail to reap the rewards of social media is lack of planning and conducting an in depth analysis of the current climate.
IV. NO INVOLVEMENT IN THE NEWEST MEDIUMS SUCH AS TUMBLR OR INSTAGRAM
The beauty of Social Media (or curse) however you look at it, is that new Social Networks are popping up nearly every 6 months. These two are ones that I absolutely contend will be here for the long haul. The question that my clients have, is how do we use them and what is the benefit. These are the most underutilized, and are as of yet an untapped resource for hoteliers to capitalize on.
There aren’t a lot of front runners from our Industry that have the following some other Business to Consumer Companies have and if done correctly can be the biggest success your hotel has this year on Social Networks. For those of you unfamiliar with these sites, I explain them very briefly below, but keep in mind this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Tumblr is a blogging platform that doubles as a social network. For a hotel having a built in blog gives them a captive audience, and unlike other blog sites the manner in which content is liked, reblogged and followed is unique, which allows it to go viral much faster than on any other blogging medium. Instagram is a free photo sharing application that gives users the ability to showcase their art, brand, or interest in purely a visual format. Instagram, or IG as it is more commonly known was until recently solely a mobile application, which creates a unique aspect in that regard alone. According to Wikipedia, “As of April 2012, Instagram reached 30 million users”. (Instagram, 2012) It is growing fast and companies are taking notice, but hotels are the minority on this network, so if you want a new medium and you are willing to take on the challenge, now is the time to capitalize. We cannot be afraid to delve into new waters and test new social sites, what must remain important is the amount of time you are dedicating to each site and what your ROI is from each medium. While Tumblr or Instagram may not give you those extra bookings strait away if your spending an extra 15 minutes and people are interested in your images, see it through.
Everyone will have their favorite forumns that they enjoy over others, but it’s important to gauge what kind of results each site brings in and the quality of fans or followers you have, that may be reblogging or reposting your content. That above all is the true test of sustainability for your brand, to get people talking about your product in a positive way.
V. ITS NOT ABOUT YOU
People forget the reason people are on social networks is because they relate to friends, relatives and things they like and want to know about, personally. Social media campaigns fail because they forget to make it about the user, nobody cares what you want to talk about, the key is figuring out what users want you to talk about. Make sure to research what your target audience wants to know about, and what their online habits are, then simply ask them what they would like to most hear about on a regular basis. We tend to get hung up on making ourselves look silly by having to poll our audience for content ideas, but don’t! Fans on your sites will appreciate being heard and if their topics make it to the social sites, they will be thrilled. Remember to keep all your content interesting to your users, frequent contests, using user generated content, answering their questions, and thinking outside the box is what makes a campaign successful and memorable.