Social media in all its forms took a prominent role within seminars presented at this year’s International Hotel, Motel & Restaurant Show (IHMRS) in New York. Moderated by Peter Yesawich, Jr., a travel and tourism industry consultant, “From Clicks to Packed Bags” brought together three hotel social media marketers for a lively discussion on the ways sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others can help or hurt your brand. Following are highlights from the session.
*Make it personal: Social media is not about blasting messages out, said Krista Parry, director of marketing & communications for Park City Mountain Resort, Utah. Added moderator, Yesawich: “We call it, ‘Spray and pray.’” Panelists agreed the tactic doesn’t work well, as it smacks of selling rather than engaging. Rather, marketers must create a dialogue and offer something of use to followers and fans.
*Be a regular: Consistent, regular engagement builds the brand and gives guests confidence in it. “If you don’t have the time to invest in social media, it’s better not to do it,” said panelist Brian Simpson, director of digital media for Vikram Chatwal Hotels. When followers see you respond consistently, it builds trust. With Twitter, companies need to be engaged throughout the day. “I’ve heard people say they tweet every four or five days – that’s ridiculous. Don’t go live until you’re ready to read and monitor it regularly, or else it can hurt your reputation.”
*Don’t shy away from negative comments: Along with regular engagement comes the monitoring of, and response to, problems. “Negative stuff happens,” said Simpson. “It’s the indifference to it on social media that matters.” If you handle it correctly, however, you score points.
*Create useful content: Hoteliers need to think about becoming a kind of mini publisher, creating compelling content to drive people back to their sites, said Parry. To properly create and manage content and social media channels, a dedicated staff is necessary.
*Stop syndicating content: Yes, applications like HootSuite make it easier to post to several social media sites at once, but don’t blindly offer the exact same content to your Twitter community as you do to your Facebook one. Followers and fans engage in Twitter and Facebook differently; you should be writing differently for each, said Parry. Facebook gives you more room to expand, as well, so you can offer commentary and added value.
*Empower employees: “Most hotels should be empowering every employee to address guests’ inquiries on social media,” said Simpson. They can be your social media force; the more you respond to guests, the better the guest experience will be. Just as companies conduct telephone sales training and customer service call center training, they may look to offering staff social media training.
*Measure performance: You need to be aware of how long users are spending on your site, what they’re doing and whether the efforts you’ve made have been worth it, said panelist Stephen Landau, creative director for interactive agency, Substance. Everyone should be watching and tracking analytics. Landau said he believed mobile applications would become increasingly important to travelers, who often have different needs across the length of their trips.
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