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Social Media for Hotels: Taming the Beast


By Daniel Edward Craig , March 9,  2010
dec@danieledwardcraig.com

If anything strikes fear in the hearts of hoteliers these days, it’s social media. Seemingly overnight, we’re expected to tune in to dozens of websites each day to make sure no one has badmouthed us or posted an embarrassing video. If they have, we’re obliged to respond in a courteous, guest-is-always-right manner, knowing that everyone is listening—travelers, clients, media and the competition. No pressure there.

We’re also expected to generate original content. Not the easy pleasantries we’re used to exchanging with guests, like “Good morning!”, “Superior or deluxe?” and “How would you like to pay for that bathrobe in your suitcase?”, but clever, meaningful things in text, image and video format. And regardless of how desperate we may be to fill our rooms, we’re forbidden from being salesy or overtly promotional. That will cost us friends and followers. 

Social media is like a difficult guest who demands so much attention we’re not convinced she’s worth the effort. She’s in our lobby now, demanding to speak to the manager, because she didn’t get her wakeup call—and missed her daughter’s wedding. Like any great leader, our first impulse is to run and hide. But that will only make things worse. So we gently take her aside, listen, learn, and use every tool at our disposal to turn her around. In essence, we tame the social media beast. 

Social media has wrestled control over what is being said about hotels out of the hands of hoteliers and placed it into the hands of our guests—and then handed them a megaphone. This is fantastic when guests are singing our praises, but vexing if they’re crying for blood. Fortunately, new tools are now available to help us harness the powers of social media. One such tool is Revinate, a hotel-specific solution that so impressed me I'm now collaborating with its experienced team.

For the hotel industry, social media is an all-encompassing term that includes traveler review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp, online travel agencies like Expedia and Travelocity, social networking sites, blogs, and content-sharing platforms like YouTube and Flickr. Hoteliers can debate the power of platforms like Twitter and Facebook to drive room sales, but the influence of traveler review sites, where a “Book now!” button is never far away, is undeniable. 

A major point of resistance to developing a comprehensive social media program is the time commitment involved. As a former general manager and director of sales and marketing, I recognize the hunted look in the eyes of my colleagues. During these challenging economic times, who has time to actively seek feedback when there’s a line of neglected guests outside our door? And yet we’re all too aware of the risks of turning our backs on the conversation. 

Part of the solution is to reduce our dependency on traditional marketing activities that have diminished in effectiveness, things like print ads and brochures, direct mail, print publicity, voice reservations and three-martini lunches. Our resources need to shift to where the action is; increasingly, travel research, decisions and bookings are taking place online.

At the same time, we can adopt time-saving applications that do the work for us. Tools that scour the web for text, photo and video mentions of our hotel and our competitors and deliver a daily summary to our desktop. For the cost of a room night per month, we can monitor performance in real time, share and respond to feedback, and drill down in areas where improvement is needed. A simple, intuitive interface is essential, of course, since hoteliers reserve all our patience for our guests.

By bringing guest feedback into the open, social media empowers travelers to compare not only rates but multitudes of opinions in a variety of categories, from service and rooms to value and overall satisfaction. By collecting, qualifying and organizing this feedback, tools like Revinate enable two game-changing new standards of performance measurement in the hotel industry: market share of guest satisfaction and market share of voice. 

Whether we’re a hotel owner, general manager or department head, we can no longer avoid that guest roaring for our attention in the lobby. By reallocating resources and utilizing newly-available tools, we can convert the social media beast into a powerful ally for managing our hotel’s reputation and strengthening our business. 



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 www.danieledwardcraig.com or email dec@danieledwardcraig.com
Contact:

Daniel Edward Craig
dec@danieledwardcraig.com

 

Also See: 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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