REPORT FROM THE U.S.—As social networks evolve and consumers’ online patterns continue to shift, brands consistently must adapt their social media strategies to reflect new trends.
And some hotel brands are doing it better than others.
According to research conducted by social media software company Expion exclusively for HotelNewsNow.com, Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts and Best Western scored the highest in social engagement on Facebook during the third quarter of 2012.
These brands obtained the most fan actions (comments, likes and shares) per post out of the top eight largest global hotel brands. Out of 47 posts during the third quarter, Hilton averaged 973 fan actions. With 56 posts, Marriott averaged 808 fan actions per post, and Best Western, with 140 posts, averaged 393 fan actions per post.
HotelNewsNow.com caught up with each of these brands to learn more about how they stay on top of the social media game.
Hilton Hotels & Resorts: Responding yields results
The marketing team for Hilton Worldwide’s flagship brand Hilton Hotels & Resorts believes engagement begins with exceptional customer service.
“Our brand promise is to ensure every guest feels cared for, valued and respected, and our social media channels are an extension of this promise,” said Andrew Flack, VP of global brand marketing for Hilton Hotels & Resorts.
The brand has a presence on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, Foursquare and China’s microblogging website Sina Weibo.
“Our strategy for managing guest feedback includes four main goals: listen, respond, resolve and implement. We have teams in place who closely monitor our brand social channels 24 hours a day to ensure that issues are acknowledged and addressed,” Flack said.
In fact, the team is so dedicated to this strategy that earlier this year they created a Twitter handle, @HiltonHelp, solely to help its guest assistance team respond to guest inquiries and concerns.
“By nurturing these online relationships with our guests, we are able to foster a sense of loyalty with them,” Flack said.
And it shows in Hilton Hotels & Resorts’ social media statistics. “The brand’s Facebook following has increased by 185% in 2012, and engagement on both Facebook and Twitter has grown considerably,” Flack said.
Marriott Hotels & Resorts: Keeping it conversational
Having just launched its social presence on Facebook and Twitter in August 2012, Marriott International’s Marriott Hotels & Resorts brand has found that social media is one of the most effective ways to engage with Generation-X and Generation-Y travelers, according to Michael Dail, VP of global brand marketing for Marriott Hotels & Resorts.
The strategy seems to be working. As of 19 December, just four months after creating its page, Marriott Hotels & Resorts has more than 551,000 users following its updates.
“We have a straightforward social media strategy: To become a forum for dialogue and be more relevant to Gen-X and Gen-Y travelers,” Dail said.
By speaking in a unique, non-corporate way, the brand’s marketing team feels they have become more honest, transparent and ultimately more engaging, he said. “Social platforms and brand voice are all tailored in a conversational, edgy and humorous tone.”
But that doesn’t mean the brand isn’t using social media to address more serious matters. Marriott’s team is aware many consumers use these platforms to express concerns.
“We actively monitor the page seven days a week and incorporate three detailed, meticulous sweeps on every comment on a daily basis,” Dail said. “We aim to acknowledge the majority of posts and resolve any negative issues within (a) six- to 12-hour timeframe depending on the nature and severity.”
At the end of the day, the marketing team for Marriott Hotels & Resorts feels its social media strategy is in line with what the brand DNA and the service it delivers at its hotels, he said.
Best Western: Innovation is key
Whether Best Western is utilizing its online presence to discuss customers’ love for travel or to reward guests with incentives and deals, the brand is constantly innovating to meet customers’ wants and needs, according to Karmela Gaffney, managing director of marketing and e-commerce for Best Western International.
With Facebook and the brand’s travel blog, “You Must Be Trippin’,” as the most active and relevant channels, Best Western has garnered a following on Pinterest, Google+ and YouTube.
Gaffney has found that as the path to communication opens up via channels such as Facebook and Twitter, customers are sharing more honest details about their travel. “Each post and exchange is responded to,” she said. “We don’t have automatic replies.”
Throughout 2012, being innovative was crucial when it came to promoting the brand on social networks, she said.
Best Western’s “Be a Travel Hero” campaign on Facebook, which allowed fans to create unique travel groups when booking their next trip, helped springboard the brand to nearly 500,000 fans on the social networking site, Gaffney said.
Additional campaigns such as the “Best Western Fan Awards” and “Travel Faceoff” awarded prizes and garnered a significant number of likes and new fans on Facebook.
The brand is “continually adjusting (its) strategy, voice and tactics with the ever-changing platforms,” Gaffney said.