Hoteliers are using the networking platform—which just got a boost thanks to its pending acquisition by Microsoft—to make connections, share content and advance careers.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Many in the hotel industry equate social media with guest interaction, such as responding to complaints on Twitter or promoting vacation photo sharing on Facebook.
But an active segment of hoteliers is seeing the benefits that come with business networking platform LinkedIn. They are using it to recruit talent, share content, connect with potential business partners and even investigate new jobs.
And thanks to its high-profile $26.2-billion pending acquisition by Microsoft—which was announced in June and is expected to close by year’s end—the 13-year-old company is back in the spotlight.
“It has matured into a very viable platform to allow networking,” said Bashar Wali, president of Provenance Hotels. “It’s multifaceted.”
That means many things for different executives and businesses, but the common element behind why they like LinkedIn, sources said, is that it facilitates organic networking with a bit of a digital assist.
Here are five tips for making the networking platform work for you.
1. Have a connections strategy
First and foremost, LinkedIn is about making business connections, but there’s more to it than simply accepting requests that come your way, sources said.
Mark Owens, managing partner of consultancy North 45 Hospitality Group, said maximizing LinkedIn’s tools for making connections is vital, especially if you’re in a position like he is; Owens is in a career transition, seeking a new professional position while consulting on the side.
Reconnecting with former employers and colleagues is a natural first step, but then targeting specific connections depends on your LinkedIn goals. For Owens, that means finding companies he might like to work with as a consultant or potential hire, seeing who he has in common with key people there, and asking via LinkedIn for introductions.
For Wali—whose goals on LinkedIn are more about establishing thought leadership—accepting just about everyone into his network has worked since it allows him to be exposed to lots of different content and reach a varied audience, he said.
The connection game isn’t just one-sided either. Wali and Owens said one of LinkedIn’s best traits—particularly for paid Premium users—is the ability to see who is viewing your profile and engaging with your content.
“If I see the name of a person who has looked at my profile, or liked an article, then I can check to see if it’s someone I’d like to know and possibly leverage that connection into a relationship for future business,” Owens said.
2. Promote the company story
Authenticity is the name of the game in hospitality these days, and that extends to business and networking experiences as well.
David Roedel, managing member of Roedel Companies, said LinkedIn is the only social network he uses because he’s seen the benefits.
“My main objective on LinkedIn is to promote the company, what we do and, more importantly, how and why we do it,” he said. “I’m very conscious that what I post is in line with our strategic plan, core values and why we do the work we do. It’s all about team process, recognition and getting things done. Every post should tie back to our reason for getting up in the morning and going to work.”
For Roedel, that might mean posting photos from a new property’s opening while calling out team members, sharing development news and even showing fun inspirational messages.
Recognizing the company’s work and its employees helps Roedel send the message that people are at the heart of the company’s success, which not only motivates current team members but attracts the right new hires who will fit with the company’s culture.
3. Establish subject matter expertise
Everyone tries to look their best on social media, and LinkedIn is no exception—only on this platform, the goal for many hospitality executives is establishing respect as a thought leader.
“If you see me posting really relevant content, you get the perception that I’m a subject matter expert,” Wali said.
That technique establishes the person posting as a thought leader, Wali said, which lays a great foundation for all of the networking possibilities LinkedIn offers. That image is cultivated from an authentic place.
“I look for news that resonates with me, and I share it on LinkedIn; it’s simple,” he said. “I keep it very relevant—95% is hotel-related, the rest is finance- or travel industry-related.”
That might be blog posts Wali writes himself to start conversations, but more often than not, it’s news from diverse sources.
“I’ll also share content from our competitors if they have compelling stories on there,” he said. “It shows we’re on the cutting edge, and not in an overtly self-promoting way.”
4. Recruit employees and market yourself organically
Beyond connections and content, careers are a huge focus of LinkedIn—namely, recruiting new talent, as well as marketing yourself for a new position.
While the platform has several paid options for advertising jobs, Wali, Roedel and Owens all said they have the best results posting and looking for opportunities more organically.
“We will sometimes use the advertising feature for employment, but when we have an opening, I will personally post a message about that opening and I get a lot of great hits,” Wali said. “If I’ve created a favorable picture of the company through my content posting, quality candidates will be more inclined to check us out.”
That approach works for Roedel, too.
“I know from recent hires that they research the companies they’re interviewing with (and many say) they like what they saw about us on social media through my LinkedIn page,” he said. “Every time we are hiring a key position, I track who is looking at my profile and when.”
Owens said that while he would consider looking at LinkedIn’s formal job listings to get an idea of what positions are out there, he definitely prefers connecting with potential employers personally through the site. The content he shares is a big part of how he promotes himself, both as a consultant and potential hire.
“I consider LinkedIn an online billboard for myself,” he said. “Based on the content I write and share, future employers and clients see that I’m up on the latest industry trends and that I’m engaged; I’m not sitting back on my laurels.”
5. Consider how your business partners see you there
But it’s not just about recruitment and self-promotion, sources said. Using LinkedIn as a place to facilitate top-level deals is happening more and more frequently.
For Alexandra Jaritz, global head of Hilton Worldwide Holdings’ newest brand, Tru by Hilton, LinkedIn is all about communicating with developers and owners of the nascent brand.
“We want the Tru by Hilton LinkedIn page to become a primary communications platform for the brand,” she said. “As such, (it) is being used to demonstrate that Tru by Hilton is a disruptive and fresh new hotel offering in the midscale category. It also helps to foster a culture of discussion and engagement with followers.”
That means that on the Tru by Hilton page, visitors might see development updates and owner testimonials, as well as more fun inspirational visuals that promote the brand’s uniqueness, or “behind the scenes” pictures and video from events.
Jaritz advised hoteliers to take advantage of the business-to-business communication capabilities of LinkedIn.
“Since many professionals spend a great deal of time on LinkedIn, conversion rates and leads tend to be higher (there) than on other social media platforms,” she said. “Additionally, since LinkedIn offers targeting capabilities specific to job titles and companies, content is more likely to be seen by the appropriate audience, helping to raise engagement.”
While Jaritz and her team do take advantage of some of LinkedIn’s paid functionality, like sponsored posts, she said remembering some basics—like knowing your audience, posting photos and engaging with followers—keeps any company or brand top of mind.
What’s next with LinkedIn?
As the company moves into its new position within Microsoft pending the closing of the deal, tech insiders are contemplating what changes may come to LinkedIn. Some speculate that the group functionality, which hotel sources admitted is less than robust, may go away. Others predict Microsoft will likely try to incorporate elements of LinkedIn into its CRM tools, and even into software like Word and Excel.
Hoteliers said increased exposure for the platform will be positive.
“There are so many possibilities on LinkedIn for future leaders who want to look at a different way of expanding their careers and becoming known as industry leaders,” Owens said. “I wish I had used LinkedIn better five years ago, before waiting until I was in the position I’m in now. I tell people, don’t wait until you’re ready to make a job change. Make a LinkedIn profile now and keep it relevant and keep engaged.”