The value social media plays in a hotel’s success has been debated for much of the past year. No matter what side of the fence you may happen to sit, I think we can all agree it definitely changed our world as hoteliers. Although we still are not completely sure how to measure return on investment, we do know social media has changed our customer outreach forever.
In attempting to make sense of the “social” world, the concept of customer engagement has come to the forefront. Engagement takes on many faces for social-media evangelists. Whether it represents “likes,” shares or comments on Facebook, or retweets on Twitter, we seek the approval of our followers to measure the effectiveness of whatever it is we are trying to communicate. We carefully monitor these valuable interactions and seek to correlate them to building a lifelong customer or at least a short-term “friend.”
Social-media engagement is a two-way street
At times, a key component missing in our engagement as hoteliers is reverse engagement. In a world driven by results, do we show as much commitment to our customer needs as we hope our customer will show us? In other words, have we recognized engagement is a two-way street?
The beauty of technology today is we have so many wonderful tools at our disposal, if we would only use them to their fullest extent. For instance, take your best customers. They could be corporate clients or even regular guests coming from a segment that means a lot to you. Have you considered looking at their Twitter and Facebook accounts to better understand what they value as humans in cyberspace? Would it not be a unique client experience for them to receive a personalized welcome message in the room with, “Welcome! We see you like golf. If you have some time during your stay, our concierge would be more than pleased to schedule a round for you at the local course.” Sometimes, it’s the simplest things in life that can turn a client into a long-term and loyal client of your brand.
Pre-trip outreach is another thing that has become a lot easier these days. It would benefit properties eager to snap up incremental business to use simple Twitter functionality to attract new guests. By performing a simple search on Twitter, such as looking for #Orlando, we have immediate insight into those traveling to a destination. How about engaging clients still uncertain about where to stay with an exclusive offer to attract them to your product offering? What better way to say, “We want your business,” than to engage potential customers in a manner in which they may feel most at home? This isn’t even the tip of the iceberg in terms of understanding what we have to offer our followers. Simply by looking at their profile, we can determine the levels of interaction we can have with them and the people they follow, as well.
Building social-media relevance
One of the biggest opportunities we have seen in many months (yes, the world of social media moves that quickly) is our fans’ Klout scores. For those not yet acquainted with Klout.com, now is the time. Klout is at the cusp of distinguishing social-media pros from the rookies as it comes to influence over the Internet. Whether we agree with the principle or not, sites such as Klout give us firsthand knowledge as hoteliers of our guests’ social behaviors. Thanks to products such as HootSuite (Pro Package), hoteliers can immediately look up the Klout scores of their followers and use that information to draw educated guesses about them to serve them better, either simply as members of your community or as actual guests.
Finally, engagement can take on simpler, more streamlined paths. When is the last time you asked your guests, either at registration or upon check-out, whether you may follow them on Twitter or Facebook? Although some guests may not be amenable, others would welcome the chance of being courted by brands they value. When is the last time you openly asked socially engaged individuals to be your guests? The Roger Smith Hotel in Manhattan, a Worldhotels property, has raised the bar in this regards by making it easier to “like” them. Roger Smith Hotel regularly runs campaigns to attract new clients on its own social-media portal. It’s amazing what engagement you can create with social celebrities when you just embrace being social as a cornerstone of your business values.
The next time you seek engagement from your social communities, take a look from within. Ask not what your followers can do for you, but rather what you can do for your followers. Chances are they will embrace your engagement and return to you tenfold in terms of loyalty to your brand.
Edward Perry is Global Senior Director of Social Media, OTA Partnerships and Innovation Projects, Worldhotels. He is also Secretary to the Board of HEDNA, the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association. HEDNA U, the association’s educational offering, looks at e-distribution issues including social media.
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