NASHVILLE, Tennessee—The key for beginners in social media is to focus on the basics and to allocate resources correctly, according to panelists who spoke at last week’s Hotel Data Conference.
Nicole Ragland, e-marketing manager for The Hotel Group, said the social-media strategy her company had before was somewhat nonexistent.
The more-than 25 properties in The Hotel Group’s portfolio had pages on various social networks, but those pages weren’t managed or updated consistently by the respective properties.
In an effort to maintain a uniform presence among the portfolio this year, “We eliminated everything, started from scratch … and rebuilt our Facebook pages,” Ragland said. “Twitter, Foursquare—we’re not on those this year.”
Ragland now conducts monthly calls with the social-media managers at each of The Hotel Group’s properties to check on their progress.
“Our strategy is minimal effort, maximum reward,” she said.
The social-media strategy in place today at Worldhotels is a result of analysis done by the management and sales team, said Edward Perry, senior director of e-commerce at the hotel group.
After analyzing all of the skill sets within the organization, executives had a better aspect of who were the people best fit to handle social-media efforts and which areas the company needed to seek assistance from third-party organizations.
“For us, it was a huge exploratory stage,” Perry said.
Because Worldhotels has properties around the world, “social media is a 24/7 (effort),” Perry said. “We quickly became aware that one person could not handle our needs around the world.”
To address that issue, the company has two social-media experts based in Frankfurt, Germany, to support Europe, one person in Singapore supporting Southeast Asia and another social-media specialist in Japan.
Drew Salapka, director of revenue management at Hotel Equities, said because the company has such a small staff, there is no one specifically designated to handle social media.
“For us, it’s (about) holding the properties accountable,” Salapka said. “Giving them the freedom of who is going to dictate the content, but it’s up to us to give them the guidelines of ‘don’t do this or don’t do that.’”
Where to focus social-media efforts
Don’t bite off more than you can chew, said John Fareed, CEO of John Fareed Hospitality Consulting. “Consumers just want you to be consistent,” he said.
Finding someone within the staff that’s clever, savvy, spells well and understands social-media technology is a simple way to start, he said.
The bottom line is “you don’t need to be on everything,” Fareed said.
With 69 million online visitors each month checking out TripAdvisor, Fareed said that’s probably the most important channel for hoteliers to focus on. However, when it comes to Facebook and LinkedIn, hoteliers should take into account if they are a leisure hotel or business hotel and if a presence on those sites is really necessary.
As for Twitter, “I tell people if they are not advanced users not to go on Twitter. It will eat you alive,” Fareed said.
Another important factor to consider is where the property is located, Ragland said. “A 250-room DoubleTree in a downtown location is going to have a very different personality than a 60-room Motel 6 in Alaska,” she said.
The staff of that Motel 6 in a rural part of Alaska should not waste their efforts on Facebook and Twitter because it’s highly likely the guests are not checking social-media networks for promotions and interaction.
Ragland said it doesn’t make sense for The Hotel Group to invest time and money on a Facebook page for a property whose customers are not digital consumers.
The status of social media
One of the more frustrating issues Fareed said he deals with is hoteliers who think that social-media marketing is waning.
“The problem that we have in the hospitality industry is that we’re not willing to invest in measurement,” he said.
Hoteliers do not invest in 800-numbers or unique URLs to find out from the consumer what’s working and what isn’t, Fareed added.
And asking for updates from hotel marketers is important as well. “When we’re doing marketing, we need to hold the people that are handling our money accountable,” he said.
“If we’re not doing those basic things, you are wasting your money,” Fareed said.