Monitoring comments and engaging potential customers via the social-media space is a must.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—In the emerging digital hotel world, updating the content and images on a hotel’s homepage is no longer enough. For hoteliers who really want to compete in the online space, monitoring comments and engaging potential customers via social media is a must.
And simply creating a Facebook account isn’t going to cut it. Posting and updating content to multiple outlets is just as important as keeping your website up to date, said Benji Greenberg, president of BCV, a company that helps hoteliers establish their online presence.
“Facebook and Twitter are littered with ghost accounts,” he said. “Having ghost accounts (accounts opened, but infrequently updated) is worse than not having them at all.”
For hoteliers, the most common questions regarding managing social media accounts are: Who should be doing it? How much time does it take? And what is my return on investment?
Greenberg and Michelle Wohl of Revinate, a third-party tool to help hoteliers manage social media, answered these questions and more on a recent webinar titled, “Facebook and Twitter for hotels–a best practices webinar.”
“It is a full-time job and more,” Greenberg said. “It can’t be, ‘I’m the front-desk manager, and I tweet a bit’ or, ‘I’m the marketing manager and I post Facebook updates.’ It takes a team of people to provide the content.”
He said hoteliers can utilize their contacts to provide real-time information to guests. For example, hotels can become a news source by posting information about local events or invite users to the hotel for new experiences.
Facebook best practices
The most beneficial use of Facebook for hoteliers is interacting and engaging with “fans.” Instead of using Facebook as a one-way street, encourage interaction between the online community and the hotel.
As an example, Greenberg suggested posting behind-the-scenes images instead of the stock images typically found on a hotel’s website. For instance, hoteliers could show pictures of the in-house chef creating a dish and then invite guests to come try it.
“Have fun. These type of photos give a sense of ownership to the user,” Greenberg said. “They’re seeing the work that goes into it.”
From there, hotels can engage potential customers, open up and answer specific questions from the guest. This will initiate a dialogue that will help hotels capture future bookings.
“When a guest comes on to the Facebook page and compliments you, you should respond almost immediately,” Greenberg said. “You want to make sure you are providing the same type of experience online as you would offline.”
Some hoteliers won’t understand this concept because online interaction won’t lead to immediate, tangible revenue. But social media is simply a new medium for customer service. Greenberg recommends his clients operate in social media with the basic goal of communicating.
“Potential customers could pick up the phone, but they’re already on this medium,” he said. “Your goals should be to get information to the right person as quickly as possible.”
If it’s done correctly, hotels can solicit information from potential clients by asking questions that give hoteliers real, live feedback. “Introduce new information through a fun platform,” Greenberg said.
Engaging users is critical as it paves the way for the ever-popular “viral” social media post.
Greenberg said amassing Facebook fans is about quality, not quantity. “It is not about getting 10,000 fans. I’d rather have 100 who are endorsing my page,” he said. “Focus in on finding the best audience for your page.”
And keep it simple. Don’t be pushy about advertising and marketing, Greenberg said. “At the end of the day, you’re not someone’s best friend, no matter how much you want to be. You’re a hotel,” he said.
Twitter best practices
The first step in establishing a hotel’s presence on Twitter is setting up a strategy to monitor tweets. Hoteliers should know the territory and know what their followers are talking about.
To acquire a following, make sure the Twitter handle and information is available on the hotel website. “Make sure the logos are prominent so users can go find you,” Greenberg said. “And look around for publications that have articles about your property.”
Then “build credibility with relevant information,” he suggests. “Do not sell. Do not sell these people.”
Early on in the hotel’s online life, Greenberg suggests linking from Twitter back to Facebook so fans can “Like” the Facebook page. “Then they’re in tune to future content and they might see something they like and come in,” he said.
When it comes to capturing bookings from Twitter, hotels should go about it by initiating an informed conversation. To do this, monitor questions or suggestions Twitter users are posting and reply with useful knowledge.
“We’re just here to help, to inform … that type of customer service will make or break the sale,” Greenberg said.
Hotels can capture competitors’ business on Twitter as well. But Greenberg suggests refraining from saying anything negative about the competition. If Twitter users are commenting about the restaurant at a hotel down the street, for example, you can tweet promotions from your restaurant.
“The most important thing you can do is be interesting,” he said. “This is not a one-way conversation. Look to your users for feedback—you’ll be able to monitor that success by click-throughs.”
How can hotels tell what social-media content is most engaging? Use free tools to measure impressions, daily reach and direct sales, Greenberg suggested. Even location-based services like Foursquare can help determine if a user came to the hotel after seeing it online.
“The number of engagements and interactions is really important,” he said. “Not a number of fans and followers but the percentage of fans and followers that are engaging. How many people are seeing our content? Where are they coming from?”
To help track this, Greenberg suggested offering rewards for fans and followers, such as 15% off certain items by mentioning the hotel on Twitter.