Recently I was lucky enough to be sitting in a room with a group of thought-leading hoteliers who make powerful decisions about where resources should be allocated on a daily basis. The topic of social media arose—always an interesting topic with leaders in this industry.
One gentleman started with the same rhetoric I’ve heard over and over again:
“I think we as hoteliers go for the next shiny object, and the next shiny object is social media ... I think we realize right now with the limited resources we have is to find a way to leverage the traffic coming out of the social-media sites …”
Fair enough. While I don’t agree social media is just another shiny object and using it as a traffic driver is barely scratching the surface of social media’s potential, it’s a good first step.
What really caught my attention, though, was the subsequent part of this gentleman’s sentence, when he attempted to list a few social-media sites as examples:
“… We have to find a way to leverage the traffic coming out of the social-media sites, whether it’s Facebook … and … forgive me, I am not very savvy …”
It’s that part of the statement that made me cringe a little.
How can hoteliers be making important decisions about allocating resources to a field they know little to nothing about? If you can’t name another social-media site beyond the overused and already past-its-prime Facebook, you should not be making decisions about how your hotel company leverages social media.
These are the same business leaders still writing typo-infused email on a company-issued, outdated Blackberry, yet pontificating about how mobile demand represents only a “drop in the bucket” to the hotel industry.
Hoteliers shouldn’t be making decisions on where to allocate resources without truly understanding what the respective platforms have to offer.
Maybe social and mobile aren’t directly driving demand today, but that’s not the point. In the near future, with the right resources allocated, social and mobile will have major, revolutionary, flip-it-upside-down impacts on hospitality as a whole. It’s about having the foresight to see that now and use the platforms to grab the guest before your competitor does.
What some hoteliers don’t understand is that a traveling public that relies on mobile and social communication for nearly every facet of their lives is not some niche traveler in the distant future. It’s the young people traveling today—the moms and dads taking their kids on their first vacation, the corporate traveler getting their feet wet out on the road. As scared as I am that people are losing their ability to communicate face to face—that talking with our mouths will be avoided at all costs—it’s becoming a reality. Look around you—how many people are communicating through some type of screen right now?
What’s lost in the social-media return-on-investment discussion is the importance of connecting with the guest and how easy social media makes that. Consumers feel good when they “check-in” online—whether it be with a location-based tool or by tweeting or posting—and receive a message from the hotel saying “Welcome, we hope you enjoy your stay.” It makes guests feel like they made the right choice and lets them know how important their business is to the hotel.
Also lost in the revenue discussion is social media’s ability to build brand awareness. Consumers will follow their favorite brands on Twitter or Facebook just as they will join loyalty clubs, and if you make that customer feel special by giving them information or a deal that not everyone else got, you’ll stretch that loyalty even further. How is it that hoteliers today will still send direct-mail pieces that are nearly impossible to track in terms of ROI, but they won’t offer an easy to track promotion to Twitter followers?
For this reason, the marketing department needs to work with the revenue department seamlessly and consistently so that guest feedback directly impacts pricing. Then maybe we can start determining some actual ROI from efforts spent on social-media platforms.
The hotel industry has always been the best of all industries in terms of treating customers right and welcoming them into a safe establishment they can call their own—if only for a night. For today’s generation of travelers, social media is the new platform by which to extend that hospitality.
Remember when a simple handshake was the ultimate greeting—a sign of trust, reconciliation and engagement? Today, each tweet or text message or Facebook post your hotel makes is representative of a handshake.
Now tell me, can you measure the ROI of a handshake?
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