How Small Hoteliers Can Use Twitter and Facebook.
By Andy Hayes ~ Exclusive for 4Hoteliers.com
Monday, 14th December 2009
Small hoteliers have always been more nimble than their larger competitors and able to offer a warm, personal service. 

Social media tools like Twitter and Facebook only enhance this ability, when managed properly (especially time).  Here's some of the ways a small hotelier can use Twitter and Facebook to enhance their online presence.

Share Behind-the-Scenes Insights.  Just hired some new staff, after a big retirement bash for one of your long time team members?  Let people see how your establishment works, who are the personalities involved. 

The point isn't to try to sell people.  The point is that when you compare two hotels side by side, consumers are starting to notice the hotel which has some transparency and some visibility.  Human beings like buying from real people.  So are you are person or are you hidden behind a reservation engine?

Open up a new sales channel.  You shouldn't only be selling on Twitter or Facebook – that's not how it works; would you want to follow someone who was non-stop sales?  Share some good stuff and then offer the call to action. 

Many hoteliers have found social media's real-time status to offer big discounts to last-minute capacity that would have went unused anyway.   But think of other ways to promote offerings – perhaps you have local followers who might be interested in your restaurant, or you can partner with others in the area (tour operators, etc) for a combined effort.  Have fun with it – it's social!

Get Feedback.  You should also be asking for lots and lots of customer feedback.  And more importantly, you should be doing something with it.  But Twitter and Facebook offer amazingly powerful ways to listen; you can see what potential customers are doing, what problems they are having and what they want to do in their next travel destination. 

Before, you had to respond to critics and reviewers via a 3rd party tool; now, you can reply to their Tweet and have a real-time discussion.

Offer easy access to Customer Service.  This one can be tricky, but that's why I mention it.  Twitter and Facebook both offer a way to provide customer service, as many larger companies are doing. 

But be sure that these tools provide access to your customer service policy/process – the tools just aren't designed to be a customer service platform, and besides, nobody else is interested in listening to you haggle with a customer over a phone bill charge, so once you've established there is a customer service issue, take it offline.

The sky's the limit when it comes to Twitter and Facebook, but so is your time.  Monitor the time you spend and use scheduling tools like Ping.fm or TweetLater to have content published when you're not around. 

Don't get hung up on the number of fans or followers – just obsess over building relationships, starting conversations, and coming up with creative ways to bring followers to your sales channel.

Andy Hayes is the Managing Partner of Travel Online Partners (TOP), a company focused on helping for small businesses in travel and tourism with online technology. 

To find out more about their do-it-yourself guides, coaching and consulting, visit the website www.travelonlinepartners.com
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