ITB 2024 Special Reporting
Tips for Developing a Social Media Program as Authentic and Singular as Your Hotel.
By Daniel Edward Craig
Thursday, 30th September 2010
The travel industry is ahead of the curve when it comes to social media, but in terms of originality and meaningful engagement hotels are lagging behind.

It seems like everybody is posting the same content, in the same perky, cloying voice. Want to stand out from the pack? Here are a few tips for strengthening your social media program and developing a singular, authentic voice to evoke your brand.

1. Oh right … a plan. By now most hotels are tweeting and status-updating their hearts out, but many have only a vague notion why. A recent survey from HSMAI revealed that only 40% of hotels have a social media strategy. Oops. Without knowing where you're going, why, and how you'll get there, you're wasting time and creating brand confusion. Relax, it's not too late. Back up the bandwagon and prepare a simple plan that defines your strategy, objectives, resources, responsibilities, voice and frequency. Then you can put the pedal to the metal.

2. Yes, another meeting. Your social media platforms should have one distinctive voice, but behind the scenes it's a group effort. Approach it like the revenue management function in your hotel: assemble a team, comprised of managers and frontline employees from various departments (ideally including the general manager and at least one social media whiz kid); appoint a leader; and hold weekly meetings to review feedback and analytics and to set messaging and objectives for the coming week.

3. Once upon a time there was a boring hotel. Traditionally, hoteliers are great storytellers. With all the comings and goings of guests, we have an enviable resource of content to draw from. And yet the majority of hotel content is trite and uninspiring. If your followers aren't commenting on, liking and sharing your content, it's a good indication they don't care. Meaningful engagement means telling compelling stories that capture the imagination of travelers and make them want to be a part of your hotel experience.

4. Put your guests to work. Even better than hotel-generated content is guest-generated content. Hold contests to encourage the sharing of stories, photos and videos, and don't be chintzy with prizes. Search YouTube and Flickr for photos and videos of your property and ask owners to share them on Facebook. Grab a Handycam and notepad and go talk to guests and staff. Et voila, fresh content and new connections.

5. We need to talk about your reputation. Yes, a lot of chatter is taking place on Facebook and Twitter, but the real decisions are being made on travel review sites. A recent study by PhoCusWright found that more than two-thirds of travel shoppers are influenced by ratings. It's time to stop the finger-pointing between marketing and operations and to start taking joint responsibility for monitoring, distributing and responding to traveler feedback.

6. Drop the mouse and back away. Social media is like a new friend who's super-cool but a bit manipulative and kind of needy. Don't allow it to distract you into neglecting your tried-and-tested old friends in other areas of marketing.  Be disciplined with your time, and constantly ask yourself, "Is this important and relevant?" If not, move on. And ignore those "Ten Reasons Why You're a Social Media Failure" articles; they're meant to scare you into buying services you probably don't need. Only you know what's right for your hotel.

7. Beware of the tweet factory. Some of the most inane social media content comes from outsourced social media companies who clearly don't get the hotel business. The most compelling, authentic content comes from on-property, where employees have a finger on the pulse of operations. Hire a social media strategist to help put together your plan, train staff and provide guidance, but your ultimate goal should be to bring execution in-house and to find a voice, tone and vocabulary as singular and authentic as your hotel.

8. Memo to corporate office: loosen that death grip. Second prize for inane content goes to corporate offices of chain hotels. Yes, it's important for brands to have a social media presence, but travelers are more passionate about individual properties than brands. To complement brand platforms, corporate office should encourage properties to set up their own platforms, providing support and guidance along the way to ensure messaging is on-brand and on the mark.

9. Take the guesswork out. The success of your social media program is measured not by how many tweets and updates you issue but by meaningful engagement, conversions and reputation. Use analytics tools to evaluate your activities and a social media monitoring tool to measure market share of guest satisfaction. Take the time to understand the numbers, even if it makes your head hurt, and channel resources to where you're achieving the best results.

Does your hotel or a hotel you know do a great job with social media? Share it at www.blog.danieledwardcraig.com

Daniel Edward Craig is a former hotel general manager turned consultant and the author of the hotel-based Five-Star Mystery series. His articles and blog are considered essential reading for hoteliers, travelers and students alike.

Visit www.danieledwardcraig.com or email dec@danieledwardcraig.com

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