Ways Hotels Can Increase Their Social Media Presence.
By Melanie Nayer ~ Exclusive Column
Wednesday, 16th February 2011
Hotels have made great strides in social media over the past few years; from Twitter to Facebook, and Foursquare and YouTube, there is no limit to how hotels can boost their online presence and increase their customer base.

As a hotels reporter, I'm constantly engaging, communicating and assessing the social media efforts of hotels around the world. I'm consistently intrigued by they way hotels communicate with their guests and share their knowledge of their destinations (see: InterContinental Group, Ritz-Carlton and Mandarin Oriental).

More boutique hotels have jumped on the social media bandwagon to introduce 'brand name consumers' with a new type of hotel, and the results are impressive. Now, with the year off to a booming start in the hotel industry, here are five tips worth considering for taking your hotel's social media presence to the next level.

1. Use Your Staff.

Your employees are the eyes, ears and experts of your hotel. Use them to engage your social media presence. Whether you designate a day to a particular theme or allow specific staff members to reply to questions asked from guests via social media, the personalization will make all the difference when communicating online.

"At InterContinental, our Concierge teams share their local knowledge with guests from around the world on a daily basis," said Charles Yap, Director, Global Brand Communications, InterContinental Hotels Group. "We take this personal interaction one step further by sharing useful destination tips and recommendations (via @WorldConcierge), and launching a free iPad app anyone can download (not just our guests)."

2. Create Social Media Specials.

Some of the best responses I've seen in average daily room rates from hotels so far this year have come by way of "social media specials."

Offering Twitter-only specials or Facebook contests that result in free dinners at the hotel or discounted room rates resonate with travelers who, despite their discretionary income for travel, are always on the hunt for a deal.

3. It's Not All About You.

While the hotel is obviously the focus of your social media campaign, remember that there is more to the traveler's eye than what's inside your four walls.

Spend some time tweeting about local destination events, share some interesting historical aspects and ask your concierge for some 'tips of the day' to share. "we believe that when it comes to social media, discussion topics should not be restricted to immediate hotel features. We go one step further by offering destination advice, travel tips, food for thought, retweets from travel and subject matter experts," said Yap.

Guests will likely know the top tourist attractions, but the hotel can offer insider ideas and off-the-beaten-path things to see and do, including the best local restaurants, fun festivals or family-friendly activities. Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, did a great job of sharing the historical and interesting facts relating to Chinese New Year.

While the hotel hosted plenty of Chinese New Year activities, which they tweeted about, they also shared quirky and unknown facts about Chinese New Year that kept guests intrigued and involved in the festivities.

4. Keep It Real.

We all know it's sunny on the beach in Bali and the Bund is beautiful at night, but what about the 'real' aspects of the destination?

Posting a quick weather update first thing in the morning is a worthy way to start the day on Twitter or Facebook, but keep it real by posting about things to do - especially on bad weather days - or offering tips on managing jetlag or mentioning a employee contribution or celebrated day.

For example, if your chef was just given his first Michelin star, share the news! If your hotel recently underwent a renovation, share the photos -- before and after -- and keep your potential guests in the loop. Show your followers and fans that the hotel is more than just deals and good food, and that they are part of the foundation that makes up the success of the hotel.

5. Communicate.

Cliche as it may seem, keeping up the lines of communication with your fans and followers via Twitter and Facebook is an essential piece to managing a successful social media campaign.

Social media has become the new 'customer service' line, and hotels should take seriously the comments and questions they receive online. Granted, not all tweets and Facebook comments will be valid, but treating social media as if it were a hotline to your consumers is the best way to solve last-minute problems, answer immediate questions and offer advice to guests and travelers.

The above tips are not the end all and be all to a successful social media campaign, but they can help present your hotel in a worthy light to guests who, whether they are new or repeat, will always be looking for something special from the hotel.

Melanie Nayer is a hotel reviewer and expert on luxury travel around the world. She has covered all aspects of hotels including corporate restructures, re-branding initiatives, historical aspects and the best of the best in luxury hotels around the world.

Melanie writes a weekly exclusivecolumn for 4Hoteliers.com

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