Hotels: Have You Lost Your Human Connection?
By Melanie Nayer ~ Exclusive Column
Monday, 25th April 2011
Hoteliers often ask me, 'Why do we need to invest in social media?' My response: 'How well are you connected with your consumers?'

My question is usually met with blank stares and raised eyebrows. What does one have to do with another? How does social media have anything to do with getting to know your consumer? Simply: it has everything to do with it. Social media is often the human connection hotels are missing.

It's easy to get lost in the groove of the workday. Between meetings, management, last-minute owner requests and endless press calls, the day of a hotelier can quickly turn from ease and engagement to chaos and commotion. So how do monitor the demands of your guests with the demands of your day? Social media.

Social media connects you with your guest. How well do you know your consumer? Did you know that a guest checking into your hotel just twittered that her 5-year-old son is with her, and he loves Disney? Did you know that someone in your hotel has called for fresh towels twice already today?

Or, that a guest staying with you is looking for recommendations on where to dine this evening? How easy would it be for your hotel to respond to these consumer needs with the click of a mouse and a Twitter handle? The time it takes takes to send towels to a room, offer to make restaurant reservations or put a small Mickey Mouse doll in the room for a child are just the little things. The hotel should be the first place a guest looks for answers, but the reality is that in this social media world, the answers are everywhere.

So how does social media fit in to the hotel's overall strategy to gain repeat guests and new clients? Ask yourself the following questions:

Who are your target consumers? Do a search for your hotel in Twitter and see what comes up. What are people saying about you, and can you help answer their questions quickly via Twitter?

How are you currently reaching your consumers? If your answer to this question is an 1-800 phone number to customer service, it's time to rethink your strategy. In general, it takes anywhere from 5-10 minutes to reach a customer service associate on the phone. It takes 5-10 seconds for you to connect with your customer on social media platforms.

How are you creating that "human interaction" with your guests? Consider the "early bird gets the worm" philosophy. If your consumer knows you're paying attention to them, they are likely to return again. But if your consumer's questions are answered by another hotel, it's likely they'll remember that hotel on their next trip.

On a recent trip to Asia, I tweeted from various hotels and restaurants I visited. I posted photos of rooms, views, food and scenes. The result: my Twitter followers wanted to know more. They wanted to experience what I was experiencing.

They were engaged in what I was doing, observing and learning. I discovered soon after my trip that some of the hotels heard directly from people who followed me, and were making plans to visit the area and wanted more information. The hotels connected with these potential guests via social media and offered everything from special rates to hard-to-get-reservations at top restaurants.

The lesson learned: Social media helped hotels make that human connection. While consumers might book their rooms online, they are also looking for that special touch -that human connection- that makes them feel like part of the family when they check in.

So, hotels, ask yourself: Have you lost that human connection? Do you know what your consumers are interested in or what they are seeking from the city they're visiting? If the answer is "no", it's time to reevaluate your social media strategy.

Remember: the purpose of social media is to connect, and turn a one-time guest into a repeat visitor.

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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