This year has undoubtedly been a year of social media improvements at hotels worldwide; with every new change to Twitter and Facebook came a new social media addition and advancement from hotels.
From Facebook booking engines to Foursquare concierges and Twitter-hosted chats, hotels have embraced social media in a profound way to help social-savvy guests stay more connected to their favorite brands.
As 2011 comes to a close, here are our top social media initiatives from hotels this year.1. Ritz-Carlton on FourSquare
: The luxury hotel brand made social media headlines in July when it officially launched a concierge campaign with FourSquare. The Ritz-Carlton FourSquare campaign welcomed concierge tips about the destination from all Ritz-Carlton hotels worldwide. The purpose was to give travelers a glimpse of the most recommended ideas and activities in that destination from the Ritz-Carlton straight from your phone. Later in the year, Ritz-Carlton announced their new brand campaign, "Let Us Stay With You", which allowed fans of the hotel on Facebook to tell Ritz-Carlton what made their stay so special. The campaign turned the tables on the typical hotel-to-guest marketing message, letting guests take charge of what they want to make their stay special. 2. InterContinental Hotel Group iPad apps
: In keeping with the concierge trend, The InterContinental Hotel group kicked off the year with the announcement of their iPad concierge apps, which allowed guests to access information directly from in-hotel iPads. Then they took it another level. IHG was one of the first in the industry to launch iPhone booking apps for all its brands. The iPhone apps allowed guests to search and book rooms, access hotel contact information, store credit cards for future bookings, and set up travel profiles to help IHG hotels recognize guests' preferences prior to arrival.3. Four Seasons' in-room networks and city chats
: The Four Seasons Hotel Group has boosted not only their social media presence, but their technology, in an effort to help guests communicate with hotels. The Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills became the first Four Seasons in the world to launch ICE technology in their guestrooms and suites, allowing guests to digitally connect with all areas of the hotel. The rooms were equipped with iPad2 devices to allows guests to customize their stay at the hotel, including ordering in-room dining, making restaurant reservations, calling valet parking for your car, arranging airport transportation, setting up spa treatments, making housekeeping requests and researching local attractions. In addition, the Four Seasons has launched a #BestofCity chat on Twitter. Each month, a new hotel concierge hosts a twitter chat from a specific hotel, giving guests and potential consumers a chance to get know a little more about the property and destination. 4. Renaissance Navigator Program
: Marriott's Renaissance hotel group started the year on a unique note with the Navigator program. The concept was simple: give hotel guests inside access to the destination's local haunts, as seen and frequented by the locals of that destination. The unique twist on the traditional concierge was Renaissance's way of making the traditional travel guide book come to life. Throughout the year, the Navigator program extended from beyond the concierge desk to iPads, iPhones and PDAs, allowing guests to track their paths and get further information on-the-go as they chart their navigation through new cities via their handheld device, and tweet the hotel and the Renaissance team for information on the go. 5. Guest reviews on hotel sites
: In a move that turned social media on its head, Marriott and Starwood announced they would launch platforms that allow guests to post reviews of their stay directly on hotel-managed sites. The move was one of the biggest social media announcements this year, taking on sites like TripAdvisor in which guests can post the good and bad about their hotel stays.
2011 was without question a big year in social media for hotels. Here's looking ahead to 2012!
Readers: What was your favorite hotel social media move this year?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 exclusive column for 4Hoteliers.com