Creating Social Media Champions and Success Stories with a Meticulous Approach.
By Ritesh Gupta
Wednesday, 15th February 2012
The process of nurturing internal experts that take care of social media marketing initiatives depends on several factors including the company culture, making social media intrinsic to marketing and a brand's business operations, and the model for social media communications that's been chosen for your brand.

Travel companies have been attempting to follow the best practices pertaining to social media marketing which is to be transparent and provide constant updates to members.

Within an organisation, according to social media experts, rolling out social media guidelines for employees have helped a lot in making sure that despite their best intentions, employees are not perceived as representing the brand when they engage in social media.

The leadership and culture of the company tremendously influences how employees can get behind social media as an extension of the service provided at a hotel.

Ideally, social media outreach must embrace all departments of an organisation. The best social media outreach usually engages multiple departments within an organisation. In one of its reports, EyeforTravel was recommended this: one solution would be creating the "social media committee" that should be a team made up of –ideally- six people: one from the marketing department, one from sales, one from communication & PR department, one from digital marketing/e-commerce, one from operations and one from human resources. And very important: high level positions are a must.

As it is difficult to get a buy-in from diverse stakeholders at the outset, one should one work on this goal, by starting small, involving the early enthusiasts, creating champions and success stories, and then actively socialising them through the length and breadth of the organisation. The process for nurturing internal champions depends on the company culture and the model for social media communications that's been chosen for your brand. While some companies choose to let all employees participate in social media, others prefer to have a select group handle social communications.

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Practically, one cannot expect a complete organisation to embrace social media overnight. Small steps are required, ideally by people in otherwise customer-facing roles. Also, one key determinant of social media adoption is the realisation among marketers that they need to be where their audience is – and if that is in social media spaces, then they need to be there, or risk losing out the opportunity to reach, interact and influence their customer base.

One of the most potentially damaging risks from social media can be to an organisation's reputation. Employees, customers and vendors can be an organisation's greatest ambassadors or can seriously undermine its brand and image.

So is there a need for a social media defensive strategy?

Diego Sartori, Social Media Strategist, CitizenM Hotels, sees this issue from another angle.

"Unsatisfied customers might post bad reviews expressing their frustrations, unsatisfied employees may write blogs about how bad a company can be, unsatisfied partners will share the "dirties". At citizenM, there is no such a thing as being defensive, rather being transparent and honest, which is reflected online. At citizen, we work continuously to improve employee and guest satisfaction and relationship with our partners. The result is what you can read throughout the Internet, including social media channels," shared Sartori, who is scheduled to speak at the forthcoming Travel Distribution Summit Europe 2012, to be held in London (April 17-18) this year.

Sartori spoke to EyeforTravel's Ritesh Gupta about preparing internally and sustaining social media marketing-related initiatives.


How should travel companies go about recruiting "the social media person"? What factors should one consider?

This person might be already in the organisation. It is not about recruiting someone with a PhD degree, or someone in their twenties simply because he/she "gets" social media. It is about a person who understands technology of course, but also about delivering a great customer experience.

Making social media intrinsic to marketing and a brand's business operations, and providing guidance and encouragement for employees to ‘go social' is crucial to creating success. How can companies nurture internal champion(s) who monitor social media and make it a priority?

Guidance and encouragement yes, pressuring employees to ‘go social', no. Monitoring is obviously an important part, to learn and understand what is being said about the company and its competitors, products and services. The focus should be in getting feedback and having more understanding of sentiments, either internally or externally.

The best social media outreach usually engages multiple departments within an organisation. How do you assess this approach towards nurturing a team and a culture?

In an organisation with a bureaucratic and tall hierarchy, it is hard to achieve; different departments are busy with their own workload and targets. As simple as it sounds, the key is a corporate culture that share common goals, allowing team members to go out there, work in intra-departmental activities.

Restrictive policies prevent employees from sharing information and being brand promoters to the world outside the organisation.

Consumer interactions are occurring across new web platforms. As both suppliers and intermediaries are vying aggressively for the online customer, can you reflect upon what is being done to monitor and measure brand perception and respond on a real-time basis?

At citizenM, we use an online reputation management tool, ReviewPro, gathering all reviews and comments online, and organising specific mentions through semantic technology.

Through notifications and continuous checks, we get to understand the level of satisfaction in any given time, brand perception and more importantly, react quickly. Some channels, like Twitter or Facebook, consumers expect a real-time response so it is 24/7 dedication to live up to it. Creating a brand page if there is no dedication or at least reacting to comments is a no-go; although this is basic, there are many examples like it out there.

Travel companies are attempting to tap into online conversations around their brands, products or services to understand what their core audiences are saying and determine the influence they have on their brands. How do you think travel companies have been successful in gaining an "information advantage"?

While in the past companies could push information, now consumers are talking between themselves and companies trying to join the "conversation". Viral videos go out, creative campaigns get the word rolling, but in the end, only the ones who deliver a truly exceptional product or service excel. We have moved from a product centric market to consumer centric, with social media conversations and customer care centres.

As Kotler described in his Marketing 3.0, companies are becoming more human-centric; here the consumers are ‘king', they take a real stake in the development of a brand or its products and services. My Starbucks Idea is an example of this human-centric approach.

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