By now most hotels have found a way to accommodate social media; some are playing lip service and still praying it will go away, whereas others have embraced it fully and appointed a dedicated employee.
While in Europe recently I had the opportunity to take a closer look at three very different hotel companies that have chosen the route of full engagement: citizenM, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and The Cavendish.
In this three-part series I interview the individuals leading social media efforts with these companies to gain insight into how they're taming the social media beast and staying true to brand. Whether you're a B&B, boutique or big box, there are ideas and inspiration to be drawn from all three models.
Today we kick things off with Diego Sartori of citizenM
, a company whose reputation preceded itself thanks to its active social presence. citizenM is a small group of boutique hotels in Glasgow and Amsterdam with reported plans to expand to London, New York and Paris. I stayed at the Glasgow property, and it was one of the freshest hotel concepts I've experienced since Ian Schrager and Philippe Starck launched Morgans Hotel Group in the late eighties.
Highlights include modern design, free WiFi and movies, small but stylish rooms and great public spaces for socializing or work. There are check-in kiosks and a cafeteria-style restaurant, and yet I experienced better service here than at many full-service hotels. And really, after you've lugged your bags halfway across the world do you really need a bellman for that last stretch to your room?
With its quirky, irreverent branding citizenM is a natural fit for social media. Here's my Q+A session with Sartori, edited and condensed.Tell us about your hotel group.
Our mission was to invent a new breed of hotels, an entirely new category offering affordable luxury for mobile citizens. We are a hotel but also a personality. citizenM stands for citizen mobile; these mobile citizens are contemporary, up-to-date, urban, have a desire for discovering the new, and value luxury but are also cost conscious. Describe your role and responsibilities.
I'm the social media strategist, which basically means I am responsible for spreading the citizenM personality online. From answering and maintaining citizenM's Twitter, Facebook and other channels to tracking and managing our reputation online—everything that is being said about us. On top of that, I identify social and technology trends that can improve the communication with anyone that reaches out to us.How does your company manage the social media function?
I have a very full time job, 365 days a year, 24/7! The Internet never sleeps. I manage, monitor, report and keep up with available online tools. It is the responsibility of the entire team, from housekeeping to our CEO, to be above all guest centric, constantly devoted, honest, up-to-date, non conformists, and to allow everyone to contribute ... we value our collective cultures, warmth and friendliness.Which social media platforms do you find most effective?
Twitter is becoming more of a customer service platform while Facebook has some elements of that too, but [also features] posts related to lifestyle, new trends, etc. Via our digital magazine citizenMag we also talk about the things we like: art, culture, urban movements, the latest contemporary trends and how we like to have fun. Foursquare is used by a fraction of customers but is as effective as other platforms, for those who are active on it. Same goes for Instagram, Gowalla, review sites and so on.What distinguishes your hotel group when it comes to social media?
We understand that social media is more about communication and relationships rather than another marketing/media channel … We never promote "Stay here, we are the best hotel", we choose to showcase our personality, who we are and what we do.Tell us about a social media campaign you are proud of.
For our hotel opening in Glasgow we prepared flyers to give away in the streets and posts via social media channels [announcing] that we would give away 400 rooms. We basically asked locals to test the hotel for free in exchange for their feedback. After three hours we had to cancel the flyers and street teams because all rooms were gone! After one single post on Facebook and Twitter.
The result? Number 1 on TripAdvisor (we haven't asked for reviews) at the time of opening and Twitter trending topic in Glasgow for almost a day. Word-of-mouth starts from the source, from locals, right?Do you use a reputation monitoring tool? Any other essential tools?
We use ReviewPro for gathering all reviews and comments online and for organizing specific mentions using semantic technology. Through notifications and continuous checks, we get to understand the level of satisfaction in any given time, brand perception and more importantly, [we can] react quickly. I like using Crowdbooster to schedule tweets in times with higher reach.How do you measure results of social media activity?
We don't measure our success by how many followers we got today, we look at the level of satisfaction and sentiment online, everything from our brand to guest satisfaction. The result of our actions and culture is reflected online, with great experiences but also frustrations. It is a transparent platform, which we use to continuously improve ourselves.Which companies or individuals in the hotel or travel industry do you take inspiration from when it comes to social media?
KLM and its many fun campaigns, like Little Acts of Kindness and Tile & Inspire. I also appreciate that you can tweet KLM about anything, including complaints, and they will follow up, quickly. Josiah Mackenzie of Hotel Marketing Strategies is a must follow, a trend watcher, sharing what is new, cool and revolutionary in the hotel industry, including social media trends.What advice would you give hotels that wish to achieve similar success with social media?
Well, everyone gets that social media is a place where you connect with your family and friends, see what they are up to even if in the other side of the planet. It is the same with companies: what are they up to? Show who you are and what you do, those who "like" it will literally do so. It is communicating, customer service; never replacement of TV ads or billboards.
Contact info citizenM
Twitter: @citizenM, @diegosartori
Stay tuned for Part II and Part III, featuring interviews with Charles Yap of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and Ciarán Fahy of The Cavendish.Daniel Edward Craig is a former hotel general manager turned consultant specializing in social media strategy and online reputation management for hotels and the travel industry. His blog and articles attract a worldwide following, and he is a frequent speaker at industry events. Visit www.DanielEdwardCraig.com or follow him on Twitter at @dcraig. Copyright © 2012 Daniel Edward Craig. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.