Sunday, March 14, 2010

Five Reasons Why Your Hotel Should be Utilizing Social Media!

This week I was in Ft. Worth, Texas at the Experient Envision Conference, our annual internal meeting.  For the first two days, of our four-day event, our industry supplier partners joined us for some quality socializing, and business networking.  I really enjoyed the time spent with our hotel friends and other supplier colleagues.

On Wednesday, I had an interesting conversation with one of my close friends, who works for a “major brand” hotel in the Southeast.  Somehow (imagine this) the subject turned to social media.  Shockingly, I learned her employer does not allow any of its employees to utilize social media technology on “company time,” regardless of intent.

Plain and simple, this is a classic example of a management team making policy decisions with an “old school” mindset.  Sadly, these executives don’t realize that, while they may have maintained control of their employees, they have significantly inhibited their hotel’s ability to leverage some proven online tools, to enhance the experience for their guests and meeting clients.

So, where is this hotel “missing the boat?”  Lets look at some of the lost opportunities.

  • Customer Relationship Development — The Sales, Catering, and convention services staffs are all client-facing employees responsible for building relationships with the hotel’s meetings and events clients.  Social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and bl0gs are all excellent communication channels for these hotel managers to:
    • socially interact with both existing and potential clients more easily and frequently.
    • Learn insightful information regarding a customer’s hobbies and interests, in a friendly environment, which is a key component of  relationship building.
    • Build their personal credibility by sharing quality industry information (trends, best practices, techniques) with their customers, peers and supplier contacts.
    • Make new Connections with other industry professionals which strengthens their sphere of influence, increasing the likelihood of developing business opportunities.
  • Create Brand Awareness — Whether it is the above team members, or even the marketing or Public relations departments creating positive messaging about the hotel,  clearly social media channels are fertile ground to efficiently and inexpensively generate quality market exposure.
  • Online Concierge — Many hotels are using social media tools such as Twitter or Facebook, to provide convenient portals for hotel guests and clients to obtain information, or resolve a challenge of some sort. (i.e. reservation error)  Some hotels even make restaurant reservations or make other types of service arrangements for their guests ahead of time, as well as during their actual stay.
  • Reputation Management — By assigning staff members to monitor the chatter on Twitter, Facebook or other applications, a hotel may discover a customer service challenge, and resolve it, before it becomes a major problem.  The process for doing this is simple, and not labor intensive, yet it goes a long ways towards helping protect the hotel’s reputation.
  • Competitive Intelligence — Keep track of what other hotels are doing… its amazing what may be learned about the competition through social technology.

I hear a lot of people say “I just don’t have time to do social media” or “I don’t need it to be effective in my job.”  Here is why you must make time to leverage this technology and why it is important to your job:

Companies, organizations and yes, hotels, all need to embrace the use of social media because the reality is their customers are all spending their time there.  If you believe (as I do) that quality customer relationships are founded on frequent, quality communication, then you need to focus your attention to where they hang out.  Most likely that will mean spending consistent time at their social media sites of choice!

If you are a hotel manager responsible for “client-facing” work, then you need to reach out to your supervisor and explain why it is so important to be playing in this ballpark.  If your hotel doesn’t do it, inevitably, your competition will!  Do you want to be left behind?

Question:  Is there an experience you have had in “selling” your organization to adopt social media technology and practices into their business plan, that worked well.  If so, please share it with us!


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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike McCurry March 14, 2010 at 6:41 pm

This is a test of the new comment system

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Ellen March 15, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Mike — Actually, your hotel contact's situation is not unusual. I posted a few weeks ago about a Robert Half Technology survey that found a full 54% of respondents said their for-profit companies did not allow social networking in any way, shape, or form, for any purpose, while employees were on the job (you can see my post here: http://alearning.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/bad-new

Of course the impact on association learning (alearning, I like to call it) is different than it is on business, but the fact remains that if half or more of your targeted audience can't utilize the tools you're relying on then you need to make sure you're covering your bases in other ways, too.

The movement toward adaption is churning ever forward, but slowly, so slowly!

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MichaelMMcCurry March 15, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Ellen,

Those statistics in your article are very interesting! It's obvious many companies have a long way to go to get up to speed with competitive business practices.

So, the really good news for the forward thinking companies is they will find them at a competitive advantage over the late adopters. I think it would be a really good business opportunity for a professional speaker to focus in on educating corporate executives as the real value of integrating social media and technology into their business plan.

All we can do as industry professionals is to keep getting the message out there!

Thanks for contributing to the discussion!

@michaelmccurry

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@moisesloyo March 15, 2010 at 5:08 pm

It true that some brands do not allow its employees to embrace social media, however there are others that actually encourage us to do it. My particular case, my property has its own twitter profile (@hiltoncancun) and EC members must twitt at least once a week. We also have our FB profile and we read our mentions, twitts and FB comments on operations meeting, same as other on-line channels. We have a special in-room treat for those guests that make contact via on line channels.

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MichaelMMcCurry March 15, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Moises, I am so glad to hear that you are finding a productive way to leverage social technology to enhance your hotel's business communications.

I love the idea of rewarding guests who make contact with you online… great idea!!

Thanks for contributing to the discussion!

@michaelmccurry

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@klrichardson March 15, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Mike – enlightening to say the least. At one point in time (aging myself here) I can remember my employer not wanting me on "the internet" or spending too much time in e-mail. The difference here is that the changes mentioned before were technological changes that drove people to want to change. The social revolution is one in which people have said and shown that they want to connect, and technology is serving that demand with a variety of tools.

I forsee a day when booking a meeting room for an event that one of the questions will be "what is your event's hashtag?"

I look forward to getting to that day quickly.

Here's to the journey.

@klrichardson

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MichaelMMcCurry March 15, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Kevin,

Amen to that!

The journey is moving forward.

@michaelmccurry

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Midori March 15, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Hi Mike,
Some excellent points here.
Here's a real-life example of my experience when in Chicago for the PCMA and TME meeting last Fall:
Upon discovering there was no wireless Internet access offered (not even for a fee!), I Twittered my dismay. Nothing rude or derogatory, but just sharing my woes with fellow TME attendees. Within 15 minutes, a representative from the Hyatt McCormick Place replied explaining that there new wireless system was being installed and due to be complete the very next week! To top it off, they offered my free wired Internet in my room for the duration of my stay.

Wellll, you can only imagine how loudly I sang their praises to the Twittersphere about how overjoyed I was with their service and the shining example of Social Media usage by a hotel!!

@Moises, you were a perfect ambassador to the MPI attendees in Cancun. You showed up in the Twitterstream time and time again. And in this day and age when we have such limited time to check emails, go to various websites, etc, the fact that a potential client can reach out to you with a simple "@" sign means they might choose you before a competitor!!

It was nice to be able to share a great story about someone doing something right :-)
Midori Connolly, Chief AVGirl
http://www.twitter.com/GreenA_V

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MichaelMMcCurry March 15, 2010 at 11:05 pm

Hey Midori,

That was a great testimonial you shared regarding your experience with Hyatt McCormick. I remember when you were struggling with that situation. They really responded admirably!

I agree with you regarding the online customer service for MPI's Meet Different Conference…. it was fantastic!

Thanks for contributing!

@michaelmccurry

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mike mcallen March 15, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Had this conversation with my wife last year and they were told they could not have a blog. She decided she needed to boost her interaction with her audience of patrons so she built a blog starting posting plus she added a weekly video podcast she cohosted with the general manager. She also interacted on Tripadviser and the usual channels of facebook to make sure she heard and reacted to what guests were saying about the hotel. Once she was up and running she checked the analytics of her corporate website and her blog portal where she quickly found the numbers were much higher just using the organic search methods of a blog. She also found her sales team was websensed so they could not get into conversations with friends or groups on websites like Facebook and linkedin. This was also rectified. At the end of last year she and her hotel were recognized at there global sales conference and they won an award for the best Online Marketing for her global brand.
Here is her blog http://www.sanjosedoubletreehotel.com/

Thanks for the post Mike.

Reply

MichaelMMcCurry March 15, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Mike,

What a great story this is… thanks for sharing it!

Another great place to check the pulse of your brand is through sites such as Google Alerts. They can really help an event professional catch problems before they become disasters!

You should have your wife write a blog article about her experience…. she could guest blog at my site :)

Thanks for contributing Mike

@michaelmccurry

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