Social Media is a Big Issue

By Teri Utley Senior Account Manager, Range Online Media | November 14, 2010

Social media has quickly become the topic that is keeping some marketers on edge. While some marketers have a full understanding of the capabilities and reach of social efforts, others are still in the information gathering phase and quietly asking themselves if social efforts are really important to their brand. Other questions such as “What should the strategy be?” or “ Should they participate?” or “What’s required to make it work?” are all relevant and valid questions that must be considered before participating in social media. These and dozens other questions continue to perplex marketers and brands even as the wave of social media participation continues to evolve. As a juncture is approached, marketers are reaching a point of saturation in social programs which could soon force them to join forces within their segmented social programs.

Some industry groups estimate that Social Media spending will hit $3.1 billion by 2014. The growth rate is much faster than other types of online marketing due to marketers feeling the pressure of participating since “everyone else is” and the buzz that surrounds all forms of social media. Are you ready and willing to dive into social media for your brand? If your answer is yes then get started, recruit someone that will build a Facebook page and call it a day. Wait, well, not exactly. A few of questions need to be asked within your organization. Why do you want it to accomplish and what do you hope to gain from participating? Do you have the internal resources to support it as an ongoing initiative? What information do you want to glean from your efforts?

Before leaping into any type of social program, a thorough plan must be developed that will address the above questions and a well thought out strategy should be ready that will address any issues that are sure to arise. Paula Berg, the former Manager of Emerging Media for Southwest Airlines is responsible for a “checklist” of items that will need to be in the forefront of minds that decide to take on the challenge of social media participation:

  1. Know that it will help you to reach a new demographic.
  2. It’s good to have a social presence before you have a crisis.
  3. You are getting immediate feedback at no cost.
  4. Listen to your consumers.
  5. Have thick skin.

Success within the social media space has been enjoyed primarily by consumer packaged goods, the most notable being the Old Spice “guy on a horse”. Within travel, Southwest Airlines and Sea World are viewed as the best “how to” models. But those involved in marketing for the hotel industry are found scratching their heads a bit as to how to best app- roach their level of participation within the social space and discovering what channels are available for their brand.

Social media exists in a variety of online forms, most notibly Twitter and Facebook. But let’s stop for a second and take a look at your current search engine results for your brand. Do you have videos? How about images? Are those being indexed by engines? Is there a corporate blog for your brand? Any of these items indicate that your brand is being represented in the social space and that you are in control of the content. Once you decide to leave the comfort of control, then you will really be diving into the world of social media that is driven and supported by your user base. When used correctly, social media can be used to provide quantitative and qualitative data that can be used not only to form the burgeoning social media strategy, but some instances, the foundations of the business.

Social media to hoteliers previously meant being featured in some major review sites and relying on guests to fill out review and response cards about their satisfaction while they were guests. Hotels today find themselves at the mercy of thousands of reviews and online comments that are just a few clicks away. With the information that is available, it’s understandable that the hotel industry has reservations about the importance of social media. The best thing a hotel can do to improve its online reputation is to monitor what their guests are saying and interact. But deciding on how to get a grip on that data is at the forefront of the reluctance to participate for most hoteliers.

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Coming up in April 2018...

Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.