Social Media as a PR Tool: How to Use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn Effectively

By Didi Lutz President, Didi Lutz PR | May 19, 2010

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, are currently the top social networks used for businesses. At this point, these three online communities are more than a trendy buzzword tossed around at parties, they are household names and part of our everyday lives. If I had to define the term, I would say that social media provide the opportunity for people and businesses to share specific, instantaneous information in the form of quick updates to a select group, who choose to follow those updates, and as a result, provide feedback through commenting, engaging in conversations, and sharing that information with other groups.

Essentially, social media allow and encourage messages, photos, news, and other bits of information to become viral with other groups, for the purpose of talking about a subject. For instance, a hotel posts on their Facebook page that they are starting a brand new loyalty program for their guests to earn points and hotel benefits. That information is read by all the "fans" of the page. Then those fans talk about it on their own Facebook pages, and so on. It's really the old word of mouth dynamic, but through the awesome power of the Internet that has made this communication new, exciting and global.

At this time, Facebook and Twitter have become the mainstream social media outlets. Hotels, and the hospitality industry in general, were fairly late in catching this new wave of communication, primarily because they didn't understand how to use the networks properly. They are monsters that constantly need to be fed with new information. They are also not going anywhere. Social media are not a fad, they are here to stay, and it is important to learn the tools to use them well. Facebook may become passe a year from now, or it might be stronger than ever. Twitter might be replaced with something better, or not, the point is the idea of social networking has caught on tremendously, and hotels need to find their place in those netoworks, especially as 2010 begins to show more signs of economic recovery.

Even for those of you who have accounts with all three networks, I would like to take a moment to clarify the differences of each one, and in what respect they should be used:

  • Facebook is a perfect outlet to post everything you want about your property, by building a full profile, including text, photos, special promotions, and it is generally a very efficient way to connect with past guests, current, and potential guests.
  • Twitter is used to share information about the industry, fun articles, anything quirky going on at your hotel, last minute specials, weekend rates, holiday menu links, and anything that can be shared in the form of a newsflash (remember, Twitter only allows 140 characters). If you are linking something on Twitter, make sure you tiny/shorten the link first, so you have more spaces to develop a clear message.
  • LinkedIn is purely a business network. It's a great community to network with other professionals you wouldn't necessarily do so on Facebook. It's more an online social network for industry professionals, so GMs and executives should definitely have profiles on it. Hotel blogs can be linked to your profile, too, which promotes the hotel, but LinkedIn is strictly for business networking. You can join forums and group discussions that target the industry, and answer related questions posted from others in your network.

Now that we've clarified the distinction among these prime social media outlets, here are some PR tools to use them properly:

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.