Social Media 101 - Part I: A Hotelier's Guide to Social Media Marketing

By Michael McKean CEO, The Knowland Group | December 26, 2010

More than 60 million status updates are posted on Facebook every day. Twenty hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. A new Twitter account is created every three seconds and over 1,500 articles are posted on Wikipedia every hour. Blogs have become so prevalent that statisticians stopped counting them after 200,000,000.

Social media is not just a passing fad. According to a Harris poll conducted in April of this year, 34 percent of Americans have used social media as an outlet to rant or rave about a company, brand, or product. Why does this matter for your hotel? Because peer recommendations, from friends or virtual strangers, are the most trusted forms of advertising, according to a Nielson Global Online Consumer Survey.

"The world is evolving, people are connecting in a different way," says Colleen Parnell, director of sales and marketing at the Crowne Plaza Orlando-Universal. "I don't really know where it's going to go but if we don't get comfortable with it on the front side it's going to be up and gone before we get the chance. We grow as it grows."

Social media web sites have triggered an ever-growing global conversation on every topic imaginable. The question is not whether your hotel should be using social media to start a conversation about your property; that conversation is already happening. The question is, are you going to be a part of it?

For hotel executives, it's even more crucial. A well-executed social media strategy can easily accomplish two of the most important goals for any hotel: get people talking about their property and inspire customer loyalty. This leads to a more recognized and well-respected brand and, most importantly, an increase in transient and group business.

"In the last two and a half years Facebook and Twitter have really taken off," says Al Luciano, director of sales and marketing at La Torretta Lake Resort & Spa. "It's a low cost way of reaching people and I think it's the way the new generation of buyers want to buy."

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. 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.