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 2019...

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.