The Future of Hotel Marketing: Social Media Synopsis

By Judy Hou Directeur General/CEO , Glion Institute of Higher Education Worldwide | April 14, 2013

Hotel chains that are open to 24/7 online social communications with their fan base can sense the power of a free flowing exchange of ideas, and capitalize on a low-cost marketing channel solution. Communication with customer base via social media channels is now expected as standard, whether these platforms are utilized to shape brand image, facilitate user-generated content or compliment a targeted pay-per-click campaign, social media is vital to the success of a hotel property.

Moving into the future, the presence of the brand profile itself is no longer enough. What have we learnt so far in such a short space of time? How can we develop strategies to better optimize our online presence and manage our social audiences in order to remain competitive? What can we be doing to leverage these social platforms and optimize hotel revenue?

There is no question that social media has become a major component of digital marketing. Companies need to be proactive in developing their social media strategy to gain a stronger footing. Paying close attention to technological developments as 4G network coverage gains international momentum as the speed at which international social audiences can navigate the Internet will accelerate, aiding our increasingly connected right here, right now online lifestyles. With the volume of communications online reaching unprecedented levels, marketers of hotel properties must listen and respond appropriately and promptly. Striving for a 'within the hour' correspondence turn around and having round-the-clock monitoring with dedicated customer services management for the social shop front is the target in view.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube provide an opportunity for hotel companies to create a social buzz about their brand at the corporate level, while at the property level inspiring travelers with a hotel's unique selling points (USPs). In order to shape brand image and spark brand awareness through these platforms, companies need well-crafted content plans where they can regularly promote their businesses virtues. The social sphere should become a place for reputation management, where hotels publicize positive company updates, interesting and authentic company history, new properties opened, awards received and involvement with CSR and local communities amongst other content. These content that may otherwise clutter a hotel website unnecessarily can be pushed out routinely to entertain a social audience and give them valuable insight into the different dynamics of the hotel brand offering.

Guests can additionally engage with a brand and give feedback about their stay on a hotel property's social profiles, which will help to influence prospective visitors in their decision makings. Furthermore, having quality photos and ready content that is worth sharing on the property's social site, properties can help guests in sharing their brand experiences and hotel stays with their acquaintances via their news feeds - a guest than becomes more than just a guest, but an e-ambassador for a brand. This feature in social media facilitates and promotes consumer participation whilst simultaneously helping individuals affiliate themselves with a brand name which can sometime boost their own social status. It's every marketer's job to help our guests to tell their special stories and share sneak previews into their personal lives online in the most refined and brand enhancing way possible.

All this is well and good, but staying competitive is where one can develop their social sales opportunities. Today's savvy connected consumer spends time researching into whether a hotel is really right for them before going ahead with their booking; the cost of the room is just the tip of the iceberg. This is where the media in social media shines through as the company displays an abundance of offerings, their properties and the intricacies of their products, to a captive audience. Professionally shot hotel photos, informative video interviews with amicable staffs, exciting food & beverage offerings and virtual tours all help to give a fantastic impression of the brand experience and allow people to decide whether this offering will really fit their accommodation, dining and facility requirements.

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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.