Making Business Connections in a Social World

By Scott Watson Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing, M3 Accounting + Analytics | April 06, 2014

For those of us who have been a part of the business world long enough to remember life before the Internet, the new, connected world can sometimes be overwhelming. Connectivity has afforded us the opportunity to reach people whom we may have never interacted with previously, and as sales and marketing professionals, provides us a unique opportunity to harness technology to make real connections with potential customers.

By now, most of us have incorporated social media into our personal lives to keep in touch with family, reconnect with old friends, offer reviews of our favorite restaurants and get feedback from fellow commuters to assist us in navigating rush hour traffic. But when it comes to business and leveraging the power of digital connections to establish relationships with potential clients and customers, many more seasoned professionals draw a line between the online world and the physical workplace. In the hospitality arena, where guest experiences, vendor relationships and cooperative alliances are the lifeblood of the industry, erasing that line can generate tremendous benefit and enhance the connections that we work so hard to make in the physical world.

The truth is, the connected world is so much a part of where we are now, in all aspects of life, that there is no turning back at this stage of the game. We no longer write the overnight rate in a leather-bound ledger on the front desk, reach behind us to grab the room key from a wooden cubby-hole and have the guest sign the guest ledger before ushering them off to their room, while explaining which bath they will share other rooms. Things change, and today they change at breakneck speed. With that said, it certainly doesn't mean that those of us who began our careers with card files and a Rolodex, pre-cell phone and pre-Internet, must sit back and turn over the reins to those who have grown up with technology. On the contrary, now is the time to step up to the challenge and learn to take advantage of the tools that are available to us in this new, connection-based economy, where value is created by the relationships we establish and maintain.

Whether it's a sales manager trying to book a conference group; a revenue manager trying to make sure that room price maximizes demand while balancing perceived worth of a room; or a vendor, like me, trying to communicate the value of a product or service, it's a time-tested truth that people prefer to do business with those who they know, like and trust. In days gone by, people preferred to trade with the shop owner down the street or dine at the local eatery, where everyone gathered to hear and share the latest town news. These same principles can be applied today in a virtual world, where technology broadens the net and enables a person to connect with nearly anyone in the world whom they choose. It's all about using the tools, making the contacts and fostering these relationships with an honest, human approach.

There are many opportunities and platforms upon which to connect in today's business world, which is one of the reasons why this topic becomes so overwhelming, even for the tech savvy. Let's start with three of the top social networking platforms and take a brief look at how you can begin to build a presence and take advantage of the digital networking mixer that we have at our fingertips.

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Coming up in February 2019...

Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.