Practical Tips for Using Social Media to Drive Loyalty

By Michelle Wohl VP of Marketing & Client Services, Revinate | October 09, 2011

Before the boom of social media, hotels could attract bookings based on brand, loyalty programs, location and price. Today, recommendations and reviews are driving more bookings that anything else. So how can savvy hoteliers drive sales and loyalty in this new era of user-generated content? This article will examine practical steps hotels can take to drive loyalty and describe how leading hoteliers are winning over guests on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.

Last week I returned from a vacation in Mexico and after unpacking my bags I logged into TripAdvisor and wrote a review of the 5-star boutique hotel where I stayed. I gave the hotel five stars and wrote about how beautiful the property is and how friendly and attentive the staff was. The day my review was posted I received a call from the General Manager of the property. He said he wanted to personally call me to thank me for writing such a nice review and he looked forward to welcoming me back to the hotel in the future. The entire call took less than a minute but I have mentioned it to at least fifteen friends and shared the story during a talk I just did about 'Owning the Customer' at The Hotel Data Conference. I know that I will be back to stay at the hotel again. In an industry that often thinks about rooms and rates more than people, this GM made me feel special and appreciated. And all it took was a minute of his time.

Why did his call matter to me? In a time when we share information with friends in quick status messages on Facebook or 140 character tweets, it is rare for someone to go out of his way to make a personal connection. So when a hotel representative takes the time to make you feel singled out and appreciated, it goes a long way. Luckily, social media provides many opportunities for hoteliers to make guests and prospects feel special.

Read and Respond to Reviews

While it might not be realistic for you to track down everyone who writes an online review for your property and place individual telephone calls, you can still touch the guests that write reviews. Many of the review sites, including TripAdvisor,, Expedia and Travelocity allow you to publicly respond to reviews. If you're part of the majority of hotels that are not responding to reviews today, you must start responding immediately. Responding to negative feedback sends the message that you care about the guest experience, you are sorry when guests are disappointed, and you seek out guest feedback as a way to improve your operations. Responding to positive reviews sends the message that you appreciate your guests and are happy that they had a great stay with you. Responses to positive reviews are also an opportunity to decorate your profile on review sites with messages about what you are doing well.

But don't take my word for it. Forrester and TripAdvisor conducted a study earlier this year and the results clearly show that responding to reviews makes a difference to consumers. In fact, 79% of respondents agree that seeing a management response to a bad review is reassuring. And 78% say that seeing a management response to a good review makes them think highly of the hotel. And, because I read dozens of reviews every day at Revinate, I can tell you that I often see reviews that say that the reason the guest chose to stay at the hotel in the first place was because management takes the time to respond to reviews.

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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.