Social media comes naturally to me so I love coaching hotels I work with in Ireland, as well as some of the non profit boards I sit on, in our social endeavors. This month, I decided to write a short piece on how hotels can leverage the ever-changing nature of our jobs - Social Media Marketing. I believe that social media must be part of your overall marketing campaign as well as a part of the business model. It’s not standalone and cannot be measured in ROI (Return on Investment). It has become part of our business lives as much as our personal lives. It’s a way to stay connected to our most valuable assets, our customers. It’s a way to stay connected to our most valuable parts of our lives, our friends and our families. It’s a conversation.
In my observation, hotels struggling with social media assign that job to the sales officer, but behind the scenes lies a better way for hotels to hit the mark with their customers. If “back of house” and “front of house” staff could pull together as a social media team, morale would grow and employees would gain a sense of place and customers would be poised to engage. This would lead to an increase in brand building - bit by bit. ROI on social media is hard to trace in sales, but is ever-evolving for brand awareness and buzz. And we are approaching a tipping point.
One social media program, supported by both sides of the house, is that of Hastings Hotels in Northern Ireland. They have a signature Rubber Duck that they give as an in-room amenity. They “redress” the mascot from time to time and post pictures. How do they engage followers? By allowing you, the customer, to post your pictures of your Rubber Ducks from wherever they may roam. For example, we posted pictures of ours at Disneyland in California. Here is an example of our Duck, given as an in room amenity, traveling to our home in Oregon, on to California on our holiday. The Duck does double duty, advertising for Hastings and Disneyland. There are countless variations on this theme available to tourism brands. The Hastings Duck stands out as one of the more brilliant that builds brand awareness and engages the customer.
When hotels approach me for social media advice on Twitter, they send me to the sales team and in some cases the general manager. I find that most of the time, they are already pegged with sales calls and clients in-house for their events. They feel overwhelmed, sometimes peeved, at the prospect of adding Twitter to their job description, especially if they don’t understand it. To remove the sting, I advise them to start with just a conversation, wherein they are growing brand awareness.
Some general managers, such as Adriaan Bartels of The Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore, Ireland.
Already have a personal following. He’s a natural at social media andenjoys it. Taking it a step further, when one of his fellow tourism partners, such as myself, are in house with clients, we are tweeting away, building both of our brands. Sometimes only feet away from each other during breakfast or dinner, I am entertaining clients, he is busy around the hotel and we are tweeting each other.
Twitter can be a natural part of the daily routine.
An even more helpful and easy way for the larger hotel chains to adopt social media is to share the task of Twitter or Facebook with entrusted employees, such as the duty manager, general manager and sales manager. Hotels could dedicate a single phone or device for Twitter and Facebook updates. For example, they could leave it at the front desk and make it part of the job of the desk manager or allow anyone at the desk to contribute. The duty manager or front office team would take turns tweeting about the happenings of the day or events in-house. It would get rid of the delay that happens when only one team member is tweeting or posting on Facebook and the hotel would also gain team spirit that we all try to encourage in a hotel setting. The posts would engage followers that have just checked in or just want to know what is happening in the hotel. Add a screen shot of your twitter feed to the hotel channel on TV to gain new followers during their stay, again increasing your brand awareness by creating a fun environment for both team player and customer. Making social media an accepted, encouraged, and natural ingredient among the hotel staff will remove any unnecessary burdens from one single staff member and engage customers and staff alike in the brand’s excitement throughout the day.
Twitter and other social media outlets keep global travelers connected wherever they are. Traveling throughout Ireland three months of the year, I am constantly in contact on the ground with the hotels, drivers, coach companies, restaurants, and those that offer my clients the best Ireland has to offer. When I come home, it can be a shock to suddenly be faced with the office and the lack of social interaction. Twitter has helped me overcome the isolation that happens at the end of the tourist season. I know what is going on in Ireland and what projects everyone is working on. It’s a way for me to stay social, reaching out to those that I will work with in the new season and finding ones that I might not have found otherwise, by word of mouth and referral, to offer my client a new experience in Ireland. Hotels and restaurants can reach out to travel agents and tour operators to create opportunities for the next season.
I hope you’ll join me in this ever-changing, social world. It’s fast-paced, but worth the effort to learn new things, have a great conversation, develop new ideas, and maintain a sense of place - on the Internet.
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