Making Social Media Work For You in the New Decade
By Didi Lutz, President, Didi Lutz PR
What youíve read is true. Social media is here to stay, so itís time embrace the change. This new era of social networking has taken communication and information sharing to a whole new level.
This takeover emerged in the mid-2000ís when the need for instantaneous communication became stronger and tech capabilities became more reliable. Mobile technology boomed with texting, music and video downloads, and with the blogging trend that had started earlier in the decade, social networking was the next step that integrated all those capabilities.
We all know at this point what social media is, and most business have a good grasp on how to use them to reach their audiences. With the constant evolution of social media, however, how do you made this public relations and marcomm tool work for your hotel in the face of a new decade?
Although I know this article is likely to be outdated in a year, simply because of the emerging nature of this multi-faceted communication trend, I have put together some tips on ways to create a solid social media strategy in your hotel.
By now, you should have figured out on which social netoworking sites your hotel should have a presence. Who are you looking to reach out to, and why? Thatís the first question you should ask. Once you have a strategy of that encompasses what you are looking to accomplish by participating in social networks, itís important to set specific goals that make marketing sense for your hotel. Below are some mainstream tips for hotels and social media, especially as the economy recovers:
1) Build a Facebook fan page.
Itís 2010, and your guests will most likely expect to find you on this super popular social network. Next up after creating a high-quality, SEO optizmized website you should have a Facebook fan page. Not a friend page, but a fan page, where automatically other Facebook subscribers can become fans, without the approval process that the typical friend pages have. Your guests will be delighted to see that you are part of the social media trend and see that you are open to connecting with them. Facebook is a mainstream networking forum where you have a lot of control over the content. You can make several employees admins, so that the content and updates are posted often, you can upload photos, discuss hotel issues, from amenities, to new menu items, quirky incidents, and other things your guests will appreciate. While I am not sure how successful Facebook is as a source for reservations, it is definitely an effective forum for capturing random feedback, pieces of advice from guests and other remarks that can prove quite useful. Much of this feedback is not found on the traditional comment card. The purpose of a Facebook fan page is to create relationships with your guests and turn them into loyal repeat visitors to your hotel.
2) To tweet or not to tweet?
That is indeed the question for many hotels. I vote yes to Twitter if you can use it in the right way. Just like with Facebook, you have to be present and active on any social network. While you can get away with posting one update a day on your fan page, thatís not necessarily enough for Twitter. Several posts and updates are required to keep you truly active on this information sharing mecca, which boomed in 2009. Twitter is still evolving; thereís a lot of junk information, and much of it is used as sales tool for direct marketing, but Iíve seen great use of the network, too. For hotels, Twitter is effective in sharing inspirational GM quotes, guest quotes (only if approved), new menu items, little factoids that relate to amenities, sharing exciting travel articles that relate to the destination your hotel is located, etc. Twitter is also good for announcing last minute specials, preferred rates, anything timely that you want to share with a lot of people instantaneously. The key to Twitter is to create powerful messages often enough so that people follow your tweets and share them with their followers through retweet. Making your message succint and strong will make it viral, no doubt about it. Powerful messages will also dictate the quality of your followers, which is more important than the quantity. Of course, it takes great skill to do that in 140 characters or less! Finally, Twitter is a good source for finding media interested in your messages. You could be tweeting about the $1 bar menu at your restaurant, and all of a sudden a reporter could start a dialogue with you on Twitter that could lead to a story!
3) LinkedIn means business!
LinkedIn has redefined itself in the past couple of years so that it has become a large online corporate boardroom. Perfect for networking for business purposes, LinkedIn offers tools and cross-marketing capabilities with Twitter and Wordpress. Your tweets can be viewed by all of your business connections if you wish, and if you have a hotel blog on Wordpress, it will automatically feed into your profile page. Itís a great business networking tool for hoteliers, and there are several excellent forums and groups to participate within this social network. One of my favorite tools on LinkedIn are the polls and the Q&A; they are excellent feedback tools, and your contacts will appreciate you asking them for advice and input.
4) YouTube is popular, too!
Lets not forget the power of video. Hotels thrive on sharing visuals of their property and YouTube is a network that helps make those videos viral by feeding them through the other social networks. Be careful with videos though; you canít control if a guest posts a video on YouTube, but you can make sure you post ďofficialĒ hotel videos of your property that make a great impression. You can also view how many times your video was viewed to determine its popularity over time. Keep posting fresh snipits and share them through your Facebook fan page and twitter.
5) Post often, but responsibly.
Sometimes we think that the more we post and engage on a social network the better. Thatís not always the case. To benefit from SEO, you have to find a healthy middle ground so that search engines donít think you are spamming with too many messages. Posting several times a day is great, though you donít want to overdo it to the point where the effort can backfire in such a way that can harm your online presence.
The tagline of the new decade is ďmake it viral.Ē The more messages you have out there that spread across the globe, the better it seems. However, if you ask me, itís more important to concentrate your social media effort and strategy so that you reach the right audience that fits your hotel and make it work in your overall marketing. Quantity does not surpass quality; just because more followers and fans are available, it doesnít mean that you are guaranteed immediate results.
Like any marketing or PR campaign, a social media campaign must have metrics and measurability in order to determine success. By measuring components such as post qulity, statistics, demographics, and number of subscribers, you may decide that you need to make adjustments. Most of all, expect to be flexible throughout the decade with social media. Social networks are especially fickle because of their online capability, and you have to monitor the trends closely, or otherwise your market may move away from you and then you are left starting a brand new social media strategy... from scratch!
Didi Lutz is an internationally acclaimed hospitality public relations professional specializing in boutique hotels, luxury travel, destination and tourism communications. Prior to starting her own business in February 2005, Ms. Lutz was the Director of Communications for the Hotel Commonwealth, a 150-room luxury property in Boston. Within the first year of the Hotel Commonwealth's opening, she established the media relationship that led to worldwide recognition for the property as one of Ten Best New Business Hotels by Forbes.com. Ms. Lutz can be contacted at 561-628-7422 or email@example.com Extended Bio...
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