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Hotelier Middle East - Social Media Best Practice


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I was interviewed for a piece in the March 2013 edition of Hospitality Middle East, about Social Media best practices in the hospitality industry.

I was interviewed for a piece in the March 2013 edition of Hospitality Middle East, about Social Media best practices in the hospitality industry.

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  • 2. BEST PRACTICE Social media has changed the way people communicate. Feature Best practiceCASE STUDIESHOTEL: Sheraton Dubai Mall of the EmiratesHOTEL: Le Méridien DubaiHOTEL: Dubai Marriott HotelsA STRATEGICAPPROACH TO SOCIALDeveloping a social media presence has become compulsory for allhotels, but whose desk does the task land on and what happens when itall goes wrong? Consultants and hoteliers say the secret to social mediasuccess is good planning by the PR professional, inspired by the teamBy Louise Birchall understandable way,” agrees choice of language. Following S ocial media has gone from being the latest buzz word Iconsulthotels consultancy her blog post complaining of a to an essential tool for hotels, used for communicating founder Martin Kubler. limited wine list and questioning with guests and colleagues alike, but an air of uncertainty prevails regarding who should be managing it, when and You might as well drop social the authenticity of the Milanese how to manage it, why it is worth managing and what to do media on its head when your cuisine served at the restaurant, during a social storm. over-passionate and not-too-PR- he told her to “contain the orgasm savvy team members get involved. of your ignorance”, before going Kubler cites the example of on to rant about the “ignorance” the Milanese chef of the new of all food writers, and finishingTHE WHO “The impression I usually get, Giannino restaurant at Meydan with: “All the above is directedEdition Hospitality digital to be honest, is that social media Beach Club in Dubai, who ventedmarketing consultant Paul has been dropped on their desk his anger at unimpressed dinerParsons has assisted hotels and they’re trying to reduce the and food blogger Samantha Social Media isthroughout the region. He is amount of time spent on finding Wood using a rather unpalatable not a fad anymoretypically approached by confused content, replying to posts and so and it needs to be takenhotel marketing managers who on,” he says.are under pressure to summon a On a positive note, at least the seriously by all media presence. task has been dropped on the It has changed the way right desk. As Parsons explains, people communicate only the marketing and public relations departments should be and is very important passionate about posting. in terms of online “Some people think that branding and reputation traditional laws of marketing and public relations do not management” apply anymore, but that is Madiha Zakir, Le Meridien Dubai. wrong. You still have to be Dubai Marriott Hotels senior e- able to write proper copy and JW Marriott Hotel Dubai is among those commerce manager Aftab Sayed. be able to communicate in an taking social media seriously. HOTELIER MIDDLE EA ST | March 2013 | Volume 12 Issue 03 59
  • 3. BEST PRACTICE If you’re finding yourself one of the most active hoteliers CASE STUDY I spending all day browsing on social media in the region, says THE HOTEL: Sheraton Dubai Mall of the Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, she does not have fixed timings to Emirates, UAE you should probably get out more. manage the platforms. THE LEADER: Jitendra Jain, senior manager, According to our experts, it is not “Le Méridien Dubai accounts digital field marketing Middle East, Starwood necessary, nor healthy. are always open on my desktop Hotels & Resorts You should sit yourself down and smart phone throughout with a cup of tea and dedicate the day. I do however spend OBJECTIVE around one hour every day to more time on Le Méridien Sheraton is our largest brand and most managing the hotel’s social Dubai’s Twitter profile assisting popular brand in the world. It was important media platforms, plus some our guests with any query or for us to build our own platform to resonate extra time on the side to do the responding to their feedback with the Sheraton brand and also operate as all-important yet all-to-often- regarding their stay or dining per our social media guidelines. neglected planning. experience,” she says. Le Méridien Dubai online marketing manager Madiha “Usually the biggest issue Similarly, Starwood Hotels Zakir has transformed the hotel’s social presence. STRATEGY is there’s no planning,” says & Resorts senior manager – At Starwood we have our own social media also to all ‘professors’ [who] Parsons. “I still don’t understand digital field marketing for the guidelines and best practices, which we without having a clue of what why any department of the Middle East Jitendra Jain says used to activate the platforms for Sheraton they are talking about [keep] hotel doesn’t have social media it is difficult to put an exact time Dubai Mall of the Emirates. It’s been a writing, twitting, Facebooking content prepared in advance. spend on social media. complete team effort, between Starwood’s [sic]. Guys get a life!” When it comes to anything else, “Our guests are active on social digital marketing team, the hotels in-house The whole unsavoury episode, it’s planned months in advance. media throughout the day and social media champion and a social media which made international But with social media it seems to night; at all hours, so we want consultant, to develop a social media headlines, posed a PR nightmare be a last-minute ditch. It should to interact with them as much presence for the hotel. for the restaurant, and quite the be planned in line with other as possible. With the resources The Sheraton Dubai Mall of the Emirates opposite for marketing campaigns. we have in place, we are able to hotel is a new hotel for us, so it is important This is not to say your “The amount of time spent on continue an ongoing dialogue to first build awareness of the hotel across passionate team members social media can be reduced if with our guests across our social all major social media platforms, such as should be banished from the hoteliers start planning. Spend 30 media platforms,” he says. Facebook and Twitter. realms of social media. While the minutes in the morning reviewing Being a large international We are reaching out to our Sheraton PR machine is responsible for what’s been said, what content hotel operator, Starwood benefits customers, our loyal SPG members, global publishing appropriately-worded, needs to be distributed and then from having a digital marketing travellers and residents of the GCC, to pleasant posts, ideas for content again in the afternoon.” team, in-house hotel social media introduce the hotel, its signature Sheraton and resources should come “from This method is not the only champions and often uses social experiences and other offerings. as far up as the CEO down to the method, however. It depends media consultants. All associates are aware of the changes front-of-house executive — all how far you want to take social But monitoring social media at the hotel, which include the new social should be involved”, says Parsons. media. Le Méridien Dubai online can be made easier with cheap, media platforms, in addition to other However, there is one party marketing manager Madiha some even free, tools such as communication tools. that should be exiled, the third Zakir, who Parsons describes as, a social media party. Social media should RESULTS certainly not be outsourced, even Le Méridien Dubai communicates with people daily on Twitter. Since the launch of the Sheraton Dubai Mall the consultant agrees. of the Emirates social media platforms, we “The problem with a lot have significantly increased awareness of hotels is they will usually of the hotel and its features. Our focus in outsource it, which is the biggest the coming months will be to continue issue. I advise them that they building that awareness and to highlight our need to do it in-house, solely upcoming offers and services. because of response times, and they know their brand better than anybody else,” says Parsons. THE WHEN AND HOW So now you know which 217 department is responsible for social media — PR and marketing People talking about Sheraton Dubai Mall — the next question is, how long of the Emirates on Facebook, February 20. should they be spending on it?60 HOTELIER MIDDLE EA ST | March 2013 | Volume 12 Issue 03
  • 4. BEST PRACTICE dashboard allowing hotels toCASE STUDY 2 monitor, respond and manage their social media accounts fromTHE HOTEL: Le Méridien Dubai a single website.THE LEADER: Madiha Zakir, onlinemarketing manager The platform enables companies to utilise the built-OBJECTIVE in link shortening and tracking Social Media is not a fad anymore and it tools, as well as providing the needs to be taken seriously by all hotels. It ability to be able to pre-schedule has changed the way people communicate posts at a time of convenience. these days and is very important in terms of Furthermore, its inbuilt reporting online branding and reputation management. functionality provides a great way Conversations about our hotel brand are for hotels to be able to see what happening online whether we like it or not. As is working for them across their a brand, we need to listen and engage with different social media accounts. our customers to sustain our loyalty and stay in Or, try Social Mention, a tune with their requirements. social media search and analysis platform that aggregates user-STRATEGY generated content from across We started the improvement of our social the universe into a single stream media platforms in February 2011. The process of information. required dedication, taking us approximately The site allows you to easily two months to streamline our presence on track and measure what people Tripadvisor, Facebook, You Tube, Foursquare are saying about you, your hotel, and Twitter. even your neighbour’s hotel, a I had to identify the USPs of our hotel, what new product, or any topic across works best for one brand does not necessarily the web’s social media landscape work for the other. in real-time. Le Méridien Dubai’s social channels were If you do not like what they are primarily positioned as: saying, skip to the ‘When things • Customer support: From providing special go wrong’ part of this article. rates for rooms to restaurant bookings or To effectively plan — and pre- dining experience feedback, our Facebook schedule posts, on your newly- and Twitter profiles provide real-time downloaded Hootsuite account customer support to our guests. — you first need to learn how to • Focus on fewer fans, more engagement: engineer a social media hit. Think More engagement with fewer, more loyal fans ‘viral’. Or at least try to post or customers always drives better results. something interesting. • Drive incremental revenue: Exclusive ‘fan- “Everything is social. only’ offers launched for Le Méridien Dubai’s Social Media can be used as a Facebook fans. marketing, customer service or distribution channel. It is partRESULTS of our everyday life now and the By improving Le Méridien Dubai’s social key to a hotel’s success is unique media presence, we have seen an enhanced content. You have to ask yourself, perception of our brand in the local and international markets, improved guest loyalty and a substantial return on time invested for our rooms and restaurants. 3937 The number of people following Le Edition Hospitality digital marketing consultant Paul Méridien Dubai on Twitter on February 20. Parsons has worked with many MENA hotels. HOTELIER MIDDLE EA ST | March 2013 | Volume 12 Issue 03 61
  • 5. BEST PRACTICE your fans what they would like to of theft or injury, Kubler advises see on your menu.” the hotel to consult a lawyer to And finally there are the approve a statement to be posted. incentive posts, or bribes, aimed “It’s nearly always possible at luring guests to your hotel with to post a public statement,” he CASE STUDY 3 a special offer or a competition, says, adding that hotels should THE HOTEL: Dubai Marriott Hotels for example. not try to prevent people from THE LEADER: Aftab Sayed, senior e-commerce Do not forget to link back to commenting on the situation. manager your website, Parsons — like your “It’s better to keep the doors of fans — gets angry when he sees communication open. If you have OBJECTIVE hotel incentive posts minus a web 10 people booking into your hotel To improve the social media presence of the address or even contact details, and they’re all complaining, you Dubai hotels, in accordance with Marriott’s and he becomes even more don’t lock the doors”. social media guidelines infuriated when your staff are “However, there may be apparently clueless that such an extreme circumstances where STRATEGYKreata Global Digital Media Services business director offer exists when you telephone yes, the wall may have to be We have the e-commerce team goingSujith Mathew says turn negative to positive. the hotel to book it. turned off, because some to various trainings on social media via‘what sets you apart from your “Too many hotels, when they’re information at the time cannot be Marriott channels and then cascade thiscompetitors?’ ‘What are your promoting offers, they’re not made public. Again, it’s all about information down to all the relevantfans more interested in… rooms or linking to their website so how communication, so you post the departments. All our social media activitiesF&B content?’ are they going to monitor return statement,” Kubler says. are managed in-house. Parsons breaks down social on investment for room bookings. “In Ireland a hotel had an Every time we have an update, all themedia content into three It’s crazy,” complains Parsons. outbreak of a vomiting virus and relevant hotel teams are given trainingscore categories, so you’ve got “And when it comes to dining, had to close during investigations on the updates to be aware of newinformational, conversational and put a phone number and in into the cause, there’s nothing implementations and policies.incentivise types of content. preparation make sure the people the hotel could do about it. It We also have a dedicated system set up to “So if you’re posting that answer the phone know in turned off its Facebook wall for monitor and track negative and positiveinformational content, you might advance what offer has been on a couple of days while awaiting posts; we use a tool to see what thewant to tell people if you have social media”. confirmation whether the hotel sentiment is for each segment.recently won an award, expose was at fault or not. When it It allows us to get all the information in onethem to what is happening at your WHEN THINGS GO WRONG transpired that the hotel wasn’t at place and for us to reach out and see how wehotel,” he says. In an ideal world, your hotel fault, it posted a statement with can better guest experiences. “Then you’ve got could do no wrong in the eyes of the evidence.” This is all managed centrally via the Dubaiconversational when people give your loyal Facebook fans, Twitter Parsons says replying to every cluster and cascaded down to each propertyyou feedback. So chef may be followers, and the rest of your single negative post during such involving champions from each departmentcreating a new menu and they social media following. an incident only fuels the fire. at a property level.can’t decide between tomato soup Unfortunately, there is a lot “The storm will die down, butand mushroom soup so you ask that can go wrong in a hotel, on often what happens in the case RESULTS the worse end of the scale are of a very bad incident is the hotel We started out with a basic Facebook page I still don’t incidents from thieving staff and tries to engage with everyone who for all our properties in accordance with our understand why guest injuries to an outbreak has commented on it. A lot of the Marriott social media guidelines. of food poisoning or a terrorist time you’ve got people that want We started engaging our following moreany department doesn’t scare, for example. to join in the discussion for the in 2012 and have seen remarkable resultshave social media As a hotel, it is important sake of it”. in terms of reach. We do not engage incontent prepared to know about such incidents, For smaller matters, Kreata Twitter for all our hotels, mostly just for the communicate with those involved Global Digital Media Services JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai. We arein advance, when it and resolve outstanding issues. If business director Sujith Mathew going to focus on Facebook, Foursquare andcomes to anything else you hear of negative experiences says take the negative sentiment Pinterest for’s planned months via a guest complaint on a social and convert it into a positive. media platform, the whole “Social media is a platform toin advance. But with world is listening. If you fail to acknowledge it, address it andsocial media it seems to adequately resolve the complaint, correct it – converting a negativebe a last-minute ditch” the whole world makes a mental sentiment to a positive sentiment.Paul Parsons, Edition Hospitality. note to avoid your hotel. If the complaint involves a potentially legal matter, such as There are two ways of doing this. Often you can block explicit words, the second, and most 3042 People like JW Marriott Dubai Hotel on claims against the hotel in cases important step, is just to face it. Facebook, on February 20, 2013.62 HOTELIER MIDDLE EA ST | March 2013 | Volume 12 Issue 03
  • 6. BEST PRACTICE “Call the concerned person or Once the problem is resolved, send a private message and take communications should also be hold of the situation. About 90% posted online, where the original of people will be happy because complaint was posted, according you communicated with them,” to Kubler. says Mathew. Furthermore, it is important not THE WHY to forget that feedback received When all appropriate preparation from social media is a big asset and planning has been done, to hotels. “We appreciate the you’ve published the day’s feedback that our guests provide insightful posts, converted us with. In today’s technology- negative sentiments to positive driven world, travellers expect and finished your afternoon a dialogue with their favourite cup of tea and half hour or so of brands, where social media plays a monitoring, you may stop and key role,” says Starwood’s Jain. think ‘what is the point’. “Travellers today know what Even if you only started they want and when they want developing your hotel’s social The recently reflagged Sheraton Dubai Mall of the Emirates hotel is communicating the change through its social media. it, and they expect personalised medial presence because every attention and experiences. other hotel was on Facebook, or monitor, they say the exposure for longer a question of whether “Our social media platforms are the job rather rudely landed on your hotel’s brand, and the added hotels should use social media linked back to our website where your desk, done properly you’ll channel for engagement with your or not, but how effectively these we give our guests the opportunity soon be glad you did. guests and colleagues is priceless. channels are being utilised to to review their experiences While our experts say direct “Social Media is not a fad improve the brand recognition — directly through ratings and return on investment, in terms of anymore and it needs to be taken loyalty is paramount,” concludes reviews,” he adds. direct bookings, can be difficult to seriously by all hotels. It is no Le Méridien Dubai’s Zakir.EUROPEAN MEAT - TRADITION, QUALITY AND TASTEIn March 2013 the residents and guests of Dubai will have the opportunity to tingle their taste buds with the culinary delights of beef and poultry from the European Union,including Polish dishes.Meat and cold meat constitute an important ingredient of the human diet both red meat and poultry being a good natural source of protein. In the European Union and inPoland great importance is placed on natural ways of food production. Widespread stock-raising areas with access to fresh water and natural fodder for the animals aresome of the many factors that contribute to the unique taste of the meat and cold meat.The cattle and poultry, and also the relevant animal fodder, are subject to strict veterinary controls, guaranteeing that the meat is a 100 per cent pure quality product whichretains all its healthy nutrition and taste.The beef and poultry are grown in a humanitarian way in accordance with the relevant animal protection Acts and in accordance with the correct production practice thatobserves norms defined by the Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP), the commercial standards of ISO aligned to the standards of good manufacturing practices(GHP) and the Good Hygienic Practice (GHP). The meat and cold meat on offer are the result of a special production method that is controlled at each step of the slaughter inthe prescribed HALAL manner, processing, storing and the distribution.The essential element that decides the quality of European Union meat and meat products is the preservation of its traditional taste, smell and appearance, while using stateof the art processing technology. The traditional cold meat that come from the European Union are prepared based on centuries old recipes which have been prepared andappreciated for many years by consumers beyond the European Union. They have been recognized with many award winning prizes in many culinary and gastronomycompetitions.Meat and cold meat from the European Union, thanks to their unique attributes, can be consumed unprocessed or kept refrigerated or frozen. For that reason they are anexcellent product for exporting even to a distant consumer.The European Union meat and cold meat producers will present their best quality products during the International Agribusiness Trade Event AGRA ME 2013 that will takeplace from 26th to 28th March, 2013, at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre on Stand P20, Pavilion 2. The products to be presented will include fresh cold or frozen beef(e.g., bullocks shank, beef tenderloin, sirloin), poultry and processed products. During the trade show there will be a presentation of the natural farming and animal healthprevention methods used, and the production process resulting in the final product meat, meat products and cold meat. The stand from the European Union will invite youto try best quality poultry and beef, and also a wide variety of cold meat. Films, advice, tasting and also live cooking stations will bring you closer to the quality and taste ofmeat and cold meat coming from the European Union. We are certain that the products presented by us will become a culinary delight on every table as they will satisfy eventhe most refined food tasters.Details about the EUROPEAN MEAT - TRADITION, QUALITY AND TASTE programme that promotes the meat from the European Union and their organizers the Association ofButchers and Producers of Meat of the Republic of Poland are available at: HOTELIER MIDDLE EA ST | March 2013 | Volume 12 Issue 03 63