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Feb. 2011 Social Media Story


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The Feb. 2011 AAHOA Lodging Business Cover Story on social media trends in hospitality.

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Feb. 2011 Social Media Story

  1. 1. Cover Story Navigating the social media landscapeSocial media is changing the hospitality marketing landscape andallowing hotels to interact with current and potential guests likenever before. ALB asked experts and brands how to optimize asocial media network for successS By Jonathan ocial media is the fastest-grow- Margaret Mastrogiacomo, social ing internet marketing tool and media specialist with Hospitality it has become a critical one for Springston, AAHOA eBusiness Strategies, said social me-the hospitality industry. Lodging Business dia works well for the customer and Hotels that are utilizing social service-oriented hotel are able to interact with Mariana Mechoso Safer, senior “You’re building that customercustomers like never before and director of marketing for Hospital- relationship through social media,”are reaping hefty benefits in online ity eBusiness Strategies, said social she said. “It’s more than just sellingplacement and revenue. media allows hotels to not only con- hard products, you’re building that Many brands utilize popular nect with current customers but also guest experience online.”websites like Facebook, Twitter, future potential customers.YouTube, TripAdvisor, and Flickr “Social media allows hotels to Getting Startedwhile others have developed their differentiate themselves from the The large social media universe canown unique sites. competition,” she said. sometimes be complex and tough to32 AAHOA Lodging Business FEBRUARY 2011
  2. 2. Cover Storynavigate for hoteliers who are new tothe concept. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Mile-stone Internet Marketing and Ameri-can Hotel & Lodging Association Ed-ucational Institute in 2010 releasedthe latest edition of the book Hotelsto HTMLs. In it, authors Benu and AnilAggarwal break down social mediainto seven different categories calledchannels: video sites (YouTube);social networks (Facebook, Twitter);blogs; bookmarking sites (Digg);traveler reviews (Expedia, Orbitz);photosharing (Flickr); and news andPR articles. For hotels that are not currentlyinvolved with social media but areinterested, the book suggests theybegin carving out a presence on thepopular social media sites. “The cerned – from small, hyper-focused say Twitter or Facebook, we do havemain social media objectives for private online communities - with several properties who have foundthese hotels should be to establish our partner Communispace - to a social media to be a viable outleta presence in the main social media public online community - Prior- through which they can engagechannels and use simple marketing ity Club Connect for Priority Club their guests in a personal way withtechniques to create a network of Reward members - to active pres- things like unique content, specialfans and friends.” ences across Twitter, Facebook and deals and promotions,” he said. “In “Before they even set up their YouTube, among others,” Nick addition to the activity of our indi-presence on social media, [hoteliers] Ayres, manager of social marketing, vidual properties, our global brandsneed to set up a social media strat- distribution and relationship mar- are digging in as well and working It’s clear from talkingegy and set benchmarks,” Mas- to build advocacy within a hosttrogiacomo said. “Once they have of social spaces.”these in place, then it’s important Best Western has a strongto delegate responsibilities. Oncethey have a strategy in place and with the different presence on Facebook, Twit- ter and YouTube and activelyan action plan, then they can setup their presence on the platform brands that there is maintains blogs like www. and no one-size-fits-allthey feel is best.”, ac- For hotels that are farther cording to Troy Rutman, directoralong, the HTMLs recommend approach to social of external communications forcross-networking each of their Best media channels. “At the hotel level, we offer “Make sure that the socialmedia icons are displayed clearly media marketing our owner-operators digital consulting services to help themon your website so that consum- craft an effective online pres-ers can get to those channels,” keting for InterContinental Hotels ence,” Rutman said. “This includesHotels to HTMLs says. “Flickr should Group (IHG), said. everything from SEO [search enginebe interlinked to your Facebook and “We’re also working at the optimization] and social networkingTwitter accounts. Similarly, make hyper-local level via location-based to reputation management in hotelsure that you are linking Twitter and marketing with programs like our review forums.”YouTube to your Facebook account. Topguest partnership, where we Certain Wyndham brands likeCross-linking the channels will help award Priority Club Reward mem- Howard Johnson and Baymont Innyou in optimization as well as in bers 50 Priority Club Reward points & Suites first started experimentingexpanding your network.” for their virtual check-ins to any of with social media in 2009, accord- It’s clear from talking with the our properties globally.” he added. ing to Rosanne Zusman, senior vicedifferent brands that there is no one- Ayres said IHG hotels have been president of brand marketing for thesize-fits-all approach to social media tinkering with social media for a Wyndham Hotel number of years. “Since that time, we’ve seen more “Our approach really runs the “While not every property is and more of them move into thegamut as far as platforms are con- actively building out a following on space in one way or another,” sheFEBRUARY 2011 AAHOA Lodging Business 33
  3. 3. Cover Story collaborate to continually monitor and strengthen their social media networks. “In the last several years, Best Western leadership has set a clear course to make thoughtful, disci- plined investments in the social media platforms that are relevant to our family brand,” Rutman said. “As the online medium demands, there Once hotels have set up their social network, they should decide how to operate and maintain it is also a major customer care compo- nent in our web activity.”Baymont Inn & Suites currently uses Facebook as one of several channels to advertise its Zusman said responsibility forlatest promotions and sweepstakes Wyndham’s social media varies bysaid. “This past year was first year says. “A few hotels have a full-time brand.where most of our brands saw sig- resource dedicated to managing “It is most often a collaborativenificant participation in some type of their social media channels. At a effort between internal departmentssocial media channel.” minimum, you will need to allocate such as marketing and customer Zusman noted that Wyndham an hour a day to make sure that the service as well as external resourcesbrands like Howard Johnson, Ra- channels you are using are effec- such as agencies,” she said.mada and Super 8 use social media tive.” Ayres said the IHG approach isaccording to specific needs and ob- The Best Western external com- a combination of individual pointjectives determined by the property munications and eCommerce teams persons acting alone and interde-owner. Carlson began dabbling in socialmedia in its Americas hotels in 2009. “At the brand level, we have ourblog,,our Facebook page,, and we are activeon Twitter as well,,” Aurora Toth,vice president of marketing for Carl-son, said. “Our hotels in the Ameri-cas manage their own accounts, andwe offer training to help them getstarted.” Managing ChannelsOnce hotels have set up their socialnetwork, they should decide how tooperate and maintain it. “The key to social media opti-mization is to be actively involvedin these channels,” Hotels to HTMLs34 AAHOA Lodging Business FEBRUARY 2011
  4. 4. Cover Story to that group. One example from Hotels to HTMLs is to become a fan of Disneyland on Facebook and of- fer specials to that group. The Aggarwals offer a number of suggestions for how hotels should promote their channels, including polls, “Tips of the Day,” fun facts about the hotel, vaca- tion packages, hotel perks, and discussions of the latest initiatives, among others.partmental collaboration. “We do have a small numberof people in the organization whoare explicitly responsible for socialmedia programs but there areseveral functions like PR and com-munications where social mediaplays a part in their day-to-day rolesand responsibilities but is not theirprimary or exclusive responsibility,”he said. “Our belief is that in orderfor social media to really becomean embedded part of our organiza-tion, we need to distribute it where itmakes sense.” Socializing and Promoting Channels“Across all social media channels,the goal is for the hotel to be part of aThe goal is for thehotel to be partof a group thatshares commoninterests with thehotelgroup that shares common interestswith the hotel - destination informa-tion, events in your market, yourinitiatives such as going green [or]pet-friendly - so that the hotel canconstantly interact with the groupand offer value,” Hotels to HTMLssays. The book suggests becoming afan of relevant groups and business-es on the social media channels andthen try to offer something exclusiveFEBRUARY 2011 AAHOA Lodging Business 35
  5. 5. Cover Story “Our brands engage guests currently in the process ofthrough a variety of means identifying a long-term solu-ranging from site-specific tion for better tracking andspecial offers and contests to measurement.”online games, video content Ayres said IHG is stilland polls,” Zusman said of working to nail down bestWyndham. practices for tracking feed- Rutman said Best Western back. He noted that a negativeuses a balance of promotions comment on Twitter shouldand giveaways with entertain- be handled differently than aing and useful content. positive review on a blog. “The teams who need the Tracking Customer information are different, Feedback the timing of the responseObviously, hotels can put all is likely to be different, andthe information they want on so on,” he said. “Ultimately,social media sites but if no one we want each guest to getbothers to track feedback, the the best response from theeffort seems wasted. most appropriate touch “It’s not just about actively point – whether that’s a hotelposting on the fan page but general manager [or] a globalproactively monitoring the brand representative. Therebuzz,” Mastrogiacomo said. are a variety of systems and“The number one mistake platforms we’re workingthat the hotel can make is on integrating to best en-not monitoring the buzz on Howard Johnson was one of the first Wyndham Hotel Group able us to take advantage of brands to make its way onto social media sites like Facebook and respond to the cloud ofsocial media. What guests are and continues to build a strong fan base with fun comments, conversation we know existssaying about you affects the videos, brand promotions and moreperception of your hotel.” about our brands, properties Rutman said Best Western is transferring the conversation away and company.”always in “listen mode.” from the web and finding a swift Toth said Carlson tries to re- “We respond to individual resolution. spond quickly to customer feedbackguests where appropriate and track “From a hotel perspective, we but are working on best practices.our overall share of online conver- educate our franchisees on how best “We are still in the infancy ofsation via monitoring tools that to respond and resolve to comments our social media experience andscan blogs, reviews, networking and reviews on user generated are working with agencies to helpsites, and so on,” he said. content sites but allow each hotel us track and monitor at the brand Wyndham has brand teams and to take the lead on how and when level,” she said.customer care staff that collaborate they want to respond,” she address feedback individually, “With regards to tracking, we are Processing and Analyzing Customer Feedback Brands place a great deal of emphasis on feedback generated through so- cial media as it plays into investment decisions hotels believe will reduce complaints and problems while in- creasing loyalty. Safer said handling negative feedback the right way through so- cial media can have a big impact on many people. “The hotel provides feedback and people’s attitude turns around right away,” she said. “That’s great because not just the person who is upset sees that feedback, but every- one sees how much the brand cares.” Mastrogiacomo said hotels should take the time to respond to36 AAHOA Lodging Business FEBRUARY 2011
  6. 6. Cover Storynegative feedback but also share the can be a leading indicator, chancespositive feedback. are if there’s a problem or an oppor- “It’s important to respond to tunity that is on our guests’ collec-brand ambassadors as well, reaching tive radar in a significant fashion, itout and saying we’re so happy you will show up in social media as wellenjoyed your stay,” she said. “Keep as a host of other feedback chan-the conversation going. Ask them nels,” Ayres said. “If it doesn’t, wequestions about what they did on need to take a hard look at whethertheir trip and how they liked their the social chatter is really a repre-experience.” sentative thread or not and do Rutman said Best Western our diligence to understandPresident and CEO David Kong has its overall level of im-personally read thousands of guest portance.”Determining “We place great value in knowing andbest practices for understanding what consumers areanalyzing customer thinking and saying about our brands, whetherfeedback is still a it’s through social media, the press, customer care or some otherwork in progress channel,” Zusman said of Wynd- ham. “Their feedback, along with brand may step in. In large part, the feedback and comments from though, our owners and guests are our franchisees, is just one of manyfeedback cards during his tenure. best served by the intensive training items we consider when updating or “Feedback through social media Best Western provides to its mem- implementing new brand standards.certainly increases the reach of both bers, the goal of which is to help In every instance, we want to findpositive and negative comments, hoteliers prevent problems before the solution that’s not only the rightand we’ve invested intelligently they arise.” thing to do by our consumers but theto remain aware and responsive in For IHG, Ayres said hotels like to right thing to do by our franchisees.”those channels,” Rutman said. “In “triangulate” feedback from social Determining best practices formany situations, guest complaints media with feedback that arrives analyzing customer feedback isare best resolved at the local level, from more traditional channels of still a work in progress as the socialbetween the owner-operator and the feedback like phone and e-mail. media environment continues toguest. If that becomes unlikely, the “While we’ve found social media change. “Social media is yet one more channel in which consumers have a voice to publicly express their pleas- ure or dissatisfaction with a product or a brand,” Zusman said. “As such, proactively monitoring and address- ing their concerns in this space is becoming increasingly important to managing a brand’s reputation.” Wyndham utilizes different on- line tools to monitor feedback about its brands and is working to develop tools to measure the effectiveness of their social media strategy. “We put a lot of effort into helping Best Western hoteliers understand and benefit from social media,” Rutman said. “It’s still a new arena and everyone is trying to figure out how to define ‘success.’ We rely on a combination of qualita- tive and quantitative metrics, doing a post-mortem on each online initia- tive to quickly adjust our strategyFEBRUARY 2011 AAHOA Lodging Business 37
  7. 7. Cover Storybased on [lessons learned]. Stayingnimble is key, as is recognizing thatsocial media is no longer just a GenY game.” Ayres said it is important at IHGto listen to brand feedback on a dailybasis, a balance that he describes asboth an art and a science. “Our goal is not to create anentirely separate set of measure-ments that do not lead back to what’simportant to the broader business,”he said. “Social media programsshould be able to demonstrate andtranslate their value to the businessin the same ways as any other pro-gram. To best do that, we know therewill be times when we need to look levels of funding for 2011 than we book rooms on a hotel website ora little more closely at the numbers did for 2010.” over the phone, even though theyand times we need to look a little “Like most marketers, the social found the hotel on Facebook or onmore broadly across longitudinal media space is one that we’re still Twitter,” the Hotels to HTMLs says.qualitative insights but the key is un- just beginning to work into our larg- Hotels can use website analyti-derstanding both are important and er marketing efforts,” Zusman said. cal tools to track web traffic to theboth should be a map to our vision “As such, our spending against so- social media channels and track theof delivering ‘Great Hotels Guests cial media remains a very small part number of customers who went fromLove.’” of the larger marketing budget. How the channels to the hotel booking quickly we’ll begin to see increases engine. Costs and Funding in that spending is likely dependent “As technology advances, we areFunding for social media at the upon how consumers continue tobrand level remains a small part ofthe overall hotel marketing budget. use this medium and how soon we can find ways to accurately measure IncreasedBut as social media becomes a morepopular tool for marketing, brands and attribute its value.” Tracking Return On engagement is the short term ROIare finding reasons to increasefunding. Investment (ROI) “Social media cuts across so Hotels to HTMLs argues track-many functional areas, which is not ing ROI generated through social positive that there will be ways tohow traditional budgeting proc- media channels is difficult because measure actual ROI and social mediaesses operate,” Ayres said. “We “the conversion from social media optimization effectiveness more ac-have significant buy in across the marketing efforts occurs on chan- curately,” the Hotels to HTMLs says.organization in the need to focus nels different from the social media “Hoteliers who want to be ahead ofon the social media opportunity, so channels.” the curve should invest today in thewe are seeing significantly higher “For example, most clients will media that is fast emerging as the future of Internet marketing.” Mastrogiacomo argues ROI from the social media program is not necessarily measured in dollars and cents in the short term. “The ROI [hoteliers] should be looking for in the short term is increased engagement,” she said. “Are people posting on your walls and asking about availability? Is there an ongoing conversation? Are you generating a lot of buzz on the platform?” “Keep in mind short- term ROI leads in the long-term to brand engagement,” she said. “You’re go- ing to be the first hotel that comes to mind.”38 AAHOA Lodging Business FEBRUARY 2011