NASHVILLE, Tennessee—Managing social media at a hotel or within a hotel company isn’t a singular function; it takes a team to create a platform that produces desired results, said speakers during a panel discussion last week at the 5th annual Hotel Data Conference hosted by STR and Hotel News Now.
“The best approach is an integrated process,” said John Fareed, principal of John Fareed Hospitality Consulting, speaking during a panel titled “Social studies: Generating demand from the new generation.”
“As opposed to a lone gun doing all things online, it’s better to bring together all the stakeholders on property to determine what you want to do as a team and what business problems you’re trying to solve,” he said.
Fareed said representatives from all departments of a hotel—revenue management, food & beverage, marketing, operations and more—need to meet regularly to talk about trends and operational issues, to share data and to formulate social media strategies.
“It’s important to establish this integrated marketing approach because you never know who might have the best idea you can use,” he said.
Michael Bennett, managing director of digital marketing & strategy for KSL Resorts, said it’s important to eliminate the traditional on-property departmental silos of sales, marketing, reservations, revenue management and more. Instead, his properties have revenue generation teams.
“The goal is revenue generation, and some days that’s by the phone, sometimes it’s online and sometimes it’s from social media, but if we’re not all working together we’re setting ourselves up for failure,” Bennett said.
Edward Perry, global senior director of social media for OTA partnerships and innovation projects for Worldhotels, said the group of 500-plus independent hotels shares intelligence through an email box all properties can access so “everyone knows immediately about what’s happening throughout the group.”
While it’s important to have many viewpoints in crafting a social media strategy, it’s also important to have clear lines of authority on who can post on the hotel’s behalf. Perry said one person should manage a hotel’s brand online.
“Build advocacy within the organization so everyone is aware of the importance of social media, and encourage them to provide content,” he said. “But it needs to be filtered so only one or two people have the authority to put things online.”
Information gleaned from social media channels can have other uses. Bennett said KSL used social media to help determine what capital improvements were necessary at three properties for which the company recently assumed asset management.
“We’re able to leverage business intelligence we gather through social media to make real-world decisions,” he said. “We leveraged a sentiment analysis of our guests and married that with data from (guest satisfaction surveys) and what we saw online to make choices on how to proceed with capital renovations at these hotels.”
With the proliferation of social media channels comes the need to decide on which ones to focus efforts.
“How many (social media) feeds you can handle depends on who your clients are and where they tend to congregate online,” said Perry, who said his company has employees on call to provide round-the-clock coverage of what’s being said on various social media channels. “We cover the basics, but we also recognize the importance on emerging markets, such as China, where we need extra effort.”
Bennett said the approach at KSL is to involve the concierge and guest-service staffs at each hotel to contribute information that is sent through the property’s social media channels. He also said each hotel’s staff tends to tackle one channel most relevant to the property.
Weddings account for a lot of business at KSL’s Hotel Del Coronado in California, so the hotel’s social media team focuses heavily on Pinterest, a site many brides-to-be follow.
“And even though Pinterest represents less than 2% of our (reservations) referral traffic, it’s an important contributor to (requests for proposal) for weddings,” he said. “And since the average spend for a wedding is $50,000, we can definitely attribute a portion of that revenue to social media.”
Hoteliers must create social media content that engages users. Fareed said content must be “interesting, kind and consistent.”
“For years, people have had conversations about their travels, but with social media hoteliers are now able to join a conversation and have a dialog,” he said. “The benefits are greater engagement with guests and an ability to better answer their needs.”
The iconic Del Coronado is a draw for history buffs, Bennett said, and it shows in social media traffic.
“We can post something about a promotion at the hotel and we may get little interest on social media, but if we post something about the history of the hotel, we’ll get 2,500 likes in 20 minutes,” he said. “It’s all about being relevant and knowing your product and what your customers want to talk about.”
Perry said The Manhattan Hotel in Rotterdam, Netherlands, a Worldhotel, has a Twitter concierge who is on duty from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily to answer questions from guests and non-guests about the hotel and the city.
“It sends a message that if you’re a socially-aware person, then this is the hotel for me,” he said. “It’s taking the concept of social media beyond whether I’m just getting bookings. And except for some staff time, it costs little or nothing.”