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Clear goals key to social media success
May 13 2014

Hoteliers must have strategies in place before engaging in myriad social networks. 

  • “It all starts with your goals,” said Mandarin Oriental’s Mac Joseph.
  • Loews built its social media strategy by looking at the customer booking journey. 
  • IHG leverages existing behavior when rolling out its social campaigns. 

SAN FRANCISCO—If one tried and true lesson has emerged from the hotel industry’s embrace of social media, it’s that hoteliers shouldn’t spread themselves too thin. 
The best way to do that? Ensure they have goals in place before dipping their toes in any one social channel, according to panelists during the 7th annual Social Media & Mobile Strategies for Travel conference hosted by EyeforTravel.
“It all starts with your goals,” said Mac Joseph, senior manager of social media marketing for Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group. 
For the luxury hotel company, the aim is to generate awareness on a global scale while fostering meaningful engagement at the property level. 
Its social media strategy mirrors that approach. Mandarin operates a single YouTube channel for the entire portfolio. 
“We collect, manage a single brand-level account on which all our corporate- and property-level content is featured,” Joseph said.
Individual properties employ Instagram accounts, which are easier to manage with finite resources, he added. They are also more geared toward local content, such as property images or pictures of staff’s interactions with guests. 
Each hotel also has a presence on Google+, although Joseph admitted the network is more challenging. “We’re still learning,” he said. 
If nothing else, Google+ provides an “incredible” boost to search engine optimization, Joseph said. 
Building from the booking funnel
The social media team at Loews Hotels & Resorts had a number of goals, according to director Piper Stevens, including but not limited to:
  • establishing a more social culture on property;
  • creating buzz through integrated campaigns; and
  • driving social commerce. 
But instead of assigning different goals to different social platforms, the team looked at the booking funnel to determine which channels would be most appropriate. 
In the initial dreaming phase, for example, inspiration often comes from sensory experiences such as photos or videos. Loews responded with campaigns on Instagram and YouTube, among others, to spark that yearning for travel, Stevens said. 
The company bolstered its efforts on TripAdvisor to make an impact in the researching stage.  
For the actual booking, Loews was the first brand to introduce reservations on Twitter to make the process as painless as possible, she said. 
And during and after the trip itself, Loews encourages guests to share their experiences via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, thus prompting inspiration for the next wave of travelers. 
Loews’ efforts spread across numerous platforms. In addition to those mentioned above, the company is also active on Google+ and manages a blog, Stevens said, acknowledging not every company has the resources to divide and conquer. 
“Prioritize your time and creativity to the channels that are going to move the needle,” she said.
“You don’t have to be everywhere. Select the channels where your target market is engaged and the channel lends itself to promoting your brand’s desired outcome,” Stevens said. 
Diego Sartori, social media manager for CitizenM, agreed. 
“It’s very important to know your target audience and curate content and choose platforms for them—the ones that they use,” he said. “It’s better to be focused in a few channels rather than everything.” 
“Fish where the fish are,” said Nick Ayres, director of social marketing for InterContinental Hotels Group, in a separate panel.
Leverage existing behavior
During his session, Ayres encouraged attendees to leverage existing customer behavior on social media. 
“Travelers like to share comments,” he said, “but they love to share photos.” 
IHG capitalized through its #discoverIHG campaign, in which guests were encouraged to share pictures of their experience in one of the group’s 4,600 hotels. Doing so entered them into a contest to win loyalty points in the company’s just-launched IHG Rewards Club. 
The campaign produced 10,000 registrants and some 4,500 photo submissions. 
The company adopted a similar approach when it reintroduced its Holiday Inn Express #StaySmart campaign, which originally launched seven years ago. 
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Ayres said of successes in the social space. “You definitely want to find new campaigns when it makes sense … but when it’s already working, don’t be afraid to lean into it even further.” 
If the above seems simple, that was Ayres’ intention. 
“It’s really easy to make things complicated; it’s really hard to make things simple. Ultimately it’s the simple ideas that work the best,” he said. 
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