Here’s the second part of our discussion on social media with Emily Wilkinson, the founder and editor of the eWilko blog. In this episode, we talk more specifically on how social media can play a part in the hospitality industry.
Q Social media has been a hot topic in hotel marketing for the last few years. Some hotels are using Twitter, Facebook blogging etc very well – others have started but failed very quickly. What would you say the key principles are to succeed in using social media effectively?
Listening, strategy and buy-in. It can be very exciting when you take your first steps as a company into the social web but it’s important to remember not to do it blindly. Just like the other areas of your business there should be strategy behind this, why are you doing it? What are you hoping to achieve? What objectives/goals do I want to obtain? Social Media shouldn’t be viewed as a silo – it influences other areas of the business – Marketing, Sales, PR, Customer Service, IT etc. so it’s important to get the correct level of buy-in from management or you could end up failing at your first hurdle.
You also important to be creating the right profile for your brand and this is where listening comes in; listening will tell you where the conversations are happening and will give you an idea of where you can engage with people and start conversations. Just because one of your competitors has a Twitter account, doesn’t mean you need to rival them. Think about your strengths as a company, do your research and then give it a go.
A great Twitter account to check out for the travel industry is Marriott International who currently have around 56,000 followers. John Wolf originally started a blog in 2007 and has found that Twitter has been a natural extension to this.
Q Would you encourage hotels to start using social media if they are considering it? What should their first steps be?
I would encourage hotels to do a bit of research in this area, have a look at what your competitors are doing, do a bit of listening – even if it’s just a basic search on your brand name. Are people talking about you? What sort of things are they saying? How could you better your customers experience of your hotel? Is there feedback you didn’t expect that you could use to make improvements to your hotel? Then think about your own offering – do you offer discounts and deals? Then look into voucher sites. Are 80% of your customer smart phone users? Maybe you need to think about an creating an app. Are you wanting to promote your brand? Then create a profile on Facebook and Twitter and think about your current customer touch points and how you can sign post them to these new accounts.
Q Twitter has become a very interesting tool for hotels – they can publicise their property, receive feedback and communicate with customers in a very new way. How do you recommend them to use this tool?
Before a hotel jumps into using a Twitter account they need to be aware that you need resource to maintain it and help it grow. Within in a year Marriott International went from 1,400 followers to 56, 000, not having the resource to deal with this expansion could make a negative impact on your brand.
All areas of the hotel need to be aware of this creation – for instance, if one of your chain of hotels suffers a terrible incident leading in the temporary closure of it and then your designated staff member in marketing send then sends out a deal on Twitter about this hotel this could look terrible for your brand.
Even though Twitter can be a very powerful tool, it’s important that there is a strategy and reasoning behind starting it in the first place.
Q Are you a Four Square user? How do you see this tool developing and what potential benefits could hotels in particular gain from Four Square?
I am! At first I got the app for my iphone to see what it was all about and very quickly became addicted to it. There is an element of competition behind this app, making sure you’re the mayor, unlocking badges and I think this helps add to it’s appeal. Once you’ve got beyond this stage it can also be a fairly helpful tool – especially if you’re new to an area and want to check out the local venues – restaurants, bars, events, doctors etc. People can add tips when they check in to a venue, which is normally in the form of a review. I’ve chosen not to eat in a restaurant before based on several bad reviews and eaten across the road, at their competitors instead.
Right now, it’s still in its early development and only this week Facebook have added a location element to their offering. I think hotels need to be aware of is being said on this application and there is no harm in them registering as owners of the venue so they can use the service in the future to promote offers to customers. I think we’ll need to watch this space to see what happens next.
Q Another interest we both follow is photography. The use of photos and videos is very important to hotels and something I talk about a lot through the Hotel Insight blog. If a hotel approached you to take marketing photos of their property, how would you recommend to approach this – what advice could you give?
I’ve had a couple of opportunities to do some marketing photographs for hotels in London, but I am not really an expert in this area of photograph. In general, any marketing material needs to be carefully planned and when it comes to photography it is important to look for the detail in the frame. Is everything neat and tidy? Am I showing my facilities to their full potential? What are my greatest assets of my hotel? Have I got the correct lighting? If your hotel is great because of it’s staff then make sure you include them, if you have a beautiful view then make sure people see this in the material. Otherwise, what makes your bed in a room different to everyone else’s?
Thanks again to Emily for talking to Hotel Insight. Emily and I will speak regularly in the future so we can share with you our latest thoughts on social media, changes, new approaches and how all of this can be used in the hotel industry.
You can follow her blog by clicking here: eWilko
Or through Twitter by clicking here