Last week I had the opportunity to visit Eye for Travel’s Conference: Social Media in Travel USA 2009 and it was a huge success, uncovering diverse opinions from industry leaders on the future of social networking. Of the many themes presented, one remained consistent; social media is here to stay, and those who ignore it will surely be left behind. Regardless of what type of hotel you have, a social media channel exists out there for you.
Social networks provide an essential opportunity for hotels to get involved with consumers on a personal level. During the conference, each different business segment seemed to take a divided approach. “Big-brand” social media managers emerged as advocates of creating a unique, or targeted social network, while Online Travel Associations (OTAs ) took a more rounded approach, encouraging the creation of a presence within preexisting social sites that will span across a variety of markets. To decide which method is best for you, it is important to keep your audience in mind when you formulate a social media strategy. For example, Joie de Vivre Hotels created a social network centered specifically around California, since all of their properties are located in the region. If you cannot determine a niche audience of your own that is large enough for a unique social network, then joining larger, more established networks might be a better choice for your property’s social networking needs.
Throughout the course of the conference, it also became apparent that Twitter is huge in the Social Media world, growing at an astounding rate of 1382%. According to Jeff Hanson, Senior E-commerce Manager of Marriott International, micro blogging on Twitter is a key element for driving engagement, frequency, and brand recognition to hospitality sites. TIG’s own client, Napa Valley Marriott, won praise for its well-developed Twitter account, used to communicate its service touches, events, and amenities with guests and even driving revenue. Tweeting is unique in that gives your property some transparency not only to your loyal guests, but potential guests as well by keeping them “in the know” about property happenings and enticing special rates, among other things.
With User Generated Content at the forefront of online applications, it is vital to remain cognizant of your property’s online reputation. Monitoring the top traveler generated content sites can give you a critical advantage over your competition by allowing you to hear what is being said about your property, and then take the next important step, which is leveraging this content into your marketing plan to produce “more heads in beds” in a down economy.
Regardless of which social media initiatives you choose to implement; promote them wherever possible: the property homepage, employee’s email signatures, eblasts, etc. While viral marketing will spread on its own, it doesn’t hurt to give it a jump start.
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