Hotel Social Media: What is True Engagement?
Two weeks ago I was at Online Revealed, and the recurring catch phrase at the conference was true engagement. After hearing it several times, I thought to myself, “Isn’t this what we’ve been talking about for years now? Hasn’t that been the whole point of businesses using social media?” Yes! Yes we have, and yes it is. The fact that we’re still talking about it means it’s a hard job—it’s the holy grail. And because the way users interact with social media changes constantly.
So today let’s talk about what true engagement means these days, as it’s closely tied to reputation management. Plain and simple, you can’t have solid reputation management without really connecting with your guests online (i.e., canned responses aren’t going to cut it.)
I can’t stress this enough. I think in days past hotels were sometimes advised to post something and then let your community lead the rest of the conversation. Drop in then get out of the way. Generate likes and comments, but don’t hog the conversation. The feeling is very different now. The community wants you to participate: not too much, not too little.
There’s a beloved hotel in the northeastern United States undergoing a renovation, and they’ve been posting their new developments and designs on Facebook. Each post gets a surprising number of comments; some folks are excited and some are bemoaning the changes. The hotel has a huge opportunity to have a conversation about this, but they’re not responding at all. What if they took it and ran, asking guests to tell them all the things they’ve loved about the old hotel and what they’ll miss? Not promising to do anything about it, but instead gathering up stories and making their guests feel heard. Psst… there’s a bigger idea campaign here.
Interesting statistic: half of consumers expect customer service on Facebook and 17 percent on Twitter (for more, see: http://blog.bufferapp.com/social-media-stats-studies). Reports on how many companies actually provide customer service through social media vary, but the percentages are dismally low. Low, low, low.
Integrate social media with your customer care. This is part of the dialogue. Give your customers confidence in your brand by responding to their requests in a timely and positive way. It reminds me of the years when you couldn’t be sure someone would respond to your email inquiries. That’s just a given now. So should this be.
Take it Up a Notch
When you’ve mastered these basics, then consider campaigns. Often I see hotels wanting to launch their social media presence with big social campaigns, but what’s the point if you don’t have these basics down to carry the new fans you earn campaigning.
When you do decide to have a campaign, make it something that allows your fan base to participate—where they share stories, submit Instagram photos and or videos on Vine, or maybe something even bigger, where they really become a part of the property or a voice for it somehow.
It’s so very simple really. What it all boils down to is treating your social media visitors as just that… visitors. Offer them with the same respect you treat them with when they’re visiting your hotel. Once you’ve got that in the bag (and you probably already do) then start getting inventive about ways to have conversations with them.