We always joke that hotel executives should think about social media before naming their hotels. Why? If you want to make sure you are able to monitor what people are saying about the property and engage in conversations across the Web, you need a name that is unique enough to come up in searches. Just ask the London Hotel or The Hotel how hard it is to track their mentions and you’ll know the struggle that it can be.
In addition to securing a unique name, I wanted to provide a list of six pre-opening social media must-dos to ensure success on social media sites.
Before you start, determine your social media objectives and goals. These goals can be very high-level to start. Find a hotel whose social media strategy you admire and see what they are doing. For example, do you want social media to be a primary driver of your marketing efforts such as The Roger Smith? Or do you want to start slower and create a presence and platform for engagement without going all-in?
1) STRATEGY: Next, think about what you want to accomplish on each platform. Do you want Twitter to be a key service channel? Do you want your Facebook page to be a platform for guests to share their great experiences at your hotel? Do you want to ensure that guests know you relish their feedback on OTAs and review sites?
2) STAFFING: Think through your staffing needs based on your strategies. Determine who will be the social media champion(s) for your property and what this person’s responsibilities will be. Think through the costs associated with establishing social media champions in terms of time, money, effort, training, incentives, resources, etc. Will this person work independently or are there additional team members to involve? Are there guidelines needed so he/she knows what is off limits to post, for example?
3) PROFILES: Close to opening, set up a hotel profile on TripAdvisor and all the other review sites for your hotel, your spa, your restaurants and bars. Recommendations are the primary driver of bookings today so you need to ensure that as soon as your first guests leave the hotel they can write a review. Note: If you purchased an existing hotel and want to start fresh, contact the review sites to ensure they know about the change in ownership/management.
Create a Facebook Page and encourage the team to ‘like it’. Update the page with the progress of the launch so your staff and friends can get excited about the launch. As excitement mounts more and more people will ‘like it’ to stay up to date with the hotel.
Decide how you are going to use Twitter and create the appropriate accounts. For example, maybe you want to have a general account, a concierge account and a customer service account. Decide who is going to ‘own’ each account and set realistic goals related to number of followers over time, response time and engagement.
Create/claim/set up your profile on location based services such as Google Places, Foursquare, Facebook Pages, Gowalla, etc. Being able to monitor check-ins and reward people that check-in will allow you forge close relationships with customers.
4) ENGAGEMENT EXPERTS: Assign someone from your hotel to become a ‘market expert’ in TripAdvisor and begin engaging in forums about things to do and places to go in your town. Once you begin to contribute regularly in the forum, you will get a ‘market expert’ badge. This badge will lend credibility to your responses so when the hotel opens and someone asks where to stay in your town, you can recommend your property and explain why it’s best for the guest’s needs.
5) FEEDBACK: Put a plan in place for operationalizing social media feedback. You likely have a plan for capturing feedback from guest surveys, why not social media feedback? Unlike traditional GSS, review feedback is more comprehensive, more frequent, and public. Create a plan for soliciting feedback. For example, set up a system so that in post-stay communication with guests you prompt guests to posts reviews by linking to their profiles. Create TripAdvisor cards to hand out at check-out.
Closely monitor feedback and using the data to improve operations. Invest in a service, like Revinate, that takes the pain out of review management. Determine what metrics you want to track? Review frequency? Average rating? TripAdvisor Popularity Index score?
Put a plan in place to share social media feedback so visitors know how important their feedback and engagement is to you. Link to your Twitter, Facebook and TripAdvisor profiles from your corporate site.
6) LEARN FROM YOUR COMPETITORS: Decide who is in your comp set and read their reviews across review sites and OTAs to see what guests like and don’t like about the properties. Use issues that arise in their reviews to train your staff prior to opening.
If anyone has opened a new hotel in the time of social media, let me know what else you did to prepare for the journey.