Social Hospitality Principles Defined and Explained by Chris Brogan and The Roger Smith Hotel

Chris Brogan recently found himself exploring Oslo, Norway after a conference. He wanted to buy some gifts for his children back home, but didn’t know where to shop. So he spent much of the afternoon walking by store after store, not sure where to find the perfect item (and spend his money). Finally, one shopkeeper came out of her boutique, began talking with him, and introduced some of the things she made and was selling. That store got his business.

Become that shopkeeper

That story opened a recent strategy session with Chris Brogan and the team at the Roger Smith Hotel that I had the opportunity to participate in. The lesson is clear: we as marketers must become the “shopkeepers” of our own business.

Rather than just building a website and hoping people will come, we must go out where people are and earn the business. Look for those conversations happening around the web, and take part in them. That approach leads to the most visibility for your brand.

And that is the principle behind social networking for business.

Social media is really social hospitality

Social hospitality is all about making people feel welcomed and part of a community.

Word-of-mouth has always worked. It has nothing to do with technology, but everything to do with relationships. (When making decisions and discussing social media, it can be helpful to replace the word “social media” with “phone,” says Brogan. “It’s used the same way.”)

Increasingly, people are asking each other for advice and suggestions through social networks. Social media, when it meets e-commerce, is like shopping with 3,000 of your friends. You get instant insight and feedback from the wisdom of the crowds.

The Roger Smith Hotel achieves success by being an early adopter

This mentality of social hospitality is how Chris Brogan found the Roger Smith Hotel in the beginning. When Twitter was still new, Brogan – an early adopter – tweeted asking for recommendations for a New York hotel. The first and second people that responded were influential social media personalities, and both recommended the Roger Smith Hotel. The Roger Smith Hotel was the third to respond, with an invitation to stay at their property. (Brogan accepted, and then did what every marketing director dreams of – created a video about how happy he was with the hotel.)

The Roger Smith Hotel firmly established their brand in new media circles by being an early adopter–using networks that the most influential social media people were experimenting with–and then using it to deliver extraordinary service. (Brogan believes today that opportunity exists with Google Plus. Get in early for high-quality communications. “The early bird gets the worm.”)

Social media gives hotels, especially smaller, independent properties – an opportunity for visibility that used to be exclusively the domain of large brands. It levels the playing field.

View your hotel as a media company

What type of content should you publish to promote your hotel online? The reality is that people don’t want to be sold, they just want information to help them make better buying decisions. Even more, they want to justify their purchase.

Adopt the mindset of a media company to meet these needs for your guests and future customers. (Something the Roger Smith Hotel does so well with Panman Productions.)

On a personal level, match the type of media you produce to your own personality. If you’re shy, you may focus on written content. If you really like talking to people, you might produce more video.

Look outside your walls

For the audiences that you want to reach, the most interesting content you could publish is probably found outside your hotel. Travelers want to picture themselves in an environment – and also look for ways to cultivate their interests with an experience.

“Be a hotel in New York selling the idea of New York. More specifically, sell a version of New York that appeals to a very specific audience,” said Brogan.

For example, describe and sell a “creative person’s New York City”. Or even better, “New York City for charcoal artists.” Or host photo walks to attract photographers. (This is a huge opportunity to reach a specific audience – and also create more content on the social web.)

The more specific you can be in your publishing and content creation, the more effective it is.

Curate interesting content

If you don’t have time to create original material for the web, curating interesting content from others is also a good way to build an audience.

The key to doing this is finding interesting, quirky content that others have not noticed. If you retweet Mashable (for example), they already have 3 million people passing along their content. It won’t really stand out. So look for the obscure and valuable information that others have not seen.

Look for quirky, fascinating people. Get them to tell their story. Ask them what made them take this route–how they got into it. (“How do artists make it in New York City?” for example.) Look for stories out of the mainstream.

Give special attention to your best customers

Loyalty is critical for social hospitality. Do special things to reward your loyal customers. Spend time and money on people who already love you – even the ones who are not (yet) active in social media.

Ask these loyal fans what they appreciate most about your property–because this will become very important for guiding the ways you communicate and reach out to other similar customers. Your best customers know the “secret sauce” of your hotel – and that may be something that even you are not completely aware of.

So ask them, then listen carefully.

The Roger Smith Hotel and Panman Productions share content through Roger Smith Life, on Twitter and through YouTube.

Michael Nurbatlian’s Facebook Photo Contest Gained 2,000+ New Fans in 2 Weeks for Indigo Pearl Resort

Indigo Pearl Resort Hotel Marketing Case Study

In the past 2 years, Indigo Pearl Resort witnessed a clear shift in its market mix: Growing from a heavy reliance on tour operators to direct bookings and online channels. Micheal Nurbatlain and the team at Indigo Pearl led this growth by developing a presence in a variety of channels, with Facebook emerging as one of the biggest successes. In just one year, Michael grew the resort’s Facebook fan page to more than 8,000 followers. This case study shares the lessons learned from this process.

First, a little background

The Indigo Pearl Resort is an independent, luxury design property located in Phuket, Thailand.  Michael joined the resort as a sales manager, but this role quickly expanded to include managing digital marketing, e-commerce, and social media.

While Michael is running a number of interesting projects right now, we decided to focus on his work in Facebook for this case study . “While Twitter is beginning to gain popularity here in Asia, Facebook has nearly complete market adoption with our customers.”

Indigo Pearl Resort’s Facebook page

The Facebook page for Indigo Pearl Resort uses a mix of custom design and standard pages. Note the little details in how they engage with their fans:

But what really makes their Facebook presence stand out is their approach to special promotions.

Facebook contests: the key to growth

“Last September we wanted to give something to our Facebook fans,” said Michael. At the time, they had about 3,000 fans, and decided to create a photo contest around what symbolizes Indigo Pearl.

Fans were asked to post pictures, and then vote on their favorites. But Facebook contacted them, saying the contest setup violated terms and conditions. This forced them to setup an independent voting scheme allowing their fans to vote, which worked even better in the end. The contest generated great interaction among existing fans, strengthening their online community. Additionally, the contest generated a couple of hundred of new fans – which was a considered a great success at that time.

Latest Facebook contest: Ultimate holiday package

This year’s idea was to setup a new system. Rather than just asking fans to submit pictures, they wanted to add another layer of involvement. Michael and Indigo Pearl Resort asked fans to design their dream 3-day holiday package. What would they like to do in Puket? They were not very strict with the guidelines, so that if someone wrote some poetry about the perfect holiday – for example – it was still accepted as an entry.

“I imagined Mercedes running a promotion around designing your dream car. Although I’m a big fan of cars, I wouldn’t know what horsepower to put in or the details of the engine. While our guests travel a lot, they are not hoteliers, so it would be somewhat difficult for them to come up with a breakdown package of all the amenities – so we left it very open.”

They didn’t buy any Facebook ads or spend much time promoting the contest. Micheal worked a bit with the local media to get mentioned on their websites, and sent out some tweets to promote it. But no other PR or press releases – everything was done though Facebook.

“Within days we had 10-15 entries, and then we started to get a snowball effect from there.” They asked fans to send in their pictures, screened them, and placed the photos in the album called “Ultimate Family Package.” Once the photo was approved, the contest participants could ask their friends and family to vote on their entry.

This is what created a viral marketing effect for the resort – one photo had over 1,000 likes. “It surpassed our expectations and we could hardly believe it!”

Lessons learned from the contests

It’s all about planning. “Have a solid plan when it comes to Facebook, and create an editorial calendar. Be very strict about creating and following deadlines.” Too many people just wake up in the morning and try to create content on the fly.  “If there is no solid plan for 3-12 months, it’s difficult to consistently deliver good quality results.”

Always respond and interact with your online community. Don’t get arrogant and forget to thank fans. “I think you should thank every single person who contributes to your Facebook page or Twitter account – whether than have 5 friends or 5,000 followers. Each fan is an immense asset to your community.”

Have more than one prize. Last year the prize was a 7-night stay in a suite. “But if one guy in the contest has 1,000 votes for his entry, other people could be discouraged from participating.” This year, having two good prizes encouraged more people to enter the contest.

An “economy of photos” and additional thoughts

  • Photos are the lifeblood of Facebook. As Guy Kawasaki says, Facebook is a pictures economy. “Often I just put a picture of our sunset or property, and it gets me a few hundred Likes and 30-50 comments. A few times I’ve spent hours creating a huge post, and it doesn’t get nearly the same levels of feedback as that beach picture gets. Sometimes the easy route gets the best results.”
  • Avoid constantly bombarding fans with Facebook promotions. For every 20 posts, put only one promotional post if you must include sales messages.
  • “Instead, develop the art of soft selling. Create and share images, experiences, smells, and tastes that represent your brand.”
  • Act as an online concierge on Facebook and Twitter, helping people by providing answers and suggestions.
  • Try to reflect the hotel’s personality without being too flamboyant. There has to be class, but presented in a very accessible way.

Thank you, Michael!

Become a fan of Indigo Pearl Resort on Facebook, follow @_IndigoPearl_ on Twitter, and connect with Michael on LinkedIn here.

How To Use Facebook for Hotel Marketing [New Guide]

I’m pleased to announce the publishing of my newest marketing guide in collaboration with ReviewPro:

A Hotel’s Guide to Facebook

Download this PDF guide now to learn all you need to know about promoting your hotel on Facebook:

  • Statistics on how people use Facebook today
  • What does (and doesn’t) work on Facebook
  • Five different approaches to Facebook
  • New developments to be aware of
  • How to design an engaging brand page
  • Moving beyond setup: integrating Facebook with your website
  • Best practices for running promotions on Facebook
  • Case studies from outside the hotel industry
  • Reputation management considerations for Facebook
  • Putting it all together: Action steps for planning your Facebook strategy

Get more information and download the guide now >>

I’m trying to attract business travelers – Is social media worth my time?

If your hotels are focused on targeting corporate clients, is social media worth your time? Should you take a slightly different approach to social marketing than hotels that primarily target leisure guests?

I was asked about this a number of times at ITB last week, and want to show how the social web can help you attract the business traveler.

Reviews are universally important

Online hotel reviews written by guests play an important role in the buying decision across all types of travel. This is because they affect someone’s purchase decision at the final stage of the buying process. (A study showed 35% of social media users changed their choice of hotel after reading online reviews.) Since business travelers often know the exact destination they will be in, they often skip the “dreaming” stage of travel planning and jump straight to reviews.

So do all you can to encourage more positive online reviews. You will probably get the fastest return on investment here.

Social media increases your findability

Corporate travel is booked through a variety of ways: some executives have their assistants do it, some use corporate contracts arranged by someone else in the organization, and some business travelers book their own hotel rooms.

Whenever you have a fragmented audience of decision makers like this, it’s important to build your overall web visibility to enable discovery.

Google, Bing and other search engines have confirmed increased inclusion of social media activity in their ranking algorithms. Twitter and Facebook communication, along with the quantity and quality of your online reviews, affect how high you rank for important keywords. Remember, only 3% of web searchers will go beyond page 1 of results pages – so it’s imperative you show up near the top.

Business travelers are people, too

Everyone traveling on business knows that there’s work and then there’s play. People will continue to engage with their social networks while on a business trip. In fact, travelers tend to stay connected more if they’re on business – they are less likely to unplug completely.

This makes engaging with them on sites like Twitter, Gowalla, and Facebook just as important as ever. Publishing articles on your blog about things to do in the area is a good starting point – increasing your overall web visibility, making it presence in search engines larger.

How are you using the social web to attract more corporate travel?

Valuing social endorsements [Trend from PhoCusWright@ITB 2011]

As we begin to understand the value of endorsements and recommendations on the social web, it will be interesting to see how hotels incentive these.

One concept proposed at PhoCusWright@ITB 2011 townhall brainstorming: What if you offered a discount code that people could only receive by scanning a QR code with their mobile phones, opting in to receive updates via SMS text message, checking into the establishment using Gowalla or Foursquare, and notifying their friends via Facebook and Twitter?

How much of a discount would you provide to gain that level of permission and coverage on the social web? Would the discount be tied to influence scores like Klout?

Breakfast brainstorming about the future of Facebook, reputation & more

This morning I got together with Henry, Michael, Lisa, and RJ for breakfast and brainstormed a little about the future of social media. Here’s some ideas from the conversation:

  1. On Facebook, less can be more. Don’t overwhelm your fans with content. Try to determine the culture of your fanbase, and what they expect from you on Facebook and in social media. Ask them – don’t assume. Then produce and deliver that content.
  2. People like to engage with hotel brands that fit their lifestyle or identity. It’s easier to build a Facebook presence around a group of hotels than an individual property.
  3. For hotel groups, the primary use of social media could be in quality management instead of just marketing (like it is at some small individual properties).  Social media and reviews can act as a “24/7 mystery shopper” for you.
  4. Good idea from Lisa: Kimpton noticed they received a lot of complaints about their parking fees, so they posted the fee prominently on their website, and also created a parking package for guests. My takeaway: Mitigate a perceived weakness by setting expectations appropriately.

The year of the practitioner

This year will be the end of the social media “expert,” and the rise of the practitioner. The professional that gets stuff done. The company that sees technology as only a means to an end – a tool for doing a better job at what they’ve been doing all along.

The value of an idea is only as good as its implementation. The hotels and organizations that succeed with new media are the ones that spend less time planning and more time listening, serving, and changing.

In Social Media Examiner’s 30 Social Media Trends post, Jason Falls shares his thoughts on this:

“Business will demand more business-driving proof, readers will demand more substance to blogs and those who are practitioners will have to demand excellence out of themselves. This will go a long way in cleaning up the industry, in my opinion. The ‘gurus’ will fade away while the practitioners excel. If you aren’t moving the needle, you’re done.”

What are you working on?

(Seriously, I want to hear about your projects. We’re only publishing stories of ideas in action from now on. So tell us!)

[Photo credit: daily sunny]

How a Food Blogger Camp Generated $60,000 in Instant Sales and 3.4 Million Facebook Views for The Grand Velas Resort

Karen Escalera – President and Chief Strategist for KWE Partners – shared with us how social media helped a food bloggers camp generate sales, introduce the public to Grand Velas Riviera Maya resort’s exceptional food and beverage offerings and set the resort apart from its competitors.

Hotel marketing example

How did you decide a food blogger’s camp was right for The Grand Velas?

The Grand Velas properties stand out for the exceptional quality of their food and beverage offerings, so we wanted to highlight this competitive advantage. In December, we partnered with the Mexico and Riviera Maya Tourist Boards and spearheaded a lunch with our visiting chefs for top national and New York media, primarily offline. We wanted to build on that momentum and reach out to social media who would also drive the “buzz” for F&B and to further build relationships with these influencers.

What role did you play, and how did you work with Velas Resorts’ ecommerce department?

Team KWE, together with Kate Moeller of Prose & Co who handled the event for the past couple years at other resorts in the Caribbean, brought the concept to the resort, invited the bloggers, developed the agenda, did all the PR, and initiated and handled the post camp contest. Pre-event buzz was built via twitter and press releases to targeted audiences, as well as through blog posts from the seminar leaders to their followers. We led live coverage on Twitter with seminar leaders and shared videos and images during the camp on Facebook and Twitter to keep the buzz going throughout the event week.

The resort’s ecommerce department created a dedicated Food Blog Camp landing page, wrote the pre-event blog posts on the resorts’ destination blogs, coordinated the live streaming of FBC’s events to the online community, interacted with attendees on all social media channels and promoted the event on Velas Resorts’ Facebook and Twitter pages. It was a seamless integration.

Was the camp for promotional purposes only, or were you trying to generate revenue?

A key objective was to have the camp not only pay for itself (since we had to pay airfares for our seminar leaders and since we’re an all inclusive, we had food and beverage costs as well associated with their stay), but also, to make money. And we did. The camp was the second of two social media events we’ve had for Velas Resorts. The first was the first ever remote #TNI (Travelers’ Night In) Tweet Up which we had at the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit. What we did was offer a girls getaway package that included the Tweet up. We followed that lead with the food bloggers camp.

Instead of just having a food bloggers press trip, we made this into a professional development event to attract other bloggers and aspiring bloggers and foodies. With this educational content and fun events such as cooking demonstrations and wine tastings, we had a compelling package. We sold the package at a slightly reduced rate for other bloggers and media and at the rack rate for all others. We sold close to $60,000 worth of packages for the 5 day/4 night event.

Were there any surprising benefits or setbacks?

The immediate response of participants was fantastic. The second the  camp started, more and more images, blog posts, and tweets were  published. We were able to brainstorm with the seminar leaders on  ideas for food and beverage offerings, events and packages to be  offered at other Velas resorts.  The challenge was in the bloggers’ (non-seminar leaders) booking  arrangement. Bookings go to through sales contract center but they  were not able to evaluate bloggers credentials. So what we had to do  was have the requesting participants send a link to their blog so we  could confirm and send to reservations for booking.

What were the results for The Grand Velas?

This was a success by several standards:

  • Sold over 46 packages, generating nearly $60,000 in sales
  • Generated more than 25 articles on the Camp to over 2.5 million unique visitors per month
  • Event coverage received over 5.1 million impressions on Twitter to over 354,000 unique users
  • Event coverage received 3.497 million views on Facebook
  • Over 775 user generated photos of the event, resort and its food and beverage offerings were circulated

Exceptional reviews of the resorts restaurants were received from seminar leaders and industry authorities. The success generated new events for other Velas Resorts for the coming year (e.g. family cooking and crafting week, Chocolate Festival, TV appearances, recipe releases, etc.)

What would be your advice for hotels planning something similar?

Providing the opportunity for professional development is a powerful lure and definitely the way to go on events such as these. It’s also critical to get participation from the influencers and opinion makers in the category, and then the rest follows.

Thanks, Karen!

[Photos courtesy of Diana Johnson, publisher of Dianasaur Dishes and Eating Richly.]

Create fan-only content to incentivize Facebook page likes

Smart marketers know the best way to drive action is to make perceived value exceed perceived risk. That’s why email subscription rates increase when you give away something (like a free guide) in exchange for someone’s email address (permission to send the requested content).

The same principle is true on Facebook.

By using FBML – the Facebook coding language – you can create “hidden” content that is only visible when someone becomes a fan of your page.

What incentives could you offer to encourage people to become a fan of your hotel’s Facebook fan page?

  • City guides?
  • Insider access?
  • A discount coupon?
  • A value-added incentive that doesn’t cut profit margins?

Some examples of this

According to ClickZ, Levi’s picked up 45,000 “likers” by hosting a fan-only concert:

Levi’s brought in rock band Nada Surf to perform live via the company’s Facebook page on Oct. 23 and picked up around 45,000 “Likers” in the process. To push the branded content event, Levi’s purchased Facebook.com ads leading into last weekend, while the copy encouraged viewers to hit the “Like” button in order to watch the concert.

And as detailed in an earlier story we did, Hotel Seven in Paris offers the very lowest rate available to their Facebook fans. (Screenshot above)

Want to add this to your page?

HyperArts posted some code to support this, and John Jantsch posted a good technical how-to article on Duct Tape Marketing. If you’re implementing the functionality yourself I encourage you to check those out – otherwise just start planning what giveaway you could offer to encourage fans joining your Facebook page.

Using Klout influence scoring when providing service in social media

It seems Klout is receiving a lot of attention and buzz recently, and for good reason. If you’re not familiar with their concept yet, they provide a way to measure a person’s influence on the social web. The explanation from their website is probably best:

The scores range from 1 to 100 with higher scores representing a wider and stronger sphere of influence. Klout uses over 35 variables on Facebook and Twitter to measure True Reach, Amplification Probability, and Network Score.

True Reach is the size of your engaged audience and is based on those of your followers and friends who actively listen and react to your messages. Amplification Score is the likelihood that your messages will generate actions (retweets, @messages, likes and comments) and is on a scale of 1 to 100. Network score indicates how influential your engage audience is and is also on a scale from 1 to 100. The Klout score is highly correlated to clicks, comments and retweets.

I’m not a celebrity….

…but apparently I’m a niche specialist:

Josiah Mackenzie's Klout Score

I’ll take that. :)

How you should use influence scoring when providing service

The value of using influence scoring measurements such as Klout when managing a social media campaign is not to provide different quality levels of service. The consumer of today is clearly more empowered than ever before. Discriminating on how well you solve problems for people is short-sighted, if not downright stupid.

However, I believe it’s useful to provide different kinds of service in different situations.

For example: Influence scoring is useful in determining who in your organization should be involved in the response and followup action. Do you need to bring in the PR director or another department manager? Who needs to be involved to provide the best resolution for the consumer and your company?

I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below:

How are you using Klout? What role do you think influence scoring should play in social media service and online reputation management?

ReviewPro announces Klout integration

Today ReviewPro announced integration of Klout influence scores with their social media monitoring tool. [Tnooz story] I think any hotel looking to increase their online visibility should monitor as many (relevant) metrics as possible in planning big-picture strategy and also day-to-day actions. Klout scoring gives us one more reference point for these decisions.

Extracting meaning from chaos in social media

This week at EyeForTravel’s Atlanta event I’ll be sharing how we can find meaning from chaos in all the online reviews and social media mentions travel companies see today. My intention is to explore some ways we might gather meaningful insight from the rapidly increasing amounts of customer data available on the web.

The challenge we face

Travelers are dramatically increasing the volume of data they publish to the web – both intentionally and unintentionally. Cross-posting between social media networks and increasing integration means that one activity may be posted across 10 different websites.

For example, when I check into a coffeeshop using the Gowalla application on my mobile phone, that activity is recorded in Gowalla, cross-posted to Foursquare, sends a Twitter update, notifies my Facebook friends, and updates my Tumblr.

The challenge – and potential danger – we face here is that if your organization doesn’t have the right systems and procedures in place to gather insights you can quickly be overwhelmed by data.

(This is even worse if you don’t even know exactly what you’re looking for in all the social media mentions out there.)

The reason for social media communication

Feeling overwhelmed by a huge amount of data often leads to inaction. And this is very dangerous because the whole purpose of monitoring the social web and taking part in conversations there is so you can take action on them.

Generate insights to act on

It’s important to avoid “true but useless” intelligence, and focus exclusively on creating reports that provide insights you can use immediately. It should not take a “social media guru” to make sense of the feedback your customers give you.

Your action step: Create very, very specific social media intelligence reports for each person within your organization.

Instead of one person looking at overview summaries, gaining a competitive advantage requires everyone on your team to have access to position-specific data that will help them do their job better.

The big opportunity

The greatest opportunity right now is using insights from the social web for more than just marketing or PR.

It’s in developing “social companies” where customer feedback from the web is used throughout the organization: in every strategic decision, and in all day-to-day operations.

I look forward to seeing some of you in Atlanta, and I’ll post a summary of the event after for those of you who can’t make it.

For more details on the Atlanta event, see EyeForTravel’s Customer Centric Strategies for Travel page. For a tool that can help you make sense of chaos on the social web, you should get a demo of ReviewPro.

How Martin Soler used a direct-to-consumer Facebook PR strategy to open Seven Hotel at 80% occupancy during low season

How did Hotel Le Seven build their Facebook community so quickly? Today I got on the phone with Vice PresidentMartin Soler to learn about the strategy he used to attract nearly 12,000 fans through Facebook. Martin’s company, World Independent Hotel Promotion, works exclusively with independent hotels, with a focus on hotel openings. (Martin is also a talented HDR photographer.)

The Background Story (In Martin’s words)

Seven months before opening we started the campaign. It was an ambitious project – great to work on, because the hotel concept was very unusual. We built a strategy where we would be creating some mystery, and leaking ideas on what every suite would look like.

We were lucky because we had a test room to work with for imagery – the rest were just sketches. We started by talking about the owners, and the other projects they did – like Hotel Five. We talked about all the gadgets and special things there were.

We coordinated with our PR agency to make sure there was no communication with the press. We only wanted to talk directly with the consumer.

Josiah: What communications channels did you use?

Facebook Only

Facebook was our exclusive communications channel.

I haven’t found Twitter to be very reliable for promotions. I feel it’s a bit more of a flash in the pan.

And of course we made a website with very dramatic music and imagery of what guests could expect. Facebook pointed to the website, and the website was very high-production – lots of rich media.

No Press Releases

If people wanted to know anything about the hotel, they had to follow us through Facebook. No press releases went out, and we did not take any questions from the media.

What Caused Rapid Growth

We tried some contests through Facebook, but the results were not impressive as we thought. We tried sending offers to our fanbase from Hotel Five – since the design concepts were similar. If they liked the Five, they’ll love the Seven. So cross marketing was possible there.

So a lot was just telling people about it. Pushing traffic from the website. We also wrote some bloggers, telling them to check out the page since we were going to do something interesting.

It was a bit of a risk because not many hotels have filled their rooms through Facebook yet. But it worked for us!

After Opening

We’ve continued our strategy after opening, and made it clear to our colleagues that it was Facebook that attracted our fans initially. It helped us achieve 80% occupancy on the soft opening – and that was in low season.

The owner was amazed – he didn’t expect that at all.

So we had to remember that our Facebook fans helped us achieve this success. We give them an exclusive room rate – the fans-only rate is the best rate you’ll get – better than our own website or any distributor.

We also reward our Facebook community by notifying them of anything that’s going to happen before we tell anyone else. (Even before we post to our website).

Martin’s Top Five Facebook Tips

1. Treat your Facebook “Likers” like an artist treats their fans. That is, realize they make you important and therefore you need to make them important. Special treatments etc. when they arrive at the hotel is a minimum.

2. Keep your Facebook page as personal as you can. This is an information communication channel to friends. Try to involve them as much as you can.

3. Find out what people want to know about the hotel and give them more of that. It’s not about what you “think” is important; you may be totally off the mark. Listen to them and your page will be a success.

4. Use all the media of Facebook, write articles, post photo albums etc.

5. Treat every post like a “news story;” don’t give it all at once. Give it to them bit by bit and maximize the yield from your stories.

Thanks, Martin!

We are all stock traders now

David Meerman Scott opens his new book Real Time Marketing & PR with a great story of his early days working on Wall Street.

It’s 1985, and I’m on the institutional trading floor of an investment bank in lower Manhattan. It’s nearly noon, time for lunch, and nothing has happened all morning. But none of the bond traders leaves. They’re scared they might miss something. The bank doesn’t want them leaving either, so everyone gets pizza delivered to their desks.

Inhabiting a world of split-second decisions, bond traders earn big money making trades involving hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s a daily battle that involves incredibly long periods of tedium punctuated by occasional short bursts of intense action.

Fortunes are made in seconds; reputations lost in a minute.

Nothing is happening now, though. All is quiet, and boredom reigns because no significant news has broken all morning.

…Suddenly, one of the senior traders yells, loud as he can: ‘‘The Fed’s in!’’ For a split second, the room is completely silent as all listen. When the senior trader then bellows ‘‘Buying treasuries!’’ it’s as if a bomb has hit. The entire room erupts in highly organized chaos. Pizza is tossed aside, and phones are grabbed in one fluid movement. It’s time to earn those huge salaries.

In a heartbeat, everyone is on at least one phone, and many are on two or more, alerting customers in an instant: ‘‘The Fed is in!’

Within seconds, the screens light up in seas of green as bond prices rise steeply across the board. Before the same minute expires, financial newswires like Dow Jones and Reuters write and issue ‘‘newsflashes’’ that appear instantly on trading room screens from Albuquerque to Zagreb. Within just 60 seconds, everywhere knows and everyone is equal again. The competitive advantage disappears.

But within that minute the traders who got their orders placed a split-second faster had earned their daily bread. Being first with the news is valuable currency that earns them lucrative deals from their clients. Hearing it first and acting on it fast equals money—lots of money— on Wall Street.

Now we all work on Wall Street. Social media is real time media – and we have to act fast.

Do you have a real time monitoring system in place? How fast in your response time?

Tailor Made Hotel is using a QR code to promote their Facebook page [Photo]

It’s always good to look for ways to bridge the offline to online gap. When you can use mobile to do this, all the better. That’s why I like what Tailor Made Hotel is doing here:

I asked their marketing manager, Manuel Alba, about this:

What inspired you to add a QR code & Facebook sign to your door?

We already had before a QR code in one of the windows of the lobby. We were inspired by many examples first in Japan, and recently many companies in NY that are adding QR codes + FB signs to attract locals.

What was the development process for building it?

The QR code is generated online in (http://qrcode.kaywa.com/)

And the FB “LIKE” badge, as you know you can download from facebook site.

After generating the code and the FB Like badge, we hired a plotter specialist.

Have you received any feedback from guests?

A lot. Many people stop on the lobby window at TMH, and take photos of the code.

Have you noticed an increase in facebook fans?

We had a little increased, but we are working hard on it. We considered important the quality of new fans, and not just quantity, our idea is to make a space where people who love TMH and love Buenos Aires could share his experiences.

Are you using QR codes elsewhere in your marketing?

For the moment we have only one QR code (the one of the photo) and you can go directly to our FB Fan Page.

Thanks, Manuel!

How to use LinkedIn to generate sales leads

Sarah asked, “How do you recommend best using LinkedIn to generate sales leads?”

Great question. Sarah is General Manager of a hotel focused on reaching business travelers, so I’d like to share a few general thoughts – and then some ideas for landing the corporate contracts that would be valuable to her.

Be easy to connect with

LinkedIn is a little more closed than other social networks. You often need the email address of the person you’re connecting with to verify that you know them.

I get around this by including my email address and phone number in the tagline of my profile – so anyone can reach out and connect with me:

Using LinkedIn for hotel marketing and sales leads by Josiah Mackenzie

Use descriptive website links

Instead of using the generic “My Website” text, customize your site links with descriptive titles:

Perhaps you might even consider creating a special landing page with a special offer for LinkedIn referrals.

Share a clear benefit statement

After quickly glancing at your profile, a person should be able to tell what you can offer to help them.

How clear is your unique selling proposition?

Make giving (and getting) recommendations a priority

These testimonials could help you close the deal. To get recommendations, start by giving them to other professionals you endorse. (Chris Brogan has some good tips on this.)

This is one of the top things you can do to enhance your LinkedIn profile.

Include your blog posts

If you see the value of selling through education – and are doing this through your blog – then this is the logical next step. I use a WordPress plugin to include recent entries:

Find, connect with, serve decision makers

This is the top benefit of LinkedIn. You can search by industry, job title, etc.

It might be worthwhile to upgrade your account so you can search through more people. (LinkedIn places limits on the free accounts.)

LinkedIn provides some good education on advanced search query features.

Create a company profile (if needed)

Mashable has a good basic overview of the process, so rather than repeating that here, just read this.

Create a LinkedIn group

This can be a great way to have high-end decision makers reach out to you. Some tips from Social Media Examiner:

  1. Add keywords in the description of your group to increase your search rankings on LinkedIn’s search section.
  2. Add keywords in the title of the group to be found on Google.
  3. Add your company website or blog to the group to drive traffic to your site.
  4. Add your blog RSS feed to the group so every new article is automatically posted to the home page of every group member.
  5. Send a weekly message that adds value for group members and drives traffic back to your site.
  6. Connect people in the group by making introductions to those who could potentially do business with one another.

Host (and promote) events

Depending on your business, events could be a good way to bring all the decision makers in one place and present your offer.

LinkedIn offers some good event promotion tools to publicize the event.

Answer questions

Providing LinkedIn Answers to questions people raise is a good way to sell through education.

I’d recommend setting aside a little time each week to go through questions relevant to your business, and answering a few in a way that positions yourself as an expert.

You can also follow new questions through your RSS newsreader, and this is a good way to be aware of issues as they are raised.

Experiment with LinkedIn ads

LinkedIn DirectAds offer the premise of delivering targeted advertising to the demographics you want to reach.You can pay per click or by impression.

I’ve heard mixed results from this – it’s very effective for some companies, not so good for others. So test it for yourself to see the results.

Let us know in the comments: How are you using LinkedIn to generate sales leads?

(P.S. Have we connected on LinkedIn yet?)

Shortening the sales cycle through social media (Watch these 5 numbers)

Try saying that five times quickly! Social media presents a number of ways to speed up your sales cycle. It provides you the opportunity to communicate information, personality, and social proof. Additionally….

  • Social media can help you get in front of the right decision makers.
  • Through online conversations you can gather deeper insight into the customer’s situation, helping you come up with a customized solution faster.
  • You can empower your prospects to sell ideas throughout their organizations.
  • Optimizing your social media presence can make you more findable in search, getting you involved in their buying process faster.
  • It increases your visibility, getting more people to call you… instead of you having to call them.

While all of this is true, the real reason I wanted to write this post was to give you numbers you can use to track your own sales process.

Test this out to see if this really works in your situation. Here’s some metrics to measure and track regarding your sales process:

Number of sales leads

Are you closing social media messaging with a call to action, and generating sales leads for yourself?

Cost per lead

Are you able to drive this lower as a result of new media? Or does the time investment make it not worth your while?

Sales closing ratio

Are your sales people able to close more deals faster…because you’ve built a reputation that precedes you?

Channel conversion rate

A little more sophisticated than the number above, this lets you compare effectiveness between your blog, Twitter, etc. What is most effective for you?

Sales cycle length (time to closing)

Is it shorter now….because prospects begin the conversation with a deep understanding of what you offer?

Interview with Bowen Payson, Online Marketing Manager at Virgin America

Bowen Payson photo

Bowen Payson, Online Marketing Manager at Virgin America

I run the online marketing team, responsible for all digital communications from Virgin America
There’s four of us working on social media: 2 from marketing, 2 from corporate communications
My workday is 50% managing content development, 50% on promotional activities generating direct revenue
We’re focused on fare promotions, and also on telling people about our unique amenities
People may say something online, but do something else. On our recent Facebook promotions, for every person that complains, 5 are buying a ticket
We have a matrix approach to promotions: if we only did one type (discount, giveaway, etc) it would burn out the audience. It’s all about creating a mix.
Twitter a year ago was totally different than Twitter today. Facebook is the same way.
Early adopters used be the only ones on some social media; now it’s more mainstream
For me, Twitter is a newsfeed; for others it may be something else
We plan some social media promotions months ahead of time
Our editorial calendar is pretty lose and open, so we can change and update as needed
Our most successful channel in terms of views, clicks, and sales is Twitter
Facebook is growing, but user behavior is different. Facebook can bring a very engaged audience.
Nick Schwartz is our voice on Twitter
If there’s a basic question, Nick takes care of it. If it’s bigger, we work closely with our guest services team to resolve issues.
A big project for us right now is finding the right buzz channels. Last week we launched a promotion around “awkward family photos,” where people send in photos for a chance to win prizes.
It’s great because the photos are viral and funny, but it’s also a good offer for our customers.
Our website is intended to be fun and user-friendly. It’s meant to be relevant and intuitive. We’re using big photos and less text to quickly get the message across.
If I could start over, I would have focused more on search optimization. I’d work on deeper integration of the social media into the website.
One of the best things we ever did was in emails to our Elevate members: including a “tweet this” button in our emails. Different people at different times need different things from email. Sometimes people aren’t buying, but want to share an offer with their friends.
Social media takes a lot of work. What you invest, you get out. You need to invest in people, thought, time and strategy. It’s not like buying traditional media.

See Bowen next week at EyeforTravel’s Travel Distribution Summit North America 2010.

Val Kalliecharan is making a lot of money for clients in social media – Here’s how

val hotel marketing success story interview

Val Kalliecharan sent me an email a few weeks ago, and after checking out his work, I was impressed. You know my new mission here: to share the stories of how people succeed with new technology. To me, it’s more useful than just marketing theory. :)

And that’s why I think you’ll love this conversation: Val goes into the details of how he’s making a lot of money for his hospitality customers. Listen now:

Prefer to read? You’re in luck: my always-helpful assistant Samantha put together this summary for you…

#1 Val’s Approach to Social Marketing

Josiah: Can you give me a little background on what lead to your involvement in online marketing today?

Val: I’m with a company called Turks and Caicos Reservations. We’re essentially a central reservations/e-marketing company that’s locally based here in the Turks and Caicos islands in the Caribbean. What we do here is we basically combine reservation services. By that I mean we have voice agents, e-mail response, live chat, online bookings, and we combine that with our online marketing skills and savvy. Our concept is that we’re two gears working in unison. Through our e-marketing capability, we create demand and we seek to close the business. So once people decide to interact, they get a warm voice or live chat agent on the other end who can really answer their specific questions.

Josiah: How do you charge your clients? Because this is a very comprehensive service. Do you charge a flat fee or work on commission?

Val: We have two types of customers. For our hotel customers, we charge a commission for every reservation that we do. For our e-marketing services, we typically charge on a retainer basis.

Josiah: Would a hotel make use of both of these services at the same time?

Val: Typically. For a few of our customers, they work with us on both sides of the fence. Other customers work with us just on web or just on reservations. We recommend the one-two punch of e-marketing and reservations combined as the most effective, particularly since we’re driving the marketing campaigns; we’re completely in the know in terms of what’s happening. And the reservations team is also aware of that information and are always gently, very subtly asking and prodding the callers, “Can you tell me a little bit about where you found our website?” A vast majority of guests are happy to give that information up.

Josiah: It’s such a simple question, but I’d like to see more hotels just asking “Where did you hear about us?” When you’re asking that question, do you find that some of these websites generate more traffic or more sales than others?

Val: Absolutely. And that’s what we’d like to think is the sweet spot of what we offer here. Every quarter we generate a report with a whole bunch of stats which includes Google Analytics reports, reports from the contact center management software that we use to log what the customers tell us on the phone, the key referrers coming in from the sites, and any other specific information.

What we also do is combine this data into a quarterly report and issue it to the hotel — including pace, room nights booked, number of reservations, average length of stay — and give them basically a dashboard report of what’s working and what’s not working, where some of the opportunities lie from a web perspective, as well as on the reservations.

#2 What Works and What Doesn’t in Social Media

Josiah: What are some of the key websites for you? I’m curious to see what actually turns traffic into sales.

Val: What we find is in terms of top referral websites, the local CVB or tourist board is a very large contributor of highly targeted and motivated traffic. These people have already made their decision in coming to this particular destination, and they go on that particular website to look for options and current news, so that’s a big driver. We find that from the digital PR campaigns that we’ve launched, it gives us a lot of pickup, like the New York Times blog, for example. Lots of people go there for recommendations. Caribbean Travel and Life is another important channel. They get lots of targeted traffic of people coming in to this particular destination.

Josiah: It sounds like the common theme between each of these websites is you’re partnering with sites where the people there have already made the decision to spend their vacation in your area.

Val: Exactly. What we find is that people are shopping across several different types of sites. They’d look at tourist boards, regional websites, the OTAs, the social media platforms and also at the direct hotel website/blog/Facebook page to get a sense of what the offering is,  so when they call they have some information in their minds already.

Josiah: What about sites that get a lot of hype but don’t actually turn into a lot of targeted traffic for you?

Val: In our opinion — it could be different from our part of the world here — we find that it’s the age old question, “Does this Facebook stuff work?” In today’s marketing arena, properties have to cross-brand themselves amongst many different platforms and look to service many different types of users and demographics out there. We see it as a part of the brand awareness that needs to happen in order to make sure that this particular portion of your customer base is comfortable to transact with the hotel, and they would get that sense of comfort by making sure that the videos seen on the YouTube channel are good, that there are comments happening organically in the Facebook page, that the blog is up-to-date and has unique local content. While it’s not the most unique or critical source of traffic, we find that it helps in the conversion process.

#3 What Types of Promotions Work Well for Val

Josiah: I’d like to talk about your work with the West Bay Club. One thing I’ve noticed with each of the specific profiles you’ve set up for them is that there seems to be a very strong focus on conveying a special offer.

Val: We feel that it’s important to be clear with what the promotion or the message is. The West Bay Club is a very high end, luxury beach-front condo/resort-style property in one of the most beautiful beaches of the world. For example, they’re having a 40% discount sale in September and October 2010. We like to make sure that information is crisp, clear, well-presented and in everywhere that you look. We try to make sure that it’s front and center in all the marketing that we do.

Josiah: Which of the ways of displaying promotions do you find work out well?

Val: I think today you have to be obvious in terms of what’s happening. For what’s typically the slower season here in the Caribbean, we wanted to make sure that people interested in coming down here are aware of the fact that not only could they get a 40% discount on the best available already low summer rates of this property, they could get a daily  European breakfast, plus throw in extras. Depending on how much your room reservation comes to we can arrange for a car rental, a tour, or anything that will make people feel that they’re getting value for their money if they were to choose that particular resort.

Josiah: It seems that the big lesson is that you don’t have to be subtle about it. Make sure that you’re clearly communicating the different benefits and all the value that’s included in the package. On your different web properties, this is what I see over and over again, you have the offer here and it’s very clear and prominent.

Val: Exactly. That’s on the website. We’re very much advocates of the fact though that once someone does pick up the phone to call or engage in live chat or send an email, that the agent on the other end is completely switched on and is fully aware of what promotions are out there on the marketplace, and what the customer is seeing in front of them while they’re on the phone at the same time. We find that that’s a big part of the conversion process.

Josiah: With all the different promotions that you run, are you finding some special offers tend to be more attractive with your audience than others? And what are some of the most effective offers that you’ve run online?

Val: In particular, we find that the packaging is something that used to work in a market like this several years ago. When I say packaging, I mean paying $5,000 and it includes dinners, tours, a car rental, horseback riding, scuba diving, plus your room. We find now and again in this market, people are looking to carve out the room-only rate and slash promotion, book that, then book the other stuff themselves according to their budget.

Josiah: So it’s more personalized?

Val: Exactly. People don’t mind researching themselves, online, and engaging with some of the local tour suppliers down here. In fact, that way they can get more background information instead of just taking a seven night package with horseback riding and diving without knowing what to expect.

#4 Generating Sales Through Live Chat

Josiah: What do you do with live chat when it comes to sales? Is this an effective way for you to sell to people?

Val: You know, it really is. I get that question a lot from our general managers down here. What they ask is “Is it effective?” and the short answer is, in our opinion, absolutely yes. Particularly being in a remote Caribbean destination, our mission in life was to make ourselves very accessible to the world. The live chat is such an interesting beast because from time to time we get people who prefer not to have an email trail or to call for whatever reason.

Recently we had a situation where we had a U.S. military soldier over in Iraq, and he wanted to plan a surprise trip for his girlfriend and the satellite phone over there wasn’t working too well; he didn’t have a lot of time for e-mail, so he actually planned and booked this whole thing on live chat with us in a matter of half an hour. He was amazed and so happy that that service was available.

I think this stuff works. It’s not just one thing, it’s not just social media. We feel as though it’s a holistic type of approach that needs to happen in terms of the hotel website, the blog, the social media channels, the forums, plus you keep an eye on exactly what you’re doing from the OTA perspective. Looking at your digital PR and keeping the content fresh and rich and interesting; compelling. And having, on the other side of the fence, that conversion mechanism, somebody who’s friendly and sales oriented on the other end of the phone.

Josiah: Thanks Val, I appreciate you sharing your story with us.

[You should see how they tie together all social media profiles into one page here….]

Free Report: How to Get More Out of Your Social Media Profiles

Josiah’s note: This article is just a small excerpt of a report containing simple, powerful changes you should make to maximize your presence on Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, YouTube, Flickr, and Email: Beyond Social Media Account Setup: 29 Hacks and Optimizations for Better Results.

Enter your work email address below, and I”ll send you a free copy of the report

Are you tired of reading articles on how to use social media? This one is going to be different: I’ll start with two assumptions: 1) You’re smart, and 2) You already have basic profiles on sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

If this describes you, what’s next in social media? I’d like to share some of the “hacks” I’ve seen used to optimize social media activity.

Facebook: Add a fan page widget on your homepage

Placing a Facebook Like Box on your website allows visitors to become a fan of your Facebook Page without leaving your main website. Additionally, you can share the most recent updates on your page, and show some of the people who are already part of your community. (The subtle difference between this and the Like Button above is the the Like Button is just for sharing content; the Like Box is for fan page signups.)

Facebook: Post on Saturday for more interaction

According to research from Dan Zarrella, your hotel will get a lot more interaction on Facebook updates made on the weekend (especially on Saturday):
Not working during the weekend? Just use a tool like HootSuite that allows scheduled future posting on Facebook.

Twitter: Using lists to save time

Anyone starting out on Twitter quickly notices the volume of updates from people they follow can become overwhelming. How can you keep up with the updates that really matter? The answer is through Twitter lists. You can create lists for any number of people you follow.

Read: How to Use Twitter Lists (Twitter.com) and Mashable’s Twitter Lists Guide

Twitter: Create a background design that sells

Not enough people pay attention to their Twitter background design, but it can be a powerful marketing tool. It’s nice to have a layout that matches the rest of your visual identity, but I like to go a step further and include sales information. Provide contact details. Highlight a special offer or promotion.

Twitter: Ask guests to follow you right after a booking

After someone makes a reservation or checks in to your hotel, you might recommend they follow you on Twitter for service. You can do this in person or over the phone, but I’ve received great results by putting this request on the “thank you for your reservation” page that people see immediately after making a booking. Once someone has made a commitment like this, they are obviously interested in what you offer, and the chances they’ll follow you on Twitter or elsewhere go up dramatically.

Blog: Use Flickr to find “insider” secrets in your city

Flickr can also be a useful way to identify what visitors may find interesting in your city or destination. It helps to have a fresh set of eyes when creating a visitor’s guide for your destination. Searching Flickr enables you to:

  • See what visitors are taking photos of
  • See what type of photos got the most attention
  • Identify the best photographers in your city (and work with them?)
  • Locate out-of-the-way points of interest in your neighborhood
  • Participate in discussions with photographers to determine the best places to take photos

Here’s the video demonstration

Flickr: Publish under a Creative Commons license to increase your visibility

As mentioned earlier, the Flickr Creative Commons license gives bloggers and web publishers permission to use images in their own work. From the perspective of the photographer – you in this case – it can be a great way to raise visibility. I recommend releasing every photo you upload to Flickr under this license. Photos of your property are great, but photos of your city or destination are even better.

YouTube: Optimize your videos for search

Many people are surprised to learn that YouTube is the web’s second-largest search engine (after Google). Videos uploaded to YouTube should be optimized to increase the chances of people finding it. There are whole articles on this topic, but some starting actions you can take include:

  • Try to identify which niche search phrases are most relevant to your audience and the video, and then target these
  • Use the word “video” in the title
  • Write a keyword-rich description – it’s the next-best indicator to search engines of the video’s content, after the title
  • Provide transcriptions where possible (search engines cannot index video content, so this helps them get a feel for what the video contains)
  • Tag your video with keywords when uploading (which should go without saying)
  • Select an attractive thumbnail image

Email: Add your latest Twitter updates to your email signature

A service called WiseStamp allows you to instantly embed your latest tweet or other social media update in every email you send. Even if you don’t want to use it for your personal account, it might be a nice touch for customer service or sales emails.

Again, this article is just a small excerpt of a report containing 20 additional simple, yet powerful changes you should make to maximize your presence on Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, YouTube, Flickr, and Email. Enter your email address below, and I’ll send you a free copy of Beyond Social Media Account Setup: 29 Hacks and Optimizations for Better Results:

Enter your work email address below, and I”ll send you a free copy of the report

Ski.com Director of Marketing got a $70,000 booking from a single Facebook referral

Dan Sherman of Ski.com

Dan Sherman is Director of Marketing Communications at Ski.com

Ski.com is North America’s largest provider of mountain vacations
My day-to-day changes every day
I wear a lot of hats: the two largest are public relations and social media
The link between social media and PR is managing messages and keeping the dialog going
You skip the middleman and go direct to your target audience
Unlike PR, with social media you can somewhat control your message
When you’re pitching media, you just hope they write about what you want
Facebook and Twitter are two different vehicles for two different purposes
I do more offers on Twitter than Facebook
Facebook is more engaging in my opinion – it lets you have more of a dialog with more people in one place
Twitter is better for lead generation, driving traffic to a website
If I do a sales message, I don’t get a lot of action
But if it’s just relevant information, like a photo of new snow, people like to engage with that
When people comment on anything on Facebook, all their friends see that
Through this method, we got a $70,000 booking from someone who had never heard of us before
I generally do all the Facebook updates myself – and I manage multiple pages
The last thing I want to do is post too much, and have people hide us in their newsfeed
Our business is seasonal, so I want to be tapping people on the shoulder, but not too much
Facebook Connect may become a thing of the past
I have very high expectations for putting Facebook functionality on our own website, allowing their friends to see they’re engaging with Ski.com
We just implemented ‘like’ buttons on all of our resort pages
When people click that, on their friends’ newsfeed they’ll see John Doe likes Ski.com
Advice from strangers on TripAdvisor is great, but people really trust their own circle of friends
Recommendations from friends are more likely to encourage a buying decision
People have always been influenced by what other people like, but Facebook makes this much more visible

See Dan this October at EyeforTravel’s Travel Distribution Summit North America 2010.

Is the Facebook fanbase for big brands less interactive?

In my article on how to encourage Facebook discussion, I used examples of big brands: Virgin America, Hilton, Ritz Carlton, etc.

Yes, they are getting a lot of interaction, but Michael accurately called me out on this:

It’s not fair to us little guys to suggest some of the hotel examples are any form of impressive interaction. If you are talking replies to single posts, it’s nice to see some conversation. But the population of a page has to be considered…. Look at the volume of people not interacting in the slightest.

Using your examples:

Virgin has 62,476 fans.
.0416 % responded, and .0688 % clicked “like”

Hilton Hotels has 45,037 fans.
That means .0822 % commented, and .1867 % to press “like”

Ritz Calrton has 18,563 fans.
.0593 % responded, .1131 % clicked “like”

That is *INSANELY* discouraging.

Point taken. Perhaps we should be looking at smaller brands instead for good examples?

At the end of the day, it always comes back to this one-line formula for social media success. It’s harder for big brands to share that personality…

Join Good Hospitality (And help hotels improve their communities)

A few colleagues and I are starting a new community to encourage innovation around social responsibility and environmental sustainability.

Here’s the video intro:

This community will start out on this Facebook page: I invite you join here. In fact, I’ll make it super-easy for you by including the Facebook widget here – just click the “like” button below:



A note about Facebook privacy: Joining does not open up your personal network. We’re just using the Facebook Connect platform to get as many people involved as possible. It’s just to let you plug into the community without separate registration.

Once you’ve “liked” our page, please share links, articles, or examples that you think would inspire innovation in this space.

The one-line, super-simple recipe for success in social media

The inside story from a real person who loves what they do

The inside story

Something we don’t already know. The scoop. Behind-the-scenes stuff.

From a real person

Not a department. A personality. Preferably, a friendly one. Someone we can identify with.

Who loves what they do

They’re so excited about it, you couldn’t pay them to NOT write about it.

That’s it. That’s the “secret.” Now, go do this…

[Photo credit: Jurvetson; Inspired by Eric Karjaluoto]

4 profit-producing Facebook page additions

Need to make some direct revenue off Facebook? Here’s four ways hotels are generating bookings that can be attributed directly to Facebook.

Email signup

With a little bit of FBML code, you can embed an email signup form on your page. On the right, you can see how email marketing provider VerticalResponse does it on their page:

Once you build up this list, you can create special email promotions targeted directly to your Facebook audience.

Special deals module

Swiss-Belhotel uses Facebook to drive people to their “Red Hot Deals” landing page:

Swiss-Belhotel Facebook

From here, they are sent to a highly-optimized landing page that probably earns high conversion rates:

Custom landing pages

Or you can go a step further. By setting up your page so that visitors see the “promotions” tab first, you can highlight a special offer or package. Here’s how Hard Rock Las Vegas does it:

Booking module

Over the past couple months, I’ve seen more and more hotels adding booking modules directly to their fan pages. Here’s how Design Hotels added their reservations tool:

How are you making money on Facebook?

(For step-by-step assistance setting up these features on your Facebook page, join our Insider’s Circle)

Questions that encourage discussion on Facebook (or anywhere)

We hear a lot about social media as a two-way conversation, but how do you encourage these conversations? What type of questions get people talking?

Let’s look at some popular brands on Facebook to see how they generated conversation:

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf used a fun contest to encourage discussion and engage their fans.

Zipcar asks a question that’s very relevant to their target audience: people who need a car for day trips. A variation of this would be perfect market research material.

Virgin America does this subtle research even better – they’re gathering lots of information around a contest with an attractive prize.

Hard Rock Hotel asks a question that fits their customer culture. Every once and a while, you just need something fun.

Hilton does an announcement in a way that draws in baseball and entertainment sub-communities: broadening its appeal beyond a press release.

Ritz-Carlton does something I want more of on Facebook: Sharing a story around something truly different.

What do these updates have in common?

What are the common themes running through each of these questions?

Not many, but you can see each was designed to get people talking. The author needs input – they want to get a discussion going.

Contrast that with all the pages you see that only include the company talking about itself. Simply pushing out information without caring if anyone responds.

Intentionally write your updates to include your fans, and see what happens!

Let me ask you this: What questions do you notice generate the most discussion?

Using Flickr to find interesting things in your city [Video]

As Martin and I were brainstorming ways to create better guest experiences, we came up with the idea of using Flickr – the photo sharing site – as a way to identify what visitors find interesting in your city or destination.

It helps to have a fresh set of eyes when engaging in concierge marketing, and Flickr can be a helpful tool for this.

  • See what visitors are taking photos of
  • See what type of photos got the most attention
  • Identify the best photographers in your city (and work with them?)
  • Locate out-of-the-way points of interest in your neighborhood
  • Participate in discussions with photographers to determine the best places to take photos

Here’s the video demonstration:

Topguest founder Geoff Lewis introduces next generation of geolocation-driven hotel loyalty programs

Location-based social networking services such as Foursquare, Gowalla, and Yelp have exploded in popularity recently, and many hotels are still trying to figure out what role they should take in participating. What if it could be combined with a traditional hotel concept: the loyalty rewards program?

Topguest was created around this idea. Users of any of the major location-based services can earn real rewards program points by checking in on their mobile device.

I asked Founder/CEO Geoff Lewis about it….

What is the big problem you saw that inspired you to create this?

The popularity of geolocation “check-in” services has exploded globally over the past few months. Geolocation information has major potential for the hotel industry to drive conversion, increase transactions, and brand affinity. Topguest enables hotels to unlock the power of geolocation by linking your CRM and points/rewards system with the entire universe of geolocation applications.

I write this blog to encourage hotels to create better experiences for their guests. How does your product help with this?

Topguest enables hotels to leverage their existing points and rewards programs to reward their guests and prospective guests active on geolocation check-in apps such as Foursquare, Gowalla, and Google Latitude. Your guests get rewards regardless of which application they use, driving engagement and affinity with your brand. If you don’t have a points program already, Topguest can power one for you!

Can you give us an example of a hotel that has used this successfully?

Andre Balazs’s Standard hotels are Topguest’s “preview launch” exclusive partner. Topguest has powered an out of the box points program for Standard based on geolocation check-ins. When a user earns 10 points, they have a choice of rewards including 25% off room reservations, complimentary Spa access, and gratis rounds of drinks. Thus fair in just 7 days the Topguest-Standard program has enrolled over 3000 people.

If a hotel is interested in this, how can they begin working with you?

Contact Topguest’s Partnership Team at partner@topguest.com . We’ll get back to you within 24 hours

Turn your loyal fans into celebrities

If you want people to promote you, promote them. Turn the spotlight on your most active supporters. Reward your brand ambassadors with attention.

It amazes me how some businesses expect their customers to spend time creating promotional material for them – without even recognizing their efforts.

Looking outside the hotel industry for a moment, Ford ran a promotion where 100 car bloggers drove a Fiesta completely free for 6 months in exchange for writing about the experience.

A tradeoff like this is fairly common, but what Ford did well here was support the bloggers with attention. Using their corporate marketing power, they raised the visibility of the people writing about them. This, of course, led to more people reading about the cars – so everyone won.

(You’ve also gotta love Ford for making – to my knowledge – the first car that tweets and checks in with Foursquare)

The big lesson: Your social media activity needs to be less about sales and more about amplifying the messages of your fans.

How do you support the people writing about you?

[Photo credit: John McNab]

Social media is never free

One of the biggest misconceptions about social media is that it’s free.

I think in the push for business adoption, it was presented as a free or low-cost promotional option.

Not true.

Social media will cost you. Time and money.

Oh, and just because social media will cost you something doesn’t mean it’s not worth taking part.

Even if it were the most costly communications channel we had, it would still be worth using.

Let’s just set expectations right from the start.

Brand stewardship

What we do with digital communications is so much more than experimental marketing. It’s really all about brand stewardship.

Stewardship may be defined as “The careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.”

And this is the position we usually find ourselves in as we manage marketing for a hotel, resort – or anything else. We are stewards of that brand, tasked with upholding and communicating the values it stands for. What does that include?

Attention

Attention to what the brand stands for. Attention to to what your guests expect of you. Attention to how those two things can come together practically.

Supervision

Supervision of your reputation. Listening to what people say – online and off. Safeguarding it from threats.

Maintenance

Taking action based on what you find. Refusing to ignore problems just because that’s easier in the short term.

Management

Providing strategic direction on how to move forward while staying true to your identity. Making sure everyone on your team understands why you do what you do: your core values.

Upkeep

Doing what is needed to maintain world-class standards. Introducing innovation to stay ahead of the game.

Are each of these roles included in your to-do list for this week?

How to build a hotel social media team [Infographic]

How to build a social media team

Who should be on your social media team? At least one person from every department…

  • The Management Team provides strategic direction and addresses guest feedback
  • Revenue Manager and Marketing Director work together to create special promotions
  • PR Manager watches for, and shares, interesting stories
  • Concierge and Guest Services can share how they are making the guest experience better
  • Social Media Ambassador collects contributions from this group, and publishes them in social media

The ‘social media ambassador‘ may be the public face of your social media presence – but building a team with someone from each department will make participation more effective.

[Feel free to download and use the full size version from Flickr]

This illustration was planned with Michael Hraba and drawn by the talented Carlo Tolentino – our new artist. Making digital communications simple is very important to me, and we look forward to sharing more illustrations like this.

Why you need a social media ambassador (and how to choose one)

We introduced the concept of a Social Media Ambassador in my interview with Jim Zito, and I’m seeing more and more hotels formally (and informally) adopt this.

To be clear, a Social Media Ambassador is different than the online marketing manager. While it may be someone from the marketing department, this function can be held by anyone at the hotel.

It’s a role, not a position.

The Director of Marketing may develop the overall strategic plan, but the Social Media Ambassador acts as the public persona behind your social media accounts. Social media is personal, and having one person as the voice/face for your messages can be very effective.

How do you select this person? Consider the following:

  • Are they using social media well on a personal level? (Can they walk the talk?)
  • Can you trust this person to make the right decisions without constantly checking in with you?
  • Is it someone with the integrity to represent the hotel well?
  • Are they reliable? Can they consistently monitor your accounts and reply?
  • Do they have strong writing skills? (Written text is so important in social media)
  • Will they have the permission to speak on behalf of the hotel?

Who meets this criteria at your hotel?

Special thanks to Jim Zito of Morgans Hotel Group and Terry Kane of Jumeirah Group who helped me brainstorm this concept during my recent interviews with them.

Don’t wait for your website

“Just let us get our website re-designed, and then we’ll think about social media”

I hear that way too often. It’s the wrong way to think.

Loic Le Meur and other new media pioneers go so far as to say you don’t need a website – social media is enough.

I don’t know if I agree with that yet. What I do agree on is that you shouldn’t delay social media participation until your website is just right.

Your website will never be perfect.

Meanwhile, your hotel is probably losing money each day. Perceptions are being formed on a constant basis.

Would you rather influence the discussion about you right now around the web – or wait until the perfect moment?

Social media is better than any focus group

Stop thinking about generating revenue from social media for a moment. Instead, take advantage of the opportunities for feedback – it’s better than any focus group you could ever assemble.

  • Use it to find out what your next promotion should be
  • Use it to find out which services and amenities you should add
  • Use it to find out what your web presence should look like.
  • Use it to find out which loyalty rewards they value

The best ROI you’ll get in social media is from the insights you can receive.

[AUDIO] William Cotter on Social Media Marketing for Hotels in Europe (And Beyond)

Trying something a little new today: an audio interview. My conversation with William Cotter of Net Affinity (Dublin, Ireland) was originally going to be about social media in Europe, but we ended up covering a lot more.

You should listen to this call – regardless of where you live.

Some of the topics we discuss include:

  1. How to select social media networks for your hotel
  2. If Twitter reaches actual guests (or just other hotels and marketing people!)
  3. Does direct, proactive selling work in social media?
  4. How to track social media activity to sales
  5. Tips for building an online fan base
  6. Do contests really work?
  7. How to balance personality and procedures for consistency
  8. The challenge of managing social media off-property (and ways to get around this)
  9. How to manage social media campaigns in multiple languages

Listen here:

William Cotter is managing director of Net Affinity, a Dublin-based agency serving the hotel industry. He also runs the website MarketingTimes.com

I think this audio format could be valuable, but I need to improve production quality. There were a few tech glitches on my side during this call, and I know my interview skills could use a lot of improvement. So please tell me: how can I make these better for you?

Will social media fatigue become an issue?

This is a little different from my usual posts, but I just wanted to put an idea out there…

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The concept of social media fatigue came to me on a 20-mile run through San Francisco last Saturday – along Ocean Beach and Golden Gate Park. The weather was beautiful, blossoms were on trees, and I felt really good. “This is living,” I thought – not sitting behind a screen typing updates.

Yes, I know that for many of us, social networking is our job. But I’m trying to step outside my role as a marketer for a moment, and see things from the consumers’ perspective.

As a social media user – I want technology to enhance my offline experience….not exist in its own little world.

Offline is where my best friends are, where the best experiences happen, and where real memories are made.

I want to spend more time outside, and less time online.

Because of this, I see mobile and augmented reality technology having huge potential.

I’m not saying social media is not useful. I’m just wondering if more people will get tired of various social media activities, and what that means for us as marketers.

Any thoughts?

[Photo credit: Kevin Krejci]

Three reasons to keep an eye on foursquare

fs-signI don’t use foursquare. At least not yet.

But every time I go out to lunch with Michael, I see him checking in to the restaurant on foursquare with his mobile phone.

I’m at the place where I don’t feel like joining yet another social network. But as a marketing professional, I need to stay ahead of things. So I asked him why he takes part:

It’s a game which creates a different mentality than checking in on Yelp, or something else.  It keeps the users engaged.

A little of my paraphrasing on the potential he sees for the hospitality industry:

  1. Foursquare drives repeat business. People keep coming back to the same place to become “mayor.” People compete to stay mayor as well, and I have seen competitions get ridiculous.
  2. Foursquare partnered with Zagat. Not so much that foursquare will get a wider audience, but Zagat has direct, on the go, immediate advertising to potential clients that are branded as foodies.  Zagat gets to say “come here” if they are next door having a drink.  It’s amazing site-specific marketing.
  3. Foursquare is being used  like early adopters of Twitter…. and foursquare has a more direct capacity for commerce and B2P than Twitter.

This is a tool I’ll definitely be watching. In the meantime, be sure to read Michael’s blog for more social media goodness….