How Sofitel Earned 28,000 Twitter Followers and Became One of Klout’s Top 20 Most Influential Hotels

Travel Spike Social Media Manager Carly Redgers and President Ryan Bifulco shared with us the inside story on how Sofitel Luxury Hotels earned over 28,000 quality followers on Twitter – and became one of Klout’s Top 20 Most Influential Hotels – within one year.

How do you define “quality” Twitter followers?

Quality is, of course, very subjective. For some clients, you might say it’s related to power or influence, so you’d review their Klout score. Our project objective – how we define quality – is to earn fans and followers that are local and interested in fine dining, wine or french culture.

Tip #1 – Appoint a social media coordinator for each property.

This person will be the eyes and ears on the property, including sharing specials at the spa or menu changes at the restaurant. They coordinate with sales, marketing, weddings, meetings, events and the concierge to share updates and help their social media team get the message out.

How did you select a social media coordinator at each property? What was your criteria?

We asked each hotel to identify the person that either had the most experience or enthusiasm for social media. Since Travel Spike trained them on social media and we ultimately handle social media strategy and management, we did not need anyone to be an expert, just passionate about the project and willing to learn.

The Sofitel Miami's Leblon Party

Tip #2 – Be authentic.

Customers don’t want to read updates that sound like a robot has written them. Sofitel is a unique upscale brand known for its stellar service and French style, so the social media updates stay true to the product.

Could you define “be authentic?” How did you allow personality to come through while still adhering to guidelines?

Authentic means to keep things real and applicable, rather than just sharing corporate robotic propaganda – regardless of the company. Sofitel does have corporate guidelines, but we allowed the brand’s personality to shine.

Sofitel is French, stylish, magnificent, elegant and upscale. So we give their social media presence a bit of a personal touch, and include local specials and events they support.

Tip #3 – Target your demographics.

For Sofitel, targeting discerning travelers and gourmet diners remains a top priority.

How did you target demographics?

We started the social media program with just Facebook and Twitter, and we’re expanding the program in 2011 to new outlets. Our team reviews public information provided in profiles on Facebook and Twitter. Our Miami hotel networks with people living in the Miami area, for example, because they want to promote their restaurant and bar to locals.

Tip #4 – Sprinkle in local events.

Show off your concierge skills by becoming the local inside source for events, parties and festivals. Sofitel Los Angeles, for example, tweeted live from their recent Golden Globe Gifting Suite.

How else can events can be used as a social marking device?

You can do a lot with events. We’ve organized TweetUps at properties – where we invite Twitter users to network in person. We tweet live during the event for extra exposure. You can also Tweet live from other events around the city or promote events on the Facebook events calendar.

Tip #5 – Engage with your audience. Don’t just sell.

The quickest way to lose a consumer is to ‘bang them over the head’ with product information. Sofitel Washington DC asked their Facebook fans which DC tips they would like to receive; consumers responded that they want to hear more about museums, family travel, luxury dining, and romantic tips for couples.

What questions did you find got the most engagement? Can you tell us a little more about how you used social media for research?

We keep things fresh and engaging by varying interactions with our followers; fun trivia questions are very well received. We solicit feedback from the followers and invite them to participate in the process, which goes over quite well. For example, we might ask followers to vote on a type of drink special, or suggest a new spa treatment.

We use the reporting provided in Facebook, and also review reports from a social analytics company – Sofitel’s social media research partner. Our team does social media research on the competition, and we poll users to gauge interest and test new programs, as well.

Thanks, Carly and Ryan!

Twitter Research: Opportunities for Creating a Valuable Marketing Asset

Last month, Doug O’Reilly, Oliver Sohn and their Seventh Art Media team’s Facebook research struck a chord with our readers.

Industry insiders Geraldine Daly and Are Morch called it, “the most comprehensive Facebook piece I have seen to date,” and “the type of information we need more of.”

Seventh Art Media’s second comprehensive analysis – available in its entirety below – examines 135 hotel Twitter accounts and more than 120,000 tweets from November 1, 2010 to January 31, 2011 and identifies hotels’ best opportunities for finding and increasing their accounts’ value.

1. Commit to slow, quality growth.

As we developed our initial list of hotel Twitter accounts for our analysis, we noticed two phenomena that were striking: First of all was the number of “dead” accounts. These are accounts with several thousand followers that simply stopped functioning one day, but continue to gain followers and mentions that are never responded to or acknowledged.

The second phenomenon of note is the underperformance of highly hyped accounts. We’ve all seen our share of “top 10” lists of hotel Twitter accounts. In performing our list building due diligence, we combed through dozens of Google results for top hotel accounts that various authors recommended we follow. What we saw was startling. These lists in total yielded only a few reasonably performing accounts and significantly more failures—including several dead accounts.

Playing catch-up or making a goal of rapid, low quality follower growth creates minimal returns on the investment. Twitter accounts that commit to slow, quality growth and maintain engagement are reaping the rewards of their efforts.

2. Facebook and Twitter efforts are complementary, but should not overlap.

On average, accounts with a high volume of cross-posts between Twitter and Facebook significantly underperform the ones that handle each channel separately.

Facebook is an exemplary platform for creating reach and amplification but it requires a strong content pipeline and is weak in creating sustained engagement.

In contrast, Twitter is an engagement-driven platform that requires care and commitment to build — but once it moves past a threshold level of engagement and volume it rapidly becomes a valuable brand asset.

3. Follower growth – in and of itself – is a meaningless statistic.

Quality followers will engage and interact with a hotel via Twitter as well as amplify the hotel’s content. Unengaged followers are a black hole for content and add no value to a hotel’s social media efforts and investments.

The figure below lists the top 20 accounts in our study by value. While the top tier is dominated by hotel casinos and hotel brands, we see that some property-specific Twitter accounts have also built out a valuable asset. In just a few months’ time, the newly launched Cosmopolitan Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas has created the most valuable hotel Twitter account among all those studied. The highest valuation for an independent hotel’s Twitter account is the Roger Smith Hotel in New York City.

In both cases, these accounts have lower followings than some of their direct competition, but by focusing on engagement and building quality follower bases they have created far more value. So the question is clearly not “how many followers do I need?” but “how do I get the right followers?”

4. Twitter strategies need to be goal-oriented from day one.

Once these goals are established, the hotel team can build out a long-term roadmap to help overcome internal obstacles, establish an operational culture around commitment to the channel, and begin to earn its way to the top.

The top five performing accounts in Seventh Art Media’s study have a current valuation of over $100k and their values are exponentially growing. In Seventh Art Media’s estimation, hotel brands and properties at any level should be able to realize measurable positive ROI levels with proper goals, planning and organizational commitment in place. Once the asset is built, maintenance costs will drop in relation to returns. The time to invest is now.

Read the full report here:

Hospitality and Twitter: Creating a Valuable Asset

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.

Biggest mistakes companies make on Twitter from a consumer’s perspective

In the last episode of This Week in Hotels, we went through some of the biggest mistakes travel companies make in using Twitter. (Inspired by Darren’s post here.) You can listen to the whole conversation in that post, but I just wanted to summarize the main points here.

Mistake #1 – Registering, but not responding

Darren: The main thing really was companies that sign up to Twitter and then don’t respond to people’s questions and complaints.

I had a recent experience where I was stranded in The Hague and I tried to contact the airline via Twitter and nobody acknowledged me or responded to any of my questions. I’ve seen it happen with other people as well.

The thing is, when you join Twitter, you have to be prepared to deal with the communications side of it. So if somebody’s got a question, you’ve got to be able to answer it. I think one of the things I’ve noticed quite a few, especially with the UK tele-operators were that if people had complaints, instead of sending a direct message to the consumer to ask for more information, they just gave them an email address which the consumer could then use to complain. It defeats the purpose of using Twitter in the first place.

Josiah: You need to empower the people who are using Twitter to actually resolve situations. I know it can get complex because I’ve talked with a few people at airlines that are managing Twitter accounts and obviously there are some cases where you may be able to point people in the right direction or give them the right direction, in other cases you may have to hand it off to someone in your department. But just handing off a generic customer service email is just really unacceptable. It’s not solving the situation and it doesn’t look like you’re making any effort at all.

Mistake #2 – No identity behind the company

Josiah: One of the other big things was no identity behind the company. I think everyone out there on Twitter is looking for a human connection. They don’t really want to connect with the company, they want to talk with another human being. I’m wondering how we can do that practically especially in the scenario where you have a large company and maybe several people are involved in social media management?

Darren: I think it’s probably a lot more difficult for larger companies if they’ve got a number of people monitoring the account, so I think using initials [to identify which person is replying]  is a really good idea.

I can’t think of any companies off the top of my head at the moment but I have seen it where they’ve got a background with pictures of people who are monitoring the account and then their full name and the initials next to it so at least you can actually relate to a human being rather than just text on a screen.

I’ve seen good examples of smaller companies, like Stuart of Around the World Flights. He said that his followers actually increased when he put his photo as his avatar along with the logo of his business.

So there’s definitely advantages to being more personal on Twitter and those are just some of the ways you can do that. What I’ve noticed some people do is they use the SEO keywords that they’re trying to target, so rather than having their business name or personal name, they have a keyword there, “London Hotels”, and that’s not good to see neither.

Josiah: I think I’m guilty of that with @HMarketingHelp as my username – but its a great point and I think the whole idea of creating an identity behind the company, I’ve tried to compensate for that by having a personal background image.

Mistake #3 – Outsourcing Twitter management

Josiah: You made another point in the article about Twitter accounts run by clueless agencies. I would probably go as far as to say it’s impossible to outsource Twitter. You can’t expect someone that’s thousands of miles away to have a really good pulse of the heartbeat of your organization. It just seems disingenuous to me to have a third party trying to be the face of the company. I don’t know how it could work.

Darren: I completely agree. You need somebody who’s actually familiar with the business and somebody who can deal with that query or that piece of advice that somebody’s wanting quickly. What you don’t want to do is to ask a question and then 3 days later somebody responds because by then you’ve probably found the answer yourself.

Josiah: Real time monitoring is so important – even if you have someone who goes in for 5 minutes at a time, 3-4 times a day… because these issues have to resolved within hours or the value of the response is just worthless. Just having a question answered four days from now especially from the real-time travel environment where perhaps I’m sitting at an airport or I’m at a train station and I need an answer right now, I don’t need it four days from now.

Guillame: And thank God there are tools out there now like TweetDeck that help you to be really active to tweets that talk about your brand, or you can also do some free customer service. I always look up to what I have been doing for nearly a year now where I’m trying to help travelers on the go to answer their questions. I think it’s a fantastic way to engage all these people.

Darren: I can add something to that as well. I use a tool called CoTweet (cotweet.com) and that’s really good at monitoring what people are saying and I don’t really monitor the term “Travel Rants” but I also have a new project which is a local guide from my home city of Leeds. What I’ve started to do is if people are asking questions about Leeds hotels, I’m able to assist that person by offering them some suggestions for hotels depending on what they’re wanting to get out of their stay in Leeds. That’s actually helped me generate bookings which in return has also generated revenue. So for local hotels, monitoring that kind of discussion is really useful and can only benefit them.

Josiah: I think that’s even more important than just monitoring the brand name, especially at the local level. You need to be looking for people who are coming to your city and looking for a place to stay or suggestions for activities and things like this. This is what people are tweeting more often than just something about your brand name. But I think that’s important as well so you have to be monitoring both these types of queries.

What Not to Tweet

Which topics should hotels, or any company, avoid completely on Twitter? And how can you maintain authenticity without risking professional credibility and customer relationships?

Hospitality and marketing experts weigh in on what NOT to tweet:


@swimkatieclapp Politics, snarky replies?less than a minute ago via HootSuite


@swimkatieclapp the only thing I can say is personal info and stating the obviousless than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®


@swimkatieclapp I am ok with all topics that supports a two-way goodwill, porn is off topicless than a minute ago via TweetDeck



@swimkatieclapp Good question. Hotels shouldn’t tweet about bedbugs, celebrity meltdowns, relocates & bad reviews. Oh, and boring stuff.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck



@swimkatieclapp hotels should tweet about any topic as long as its not confidential. Tweets should be informative, not just offer drivenless than a minute ago via HootSuite

Specific topics aside, projecting a positive attitude and sincere respect for customers is the #1 way to tweet freely. If you’re still not sure where to draw the line, check your tweets against these four questions.

1. Would I make this statement to a guest’s face?

It’s easier to drop insensitive or abrasive remarks when we can’t experience their face-to-face consequences, and Twitter amplifies this effect and feelings of anonymity by primarily hosting one-way conversations. Don’t be mistaken. You are communicating with real people: guests, business partners, employers, and journalists.

Tweet this:


@sfoley Sorry to hear of your experience. We spoke to the MOD & understand you’ve already spoken to them. DM if we can help during your stayless than a minute ago via CoTweet

Not that: Why do families think it’s ok to let kids run wild around the pool?!

2. Would I feel comfortable with my tweet appearing in a respected industry magazine?…

Or on the news? Or on a competitor’s website? Or in a court of law?

The internet is forever. Avoid statements that you can’t publicly endorse and comfortably defend.

Tweet this:


Thank you to Westjet’s Up Magazine for recommening Centro as a great accommodation choice in Calgary http://fb.me/yMPH7c22less than a minute ago via Facebook

Not that: We finally have new bathroom tiles & Josiah gets tax-free spending cash ;) Awesome!

3. Does this comment make sense to a first-time visitor?

Remember that context is key; new readers don’t have any. Conduct off-topic conversations through private messages or accounts, and frequently assess your feed with “fresh eyes” to ensure warm, welcoming and inclusive first impressions.

Tweet this:


@rgomezsalgado We are in soft-opening mode right now. Expect to be fully opened by mid October.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Not that: @HMarketingHelp burritos after work today??

4. Do I sound like a real person?

Redundant streams of generic offers, phone numbers and bland descriptions will be ignored by potential guests, and waste Twitter’s potential as a communication platform. When appropriate, employ light humor, fun observations, and surprising facts to engage and entertain followers. Through our research, we’ve found this to be the most common misuse of Twitter by businesses.

Tweet this:


A little early, I know, but I’m REALLY excited for the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival! http://ow.ly/1gEtw ^Sless than a minute ago via HootSuite

Not that:

Follow our featured tweeters for more technology, marketing and hospitality industry tips.

The importance of retweeting your own important content

I was talking with a client this morning that was disappointed by the response he received on Twitter when he gave away an importance piece of content. After the announcement, not many people re-tweeted the content. It didn’t go viral immediately.

He needs to retweet this again and again

Just posting information once to Twitter usually isn’t enough. So many messages go through the Twitter stream that it’s easy for your followers to miss it.

I’d recommend he re-tweet this piece of information a couple times each week – but at different days and times. This way, he’s reaching the broadest audience possible across different time zones.

We’ve all seen Twitter users that get too carried away with this – posting the same thing 20+ times each week. So this advice needs to be taken with moderation, but….

What information should you be retweeting?

[image credit: TheNextWeb]

Retweet for credibility (It helped when Scoble and Newmark passed along my story…)

Mashable put together a nice article with some tips for managing your brand identity on the web. The most important advice in my mind was…

Let someone else say it

This was especially helpful:

[Starbucks] Product Manager Brad Nelson is often the genius behind the company’s online and social media initiatives, he’s also the primary person behind the brand’s very popular Twitter account. Much of his day-to-day responsibilities involve online brand management, and as such he’s learned that sometimes the best way to say something on the social web is to, “have someone else say it.”

Nelson advises other brands to take the same course of action. “If you can find a tweet, photo or blog post that says what you’re trying to say then use that instead of writing it yourself. It does a couple of great things. Your readers will see it as an external validator, so they’ll be more likely to respond than they would if it was a billboard on the side of the road. It also makes the original author happy. Everyone wants to see their content get exposure.”

In fact, Nelson says that he tries to “find things to retweet every day.”

Find something to retweet every day

Of course retweeting is where you find something someone said on Twitter, and pass it along to the people following you.

It’s so powerful because you’re letting someone else do the talking. It’s more credible.

My retweeting opportunity

A few weeks ago, my story on Craigslist founder Craig Newmark was retweeted by Craig and Robert Scoble – some of the most powerful people in technology.

Retweeting their retweets served this function. If Newmark and Scoble liked the story, others probably will as well.

And they did – I received hundreds of new readers from this single tweet.

So today – and every day – go out there and try to find something to retweet.

That indie dude understands Twitter

I love how That INDIE Dude includes Twitter into his site design:

This is so much more compelling than the standard “Follow us on Twitter” button. Or even this site, for that matter.

What if you created a similar illustration for your social media ambassador?

Or had your hotel mascot tweeting out one message at a time like this?

Or created a separate one-page website on its own domain to encourage your Twitter following?

I’d like to see more creative Twitter integrations like this. Mashable has some more examples.

How Steve Lambert uses Twitter as General Manager of Radisson Nashua [Audio]

steveIn today’s interview, I talk with Steve Lambert, General Manager of the Radisson Nashua Hotel. We discussed the practical details and day-to-day skills for using Twitter successfully, including:

  1. How they took advantage of a renovation and rebranding to launch their social media activity
  2. What types of content work best with Twitter
  3. How to gather stories for sharing online
  4. The system Steve built on his iPhone for capturing ideas as he finds them
  5. Does syncing Twitter and Facebook updates automatically work well?
  6. The metrics important to Steve
  7. How he attracts new followers
  8. Criteria for deciding who you should follow and interact with
  9. How to stay on topic while at the same time maintaining diversity in your updates
  10. Who in the hotel should be managing Twitter and your social media marketing
  11. How Steve involves his whole team in the process
  12. What’s next in social media

Listen here:

Bonus: The Twitter tools that Steve uses

Steve mentioned some of these tools in the interview – you may want to check them out for your own use:

  • Itweet.net
  • Twittearth
  • Twinfluence
  • Tweetmeme
  • Futuretweets
  • Song.ly
  • Twiturm.com
  • Tweetvisor
  • Tweetvolume
  • Asktwitr
  • Backtweets
  • Tweetbeep
  • Friendorfollow

Twitter is the new RSS, @HMSblog is our new feed

Not many people in the hotel industry know this, but my very first venture was an RSS software company. I saw RSS as the direct distribution channel of the future, but it turned out Twitter largely fills this purpose.

You don’t have to be a Twitter power user to set up searches and lists that provide you with a customized flow of information and content. This was the vision of RSS, and I’m pleased to see this come true – even if through a different technology.

I used to promote Feedburner. Today I set up @HMSblog for those who want new post notifications from this blog… and none of the thoughts, ideas, and chatter on @HMarketingHelp

What Hotels Need To Know About Twitter Advertising

Twitter advertising

Twitter has finally begun to gradually introduce an advertising platform - Promoted Tweets – allowing businesses to publish promotional tweets. Since Twitter has revolutionized how we communicate online, it only makes sense their advertising program is a little different.

What do hotels need to know about Promoted Tweets?

There are 3 core principles of the program:

  • Twitter will insert the ads into the Twitter stream, clearly label them as promotions, and give them all the functionality of standard tweets
  • Ads are confined to the standard Twitter character limit (140 characters)
  • Promoted tweets that aren’t attracting attention are to be pulled out by Twitter.

I listened to a number of insiders here at ad:tech San Francisco, and some of the key points that are emerging…

It works best if you’re already doing well in Twitter

Twitter CEO Evan Williams:

[Twitter ads] will definitely work best for companies who Twitter works well for generally

In other words, if you don’t adopt the mindset of being interesting and useful, you can’t simply buy your way into the Twitter community.

Relevance is key for success

Relevance is the big issue when it comes to Twitter advertising. Advertisers will bid on keywords based on a CPM basis initially, but Twitter intends to use a “resonance score” metric to see how much reach and impact individually sponsored tweets have. User interaction with ads will determine the price and longevity of specific ads.

On the Twitter blog, Biz Stone says if your message doesn’t connect with your audience, you’ll be removed:

There is one big difference between a Promoted Tweet and a regular Tweet. Promoted Tweets must meet a higher bar—they must resonate with users. That means if users don’t interact with a Promoted Tweet to allow us to know that the Promoted Tweet is resonating with them, such as replying to it, favoriting it, or Retweeting it, the Promoted Tweet will disappear.

Relevance – as measured by audience interaction – was core to the success of Google’s advertising model. Twitter’s development of the Promoted Tweets program seems to be the next step in the online advertising evolution. I see a strong chance for it to influence other advertising platforms.

Ads will begin in search results

ReadWriteWeb calls the scheme “delightfully boring“:

Advertisements will begin in search, with keywords being bid on and a single advertisement appearing with frequency dependent on its performance. Then the ads will be extended to 3rd party applications like TweetDeck and others…Finally, ads will begin to appear on Twitter.com, tailored to the interests of users, as easily observed by their messages published and received.

The benefit of Twitter advertising

The ads could become a good way to maintain visibility for important keywords (searches) if the stream is “polluted” with a lot of noise.

For example, many “hotel” related Twitter search queries are full of chatter useless to someone looking for (or working with) a hotel. Sponsoring a tweet that sits on top of this chatter stream could significantly raise your visibility and prevent it from being ‘drowned’ in other tweets.

Program timeline

Messages are currently limited to a small group of test marketers, including Red Bull, Starbucks, Virgin America. (All strong Twitter users already) Expansion of the platform depends how users will react to the Promoted Tweets platform.

Twitter hopes to eventually insert advertisers into the timelines of messages that users see from people they network with – when the message seems appropriate.

Key point to remember

Promoted Tweets values personal interaction. Advertising isn’t enough. You’ll have to focus on creating quality content that your fans love.

Dallas Lawrence says this well in his Mashable article:

During the past year, Twitter has trained successful online brand marketers, reputation managers, and digital thought leaders to focus on the “value of providing value.” Unlike almost any platform to date, Twitter has urged, nudged and down-right forced messengers to infuse value into the dialogue, 140 characters at a time. With Twitter now offering an expanded road map for pay-for-play engagement, those entrusted with managing online reputations forget these lessons at their own peril.

Fairmont uses Twitter to create special package

sleighride

Many hotels use Twitter to communicate with their fans, but Fairmont is taking it a step further.

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler (@fairmontwhistlr) asked their Twitter followers for input in building a winter travel package. A poll was created where people could vote for the top activities they wanted included.

The result? A “Twinter Travel Package” that includes a fondue dinner and horse-drawn sleigh ride for two.

I want to see more of this. There’s a lot more we could do to involve our customers in creating new products.

After all, who better to ask than the people that will buy it?

How did Wynn Las Vegas get 310,000+ Twitter followers in 6 months?

WynnThere has been some buzz on Twitter how Wynn Las Vegas (@WynnLasVegas) built a following of over 300,000 fans within six months. While they do a great job interacting with their fan base, the sheer number of people following them is remarkable — especially when most big hotels fail to pass 10,000 followers.

So how did they do it?

According to @HHotelConsult, Wynn Las Vegas appeared in the “suggested user” list that people see when signing up for Twitter.

This is a massive advantage. It’s better than publicity, because now the hotel has a way to communicate with all these people. As the New York Times explained in an article this summer, those on this list become Twitter “kings.”

So maybe the bigger question is…

How did they get on that list?

How to get Twitter followers for your hotel (without hurting profits or your brand)

followTo run effective Twitter promotions for your hotel, you need people listening. But what if you have no followers? Where do you start?

Note: this list is a little different from other “how to be popular on Twitter” articles in that I understand hotels need to maintain their brand reputation. Some of the more aggressive tactics used in other industries probably should be avoided.

That said, here are some proven ways you can get more Twitter followers – even if you have none now:

Leverage your reputation. You’ll notice most of the top Twitter users are celebrities elsewhere. Bringing their brand to Twitter helped them quickly grow a fanbase in the network. If people recognize your company, simply taking part will cause others to spread your message and grow your influence.

Leverage your existing web presence. If you have an existing online profile – large or small – use it to promote your Twitter account. This may be Facebook, your blog, or your main website. Link to your Twitter page and actively encourage people to connect with you there.

Tweet regularly. Predictable, regular updates increase the chance people find you. You’ll appear in the public timeline, Twitter searches, and the likelihood of people retweeting your message goes up.

Look at the big picture. Talk about things other than just you and your hotel. Depending on your target audience, this could range from business travel tips to art shows in your city.

Provide value. Why should people follow you? Have a compelling reason.

Tweet during peak times. For me, the most activity happens during US business hours. A leisure audience may be different. Test and find what works for you.

Give away free stuff. No, it doesn’t always have to be rooms. What else could you give away that has a high value for your audience, but costs you little? Free gets attention, if the offer is good enough.

Learn from the pros. It can be very useful to follow the top hotels and experts in your niche to see how they build their followers. Perhaps you can use some of the tactics yourself.

[photo credit: tanakawho]

11 Useful Twitter Tools for Hotels (Plus: Hotel Twitter Buttons)

More and more hotels are seeing Twitter provide actual sales, and as we move from “ain’t it cool” to power users, it’s time we had a toolbox to match.

Here are the best tools for anyone using Twitter…and then at the end are custom Twitter buttons we made just for you.

HootSuite

HootSuite
HootSuite

A “professional Twitter client,” HootSuite is a web-based tool with powerful publishing and monitoring features. The ability to manage multiple accounts simultaneously make this the tool of choice for many social media managers. The “future tweet” scheduling tool is something I use extensively because of my international audience in different time zones. Since HootSuite includes many of the features from the tools below, I use this tool exclusively for all my Twitter activity.

Continue reading 11 Useful Twitter Tools for Hotels (Plus: Hotel Twitter Buttons)

Fairmont Hotels Explains Their Twitter Strategy (Interview with PR Manager)

fairmontLast week I caught up with Fairmont’s Public Relations manager, Mike Taylor, to discuss how Fairmont uses Twitter to communicate with their community:

Josiah: What’s your overall goal or strategy for Twitter?

Mike: On Twitter it’s about two things: developing awareness and understanding of what our brand is and what we represent. The second part of it is the engagement factor. We are interested in having a dialogue with the people that follow us — be it guests, media, travel planners, travel agents — we have a wide variety of people that follow us. So I tried to drill down and have a dialogue with all of these individuals that want to know more about us and want to speak with us.

The type of content do you try to share through Twitter?

Again, it’s a wide variety. We push out news and information; we think that’s valuable. We include package and rate offers. We don’t see Twitter primarily as a distribution tool. But if we have something that’s a great deal we’re going to let people know about it.

We are really trying to provide “behind the curtain” type of insider details that you may not know about either.

And we’ve also created specific hash tags that are audience specific. So we have one for our environmental news, and another for our travel agents when we’re speaking to that community. So we’re trying to use hash takes to funnel information down to a very specific focus and reach a certain audience.

Do you publish all of this yourself? I know you have hotels around the world — how do you work with individual properties — and how do you manage all of that?

At a brand level, I am the guy that does it all! I’m coming up with content — I don’t want to say we develop a publishing calendar, because that seems much too formal — but I definitely have information that isn’t time sensitive. That will be sitting at the ready for when there may not be much to talk about. I would say a high percentage of our content is either things that land on my desk that day, or else a result of what someone else has posted.

So at a brand level, I would say I’m the person that is responsible for all the content. But we definitely do have a number of our hotels at local levels that have Twitter pages. Their focus really tends to be on a local or regional market, trying to develop a presence there. They’re posting more on things that would be of interest to that local market. For example, maybe there’s a drink special at one of the properties they want to promote. So the content is a little more focused on the local, regional market.

I would probably say we have about half of our hotels on Twitter. The rest just leverage our brand level account.

How do you gain followers? You currently have around 6,000 people receiving your updates…

Our focus really isn’t on follower count. It’s certainly one metric we look at, but that’s not where our focus is. I don’t just randomly follow back anyone who follows us. We really try to follow people that are influencers, people that are interested — genuinely interested — in our brand and that we want to have discussion with. And of course we follow media.

But we definitely don’t just go out and start randomly following as many people as we can…just to bump that number up. That’s not natural, and that’s not why we’re on there.

Finally, give us a success story — what’s the best thing that’s happened as a result of your participation on Twitter?

Narrowing it down to one is a pretty big challenge! There’s been a few things. Twitter has introduced us to people we otherwise wouldn’t have a relationship with. So it’s sort of that global neighborhood concept where these people wouldn’t have reached out to us or vice versa if we were not participating. We wouldn’t have been able to develop relationships with other brands and other individuals which have been very beneficial for us.

We’ve had a lot of fun, but that’s a hard question to answer — there has been so much value we have received.

You can follow Mike’s updates for Fairmont @FairmontHotels

Tweeting too much… or not enough

flyawayToday, I received an e-mail from someone saying that they are no longer following @hmarketinghelp because I update too frequently. At the same time, I have Twitter power users with more than 30,000 followers encouraging me to update more frequently…using automated tools if needed.

Which advice do I follow? More importantly, how frequently should your hotel update its Twitter account?

There are a few things to understand here. The less followers you have, the more common it is for one of the people you’re following to dominate your updates page. I know this happened to me.

Once you start getting more followers, this is less of an issue. Sure, there are spam accounts that churn out new updates every few minutes — around the clock — but those are pretty easy to detect and remove. Additionally, Twitter power users often use software such as TweetDeck and HootSuite to monitor specific terms and search queries — or follow their favorite users.

I think some common sense is useful here:

  • If you have something worth saying, say it.
  • If you have something particularly important, feel free to re-tweet it several times during the day (day parting).

I often do 3 to 5 updates in rapid succession several times a day. I think this is a natural way to update your account. As long as you’re not making 50 updates all at once in a five-minute minute session, most people don’t mind.

What do you think? How often do you update twitter? What do you think is the best update frequency?

Celebrity Twitter Lessons from Ashton, Britney, Oprah & The Top 20

Observing the masters is often the best way to learn. Today, let’s take a look at the top 20 Twitter users (by number of followers), and see if they can teach us a thing or two about using this site.

First, let’s categorize these accounts:

  • Celebrities: 16
  • News: 3 (if you include The Onion)
  • Companies: 1 (Twitter)

Now, what can we learn?

Leverage your celebrity

Most of these people were already celebrities with massive followings. They simply used their existing fan base to reach the top of Twitter.

Oprah on Twitter
Oprah on Twitter
Ashton Kutcher on Twitter
Ashton Kutcher on Twitter

Lesson for hotels: Use your popularity online and off to direct people to your Twitter account. This is one of the most reliable strategies available.

Continue reading Celebrity Twitter Lessons from Ashton, Britney, Oprah & The Top 20

Why Twitter could be your blog’s best friend

Twitter can be a powerful promotional tool for your blog or website, but it also makes a great supplement.

blogs twitter friends

Twitter adds personality to your brand

Many top blogs are becoming like online magazines. Staffed by full-time professional writers, there is a tendency to become overly factual.

But through a Twitter account, many corporate bloggers feel more free to be themselves and lighten up a bit. By bringing these two tools together, you can provide both informative content and a little personality behind it.

Twitter helps you get to know your readers

Blog discussions in the comment section can serve the same function, but I find them to be less spontaneous than the back-and-forth nature of Twitter. For any blogger, it’s important to build relationships with your readers, and regular communication is the way to do that.

Twitter expands your network

I’ve probably met more new people through Twitter than any other social networking tool. Whether it’s another blogger or a business you wanted to find, Twitter can help open doors and establish connections.

Twitter is an idea goldmine

If you follow the right people, just watching the tweets stream by for a few minutes can give you lots of fresh ideas and interesting links. I use TweetDeck to carefully monitor a select group of people’s tweets, and usually check in a few times each day.

Additionally, you can get a lot of very good ideas by asking questions to your followers. Whether you just want a second opinion on your logo design, or need to do a more in-depth survey, it’s a very convenient to have real time feedback.

Twitter is also a great research tool

Twitter is a recorded stream of consciousness of the web. Entering keywords into search.twitter.com helps you measure the pulse of what people are thinking.

Twitter is the preferred subscription method for some

Some people would rather receive your blog updates on Twitter than through RSS or email. Whether the motive is accessibility or security, cross-promoting blog updates on Twitter is a good idea for these people.

Let me ask you: Does Twitter help you as a blogger? Drop by my shiny new Twitter page and let me know.

Experiment results: Linking vs. sharing info on Twitter

Last Friday I asked you which you prefer: sharing links to blog posts on Twitter – or actual information in the tweet.

Over the past week, I took some recently popular blog posts, broke them down into 140-character, “bite sized” pieces – and made a list of about 50 of these. I then used Tweetlater to automatically update my Twitter account with useful information.

Before the experiment I had 1,871 followers; after, 1,963. I also got a 7 retweets, but new followers and retweets may not be the most efficient metrics for determining effectiveness. I think your feedback is most valuable.

I know many of my readers here follow me on Twitter, so what did you think? Did you like the tiny tips, or do you prefer less “noise” and a link to the full article?

Linking or sharing info on Twitter: Which do you prefer?

I’m trying a little experiment on Twitter.

For the next week or so, I’ll be publishing excerpts from my blog posts as tweets using Tweetlater. The idea? To provide value and complement the myriad of links people (including myself) are dumping into Twitter.

What do you think: do you like this idea? Would you find it useful, or is it just duplicating the content here on the blog?

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SS-20090703141403

Photo credit: visualpanic

The Twitter Effect: How last week’s post reached 100,000+ people in 36 hours

As much as I like to think of myself as a seasoned blogger, I still get surprised from time to time by which posts become most popular. Some articles I spent 6-8+ hours writing fail, and others I spend 15 minutes on are my biggest hits.

My post last week – Viral video disaster: what NOT to do – was a good example of this.

In case you haven’t read the post yet, it just contained some brief comments on what I saw as a social media campaign gone wrong. I wanted to share the videos with you as an example of something to avoid – but had no idea it would spread virally as it did.

As far as I can tell, the post was re-tweeted (shared) by 48 Twitter users within the first 36 hours, and I also received several hundred new readers from Chinese blogs I wasn’t aware of previously. Among the people sharing the post on Twitter was social media A-lister Chris Brogan, whose updates are read by over 73,000 followers.

Twitter traffic spike
Twitter traffic spike

A few thoughts on this experience:

1) Social media has a lot of real potential. There is a lot of hype out there (even I get tired of hearing about it) – but the results can be very real and tangible.  How else could I have spread my message for free to over 100,000 people that quickly?

2) The top social media power users have disproportionately large influence. Normally, it would take a lot more than 48 re-tweets to reach an audience this large. Thanks to Chris and several other marketing stars on Twitter, the traffic I received was very substantial.

3) Negative/controversial content gets attention. I have mixed feelings on this – even wish it wasn’t true – but that is the reality.

4) Viral traffic from Twitter has a very short lifespan – often no more than a few hours. For long-term traffic, you need to gain the attention of bloggers and website editors. Thankfully, many bloggers are active users on Twitter, so this often works out well.

Encouraging people to spread your message virally on Twitter is more of a science than I initially recognized. There are a lot of excellent tutorials and case studies on the web, but here are a few I found especially helpful:

I would like to post some industry-specific articles and case studies of how hotels have used Twitter to virally spread a message or special offer. Have you experienced a similar results – or know a hotel that has? Let me know in the comments, and make sure you’re subscribed to receive future posts on this topic.

Hyatt Concierge – The future of Twitter?

Today Hyatt Hotels CEO Mark Hoplamazian announced the launch of @HyattConcierge – a new 24/7 global concierge service on Twitter. Barbara from USA Today’s Hotel Check-in blog followed up with her thoughts.

Hyatt Concierge on Twitter
Hyatt Concierge on Twitter

Apparently, the account will be staffed 24/7 by customer service agents around the world. Hyatt already provides round-the-clock service by phone and email, so it was just a matter of training the agents to type responses in 140 characters or less. As Adam said, it’s amazing no other major hotel brand tried it earlier.

John Wallis, global head of marketing for Hyatt, explains the company’s thoughts on Twitter:

“Whatever we did, it had to be with the theme of going the extra mile, providing additional service. We really believe that it is a concierge service rather than a promotional tool.”

I like that mentality. It will be interesting to see how this works for Hyatt…and how many other chains try it themselves.

Twitter Starter Pack for Hotels (28.5 Users to Follow)

Just opened a Twitter account, and not sure how to use it? Are you looking to build your network and get some new ideas? Here’s a list of some of my favorite tweeple:

Twitter Starter Pack for HotelsGood examples of hotels

Some multi-property accounts

Hoteliers

Hotel consultants

Other industry examples

(And the “.5″ user…) A few months ago I opened a Twitter account dedicated to providing free hotel marketing advice. It’s been a great experience, and last night we passed the 1,000 friends mark. I invite you to connect with me as well….

@hmarketinghelp

Cool trick: Using Twitter to sell more rooms

Photo by RonAlmog on Flickr
Photo by RonAlmog on Flickr

Rather than our usual ‘Friday cool site of the week,’ I want to share a cool link I found that could help a lot of you profit from Twitter. Our own free advice channel – @hmarketinghelp – has grown in popularity, and I find myself using the service a lot more in recent weeks. Yet with the explosion in popularity, I know many of you are still looking for ways to monetize the platform.

John Jantsch has written a very useful post on how to use Twitter to turn up new business.

By using Twitter’s advanced search feature, you can find people looking for solutions you can solve. Maybe they’re looking for a hotel in your city and you can offer them a special rate. Or maybe they’re just looking for things to do on their vacation, and you can provide some tips. I can think of a lot of possibilities here.

It’s even possible to set up RSS newsfeeds to get this information delivered to your reader. This would save a lot of time and automate the process.

Check it out: Twitter advanced search

How To Use Twitter For Hospitality Marketing

Twitter is one of the fastest-growing social media networks, a microblogging tool that allows its users to make text-based posts in 140 characters or less.  An estimated 5.5 million people now use the service, with website traffic up 573% over the past year according to Compete:

The whole service is based around letting you answer the question, “What are you doing now?”  While this may initially seem like a waste of time with little relevance to a hotel marketer, many organizations have found it useful as a one-to-many broadcasting tool.

Here are some ideas for using Twitter in the hospitality industry:

  • First, use Twitter Search to see what people are saying about you, your competitors, your area, and your industry
  • Like most of social media, Twitter isn’t just about pushing what you have to sell.  Try to be genuinely hepful to your followers. (JetBlue shares travel tips)
  • Share ideas and links to interesting stuff you find.
  • Ask your followers for advice on new ideas.  (Get way to get concise, helpful feedback.)
  • Break news on Twitter, especially if it affects your web presence
  • Use it as a tool to improve your customer service (like Frank at Comcast)
  • View Twitter as a way to build customer relationships, and show the human side of your company

So go sign up for an account today, and be sure to follow us on Twitter for all the latest hotel marketing tips.