Comment: Social media lessons learned from a cat

Martin Kubler on knowing when to sit back and when to pounce

Martin Kubler
Martin Kubler

A few months ago, one of my esteemed fellow columnists outed himself as a dog person and wrote a column about his dog, Toffee.

The internet and social media, though, as we know only too well, is all about cats. My column this month then is both a necessity and a public service, because it sets the balance right and provides you with useful, albeit cat-centric, information about managing social media activities.

My cat doesn’t actually have a name. Like all good cats, I didn’t pick her; she picked me. She just took up residence in my garden one fine day last year and hasn’t really left since. I considered calling her “Facebook”, but it got too confusing when the wife kept shouting: “Get that Facebook off the sofa!”, so in the end, we settled for “Cat”.

Recently, Cat and I were sitting in the garden contemplating life, the universe, and everything, and it occurred to me that you can learn a lot about managing social media activities from watching cats.

All cats come running when you rattle the cat food container, but getting them to interact with you outside feeding times can often be tricky. It’s easy to attract Facebook fans or Twitter users with promotional offers or through advertising, but not so easy to build long-term relationships and engagement.

It is your guests and consumers who decide when — and if — they want to engage and interact with you, and all you can do is hold out your hand and offer something that adds value to their lives.

You don’t own a cat, it owns you. Likewise, you’ll never own most of your company’s social media platforms, fans, and followers, so it’s key to drive referral traffic to your owned properties like your website, microsites, or mobile apps.

Cats can sit in the same spot for hours, but they never drop their guard; very few things escape cats, even if they look like they’re sleeping. Your social media listening activities should be stealthy and cat-like.

It’s not about who shouts the loudest, but who listens best and pounces at just the right time. Never take your eye off the social media presence of your competitors and what people are saying about your brands and services, or the questions they’re asking. Be like my cat, and pounce before others do!

Cats are hugely indifferent and don’t really care what you like. Just cleaned your sofa and think it’s the nicest it has ever looked? Your cat will sit on it almost immediately.

In today’s digitally savvy times, hotels are what consumers say they are (often on social media) and not what brand or PR folks want them to be.

Are you sure that you’re posting about the right features of your hotel or restaurant? Or are you posting about things you like, rather than finding out what your customers prefer? All social media platforms come with analytics, so use them to find out what your target audience thinks.

Cats don’t care if they fail: in the pursuit of birds, my cat has tried climbing the same tree just outside our garden hundreds of times and has failed spectacularly in getting anywhere near the top. And yet, she failed differently every time, enabling her to adjust her tree climbing strategy and eventually, make it to the top.

Don’t be afraid to fail occasionally when managing your social media activities, so long as you fail forward and learn new things in the process. Also, do occasionally try seemingly impossible things — they might just work!

Whatever you do: Keep it social! Oh, and have a #GreatNewYear !

About the Author:  Martin Kubler is owner, director and chief cook and bottle washer of Iconsulthotels FZE, an ultra-boutique hospitality consultancy in Dubai. Email: info@iconsulthotels.com or visit facebook.com/iconsulthotels

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