Comment: Guest-Centric Social Media

Use bots sparingly on social media

Martin Kubler is the founder of Iconsulthotels and the CEO of sps:affinity.
Martin Kubler is the founder of Iconsulthotels and the CEO of sps:affinity.

It seems that the bots are taking over social media. Between chatbots, influencers and pseudo-influencers buying followers (many of which turn out to be bots), and all the excitement about AI and the Internet of Things (talking fridges, connected microwaves, guests chatting with you via their Internet-enabled curling irons), aren’t we forgetting something? What about the people?

Technology is great and social media wizardry is an art, but in the end, after all the tweets, regrams, pins, and posts, we’re still in the business of selling rooms and meals and in exceeding people’s expectations. That’s right: People.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to see exciting content on social media and I can appreciate the time that many hotels and restaurants spend on putting out original content, but I find that, all too often, it’s all appearance over content.

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It’s taken us years to lower the communication barriers in our hotels and make things more accessible, only — or so it seems — for us to start using social media as a new barrier.  Does this sound strange coming from me?

Consider this recent exchange of tweets between Expedia (@Expedia) and a user:

User: @expedia Is your website down? I can’t access it & trying to book a flight.

Expedia: Hello , please do not hesitate to DM us if you will be needing further assistance. Thank you.

What just happened? Why didn’t Expedia just answer this user’s question in public? Surely, others would have had similar questions? Why ask a user to send you a message? In short: Expedia didn’t listen to a word the user said and instead just sent out a standard reply. Perhaps easier for them, but certainly not for the user. Do you answer questions on social media directly whenever possible or do you still ask users to send you an email?

Another important area is content generation for social media. I still see many hotels post images and videos that would probably be better suited for travel agent brochures or presentations. Yes, they look good, but they might not really be what (potential) guests want to see. How often do you check your post engagement statistics to find out which posts get the highest number of likes/shares/views? You should do this regularly and content calendars should reflect your findings. Of course, generally knowing your guests better helps with this process, too. Ask yourself questions like: What sources do our guests read and trust? How do they respond to threats of risk or promises of rewards? What events trigger them to look for our hotel or restaurant? How, what and where do they search and what are they hoping to find?

The answers to such questions aren’t just useful for putting out better content, but also help you stretch your marketing budget further. We were recently asked to run a Facebook competition for a leisure company looking to increase engagement on Instagram and Facebook. We looked at the audience and suggested lead generation adverts as an alternative, because we did not find the audience very “rewards motivated”. In the end, the client agreed to split the budget between the competition and the lead generation adverts. The competition prize was by no means small. It had a value of close to AED 10,000 and yet the campaign did not really take off. Sure, it had a high reach and achieved a lot of views, but it didn’t really deliver in terms of engagement. The lead generation adverts, on the other hand, were very popular and delivered close to 100 high-quality leads. As a result, the client decided against running another competition in the future and invested the money into lead generation and generating more engaging content instead.

Always remember that the first law of social media is user centricity. Compelling hospitality social media does not automatically compel guests and diners — they become compelled, for whatever short- or long-term interest it is that compels them. We’re lucky in many ways to be working in hotels and restaurants, because we actually get a chance to meet our guests and diners. Unlike OTAs, for example. Let’s make the most of this and get to know our guests better socially and give them more of what makes them tick!

Whatever you do: Keep it social!

Guest-Centric Social Media — Five things to try today…

1. Feedback loops: Everybody in your hotel should know what works and what doesn’t work on social media or, in other words, what content your followers like. That way, they can assist with content generation, if needed, or are able to simply contribute ideas. It’s important that your marketing, social media, and operations people all talk with each other regularly.

2. Focus on areas that matter: You might be tempted to showcase your rooms or your new restaurant via snazzy videos or artfully taken pictures mashed up in a hip collage, but does this really help your guests? Don’t just focus on what looks good online and what gathers the most likes, but also consider your guests’ most frequently asked questions and build some content around them.

3. 360° of communication: When a guest sends you information via social media, everybody in your hotel who might be impacted by it should know what the guest said. Nothing is more frustrating than having received an okay to something via a Facebook message or a tweet only to then arrive and find that nobody knows anything about it. Consider how you distribute information you receive via social media channels.

4. Clear response guidelines: You need to know which platforms users can send you messages and comments on, who is in charge of checking these platforms, and when and how to reply to users. Some matters cannot be discussed publicly, but many others can. Do your team-members know how to respond to all the different requests and comments and, most importantly, what to escalate and what not?

5. Use bots sparingly: Right now, bots are often very “bot-like”, which can come across as impersonal. It’s fine to use auto-replies on Facebook Messenger or similar platforms when you’re really busy, but you should try and send out personal replies as often as possible.

About the Author: Martin Kubler is the founder of Iconsulthotels and the CEO of sps:affinity. Iconsulthotels is now sps:hotels — a leading hotel management consultancy that provides its clients forward-looking business strategies, keeping them ahead of the market. Email: hello@spsaffinity.com.

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