How Hotels Capitalize on Social Media Marketing

The holiday season just passed, and hotels highly used their social platforms to build brands and spread the word about availability. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social networks provide the perfect platform to connect with potential guests on a personal level.

These free marketing tools offer the chance for hotels to humanize their brands, promote holiday events and hold contents to generate new followers. As hotels develop their social profiles, followers develop loyal bonds to these brands.

From Starwood to Hilton to Marriott, hotel chains are getting social and connecting with fans. If your hotel isn’t logged on to these social platforms, you’re missing out on a chance for free marketing.

Humanize Your Hotels

Billboards and commercials can spread the word about your hotel, but they usually don’t highlight the personalities within your staff. Social media is a casual platform where businesses can let their guards down. Connect with social media followers by profiling hotel employees, posting pictures from company events or taken followers behind the scenes of your hotel. Users will appreciate the exclusive look at your hotel, and they’ll remember you for more than just a homogeneous ad.

If you’re stumped on what to include, start with pictures of employees, jokes, and industry related content, such as those found in the Pinterest pins of iAcquire NYC. With this inside look at the team behind the business, customers and guests see that there are real people behind the services provided.

Promote Events

The holiday season is the most festive time of the year, and surrounding events can make your hotel seem much more attractive. Use social media to promote events in your hotel’s area. Starwood is taking advantage of college football’s popularity by Tweeting about upcoming bowl games located near its hotels. Fans who are headed to these games may see these Tweets and make an impulse reservation. At the very least, Starwood hotels will be in the back of their minds, and also recognized for being in-the-know and loyal to its community. Post about holiday events in your area and your hotel can benefit from similar exposure.

Host a Contest

Have a few rooms available during a special holiday? Create a little friendly competition and invite users to participate in a contest or sweepstakes to win a stay at your venue. Prompt social followers to answer a question, share a personal story, or submit a photo, and see the engagement on your social account grow from there. Make sure to announce the winner and request that the winner comment about his or her stay, to show other social followers that there really was a winner.

Provide Variety

Rather than making all of your posts about your hotel, mix it up and provide some variety so that followers don’t get tired of being constantly hammered with advertisements. Insert some fun, lighthearted and helpful information that is relevant to the general public.

This post was contributed by Joanna Moore. Joanna runs social media campaigns for local charities.

Why the Hospitality Industry Must Be on Google+

The hospitality industry has realized the value of social media marketing, and the majority of companies are active on Facebook or Twitter, or both. However, it appears that many have been more apprehensive or oblivious to getting involved with Google+. While Google+ has not been around as long as Twitter or Facebook, it can still provide tremendous value to businesses in the hospitality industry.

Google+ Business Pages 

Creating a Google+ business page has become essential for a variety of reasons. Although similar to a company Facebook page, Google+ pages offer some unique features not available on Facebook.

Smaller local businesses can take advantage of the cover photo to include a large Google map showing their location. The feature that differentiates Google+ business pages from company Facebook pages is the “Circles” feature. This feature makes it easy to separate different groups of people or pages on Google+ to conveniently and easily organize everything.

This can be especially useful in the hospitality industry where it can be helpful to engage with other local businesses for mutual benefit. A recent article on Maximize Social Business also addresses this trend for the hospitality industry.

If you’re a restaurant, you would also want to circle various local businesses, as well as other food sites, such as popular food magazines, TV shows, chefs, etc. From there you can +1 (the G+ equivalent of “liking” something on Facebook) their posts or leave comments on them.

This is beneficial for several reasons:

  • It shows support for other businesses. And if you scratch their back, when it comes time, they’ll scratch yours in return. If you come across information you find useful, acknowledge that to its provider. Everyone enjoys knowing they’ve helped out someone else.
  • It spreads the word about YOUR page. I’ll use Windmill Networking (WMN) as an example. Say you go and +1 WMN’s post. Just as with Facebook, visitors to WMNs page will now see your name on the post in which you +1ed or commented. You’ve just subtly, and inadvertently in a way, advertised yourself, and your presence on Google+.
  • It shows that you’re active; that you “get it”. There are many companies that set up pages and then simply stream autofeeds, robot posts or traditional, spammy information solely about their brand and nothing else. This is not social marketing. Actual social media marketing practices involve being social.”

By utilizing the circles feature you can keep everything organized and it makes it easy to keep up on what is happening in your niche.

Social Engagement

Through a Google+ business page, a company can share current deals or promotions as well as helpful information related to their particular niche. Producing and sharing interesting content on a business page will attract followers and help get the page into more people’s circles. This type of customer interaction is great way to attract new customers as well as build loyalty with existing customers.

The circles feature can be applied effectively here as well. By separating and segmenting customers into various circles, a business can decide which circles will see what content. This allows for targeted and powerful messages specifically tailored for a particular audience. This creates a level of personal interaction that simply isn’t achievable through Facebook or Twitter.

SEO Implications

The benefits of being on Google+ extend into the SEO realm as well. As Google moves towards integrating social sharing into their ranking algorithm, it is clear that businesses and websites must take social media into account in regard to SEO.

Being active and engaged on these social media platforms helps encourage this social sharing. It would be safe to assume that the social network created by Google itself would be a good place to start. This may become especially true as some are projecting that Google+ will overtake Facebook in social sharing by 2016.

Along with its integration into the ranking algorithm, social sharing has other SEO implications. Social sharing gives your content a farther reach – It syndicates your content into places where it would not be otherwise and this produces extra, bonus traffic and views for that content. Not only will this make your content more powerful, but the extra traffic will increase the strength of any links you have attached to the content, which will increase the effectiveness of any link building strategies you may be employing.

Although Google+ has not been around as long as more established social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, it still provides incredible potential as a tool for large and small businesses marketing in the hospitality industry.

The opportunities for social engagement presented by Google+ business pages offer great value to companies in an industry that relies so heavily on customer perception.

This post was contributed by Paul Richardson. Paul is content marketing professional with years of experience in the industry. He particularly specializes in small business seo and small business marketing. When Paul is not providing insight on the importance of Google+ he enjoys getting some exercise by taking long rides on his bike.

How to Use Staff Social Media Profiles to Promote Your Business

Most businesses have profiles on top social media sites. Social media has become such a popular marketing tool that it would be more surprising to find a business that wasn’t on Facebook or Twitter, among others.

Though you’ll find most businesses on social media, you won’t often find the employees of those businesses with official social media profiles — unless it’s the CEO or another high-ranking official. Otherwise, employees are likely to have their own personal accounts and nothing more — and that’s a real missed opportunity. Here are a few ways that you can use official staff social media profiles to help promote your hotel, restaurant, or other business:

Start with the Right Training

Part of the reason that many businesses may be hesitant to let their staff have social media profiles to promote the business is that they are afraid they will commit marketing gaffes. You need to have consistent branding in order to be successful with any marketing strategy, and that gets difficult when you have multiple people assuming responsibility.

However, you can ensure that your marketing stays on message by training your employees on your brand messaging and giving them explicit instructions on what they can post, what they can’t post, when to post and other issues. Make sure that you revisit these guidelines often and address any issues that come up along the way to ensure that the strategy is a success.

Show Off the Company Culture

One of the best ways to use staff profiles on social media is to show off the company culture. Give your fans a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on when you’re preparing to give them the best service. However, don’t be too formal, or it will be boring. Have fun with it!

Show your employees having fun together. Show your team-building activities. Show your chefs experimenting with new dishes in the kitchen. Show the prep for a big event. Whatever you do, make sure that you show off who you are, but also make sure you convey a sense of enthusiasm and fun.

Share Heartwarming Customer Interactions

In the course of business, you’ll have employees who go above and beyond for customers or who make personal connections with customers. Use their social media profiles to share this. Not only will you give your company a more human face, but you’ll also show off how much you care about your customers.

Ask employees to share their stories. Share photos of employees interacting with customers, such as a server bringing a special dessert for a birthday boy or a concierge helping an elderly woman to her room. Employees can even send shout outs to special customers for their birthdays, anniversaries or other special moments.

Do Fun Stuff

Social media gives you a great opportunity to market your business while also having fun. Brainstorm creative ways to take advantage of this opportunity. For example, maybe you can have a contest on social media for a free meal or a free night’s stay at your hotel. To enter, maybe customers have to go on a social media scavenger hunt, looking for clues on your employee’s profiles, as well as your company’s primary profile.

There are a lot of other great ways you can use social media to have fun and generate some buzz around your brand. Be creative and see what ideas you can come up with!

Reward Employees

Your customers like to see employees rewarded when they have done a good job. Use social media to get them in on the act. For example, if you want to name an employee of the month, you can ask your customers to “vote” by liking the profile of the employee they think most deserves it. The employee with the most likes would then win for that month.

Again, be creative and brainstorm other ways that you can use social media to help recognize and reward your employees. Your customers will enjoy it, and it will help your employees build longer-lasting relationships with them.

Your employees are valuable assets in marketing your business. Take advantage of social media to help get them in on the act and to put a more personal face on your business. With the right training and the right strategies, they can help you take your marketing campaign to the next level.

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This post was contributed by Amber Satka. Amber writes on financial topics, many of which can be seen on her app site: www.carloancalculator.org. She is a former office manager and current mother and writer.

Why Pinterest Could Be Good for Business

Pinterest is one of the platforms to watch in 2012. It lets you organize things you find on the web — users create pinboards and “pin” items on their corresponding boards. For example, “Recipes,” “Style,” Home Decor” and others are typical topics of pinboards, allowing people to delegate content [images] of each category to each specific board.

Then, you’re able to follow friends and other users to keep track of their pins, and re-pin to your own your boards items that are relevant to your interests.

pinterest for business

The goal is to “connect people all over the world based on shared tastes and interests.”

Thus far, it’s been primarily used for personal interests, but, as its popularity has been on an exponential rise, it’s entirely plausible (if not likely) more and more businesses will begin utilizing it (because if that’s where your audience is hanging out, you should be, too)!

A recent TechCrunch article entitled, The Rise Of Pinterest And The Shift From Search To Discovery, notes:

Pinterest is growing for a variety of reasons. It enables users to clip things they like. It emphasize pictures over text, which are more visually appealing and easier to digest. Signing up is easy. Pinterest has crafted a fun, whimsical, artistic image. In particular, it has struck a chord with female users, an attractive demographic. Pinterest has added to the lexicon of “like” or “retweeting” or “reblogging” or “upvoting” with the ability to “pin” content and then “repin” it across the site and other networks.

There could be decent potential for the hospitality industry.

For example, restaurants can create pinboards of various pertinent categories (food, cocktails, meeting rooms, etc.), similar to the way they might with Facebook albums. Granted, it’ll be time consuming, but again, if potential customers are hanging out here that may not already know of you/follow on Facebook, it could be an opportunity to stimulate new business.

Destinations can share A LOT by creating boards for the numerous components of their cities. Hotels. Dining. Shopping. Attractions. Again, new audience. And once people start seeing these images and pinning them, then those folks’ friends start re-pinning, etc., etc., the potential for virality enhances quickly and you’ve reached a whole new segment.

While it may seem time-consuming to jump into another platform, keep in mind the time commitment would be moderate compared to other options. Like TechCrunch said, much of Pinterest’s appeal resides in the fact it’s strictly images. All you’d need to do as a marketer is upload images. There’s not as much brainstorming and strategizing that has to go to into it, as does other tactics.

Will you be testing out Pinterest for business purposes?

Providing Local LOVE Through Facebook

Virginia is for LoversThe Virginia Tourism Corporation is out to prove that love is at the heart of every Virginia vacation.

In July, they unveiled oversized LOVE artwork at several Welcome Centers across the state. Then, the local tourism offices jumped into the fun with the Virginia Tourism “Bring LOVE to Your Town” event.

Earlier this month, 21 localities vied for the chance to have LOVE on display in September. Each one nominated a local park or destination to display the LOVE, in hopes of turning the area into a viral tourism sensation through social media.

The contendors included:

  • Abingdon – Barter Theatre Green
  • Alleghany Highlands – Humpback Bridge
  • Bedford – Bedford Area Welcome Center
  • Chesapeake – Great Bridge Lock Park
  • Fauquier County – Barrel Oak Winery
  • Franklin – EVB Bank
  • Fredericksburg – Riverfront Park
  • Gloucester – Gloucester County Visitor Center
  • Kilmarnock – Kilmarnock Town Centre
  • Lexington – First Catch Market
  • Lynchburg – Blackwater Creek Trail
  • Mathews County – Mathews Court Green
  • Newport News – Visitor Center
  • Norfolk – Visitor Information Center
  • Rappahannock County -Visitors Center
  • Roanoke – Gateway to Downtown Roanoke
  • Smithfield – Windsor Castle Park
  • South Hill – in front of the train depot
  • Virginia Beach – Visitor Information Center
  • Warm Springs – in front of the Jefferson Pools and Visitor Gazebo
  • Waynesboro – Constitution Park

The winning location, Abingdon, was chosen by hundreds of excited Facebook fans last week.

The state tourism office will install the artwork in the city on August 31 and it will be on display through September. The LOVE artwork is approximately 16 feet wide and eight feet tall.  The artwork is part of the Virginia is for Lovers brand and the state’s tourism marketing campaign which promotes Virginia as an ideal destination for families.  

Visitors will be encouraged to take a family picture in front of the artwork and share it on the Virginia is for Lovers Facebook page or on Twitter, using the special hashtag #LOVEVA.

“Our iconic Virginia is for Lovers brand is about love – pure and simple, and has been for more than 40 years,” said Alisa Bailey, president and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation. “The LOVE artwork has great social media buzz and will reach out to more travelers and promote the message that love is at the heart of every Virginia vacation.”

Kudos to Virginia Tourism for taking such a unique branding opportunity and tying in their Facebook fans to participate. This was a great destination marketing campaign in that it was free to implement, re-enforced the state’s specific identity, educated locals and travelers alike of VA’s various cities and corresponding parks, etc., and stimulated a lot of buzz online.

LOVE what you’re doing, Virginia! ;)

Have Some Pepsi Summer Fun

Pepsi has added QR codes to their regularly-distributed soda cups. I’d never really seen them in this “mass” capacity before, and thought it was actually quite brilliant since it only requires the development of one QR code, yet the distribution is gargantuan in scale.

Pepsi seems to be really embracing social marketing trends in other ways as well. If you check in to various “summer venues” (beaches, amusements parks, sports venues, etc.) on Foursquare, you could unlock the Pepsi Summer Fun badge and a chance to win Pepsi Summer Party Kits or a trip to the 2011 MLB World Series!

This helps cross promote those venues and well as create an aura around the Pepsi brand that associates them with more than just a beverage, but with fun and summer-related activities.

 

Fall into the … Food Truck?

With the rise in food truck popularity, it’s becoming increasingly more common for established businesses to jump on the bandwagon. Typically, though, those brands are food related (take the Carl’s Jr., Wienerschnitzel or Baskin Robbins trucks, for example).

However, The Gap, one of the largest retail clothing brands, is shaking things up with the debut of its food truck, Pico de Gap.

The Gap truck is serving Mexican cuisine at various events and Gap store locations in the brand’s hometown of San Francisco as well as other truck-heavy cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

The truck serves to stimulate buzz about Gap’s new 1969 Fall denim collection. Tacos will be available for just $1.69 for two, and feature coupons tucked into the wrappers. They’re also providing free tacos to anyone who shows a Gap receipt demonstrating purchase of the Gap 1969 jeans!

Ryan Scott of Top Chef fame is handling the culinary responsibilities of the truck and has created a enticing selection of options.

This is the first time a major retailer has taken to the streets (literally) in this manner to spread the word, so it’ll be interesting to see how the campaign goes, and if other brands take on similar initiatives.

Would you dine at a truck like this for retail perks?

 

Whispers from the Locals

The Caribbean Tourism Organization has begun a new campaign, “Whispers from the Locals,” which strives to provide visitors inside information about the destination that may not be available in the typical travel-related paraphernalia.

Caribbean Travel - Whispers from the Locals

Anguilla - Dune Preserve

They also encourage fans to follow on Twitter and Facebook where they’ll feature a different destination each day with accommodating trivia questions relating to that country’s hidden secret. Winners will be awarded a destination-branded prize. This is an efficient tactic in that it serves numerous purposes:

  • encourages engagement and interaction
  • provokes curiosity via “hidden secrets”
  • photos illustrate the beauty and captivation of the Caribbean
  • educates about the destination
  • the destination-branded prize both rewards each day’s winner as well as puts out more promotional items

Overall, this is an effective strategy to both engage their possible visitors and also educate them about the destination as a whole.

Mike Stelzner Explains How to “Launch”

Mike Stelzner, founder of Social Media Examiner, visited LinkedOC last week to share some great incites and information about his new book, Launch.

Think of Business as a Rocketship

Mike Stelzner began Social Media Examiner in October 2009 and, in less than two years, it’s become one of the top business blogs, with a subscription base of over 80,000. Being an “overnight success” himself, he advised thinking of business as a rockship as it needs to be navigated, with the goal being to reach new heights; somewhere beyond where you are today.

To achieve this, you need people: peers, perspective customers, etc. Like space travel, everything is moving in orbit: industries advance, ideas expand, product support moves and customers move on.

With change comes questions about how to proceed. The best way to move forward in a continually-evolving world is to provide things that will never become outdated: incite, recommendations, etc. People don’t want products and they don’t want to be sold.

Mike provided the example of trying to brush the hair of his young daughters; they don’t sit still. You can’t switch angles and keep trying to brush a child’s hair, but they’ll continue moving as well and the attempts won’t be successful. We have to stop treating people like kids, and instead, change the entire approach rather than the angle of the “wrong” approach.

Marketing

Mike quoted the definition of marketing per the American Marketing Association:
Note that it doesn’t discuss selling but rather “exchanging offerings” of things that “have value.”

The question, then, for markers is, “How can I attain quality leads, gain trust, break through the noise, etc. etc.?”

The answer? Trial and Error.

Focus on People

Stelzner placed huge emphasis on focusing on people, and offerings things for FREE. He says to  help solve problems at no cost as when you help them with smaller issues, they’ll develop trust in you, and they’ll then consult you for bigger issues.

The enabler is content — it has unlimited scalability. Peoples’ desires don’t change. When you give something away as a gift, you trigger the question, “how much more (would they be willing to gain from you)?

While this may seem counter-intuitive, Stelzner says to give away all your secrets — no one can tell it like you can.

Don’t focus on yourself, products or services. Shine the spotlight on others: outside experts, successful peers, etc. When you lift other people up, they’ll lift you up! –

Rule of Reciprocity

Reciprocity if often abused by marketers (car salesmen, for example). When he says give something away for free, Mike really means to offer it as a gift, not a “trick” to automatically anticipate something in return.

A true gift will make you valuable. What if you received a wedding gift that was an ad? You’d be turned off to it.

“Caging Marketing”: When someone asks how they can help you, but then goes to explain what they’d like from you in return. It’s going for the quick kill rather than waiting it out a bit for better rewards.

“The Elevation Principle”

Form great content! HubSpot (a site I personally love and read frequently), for example, markets themselves entirely through content. They don’t advertise, they don’t even have their logo on some of their affiliated sites. They offer everything for free, and they get around 25,000 leads/month.

Create content that helps your readers make decisions: review books, products, events, and provide your opinions. Do case studies: share successful stories of businesses in your industry. Reports based on surveys are also highly effective. Survey people and create a free report on the findings. Survey results tend to be viral and they have a long SEO/shelf life.  Contests are another good way to build relationships with others.

Show problem > solution > results.

Primary Fuel vs. Nuclear Fuel

Primary Fuel is regularly-produced content. It keeps you moving, is core to growth, draws people to you, establishes trust and brings people back.
Nuclear Fuel is more difficult to produce, used less frequently, has bigger impact, draws people in, has a long tail, gets you noticed, etc.

 

How do you plan on using these tips to LAUNCH your business?

Are Ads to Facebook on Regular Websites the Next Big Thing?

I was on some website the other day when I noticed a Macy’s ad that caught my attention. Rather than try to direct people straight to their website, as is the intention with most ads/businesses, it sought to encourage people to head to their Facebook page.

I wondered what caused Macy’s to opt to elevate this particular Facebook promotion in an ad, rather than their own website, or some specific product. I hadn’t before recalled seeing an ad from a regular website to a social media one. It’s typically the other way around.

On one hand, it’s a great idea in that it actively encourages consumer engagement and interaction.  It locks you in and forces you to participate with others around hyped-up excitement for this particular brand.

On the other hand, is the same person that’s going to play a game on Facebook going to be subsequently enticed to go visit the store? It seems the “ROI” would probably be lower via this route than had they gone another one.

Chime off below on whether you think this is a good or bad use to marketing dollars.

Guy Kawasaki on How to be Enchanting

This morning, Guy Kawasaki spoke at South by Southwest on the Art of Enchantment. He then proceeded to offer 1o tips on how to be enchanting. Here’s a basic outline and summary:
*A couple points were missed and are indicated so.

Art of Enchantment

  • Enchantment – process of becoming more likable and trustworthy
  • Delighting people; mutually beneficial goals
  • You want to be enchanting – it’ll help you change the world
  • It’s hard be trusted if you’re not liked

 

How to be Enchanting – 10 Tips

1. Be likable

  • GREAT smile. The eyes are the key to a great smile.
  • Dress for a tie (pun intended): There’s 3 ways you can dress – under, over (“I am better than you”), EQUAL dress – we’re peers
  • Have the perfect handshake: eye contact, firm grip, etc.

2. Achieve trustworthiness

  • You have to trust others before they will trust you (Amazon, Zappos, Nordstrom)
  • Bake, don’t eat (don’t think how big a slice you can have, think about how you can make more)
  • Default to a “yes” attitude

3. Get ready to launch!

  • Do something great (DICEE) – Deep (it does lots of stuff), Intelligent (when you look at it, you say, “somebody was thinking…”), Complete, Empowering, Elegant
  • Make it short, sweet and swallowable
  • Conduct a premortem: Say, let’s think of how/why our product could fail

4. Launch

  • Tell a story
  • Plant many seeds: Suck up to all genres of people; Nobodies are the new somebodies; You don’t know who may end up being influential for you
  • Use salient points: Miles/gallon vs. yearly costs; Degrees vs. heating costs; Gigabytes vs number of songs
  • Overcome resistance
  • Provide social proof (iPod – iPod came out, you started seeing white ear buds everywhere, you wanted one, you got one, you perpetuated this phenomenon)
  • Find a bright spot.

5. Enchant all the influencers

  • Look at the middle and bottoms of companies – those are the people that get work done, that are influential)

6. Endure

  • Don’t use/rely on money: Money is the enemy of enchantment
  • Invoke reciprocation: In your day-to-day actions, when you do things for people, and they thank you, you say “I know you would do the same for me.” It tells the other person, “I think you’re honorable,” and, “you owe me.” Let people pay you back – you can do more for them and vice versa. Build an eco-system: Have partners, developers, websites, user groups, consultants, conferences

7. Present

  • Need to speak and present. Customize the introduction. e.g., If you’re visiting a foreign country, show that you immersed yourself in their culture
  • Sell your dream: Steve jobs doesn’t say, “you’re buying $188 worth of parts and a contract for one of the worst carrier services.” He says, “there’s an app for that!” etc.
  • Key points to pitch: Number of slides you should have in a powerpoint presentation: 10; number of minutes it should last: 20; size your font should be: 30

8. (missed)

  • Remove the speedbumps (illegible captchas, for example)
  • Provide value: information, insights, assistance
  • Enagage: Fast, Many (even the “nobodies” – you don’t know who will affect you) and Often. Twitter and Facebook are core to marketing; they’re not  context, not just something you should just be doing at the end of the day

9. Enchant up – enchant people you work for

  • When your boss asks you to do something, drop everything else
  • Prototype fast – if your boss says she needs a powerpoint in 3 days, in an hour, send an outline, ask for feedback.
  • Deliver bad news early (and with solutions)!

10. Enchant people who work for you

  • Provide MAP – Mastery, Autonomy (“we’re not going to micro-manage”), Purpose (“you’re going to master new skills…”) *notice that money wasn’t mentioned. Teach them to master new skills.
  • Suck It up – never ask them to do anything that you yourself wouldn’t do