Social media has transformed the traditional notions behind marketing and sales across all industries. Nowhere has this been more dramatic than in the service-driven hospitality sector.

There are a variety of ways that hotels and restaurants can optimize social media. They include hosting events; humanizing their brands; managing customer service; nurturing communities; and offering value.

Here is a snapshot of each of these points. This post originally appeared on my Maximize Social Business column.

Host an Event

Invite both locals and visitors to come to your hotel for an exclusive event in which they can first-handedly experience the property and its offerings. Provide music or activities appropriate to your setting, as well as a complimentary snacks or drinks. Encourage guests to check in on Foursquare, share photos on Instagram and Facebook, and tweet using a specific hashtag on Twitter. Creating hotel events for social media influencers and the local community can provide extremely fruitful in driving awareness for the hotels dining venues and meeting space.

Humanize Your Brand

Traditional media is still useful in spreading the word about your hotel or restaurant, 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 take followers behind the scenes. Users will appreciate the exclusive look behind your brand and they’ll remember you for more than just a homogeneous ad.

One brand that does this really well is the Michael Mina Restaurant Group. In addition to social media channels for their specific restaurant, Chef Michael Mina himself has his own Facebook page and regularly shares behind-the-scenes cooking photos; snapshots of not-yet-open restaurants; teases of new menu items; and other related news. With this intimate inside look at the man behind the business, customers and guests see that there are real people behind the services provided.

Manage Customer Service

Staying on top of all the traditional review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp can be daunting, but there continue to be various monitoring tools that help streamline the process. HootSuite is my primarily social media dashboard of choice, and a new app called Reputology recently debuted and integrates seamlessly with HootSuite to allow users to both monitor and manage their social media and reviews in a single place.

Built by a startup run by MIT grads, the Reputology app not only monitors reviews on all the major business directories, but it will also track hospitality-industry specific review sites such as City Search, FourSquare, UrbanSpoon, Google, TripAdvisor, and Yelp. By monitoring reviews, businesses have the chance to respond quickly and even reverse a reviewer’s opinion.  Reputology users have said they can get unhappy reviewers to change their mind about 70% of the time.

Nurture Your Community

Social media has certainly streamlined the process of communities forming behind whatever it is they support. A positive online community experience leads to more positive actions. For example, members who are having a good time tend to invite others to join. Satisfied members are also more likely to share your content whether it’s a blog post, social media post, or promotion.

By listening to your community and maintaining a pro-active role, any venue can keep revitalizing themselves and remain atop the mind of locals. For restaurants that have been around for a while, this involves an ongoing evolution and recognition of new media being the new norm; a new way to reach out to the younger community; and a means to communicate all they do, and how they can tend to the needs of their consumers.

Offer Value

Offering value above and beyond what can be gotten elsewhere is key in encouraging people to follow your social media presence. Value can come in various forms. Loews Hotels and Resorts launched “social reservations” allowing travelers to book rooms at 16 of its 19 properties via Twitter. Travelers can tweet to @Loews_Hotels with the hashtag #BookLoews to express interest in a room. Then a Loews travel planner will pick up the conversation. Once the person is ready to book a room, the planner will tweet a link to a secure chat conversation to process payment information.

Four Seasons also enhanced their value proposition on Pinterest with their Pin.Pack.Go initiative. Pin.Pack.Go is virtually a Pinterest-based concierge service that provides new opportunity for Four Seasons staff to engage guests early on in their trip-planning process. When a user leaves a comment on the designated pinboard, the Four Seasons hotel they specify will follow on Pinterest. Then, the hotel’s local experts will pin recommendations filled with insider knowledge and hidden gems.

What other unique ways have hotels and restaurants used social media?

Debbie Miller
Debbie is the Founder and President of Social Hospitality where she assists clients with social media and content marketing. When she's not online, Debbie enjoys spending time with her spoiled dogs; watching movies; reading; and drinking copious amounts of coffee.
Debbie Miller