I had the opportunity to interview the Director of Online Marketing for one of the world’s largest Hotel brands this week. I asked him about Social Media’s impact on hotels and how his job has changed as a result of social media. Here’s the interview:
Q: How has social media changed the way hotels operate?
A: Social Media has changed the way hotels operate in the sense that they must be more accountable for their actions. If something goes wrong, the guest will take to social media platforms to tell all of their friends and others that may stay at that hotel. If the hotel doesn’t respond, then that makes it even worse, so hotels/brands have to stay on top of social media and respond quickly.
Q: How do you respond quickly with so many people out their posting?
A: Our Company has tools that allow the hotels to pull up positive and negative comments whenever they want, so it puts it all in one place and they can respond. We also have a team on our Guest Assistance team that is dedicated to watching social media for negative posts and responding within 1 hour. A lot has changed in a short amount of time and I know it will only get more sophisticated as more platforms launch and hotels/brands being to support them.
Q: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen?
A: The biggest challenge is obviously keeping up with all of the comments and feedback guests provide using social media. We have a dedicated team that helps watch for negative reviews, but most brands have an agency that helps them keep up with comments, posts, tweets, etc… With new platforms coming onboard all the time, we have to determine if that platform should be part of our brand strategy or not.
Q: What is the biggest surprise that you’ve encountered this year in regards to how social media has changed the way you do business?
A: The biggest surprise is just the landscape of the apps because as a brand, we have to stay on top of all the apps to know if they are right for us.
Q: What is your goal in using social media, what do you hope to accomplish for your brand?
A: Our goal in social media is to engage with our customers. We don’t want to “talk to them,” but rather “with them.” We always ask questions, do polls, post images and see what people are up to. As we do that, we see what our audience responds to the most and then we do more of that. We hope in the end that with our engagement and timely customer service that they will stay with us again and recommend us to their friends and family.
Q: Do you think your social media goals align with what your customers are looking for with social media?
A: I do feel that the guests are looking more for fun engagement with brands and research shows that as well. Guests want to know they can speak to us on our different platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Trip Advisor, etc…- and that a real person is going to answer them, and quickly, as we do that. We have several departments that touch this aspect and it all aligns to making our guests happy.
Q: Do you have a favorite form of social media yourself?
A: I prefer Twitter myself because with my daily schedule being so busy, getting 140 character updates is good; it is easy to get information quickly.
Q: What do you see happening in the future?
A: Things are going to become more personal and more customizable.
Q: Do you think social media is here to stay?
A: For sure! People love to connect, so social media will never go away in my opinion. Whether they connect with friends, family, brands, team, etc.., people love to have that connection and studies of younger generations show this as well.
Q: What things do you do today that you wouldn’t have done 5 years ago before the explosion of social media?
A: First of all, social media was not even a part of anyone’s job description even 4 years ago. The biggest change is having to make sure we keep up on comments to guests and that is hard with all the other duties I handle including display advertising, online strategy, direct response creative, social media, brand emails, etc..
Q: What do you love about your job?
A: I like the interaction every day, which that is with customers, hotel employees, team members, agency partners or whoever is in the office. I also love the strategy side of my job. I get to work with the great marketing team here and work with great agencies to make our hotels as great as they can be.