Create dialogue: Tell your social media story in an engaging way

PHOENIX—Social media is a critical component of the hotel experience these days. With phones seemingly permanently attached to people’s hands, connecting and engaging digitally has become a natural part of life for the modern consumer. But are you sure you’re doing it right?

According to Alexis Krisay, owner and president of marketing at Serendipit Consulting, many hotels have some misconceptions about social media. The biggest problem? They’re not using it for its intended purpose—engagement. “The biggest misconception is that they just have to create content and post it out there,” she said. “When they have that mindset, they put it up there and forget about it. Users aren’t engaged, and the content becomes super stale. Think about it: If you’re going to a cocktail party, you want a two-way conversation. You want to tell people engaging things in your world, so you create an engaging conversation.”

Because there’s a lack of strategy behind the approach to social media—and because in many hotels, workers tend to wear many hats—the person put in charge of the social media feed often isn’t a dedicated marketing person. “A lot of times, it’s the hotel front desk manager or someone with another function in the hotel being the social media person, and it tends to be an afterthought rather than a planned strategy,” Krisay said. “We’re just going to have Christy, for example, at the front desk do social media, and, ‘Christy, what we need you to do is post about what’s going on today and randomly snap photos.’”

And while this front-desk agent might be savvy at her own personal social media—spending her breaks updating her Snapchat Story or tweeting her new favorite meme—that doesn’t mean she has the expertise to come up with and implement a social media strategy for a business. “It’s important to have someone with boots on the ground to be able to capture photos and moments and things going on in your hotel, but it’s equally important to have that strategic counterpart to map out your monthly strategy,” Krisay said.

The first thing a hotel needs to do is identify its KPIs. “What is the purpose of social media for you?” Krisay asked. “Yeah, branding is important, so having useful content is important, but how can you track your social media efforts to an actual booking? You can do social media all day long, but it becomes a waste if you can’t track how many people are booking. Whether it’s a direct conversion with Facebook ads, or you’re putting links on Facebook or Instagram, or it’s an assisted conversion, the analytics are super important.”

When determining a social media strategy—which should include paid content as well as unpaid content—Krisay said hotels should define their persona and target audiences. “We don’t just say the demographic is 35-year-old business professionals. We build out a real person. It’s Andrew, who is 35 years old, who travels three times a week for business. He’s always on his cell and rarely on his laptop. He likes to be communicated with via text messages, and he gets his news through social media,” she said. “We build out a detailed persona, and when we’re creating a strategy, we say, ‘Let’s identify the platforms we’re going to use and which personas we’re going to target on each platform.’ Instagram may be targeting Andrew, but we’re using strategic LinkedIn posts to target the 60-year-old CEO who is also traveling to our hotel.” Simply put, identify the people who will be on each platform and tailor content to those personalities.

“The second step is that we’ll create content for those audiences, and then we really focus on preparing our engagement sources ahead of time—identifying who we’re going to be engaging with that day,” Krisay said. “That day, Andrew is engaging with us on Instagram, but we’re also going to be following five brands Andrew might be interested in and commenting on their posts, so they’re engaging with us and driving engagement to our pages.

“Content is so important,” she continued. “We like to diversify content where you’re not just creating text every day—we’re creating branded graphics, planning gifs, Boomerangs, a lot of Facebook Live now. It is so important to be your own news source—and it can be really fun for hotels to do. That’s where that person at the front desk can come into play, hosting Facebook Live, but the overall strategy, what we’re trying to gain from it, is delivered by a more strategic senior marketing person or outside agency.”

Hotels also should be looking for opportunities to engage in nonlinear ways. “Maybe you’re tweeting or following people who are asking what they should do in your city. If a hotel says, ‘Here are the top five things to do in Chicago,’ they just provided useful information, and that hotel brand may be more relevant in this person’s mind in the future,” she said. “Step outside the box a bit and be a valuable source to people. How else can you get to your audience? Through other brands. Businesses think in a linear fashion—I’m only going to engage with people who are traveling here—but engage with other brands that might be relevant to your hotel.”

Finally, Krisay said, it’s important to bring the social media experience into the hotel. “It’s so important to show guests you’re on social media and encourage them to check in, making it a component of the overall guest experience,” she said. “The millennial hotels do a better job at it, but there are hotels who do a good job where it’s tastefully done, with a cool feed in the lobby, or they’re encouraging people to check in on Facebook when checking in. Encourage the experience online and off-line.”

And, don’t forget the influencers. “When people are checking in to your hotel, if you can identify this person has a good amount of followers or engagement, do something special for them,” she said. “It can be a small token like a free appetizer in the hotel restaurant, but it makes those people talk about you even more and just feel great.” HB

To see content in magazine format, click here.