Authentic Social Marketing

Authentic Social Marketing

Five Reasons For Hospitality Brands Not To Outsource Social Media Management

Some hotels and restaurants have been slow to incorporate social media into customer service, sales and marketing efforts, largely due to a lack of understanding or resources. This justification, however real, no longer holds water. Customers and prospects are relying on social media to help make purchase decisions, especially when traveling, so avoiding or delaying engagement is not an option. There is good news, however; with the rapid evolution and adoption of social platforms, tools and training, even independent hotel and restaurant owners can effectively build and manage their brand via social media.

One of the greatest challenges posed by consumer’s adoption and use of social media platforms is the power of negative reviews. Hotels and restaurants are now beholden to unhappy customers who are able to quickly and easily share their negative experiences with others via websites like Yelp!, Expedia, Fodors, Zagat, CitySearch, TripAdvisor, Travelocity, which then rank well in relevant search results on Google, Bing and Yahoo. In one case, a UK hotel general manager threw a cancer patient out of the hotel for posting a negative review and paid the price in terms of bad publicity.

Unfortunately, many hospitality-focused businesses are outsourcing social media efforts to agencies and consultants for fear of doing it wrong. This can be a perilous decision for a variety of reasons. Back in March, an employee of NMS, Chrysler’s outsourced social media marketing agency, sent a highly offensive tweet that insulted Detroit drivers. For details, see the AdAge article, “What Lurks Behind Chrysler’s F-bomb? Social-Media Turf War.” Although it was deleted nearly instantly, the effects were lasting: the NMS employee was immediately fired, and shortly thereafter, Chrysler fired the agency.

Another justification for outsourcing social media, is the lack of resources in-house. To combat that challenge, Portland’s Anvil Media helped implement Revinate for Grand America Hotels & Resorts a few years ago, which enabled GMs to identify and respond to reviews in a quick and efficient manner. Shortly after implementation and training, the number of negative reviews dropped sharply, and those having shared a negative experience frequently revised reviews, being turned from skeptics to evangelists by quick-acting GMs and staff.

Beyond monitoring and addressing reviews, there is a greater opportunity to generate revenue via social engagement. Anvil developed a Twitter strategy that identified visitors to cities in which Provenance Hotels owned or managed hotels, and engaged them in conversation. Soon after Provenance Hotels’ Twitter program was-up and-running, one customer was so impressed with the level of engagement online that they cancelled their reservation at a nearby competitor and booked at Hotel Lucia instead.

As a career digital marketer running two agencies, I’ve instilled in our collective corporate cultures the concept of transparency, honesty and integrity. At Anvil Media and Formic Media, client education and training is core to our values and purpose. As such, we’ve built our social media marketing practice around the concept of developing and implementing an overall social media strategy that empowers employees within the company to manage its presence in social media. This approach addresses and alleviates many of the issues exemplified by Chrysler and others.

Most marketers agree engaging in social media is not an “if” but a “when.” The challenge, however, is defining the “who” and the “how.” While our approach of training and empowering in-house employees to manage social media is transparent, it does require an accepting corporate culture, discipline and a long-term commitment to be successful. For hospitality marketers still considering outsourcing social media management, however, I’ve outlined five reasons not to outsource social media management.

1. Authenticity
I don’t think anyone can rightfully disagree that employees are in a much better position to truly represent a brand than an outside party (agency, consultant, etc.). The premise is simple but powerful: it is easier (and more transparent) to train existing employees how to represent a brand than train an agency on the nuances of a brand’s unique offerings, differentiators and culture. Due to relative transparency in social media, outsourced social marketers are often easy to spot, which can risk blow-back from brand enthusiasts. More importantly, each hotel or restaurant has a unique culture or voice, which should be represented social media. While a social media consultant can help identify and amplify the voice, it must originate and evolve internally. One good example is Paddy’s Bar & Grill in downtown Portland. Anvil trained the owner to manage various social profiles via a management platform (HootSuite) which allowed him to schedule event-related specials weeks in advance, all in one sitting, then track the results throughout the month. continue →

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