Every hotel handles social media differently, but in my opinion the best content comes from a dedicated onsite person who is passionate about the property, the destination and social media. For a great example of this, I didn’t have to look far. Years ago I spent five formative years at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver as duty manager, sales manager and trainer. (In fact, my first book, Murder at the Universe, is loosely based on my experiences there – minus the murder). The hotel publishes a variety of social media content and strikes the ideal tone of curiosity, authenticity and approachability. Is a big ad agency or genius CMO behind the program? Nope. It Rishad Daroowala, the hotel’s marketing and social media coordinator. Here’s a condensed version of our interview.
Tell us about your role and responsibilities.
My primary role is to manage the hotel’s online social media presence. Responsibilities include promoting the Pan Pacific Vancouver, while capturing all of the interesting and noteworthy events and experiences that take place within the hotel (and often times, downtown Vancouver). We believe the Pan Pacific Vancouver is an iconic hotel in the city and there are plenty of interesting experiences and stories worth sharing. My primary role is to share these stories via today’s most engaging peer network: social media.
Which social media channels are you active on?
Our main social media channels are our Room With a View Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Youtube. We decided to create a blog as our ultimate resource for everything that’s going on within the hotel. Here we can share stories, host interviews, discuss upcoming events etc; all with rich content and media. We use Twitter and Facebook to actively engage with our guests, listen to feedback, take questions and make personal connections with the outside world.
As part of a hotel chain, are your social media activities coordinated with corporate office and/or with sister properties?
Generally speaking, we do not coordinate daily activities with our corporate or sister properties. Sometimes we do however share contests for the public and bounce ideas off each other for upcoming events.
Do you have full reign when it comes to content or is there an approval process?
I generally come up with content, but share my ideas with our public relations director and the management team for added input and feedback. Being in such a large hotel, it’s great to share ideas and take suggestions from different departments and staff members. There are many great stories and experiences taking place all over the hotel, so it’s important to listen and keep your ears to the ground. The whole process is definitely a team effort.
How do you keep content fresh and varied?
Each month I like to mix things up and provide something new for our readers. Some weeks it’s a prize-winning contest, photos from our pasty kitchen, a new special offer, or a recipe from one our sous chefs. I try and provide diverse content while never being scared to try something new. I also do my best to be a resource to our readers. Often times this includes discussing and blogging about topics that have nothing to do with our hotel. For example, I’ll often talk about what’s going on around the city of Vancouver and provide tips, photos and useful links, like my post on 95 Things You (May) Have Never Done in Vancouver. So not only do we showcase what’s going in our hotel, but we also keep our guests and readers informed on what’s going on in our backyard, downtown Vancouver.
Where do you look for ideas and inspiration?
I would have to say our readers are our inspiration. They are the ones who ask the questions and provide suggestions on what they want to hear. I also look back on previous content and observe their impressions. It gives you a good idea of what’s working and what isn’t.
What do you think makes for good blog content?
Putting yourself in the shoes of your reader! What are your guests and readers interested in? If I was to land on the blog, what would I be interested in? I believe good blog content is relevant, timely, fun and encourages extra thought or discussion. I like to keep that in mind with well written content, useful links to other sites and bloggers and lots of photos and video to keep the reader engaged. Also, as mentioned earlier, I like to include non-hotel-related content once in a while. Nobody likes someone who talks about themselves all the time, right?
Do you ever feel like no one is listening?
Once in a while, certain blog posts or work you do can fly under the radar. Generally speaking, however, I find if you put in the effort, provide a resource, and engage with your readers and followers, you will get the results you’re looking for. Sometimes a great comment or a small discussion is rewarding enough. It’s not always about high traffic numbers and revenue. My job is to provide a positive experience to our readers and guests – that can be achieved in a variety of forms.
How do you measure results? How do you ensure your continued position as a dedicated social media coordinator is justified?
I use Google Analytics to track unique visitors to our blog, where traffic is being directed from, and clicks to our booking engine. I use Facebook Insights and couple different programs to track our Twitter presence. Lastly, I use Google Alerts to monitor discussion and mentions. Presently we don’t use a social media/reputation monitoring tool – it’s something I’ve been putting off for a while.
At each month’s end, I provide a detailed report on how traffic, revenue and engagement are being created as well as a plan for the numbers we can expect in the future. As long as I can maintain or exceed goals and expectations, I can be confident in my role.
Tell us about one or two successful social media campaigns?
Recently we teamed up with the Pan Pacific Whistler and Seattle and created the “Dream Getaway Contest” for our Facebook Fans. We asked them: If you had your choice of a complimentary weekend at any one of our four hotels, which one would you choose and why? What would you do while there? We received hundreds of responses, and read some very inspiring, detailed and hilarious stories from our fans. We connected with our fans, had several readers join our pages, and everyone became really excited at the thought of staying at our hotels. Also recently we teamed up with livingsocial.com to provide a great rate on our deluxe rooms. Getting the message out through our blog, Twitter and Facebook made a big difference.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I believe the key to an effective social media presence is positive engagement through listening to your audience and being genuine. Social media should be personal and transparent. It should be a real conversation. These days, every company (and their dog) is on Facebook, Twitter, blogs etc; however, only a few really use the platform for its ideal purpose: personal connections. I feel if you keep this in mind, you’ll be better equipped to reach your goals.
From Daniel Edward Craig
Author & hotel consultant specializing in online reputation management & social media strategy. He likes to look at the lighter side of the hotel business.