Social media is an increasingly prominent part of people’s lives – one that some would say is too intrusive at times. What is not in doubt, however, is that it is here to stay, with the kind of facilities that simply began as a way of keeping in touch and sharing pictures and images now having commercial uses. This can be seen clearly in the numerous Facebook pages, YouTube and Twitter accounts of various companies. In each case, this represents an attempt at content marketing through interaction with potential or actual customers.
How social media can be used effectively
There is no doubt that having a social media presence can raise awareness of any product and service, with hotels being no exception. Indeed, one very good reason to be part of this game is that your rivals will be. Why sit back and let your neighbour pick up all the tourists because someone has seen that their friend has responded to a tweet or clicked ‘like’ on Facebook in response to their messages? One of the best ways a hotel can get themselves known is through this kind of association, with people letting their friends know about a place they have stayed at or are thinking of going to without actually making any specific effort to ‘sell’ the place.
The key is to provide the sort of content that will gain and keep the attention of potential guests. For example, it is a great idea to keep people informed of news through Facebook postings, online videos or tweets. That might be news such as a new facility at the hotel, a redevelopment, or a new item on the menu.It certainly helps to keep people in touch with general happenings. This might include fun stories of what staff are up to, or charity initiatives. Also of interest may be local events and happenings. That might include something exciting nearby, like the opening of a new visitor attraction. Alternatively, it could be about an upcoming event for which people might wish to book ahead. In the latter case, this can be linked to special offers; for example, if there is a local summer festival, why not send out a tweet or Facebook post highlighting this months ahead of time, and offering discounts for those booking by a certain date? For those producing videos, there is no doubt a well-made production could look great on YouTube, as long as it has been made to a high enough standard. After all, there is always the chance that something really funny could ‘go viral’.
Pitfalls to avoid
Of course, like any other development in the history of humanity from the taming of fire to the splitting of the atom, social media has the potential to bring both great benefits but also end in tears. For this reason, it is important to be very careful before actually posting anything on social media. Ask yourself exactly what the purpose of it is and whether it will be truly beneficial. Trivial information is one thing to avoid. Nobody needs to know what month of the year it is, or some very minor local happening of little interest. Moreover, those who habitually post out such things will find they send out too much and fail to hold any interest – rather like the bores who tweet what they had for breakfast as if this was the most important news in the world. Social media also offers the possibility of complete disasters. The aforementioned YouTube video could go the other way if it is not made well, contains gaffes or includes footage of something happening in the background that could cause embarrassment. Similarly, be careful about posting anything that can be offensive, controversial or in bad taste – and don’t get embroiled in arguments. Twitter is notorious for this sort of thing as it evidently brings out the worst in some people. But apart from straightforward trolling, the potential for gaffes is obvious.
Go the extra mile
Of course, sometimes conflict could be hard to avoid on social media. For example, a twitter account may receive tweets from unhappy customers and potentially spark a public spat. However, this can be an opportunity to be seen in a positive light. A great example of this can be seen from the following Twitter exchange in 2011 between an unhappy Argos customer from Manchester and a clued-up customer service operative who clearly knew how to talk Gangsta rap-style. Customer (known as Badman): “Yo wen you gettin da ps4 tings in moss side? Aint waiting no more. Plus da asian guy whu works dere got bare attitude.”Argos: “Safe Badman, we gettin sum more ps4 tings in wivin da next week y’get me. Soz bout da attitude, probz avin a bad day yo.”Badman: “Respect. Sick guy”. Suffice to say, the exchange went viral. So whether using social media for good customer service, or simply to get your name out there, make sure you go viral for all the right reasons.