It’s hard to give the exact number of Twitter followers for New York City’s Roger Smith Hotel. The count, currently hovering around 16,000, grows almost every hour. With such a robust audience, the folks behind @RSHotel know which posts make the strongest connection—and it may not be what you think. “If you’re looking to promote things, they have the least traction,” explains John Birdsong, director of new media for the family-run independent hotel.
Instead, he often snaps scenic shots around the city, which have nothing to do with his hotel, and shares them with a short note, like Good morning. “It’s a welcoming, friendly message that resonates with people,” Birdsong says. “These posts bounce across the planet.” Case in point: With one of his sunrise salutations, a retweet came all the way from Turkey.
For the Roger Smith Hotel, which bills itself as a “social media hub in NYC,” Twitter —as well as Facebook—serve as an easy, inexpensive way to get in touch with its audience and to form community bonds, says John Knowles, director of marketing. The 135-room Midtown Manhattan hotel has a strong following among pet lovers, for example, and they try to leverage that as much as they can via Twitter, Knowles says. A sample tweet would be a photo of Henry, their Boston terrier spokesdog (and the namesake of the rooftop bar), snoozing at a meeting.
“As we think about whom we want to attract to the hotel, we think about what conversations we can initiate, inspire, and participate in,” Knowles notes. “We’ve become very specific with our voice and we can connect with niche markets. Everyone exists on Twitter. It’s a good way to share and express interests.”
Of course, their Twitter feed consists of more than cute pictures of dogs and dramatic shots of skyscapes. They post short, looping videos through the white-hot app Vine as well as inform followers about menu specials, event spaces, art exhibits in the hotel, and more. They’ll also retweet comments about guests’ positive experiences at the hotel, people who very well may have booked their stay through Twitter where they receive a 10 percent discount. Knowles didn’t have exact numbers of how many customers use this method, “but it’s contributing significantly to our online conversions,” he says. “It gets people talking about us.”
Both Birdsong and Knowles run point on the hotel’s dynamic social media platforms, training each other and working to create best practices. However, they encourage other staff members to post on Twitter and Facebook to address different needs and personalities. “If you have people with varying interests, you have a more well-rounded dialogue,” says Birdsong, adding that they sometimes post tweets in other languages to engage followers in their native tongue.
However, with multiple employees at the controls, they do run the risk of someone running an item that doesn’t quite mesh with the company’s branding, Birdsong acknowledges. Incidents remain at a minimum, though. “We’re a small enough team,” he says. “We can work together and take it down or change it up. Everyone is fairly responsible to not post their party pictures.”