It’s no secret that social media plays a major role in the way the hospitality industry connects with customers. There are, however, more ways for hotels to use social media than to just attract guests before they book. With creativity and ingenuity, hotels can use this medium as a powerful marketing channel to build brand affinity and loyalty by engaging guests in conversations during their stays.
Below are simple but innovative ways a few major hotels are already using social media to create memorable guest experiences:
Installing Social Walls
The desire to connect with and meet new people is one that is shared by nearly all of mankind, but compelling any person to actively make connections with other guests during a hotel stay can be tricky. The Four Seasons Dallas, however, came up with a brilliant tactic to overcome this obstacle. During the Fourth of July holiday in 2013, the hotel unveiled “social walls” in its lobby. The walls consisted of screens that showed social posts of people staying at the hotel.
By implementing the use of these social walls, The Four Seasons Dallas was directly appealing to its guests’ desire to know the other guests around them, and to be seen themselves through social media. By the end of the holiday, the hotel had been mentioned or involved in more than 243,000 social media impressions, and reached an audience of a little more than 100,000 users across various platforms.
The Four Seasons Dallas isn’t alone in using this strategy either. Hotels from around the world have undertaken similar efforts. The 1888 Hotel in Australia, for instance, features screens in its lobby that displays Instagram images that guests upload of the hotel. The hotel also advertises a designated selfie area and what it calls “Insta-Walk” maps that provide guests with directions to nearby sites worthy of snapping photos. Visitors with more than 10,000 followers, or who take a great Instagram shot of the hotel, can also win a free night’s stay.
Go Beyond Just Booking with Hashtags
Brands like Trump and Loews allow their guests to book rooms directly through their companies’ pages on various social networks. Trump allows users to book straight from its Facebook page, while Loews provides the same service through Twitter. Conrad Hotels and Resorts also allow users to book a room through social media; its social network of choice, however, is Instagram.
Limiting this strategy to just booking doesn’t capitalize on its full potential: The use of social media in this manner could be applied to any number of the other amenities hotels provide. Companies could allow guests to check in or out, or even order room service via dedicated hashtags or direct messages on these networks.
In fact, the Sol Wave House Hotel in Spain does exactly that. Using a dedicated hashtag, guests can tweet members of the hotel’s concierge staff and request room service or pool-side drinks. Guests at the Sol Wave House Hotel can even order taxis via Twitter, by sending a tweet using the hashtag #WaveTaxi.
This hotel takes its Twitter presence one step further on the weekends, hosting Twitter pool parties every Friday night. The hotel advertises these events, of course, using the hashtag #TwitterPoolParty.
Incorporate a Social Element in Your Hotel’s Existing App
This is potentially the most significant thing any hotel could do to increase its guests’ engagement through social media. Many hotel brands around the world already have an app, but tying apps to guests’ social media presence could be a boon.
The Ritz-Carlton is already using this tactic with its app. The app gives users the ability to transform travel photos into vintage-inspired posters that they can share on social media channels. This feature, called Sharable Experiences, allows users to modify their pictures with digital stamps, titles, and filters.
The Ritz-Carlton is not alone in this endeavor. As part of Marriott International’s “Travel Brilliantly” campaign, the hotel chain is exploring new ways to allow its guests to connect with one another through its app—something they are calling a social concierge.
In a recent interview, Katie Krum, the director of digital marketing at Marriott, discussed the idea of hotels becoming community portals. In it, she outlined a concept called “Trading Tips” that was generating buzz within her company. This platform would allow its guests to interact with one another by reviewing or suggesting local businesses. The impetus of the concept came about because, according to Krum, guests often ask: “How can I, in a non-creepy way, connect with someone in the hotel?”
As hotel guests continue to turn to social media as their primary source for information gathering and remote communication, hoteliers will be presented with numerous opportunities to create engagement among their guests via social media. If they succeed at connecting with guests on a social level, they can remain at the forefront of those customers’ minds when they book their next trip.
Abi Mandelbaum is cofounder and CEO of YouVisit, which creates virtual tours and virtual reality experiences for a variety of industries, including hospitality, real estate, travel, events, education, factories, and more.
Photo credit: Social Media Icons via Bigstock.