Social Media Comes of Age in Hospitality
By Robert Rauch Chief Executive Officer, RAR Hospitality | February 02, 2014
At the most recent Lodging Conference in Phoenix this past September, industry insiders were debating and prognosticating that social media "would never be a distribution channel" with one panelist explicitly stating that people have been talking about social media as a distribution channel for five years and it is not on the radar screen. I aggressively defended my position that this view was short-sighted and to that panelist I say that we have not only identified this phenomenon as "on the radar screen" but that it is on approach and ready for landing. Those who sit on the sidelines will lose market share and those of us who operate hotels today know that market share loss means "game over."
Since the concept came about, social media has had a stigma of being used solely for individual use, constant communication and as a source of personal entertainment. Tagging friends on Facebook, tweeting your favorite celebrities and sharing photographs are all standard practices when it comes to social media activity, yet in recent years a new wave of creativity has developed among these users. Now more than ever, businesses and brands have a strong presence across these sites. Beginning to realize the benefits that lay behind a strong social media presence and its use as a form of communication between hotels and their guests, many properties have become familiar with the concept. Taking full advantage of all the different social media platforms, their functions and how they can best service hotel guests is a rapidly developing necessity among hotels worldwide.
When it comes to traveling, those exploring an unfamiliar area frequently use their smart phones and mobile social media applications to discover happenings, use maps, share updates with friends and much more. 85% of travelers use their smartphones while doing so and 46% of them check into specific locations while on vacation. Research has shown that the top five uses of smartphones while traveling consist of taking pictures, using maps, researching restaurants, searching for activities and checking in for a flight prior to travel.(1)
Recognizing the potential behind mobile social media applications, Marriott Australia initiated a new social media campaign geared toward "showing Millennials secret spots and activities" (2) while traveling. The movement circulated around the concept of initiating a "social concierge" service for their guests that allowed them to stay connected and informed with any happenings around the city. Using the hashtag #ThisCityMyWay and the help of six teenage girls, the hotel group launched their social concierge campaign in September of 2013 in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
It is the responsibility of the six team members to position these cities as desirable destinations by frequently posting on Instagram and Twitter and sharing stories relevant to the four cities. When you visit the campaign website you discover that each city has its own page crowded with a plethora of these social media posts highlighting the best local treasures from tourism boards, locals and businesses alike. (3)
Not only is the website a useful source of information, but it also runs different "Instagram to Win" competitions offering incentives such as overnight stays at one of the four participating Marriott locations. The current competition requires participants to use their Instagram application to follow @ThisCityMyWay, uploading a picture of the local cuisine they are enjoying with friends and hashtagging #ThisCityMyWay. Our research has concluded that there are over 297 Instagram users who took part in the competition. As a result, all of the followers on the application were able to view these posts, broadening the recognition of not only the giveaway but the overall campaign as well.
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