Operating with a Global Mind and Local Perspective

By Rob Palleschi Global Head, Hilton Hotels & Resorts | February 16, 2014

One size does not fit all when it comes to creating a social media strategy for a global brand – or any brand. Instead, there are key components for hotels to consider in creating a comprehensive social media strategy to build online relationships and earn guest loyalty, which translate into repeat revenue-driving transactions. Through a global, multi-channel approach, Hilton Hotels & Resorts and parent company Hilton Worldwide weave social media into business plans to effectively meet their marketing objectives.

Identify Your Audience

Before diving into the various social media platforms, tools and tactics, take a moment to ask yourself who your guest is, identify on which social media channels they are active and then formulate a strategy to reach them on social media. For example, Facebook has become a necessary tool for hotels to increase their online brand presence, but a passive, "if you build it, they will come," approach simply does not work in reaching the right audiences. Twitter is a fast-paced communication channel, creating the need to share content frequently and engage swiftly with guests, whereas Instagram involves a visual approach that requires sharing of images that inspire and spark the desire to travel. Brands must have a customized approach for all social channels, as the users for each platform have different expectations. To attract consumers to engage on more than one social media channel, a brand's social media content must be differentiated for each platform.

In creating social media strategy for Hilton Hotels & Resorts, we recognized the importance of developing content that would resonate with our fans. Equally important, we recognized that targeting qualified users in key markets is crucial to building a fan base, providing superior customer service and ultimately creating brand loyalists.

On Facebook, the majority of our social media audience resides in the U.S., but Hilton also has strong brand recognition in many emerging markets, including Egypt, India, Argentina and Brazil, to name a few. To reach these qualified users in markets where Hilton ranks first in awareness and traveler preference, we embarked on a strategic campaign in March 2013 to achieve the industry first of realizing 1 million likes on Facebook. The campaign was not only centered on fan growth, but also focused on targeting valuable fans and building retention.

Taking an active approach in expanding the brand's global reach was a stepping stone to further engage travelers in our key geographic markets. This engagement provides unique insight into the expectations of our global guests and how we can best meet their needs, which places Hilton in a strong position to build engagement, loyalty and advocacy.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.