Is a Social Media Influencer a Friend, Competitor, or Business Partner?

By Mary Gendron Senior Vice President / Managing Director, Eric Mower & Associates | February 11, 2018

There is a new and untapped market for group stays. It is called social influencer travel. Yes, the social media influencer whose connections started virtually is now taking those relationships off social media platforms into the real world – the world of travel. They are planning group excursions related to their subject matter expertise and they are creating experiences that appeal to their constituents, particularly Millennials.

This market has naturally evolved from the early days of social media engagement where individuals, ranging from celebrities to everyday people, began experimenting with the new platforms and succeeded in becoming magnets for friends, fans and followers. Their voices, points of view, whereabouts, images and opinions attracted the like-minded who shared posts with other like-minded connections. Their numbers and Klout scores grew, and they became acknowledged by others, and recognized themselves, as influencers.

The early days of social media were met with trepidation by many in the hotel industry who, based on content posted by others, recognized that the ability to control their brand – whether flagged or independent – could be slipping through their fingers.

Early influencers could appear to be friends to hotels – posting positive reviews enhanced with Emoji love. If the experience was less than perfect – or, worse, a perfect disaster – negativity could go viral, causing damage to the brand and setting up an adversarial relationship -- influencer as foe.

Today, reported hotel experiences still run the gamut in social media, but, fortunately, best practices have been put into place. Typically, a critical review or comment can be quickly taken off line for mediation and resolution. The niggling negativity needn't go viral when a hotel "misses" in satisfying a guest.

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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.