Seriously…. panic!  Panic now!

Okay calm down and chill out.  It really doesn’t help.  Actually my mantra is quite lazily swiped from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:  “DON’T PANIC”.  I can’t tell you how often that phrase helped during bomb threats, broken water mains, or total service meltdowns in opening periods…..

*But* I have your attention.  It’s devious to be sure, but you’re here and you might like this.

As you are calming down, I will help raise your eyebrow a bit, and possibly the bar.  This isn’t the limbo… so we will hopefully bring it up so that everyone can pass through! No, it is not the kind of bar you wished it to be.  You will need to find that later in the day.

We hotel social media people are all over it!  The internet that is.  We are in a lot of places online.  Frankly we are everywhere and it wears us out.  Following yellow page sites like citysearch and yellobot, following customer generated reviews on multiple hotel outlet pages with sites like TripAdvisor, Zagat, or Yelp.  We have multiple Twitter accounts, facebook pages, blogs, myspace, and more.  We have RSS feeds creating feedback loops of brand info!

Simply…. we are doing our job for the company, as rapidly as that is being defined.

But more and more I notice something.  Most corporate offices are totally clueless.  They are years away from this.  Many are catching on, starting to get it, almost there.  Even the corporate offices with visionary ownership – far ahead of the game – fall a bit short in that they understand that social media is important, vital, and very much the “here and now” of grassroots word of mouth, but aren’t completely utilizing the tools yet.  At times it feel as if there is a self satisfaction in having that “one online guy” managing things, so they can tell their other industry pals, “We’re on it.  We are relevant, fresh, and in the know!”

Sipping of Arnold Palmer’s then reverbrates in the lounge air with a smug sense of management being hip (Actually, that is usually me with the Arnold Palmer). I am fairly lucky this isn’t my case and it is hyperbole to be sure, but you catch my drift.  The point is that it’s so new a “tool” (for lack of a better term) there is a strong likelihood there will be communication problems at the beginning, the learning curve will be great, and making people aware of it will be very difficult.

If you believe in the brand you work for, it is your cross to bear.

The difficulty is bridging that gap, and helping people grasp it’s importance.  What is happening with social media, search indexing, and brand positioning is going to alter *everything* in the next couple years for the internet.  Quick article *here* However it so new I am not sure people are fully grasping this “thing”, beyond the hip and organized ones that are currently shuffling their social media guy into a room and praying that that person does a good job (so they no longer have to worry about the “annoying reviewers”)….

It isn’t the “be all and end all”, it isn’t a religion… but it is vitally important, much bigger than one person, and hopefully this ramble will help you will see why.

Ownership, management, and most employees are lost on it, understandably so.  Social Media is an overwhelming place of daunting content and endless snide reviews….  but we “SMO” were put here to build a base for the brand’s social media presence, and that is much more than just hiring someone to do the job and ignoring them.  It is allowing the SMO to interact with employees and help reinforce what social media is and does.  This is a position that will not only be a property level position at some point, but it will be a respected manager training and helping other staff to get on board and help the hotel.  Ehhh… possibly (Feynman said fence sitting is an art)

Most hotels with social media campaigns do not alert guests to it, often forgetting to mention it if it comes up. Often it is because employees don’t know about it, or sometimes because it just aggravates them.  You have all heard of it, probably been inundated by it and confused by it, which is often times why people just ignore it. But it is vital we talk about the lack of connection between the campaign and employees on property level, and why there needs to be more interaction than “yeah we have a guy doing it”.

How do you start this interaction?  My advice is to find any and every employee property level that “gets” social media, is into it, and might have fun with it.  In fact, many of your SMO’s already see some employees online while performing their job tasks… you know those employees online a bit more often than they might need to be?  That is where you start…. it’s that simple!

People are concerned about their employees talking about them online, but that concern should be obsolete!  You shouldn’t worry about it… THEY ALREADY ARE TALKING ABOUT YOU!  You couldn’t stop them if you wanted to, so it is wise to reinforce that your brand is online, they are representing it… and anything they can do to help will be appreciated!

Then start talking to those who might be interested in increasing sales leads, contacts, and bookings.. no doubt there is a savvy sales agent already hammering away on facebook all day.  Why not extend that into a professional sales page that they link a twitter account to?  Then you have networking for the sales agent, and brand presence for the hotel!  The more of these sort of interactions, the better!

Your tech guy might already be there, but if I know hotel A/V and IT people… they are way too busy to actually *do* social media.  But remind them they could use it to keep informed about current trends and products they can geek out to, as well as ask questions to quickly resolve conundrums.  Maintenance could use it in the same way as well.  When all your people have accounts up and running, think how convenient it would be for a guest to twitter engineering about a burnt out lightbulb, or a Wireless point that is down?

Starting to wrap up this ramble!

SO – the social media guy can handle a property level account for twitter, a facebook page, a blog, and more… constantly cross posting and getting the word out, but it takes more than that to increase your online footprint.  You want sales people talking sales, and tech people talking tech… you want all the employees connecting with other hotels and hospitality employees, as well as to other guests and clients. You want people commenting on blogs about the hotel where applicable, and talking about it on their own.  You want people posting their pics and videos.  You want your brand to be bolstered by thousands… not just one social media guru locked in a windowless room in a cage.

BUT WHY?  WHY ON EARTH IS THIS ACTUALLY A USEFUL BUSINESS TOOL?

Well … this post was so bloody long we will save the meat for the next post.  It will make sense.  I promise!

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