Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hospitality Operators: Listen in on Social Media to learn who your guests think you are

As a CEO of a hospitality company, you have access to a powerful collection of guest feedback, you just to have to listen in on the conversation. As graduate student at Northwestern University and as a concept and branding consultant for a hospitality consulting firm, I’ve been studying how brands have been using powerful social media tools to better understand their customer’s opinions and feelings.

Social Media is more than a way to engage with your customers.  It is an effective and low-cost way to conduct market research.  Social Media Today offers some great strategic advice in the post: How to use Social Media for Market Research.The real-time nature of social media can cut months off of the process of conducting traditional market research.  Hidden in the chatter are often key learnings about the words your guests are using to describe your brand.  By listening in rather than surveying or leading focus groups, unnoticed trends and patterns can emerge. Most social media sites offer free monitoring tools, but for those companies who want to delve deeper, here is a great round-up also from Social Media Today of 25 Awesome Social Media Tools, some are even free.

Once you know what guests are saying, it’s time for some soul-searching.  Are they saying what you want them to say? Perhaps an even more difficult question is – what is your brand, really?  Branding Strategy Insider has some great insights in the post Measuring the Strength of Brand Identity.  In every industry, but especially in hospitality where trendy offerings come and go seemingly every week, it's important that leaders to go to a deeper level and outline with and for their teams the the unique characteristics that define how they create value in the world. As the author states, "Identity provides the seeds of differentiation."

Based on these two articles, here are the action items I would recommend you consider:

  • Listen to the online conversation. Take note of both the problem areas and consistently positive comments.  Too often sites like Yelp are viewed by operators as a place to read about bad experiences, but the things people love about you are even more important to understand so you can give them more of what they want and amplify those positive sentiments  across marketing channels.
  • Conduct a brand audit or concept clarity review.  Discuss key differentiators, core values and each touch point to define what your promise to guests should be versus what it is today.
  • Join the online conversation  Develop a Cross-Channel Communications Road Map to further monitor your guests to ensure that you are effectively and consistently communicating your brand at each opportunity.
Often times day-to-day operational concerns can distract from this kind of high-level, strategic thinking and these kinds of conversations arise from desperation rather than inspiration.  This doesn’t have to be the case and regular monitoring cross–checked against an agreed upon concept offering can be just the preventative care the doctor ordered.

Candace MacDonald is a hospitality marketer and concept consultant, experienced at translating creative vision into marketing programs that build brands and generate revenue.  She has worked for hotels, restaurant operators, celebrity chefs, wineries, and a major food & wine festival.  She is a candidate for a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University. Follow her @comacdonald.

1 comment:

  1. Online ethnic advertising is a unique solution that we provide. We combine our Internet marketing knowledge with ethnic advertising expertise, offering solutions for advertisers wanting to reach ethnic minority consumers. To know more about Ethnic Advertising and South Asian Marketing visit our site.