Leveraging your Facebook image: Being fun

For those of you expecting this column to be a freshman introduction on social media for hotels, kindly exit at the back of the lecture hall. This is not a quick tips and tricks seminar for those who want just a “presence” online. This is a sophomore lesson on how to extend your Internet branding the right way — the way that will get you natural growth that actually translates into heightened loyalty and recognition.

And to speak truthfully, the course load here isn’t all that heavy! In fact, it is quite easy for hoteliers to spread the word about their properties. So here is the secret, and if you know it, you’ll surely ace the final exam: Be fun! Yes, keeping those two words in the back of your mind will save you plenty of time and effort when it comes to using this networking goliath. 

In this day and age, online users have rapidly become desensitized to all the advertising thrown at them. They can smell direct promotions a mile away, whether they crop up in text or graphics. People these days are so saturated with things to occupy their time that if you aren’t fun, they will simply tune out. Being fun means being entertaining. And people love entertainment. 

For example, picture yourself in ancient Rome: You are the gladiator fighting for survival, and all your fans are the Plebian mob cheering you on from the bleachers. You have but one choice: Give the people what they want. Times have changed, but the game remains the same.

But what does “fun” mean in a modern sense? Therein lies the art of it all. Being fun means weaving a story around your property. 

Give the people photos or videos — not the glossy, professional (and costly!) works, but ones taken on the fly and in the moment. If you are the social media manager, you’d better have a smartphone or camera on hand at all times, because you never know when that candid opportunity will present itself. But you can’t be everywhere at once, and that is why you need to educate your fellow staff on the boon of being social and designate a company email to receive cool snapshots from avid guests. 

Pictures and video clips tell stories, and stories get people talking. Whenever you post a neat little image about something — anything — that people could find interesting in three seconds or less, then fans will be much more inclined to press the “like” button. And the beauty of this miniscule effort on their part is that when they “like” something, it shows up in their newsfeed. Congratulations, you’ve just breached a new network for all of your fan’s friends to see. Bonus marks for getting comments and responding to them.

What we are discussing here is brand awareness. If you are consistent with your cute and playful wall posts, fans will come to “like” you even more, which means that their friends will see you multiple times and might even become your friends. From there, the true sense of what your hotel stands for will be told to them over a longer period of time, much like chapters in a novel. So just like the macabre analogy of the Roman Empire, let’s give it an example.

You are the public relations manager for a midsized property in Florida. Your resort has built its reputation around being an outstanding family getaway to soak in the sun and try out some beach- or water-related activities. You are looking to keep the good times rolling by reaching out to your fan base via Facebook, and maybe get some extra sales. 

The wrong way to go about it would be to post retouched images of those perfect couples windsurfing with stellar technique into the sunset, superimposed against a snappy headline and advertised booking deal. That wouldn’t be real, and the majority of people don’t relate to what isn’t authentic. Instead, what if you started taking “in the moment” shots of guests or cool happenings around the resort? Whether it’s water sports, reading a book at high noon or even a special dish that the chef made for an event, each one tells a story. It’s a real story. 

For instance, one day you go for an afternoon stroll along the beach and discover that two young siblings have just spent the last few hours constructing a sandcastle. You snap a picture and post it online. What does that say? Now layer that on top of last week’s anecdote about a new dish offered at the restaurant and last month’s album from the Beach Jazz Festival. Then you’ve got yourself a story: fun for the whole family. 

Another crucial differentiating factor here is your lingo — vernacular for those literati out there. Every photo should have a caption, and not just some general description. Think about how you would talk to your friends, and go from there. Let me repeat: don’t just write — talk. Save the precision syntax for press releases and news articles. When it comes to Facebook, feel free to break sentence structure, use a few ellipses or throw in some slang (non-derogatory, obviously). This applies for regular wall posts as well as taglines for albums, video or hot links.

Thus, the proverbial keys to the kingdom lie with consistent and engaging content. You need to portray the underlying message that you are committed to social media for the long haul. Once your fans see that, they will want to connect with you on Facebook and be a part of all the action. The more you engage your fans, the more your hotel will be on their mind. Mind share leads to word of mouth, which in turn leads to more prospective customers. And heck, once in a while, you can throw in a promotional offer and ask your fans to give it some thought. You already have an established, one-to-one relationship, so they’re likely to listen.

There are plenty of ways to leverage these online sites to your advantage, and I can only speak from what I have seen work in the past. Let the story emerge organically, and your fans will do the rest. Class dismissed.