Social media management: In house or subcontract?

Every hotel GM knows about social media. While they might not personally be fans of Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and the like, I am sure that everyone has at least one or twice viewed a YouTube video or read comments on a Facebook post.

Tomes have been written on the advent of social media and its ability to generate a positive buzz for your property. The integration of social media into your website has become paramount for enhancing organic SEO. But beyond that, and being really “hard-nosed” about it, it is often difficult for social media activities to be directly quantified into a specific return on investment. And without a measurable return, how do you rationalize the direct labor cost in hiring an in-house social media manager?

We’ve faced this question in our practice at least a dozen times over the past year. The answer is not something that can be expressed by a precise written formula. However, we have developed the following guidelines for you to consider for this decision. These apply to individual properties — whether part of a chain or independent. And please keep in mind that there are always exceptions to the rule. The goal of this calculator is to define a 35- to 40-hour work week for the prospective social media manager.

Social media task calculator

1. Manage basic social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest), posting five to eight items per week about general activities at the property and surrounding area, keeping up with activities, management reporting and organizing an activity calendar proactively: 5-10 hours/week

2. Add a meaningful blog with one to two well-researched entries per week in addition to social media posts, bringing the total posts to three or four items per week: 4-6 hours/week

3. If you have a spa and want to address spa trends and activities: 2-3 hours/week

4. If you have a golf course and want to integrate activities on the golf course with specific references, course guides and course activities: 2-3 hours/week

5. If there are multiple F&B outlets and your chef has a following, you want to disseminate recipes and you have socially-oriented food events (such as a wine tastings, food demonstrations, etc.): 5-8 hours/week

6. If you have any other seasonal activities worth talking about, including skiing, water sports or hiking: 2-3 hours/week

7. If you want to champion local charitable or cultural activities to make your property a hub for your region: 4-5 hours/week

8. If you want to generate social media buzz for weddings with a separate bridal photo collection (using Flickr, Pinterest, Picassa, etc.): 4-5 hours/week

Adding it up

I might be generous in my hour allocations, but the fact remains that unless your property is a full-featured resort with a range of facilities, there really is no need for an on-property social media manager. The issue becomes what to do next. Should you have a part-time position or allocate the work to a third party?

The answer here is more complex. Any staff member, part- or full-time, requires supervision. An independent takes more supervisory time than the assignment of social media responsibilities to your marketing agency. This decision is much more tactical.

Who makes a good social media manager?

If you make the decision to hire a full-time or part-time social media manager in-house, the next thought is to the type of individual you bring aboard? And, what should be their required skill sets? Our experience is that a young, fresh-out-of-college graduate will fit the job description nicely. Look for solid writing skills, an outgoing personality with an independent work mentality, basic Photoshop skills (and preferably their own digital camera) and great teambuilding skills.

Give that individual free reign to learn all about your property and embrace it. Monitor the results and encourage your entire team to embrace social media as a core component of your marketing communications plan.