The one-two punch of social media and face time to heighten loyalty

Here’s a marketing creed that was scribed into textbooks well over 30 years ago, back when I was an MBA student: People connect with other people, and not necessarily with businesses. For a long time, this wasn’t exactly feasible. Even in the hospitality world, where personality is king, managers meeting customers on a one-to-one basis wasn’t always in the cards. 

Nowadays though, sites like Twitter and LinkedIn are paving the way for a resurgence of quality communication from management directly down to the consumer. But look closely at this practice: Nothing has really changed. Even with the leaps and bounds of electronic messaging systems, people still crave that personal touch. 

Whenever or wherever you can get your guests to “meet the managers” you’re not only giving your hotel a real face, but drastically enhancing client retention. With this in mind, social media presents both a challenge and opportunity. 

The challenge is that managers must commit themselves to a role in the public eye. People are the new brand. What managers say on their personal online accounts is now intrinsically linked to their respective properties, whether for good or for bad. Luckily, many have already found the opportunity within this trend, harnessing these new channels to build stronger personal connections and grow their businesses.

Embracing social media is imperative for this process, but a first step should always involve a trip to HR to see whose job descriptions might entail social media responsibilities. From there the answer is in the specifics, so let’s go through a few choice techniques I’ve seen work in recent years. 

When it comes to LinkedIn, every manager should have an account and join your company group. Although the site is chiefly for professional networking, it will open your staff to a worldwide forum for business ideas, emerging trends and potential partnerships.

Twitter offers a host of options for building these bridges. For your generic company account, only one or two people should be tasked with posting material, giving them space to add some zest and initialize direct messages. Next, talk to your managers about their own profiles and how they would use the site to converse with guests. The idea here is to form person-to-person connections — something much harder to accomplish when a guest converses with a faceless corporate account.

The prospects are good for Facebook, too. You can easily design a tab to introduce each manager (with a picture) or even build a custom fan page for each department and link them all to the main page. Managers should also be active participants on the wall, commenting on what fans are saying as well as providing original insights.

Blogging is the fourth big one here. Most blog content management systems allow you to designate regular columns authored by specific staff members. You’d be surprised how far the phrase “by XX manager” goes at the end of an entry. Or, you could even run a “manager of the month” editorial to highlight your team’s characters and fun stories.

The online possibilities are abundant — even including video. But to me, however, they are just a launch pad. You still have to find ways to squeeze in some face-to-face time for maximal efficacy. 

To start, personalized greeting letters should be in every room — the power of a handwritten note working its charm. Seeing managers in the lobby welcoming guests is another powerful statement, especially when it comes to a VIP arrival or a group coordinator. A sharp uniform can enhance their presence, too. Beyond that, you have to get creative. 

Look to what your hotel offers and where staff might interact with customers. If you run a golf resort, how about a tournament where guests are paired with managers? Perhaps a manager could greet and eat with patrons at the lobby bar. How about a follow-up phone call after a guest has left? Not only are these personal, but they’re great avenues for constructive feedback. 

I’ve experienced many of these types of events. Kimpton Hotels is famous for the Managers’ Reception happy-hour get-togethers, where guests can partake in an informal wine tasting while they mingle with the staff. It’s unintimidating, casual fun, and there’s incentive beyond simple introductions to get people through the door. Plus, it’s a chance for the managers to unwind, boosting team morale in the process. And don’t worry, I’ve been assured drinking and driving is still taken very seriously.

So, sit down with your fellow managers and discuss your strategy for heightening interactions with guests — both online and face-to-face — in a winning combination. Have a plan and stick to it. Sure, it’s a lot of effort, but the rewards are definitely worth it.