How are the top hotel brands innovating in social media?

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A recent report has ranked the digital performance of 52 global hotel brands. The latest L2 Hotels Digital IQ Index rated brands according to the performance of their sites and use of digital marketing, mobile and social media.

The top 20 brands:

1. Four Seasons =10. St. Regis
2. Hilton Worldwide 12. Renaissance
3. Marriott International =13. JW Marriott
4. Hyatt =13. Omni
5. The Ritz Carlton 15. Le Méridien
6. Intercontinental =16. Mandarin Oriental
7. Westin =16. MGM Resorts
8. Sheraton =16. Radisson
9. W Hotels =16. Sofitel
=10. Fairmont 20. Jumeirah

How hotel brands are using social media

Keeping things local

Hotel social media strategies

The study notes that 95% of the brands have both global and property Facebook pages, increasing from 73% in 2011. Twitter saw an increase from 56% to 70%. Taking a property-centric approach allows for a higher degree of relevant content to be shared and thus keep an engaged audience. An additional benefit of property-level presence comes in terms of immediate customer service and local expertise.

One brand which has been innovative for adding value with local knowledge is the The Ritz-Carlton, who have taken advantage of Foursquare to share tips from the concierge staff at 75 properties.

User reviews

Only 17% of the indexed brands offer on-site ratings and reviews. The report suggests that these sites send 39% less traffic to online-travel-agents, indicating increased confidence from customers, and presumably a lower need to navigate away to other pages for research.

Two noteworthy example of sites that feature reviews are Starwood and Four Seasons. Starwood have opted to create their own, independent reviews site, which requires a reservation code to ensure authenticity. By taking reviews in-house, the brand is able to monitor and respond to customer comments in a controlled environment.

Four Seasons have taken a different approach. Nine of the indexed brand sites link to TripAdvisor, but the Four Seasons has gone beyond by integrating reviews directly on their property pages, allowing customers to see them at a glance and without having to navigate away from the Four Seasons site.

Emerging social platforms

How hotels use new social media platforms

As for new social platforms, Google+ and Foursquare are the most popular, and offer clear value for SEO and local representation.

The visually rich nature of travel content means that there is clear scope for further use of sites such as Pinterest and Tumblr. The Four Seasons and Hotel Indigo are noted as pioneering Pinterest brands. I would expect to see further use of Instagram, yet again the Four Seasons are leading the way with property-specific accounts. I expect to see more brands joining Instagram, especially following its acquisition by Facebook which demonstrates the importance of images in social media.

Using Twitter for customer service: @ChilternRailway

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Chiltern Railways cow disruptionLast night I was pleasantly surprised at how well Chiltern Railway are using Twitter for customer service.

Like many other commuters, my journey home was disrupted by cows! Even though it was a very unusual situation, I wasn’t too surprised as I’d already seen a tweet from the Chiltern Railway account before I had even left the FreshNetworks office.

As I already follow @chilternrailway , I immediately had all kinds of updates in the palm of my hand - relevant information on alternative travel arrangements and even news about the steps being taken to get the stranded passengers and train moving. I felt informed and was able to make my way home using the information they provided - while it was frustrating to a certain degree I was glad that Twitter was being used, even though it was well after office hours.

I also saw lots of engagement and individual questions being answered, and even received a personal apology in reply to one of my tweets about the disruption. The Twitter account was in full swing until about 1am this morning, and back with updates at the usual rush-hour time just a matter of hours later, all in a cheerful tone of voice and personality.

However, even as a social media advocate, it took me a while to learn that Chiltern Railway even had a Twitter account, which is a shame.  Chiltern Railway appear to be very pro-social, having given the Foursquare mayor of Marylebone the privilege of turning on their Christmas lights (which I’m hoping will be me this year!). Before seeing another commuter tweet Chiltern Railway, I was unaware that they were providing such a great service, and even using it for promotional messages and general announcements such as the introduction of a brand new train.

I think their execution of Twitter for customer service is excellent and it has changed my perception of them for the better. Chiltern Railway are the only train company I have available to me, and before following them on Twitter my perception of them was neutral at best - viewing them as a means to an end. Now, though, I feel much more involved and informed about the company and their service, and feel more forgiving when unexpected incidents like this one take place.

What I would suggest to Chiltern Railway is only a small thing - they could improve their promotion. They currently have about 2,000 followers and I imagine there are many many commuters like me who may use social channels but don’t know what they are missing.

A quick fix suggestion to this could be that the in-carriage scrolling LED signs on trains, giving a Welcome message, next stop and other stop information could have a simple ‘Follow @chilternrailway on Twitter for travel news and updates”, which would surely reach the eyes of thousands of smart-phone equipped commuters.