Hotels and Twitter – Why Some Succeed with Meeting Planners and Others Fail

Meeting Planners use Twitter every day, it is a very useful tool and I am one of its biggest fans, and yes, I know that it makes no sense. Really, Twitter makes no sense, but still, for some inexplicable reason, it is one of the best marketing tools on the block.

On any given day, I send information to my followers about the meetings and events industry and meeting planning, useful things like new travel rules, hot destination information, and interesting articles from not only PlannerWire but also from other industry and national publications. I especially like the ability to re-tweet the information that I receive from the individuals I “follow”.

I follow some of the most amazing people, from meeting planners, CVB folks, and corporate marketers to fantastic hotels, industry suppliers and everything in between. If it has to do with the meetings and events industry, I follow it and try to pass along good quality information that other meeting and event professionals might find handy.

I never use Twitter to tell people that I am going for coffee, frustrated with my computer, or taking the day off. Businesses should use twitter for more practical pursuits. Now, I have no problems with people who use Twitter to share the intimate details of their lives, there are certain people that like to know when their friends or strangers are going to an interview, hopping in the shower or what they are making for dinner and there are those people that want to share when they need to run to the bathroom. If you dig that kind of thing and have that much time on your hands, more power to you, go for it.

Twitter for business should be straightforward, especially for hotels. It is the perfect opportunity to engage their target audience. What I am seeing however, is rather than being engaging and useful, many hotels are making mistakes that not only make their use of this tool a complete waste of time, it could actually damage them in the long run with meeting and event pros. At the very least, they are leaving a strange taste in someone’s mouth (I won’t say bad, just strange, kinda like the carton of milk in the fridge that expired yesterday….you just are not sure if you should drink it, it smells OK, but…..).

Twitter could, and should be the tool of a lifetime for hotel marketing departments. Imagine if you will, a system that encourages your target market to pay attention to you as you send them exactly the message you want, when you want to send it. That is what Twitter is. I see a hotel that I like and I follow them. I give them the right to market to me as they wish.

Put simply, this is power, this is the power to sway my opinion, make me love you, and make me understand why I should pick your hotel above all others on a daily basis. Instead of seeing brilliance, I see hotels making mistakes that make it obvious that they do not have a social marketing strategy, or if they do, it sucks.

I see how this happens,it is as plain as day, in fact, here is a possible scenario everyone can imagine:

The boss comes in one day and says, “We need to get on this Twitter thing, everyone else is doing it, Bob, get a Twitter thingy up and running by the end of the week”……So poor Bob, not being very interested in Twitter, Twittering, tweets, or hashtags starts a Twitter account and does what he thinks he should, or what his friends think he should. He starts talking about his (or her) personal life on an account that is tied to a business. Poor Bob and Poor Hotel. We get to hear all about the crappy date he had last night, what he is eating for breakfast or that he is stuck in traffic.  This hotel, through Bob, is telling me that I really don’t need to have a program there, although I am not sure why. I just know that I should not be spending 500K with them. Strange I would feel that way, kinda like the milk in the fridge….

Now, while Bob might actually be interesting, the second Twitter no-no, is not interesting at all, it is nothing. This is the hotel that opens a Twitter account and puts out a couple of tweets and then they stop, nothing more, that is it. How flipping dumb was that, I took the time to find you and invite you to market to me and you blew it because you are lazy. Here is a prime example.

Ritz Carlton STL Twitter Account

A third twitter screw up, which I have seen more than a few times is “protected” updates. Someone has taken the time to open an account and then they have to approve their followers. This is one I just do not understand. What it tells me is that you don’t like the general public or you think that I am not worthy of hearing what you have to say. Let me tell you, I am not going to bother to “ask your permission” to market to me, no worries though, I won’t be back and next week when I am talking to another colleague about what Hotels to follow….your name won’t come up. In fact, the next time I run across your hotel, this is what I am going to remember. Either use Twitter or don’t.

RCChicago Twitter Account

The last bad twitterism for hotels leaves such an awful taste in your mouth that you know the milk is spoiled, and you spit it all over the kitchen. This is the hotel or resort that simply tweets over and over and over and over about their special room rate for the weekend or that the hotel bar has a two-for-one happy hour. What are you telling me, nothing, you are telling me that you can’t sell your rooms, your bar is empty and you are not being original.

You are also giving me a headache because every time I hear the little Twitter chime go off and I look down and see your logo, I bang my head on my desk asking myself A: why are you doing this?, and B: why do I bother to follow you? Right about the 4th head banging session, I unfollow you so that I can concentrate on the wealth of great knowledge that does come through the Twitter pipeline.

Aloft San Francisco Twitter Account

So, how should Twitter work for hotels? I am going to share an answer that is so simple and so effective it should have hotels running out to open a Twitter account now and in fact, it probably works for any business.

Here is the answer:

  • Create a simple plan and realize that you don’t have to be Hemmingway to use twitter because it is a simple, simple tool
  • Implement this simple plan that includes nothing more than sending out information that is important to your target market
  • A couple of posts a day is fine, no need to overdo it

So what do you do?

Have two accounts, one for the leisure market and one for the meeting and event planning industry. Please understand that we are totally different markets.

I won’t speak to the leisure market, but in the meeting and event planning industry, there are easy things that you can do via Twitter that will help me get to know your hotel and make me think of you for my client who just called.

Yes, you can tell me about special rates and dates, but also tell me about the new Kinkos that opened down the block, tell me about festivals in the area and the hot new five-star restaurant that opened next door, in fact, give me links to all of their websites. Now I can share this information with my client.

Use your forward-thinking sales skills and watch airfares to and from major cities and let me know when United is having a special deal to your city, that is information I can use and might not have known. When your property does an overhaul of the spa, tell me. Tell me about the treatment rooms and the new decor in the lobby, link to the press release. Meeting and event pros don’t care about happy hour deals. Tell me about the grand opening of that fabulous new event space downtown. Give me information that I may not find online or in your brochure. Help me get to know your place by linking me to the places on the web that make your property perfect.

Make it personal without sharing your bathroom schedule. Part of getting to know you is knowing your staff, if one of your employees hits the “been with the company 30-year mark” tell me about it, in fact a simple “Congrats to Mark at the Desk on 30 Years” says a whole lot. What you have just told me is that your employees love the place enough to spend their lives there. That resonates. Tell me you are happy when one of your bellmen is leaving the hotel because he got the lead in a Broadway play, that tells me that you encourage your employees to seek and live out their dreams. Oh and because you have a limited amount of characters to tell me, link to the article or press release, this way if I am not interested I can pass it by for your next tweet.

I am sure that a social marketing guru could go on about this for hours and charge you thousands, but in the end, it all comes down to information. Share the information that meeting and event planners need and you will find that you might actually get a reaction and some business. If you provide information that is good, it will not only go to me, it will go to the people that follow me, and I will share it. This is how you use Twitter to win.

I don’t care what you had for breakfast, do you care about what I had for lunch? I didn’t think so.

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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