Hotels are utilizing the social media channel of Twitter to reinforce their brand image and to communicate directly with their guests. Apart from having a face to face contact with one's customer, no other medium has allowed hotel companies a better one-on-one conduit. While each hotel chain interacts differently with their following, here are the TOP TEN I think are doing the best job in providing customer service, building brand loyalty and engaging their followers with suite tweets.
Important to note that when Twitter is used to simply post links to a press release or promote a new package, it is not utilizing the full benefit of what Twitter can do to enhance a brand. The hotels that are doing it right are on the same level as their airline counterparts, JetBlue and Southwest. The hotel brands that excel are the ones that achieve a level of interaction with followers who are their current and future guests, whether the tweets are composed by the president at corporate headquarters or the concierge on the property level. (Note: vote for your favorite at the end of this posting)
Bill Marriott was one of the first CEOs to jump onto the Social Media bandwagon when he started his 'On the Move' blog in 2007. On Twitter,the Marriott International account is managed by John and Blake who do an excellent job in engaging their audience. With their 12,000 following (the highest number on this TOP TEN list), they in turn are following 9400+ Twitter accounts and have tallied 2162 updates as of July 12, 2009. With the usage of Twitterfeed, Twhirl and other Twitter apps, it is apparent that Marriott's staff invests more than just their time in communicating with their guests
In a recent Hotels Magazine review, John Wolf, senior director of public relations for Marriott International noted the importance of Twitter for the hotel brand, "Creating brand awareness and maintaining guest loyalty are the platform's most important purposes. It’s not about return on investment—it’s about return on engagement.”
::Marriott Suite Tweet::
With a start-up date of April 29, 2009 and only 1062 followers, it appears that the Ritz Carlton is a 'newbie' to the Twitter scene. However, based on the quality of its 179 updates, it does look like its making up for lost time. As one of Marriott's most prestigious brands, this group of hotels have titled their Twitter profile: 'RitzCarltonPR.' While 'public relations' is not the most endearing of terms for an account on Twitter, the brand does offset this corporate label with the involvement of Allison Sitch, senior corporate director of public relations. She lends a personal and hospitable touch as the account's spokesperson.
Allison's email address is also listed on the account which lends credibility that this hotel brand is sincere about their desire to engage their audience. Based on Twitter's restriction of a 140 characters and the the principal of "a picture is worth a thousand words" the Ritz Carlton does an impressive job of linking to enticing Twitpics of their properties and destinations around the world.
::Ritz Carlton Suite Tweet::
While Hyatt doesn't list the individual names of the Hyatt members on staff that man their Twitter account, the profile name "Hyatt Concierge" indicates they are taking a 'service' approach to microblogging. What's most impressive is the number of updates that they address to specific followers using the @reply greeting and then following up a ongoing dialogue by requesting the guest DM them back. Their present stats show they are following 3537 and have 3434 followers.
The account is not a promotional vehicle, stresses Farley Kern, Hyatt's director of brand public relations. "We wanted to have a presence on Twitter that was about our guests and for our guests and designed around our guests, as opposed to having a presence on Twitter just for the sake of being on Twitter," Kern says.
::Hyatt Suite Tweet::
"JDVHotels' as they call themselves on Twitter maintains a suberb interaction with the Twitterverse. By utilizing TweetDeck (an Adobe Air application for Twitter), Joie de Vivre is using one of the most updated and personalized tools available for managing an account on Twitter. For those that are unfamiliar, here is a short overview of the advantages of managing an account with Tweetdeck.
Tweetdeck also allows Joie de Vivre to not only see what folks are saying about their brand or a specific hotel property, but to also interact with these individuals to move the conversation to the next level. Their numbers are impressive. As a much smaller hotel chain than some of the big boys on this TOP TEN, they has attracted over 3200 followers while following 3400+ themselves.
Their special "Twitter" deals are sometimes time-sensitive to appeal to hotel bargain hunters, as evidenced in this Suite Tweet.
::Joie de Vivre Suite Tweet::
Omni, not only has a presence on Twitter, but also promotes the service from its Web site. Leading up to the recent July 4th holiday, they announced the following offering: "Omni Hotels will promote a new package each day via Twitter leading up to the Fourth of July holiday. For additional information, follow Omni Hotels on Twitter at twitter.com/omnihotels or visit atweetdeparture.com"
While they don't include the staff members in their profile info, they recently added the photos of 4 employees who are members of their Twitter Team, allowing followers to associate the name with the face (similar to the approach taken by Ritz Carlton and Allison Sitch -see above). An email address is also listed for offline communication.
David Godsman, vice president of global Web strategy for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide views the company’s Twitter account, 'StarwoodBuzz', as a powerful customer relationship management tool. “It’s a very powerful customer service and communication vehicle where our brands and customers can come together to have open and honest conversations,” Godsman says. “It’s less about pushing our hotels and promotions and more about connecting our core brand values with our guests’ daily lives.”
Their profile reads: " Timely tweets, news, comments and updates from the world's leading hotel company. Check-in and check-out with Kevin and Ben' (the two staff members that run the day-to-day operations of the Twitter account). All of Starwood's brands logos are represented on their Twitter page and to date they have accumulated 3800+ followers. However, for such a large brand, they could 'up the ante' a little on updates. To date, the brand has only issued 121 tweets.
::Starwood Suite Tweet::
Morgan Hotels, like other hotel brands on this list do a good job of cross-pollinating from other social networks like Facebook. They have a good readership base of more than 2,624 followers. However where they fall short is they are currently only following 31 people. On the other hand, where they get high marks is their ability to engage with their customers in a slightly off-beat and casual manner. They also include links pertaining to the music that is featured in some of their hotels, performed by DJs at hotels like The Sanderson in London. Their Twitter homepage is similar to the look and feel of their Web site and is indeed a funky representation of the brand.
Morgan's controversial promo campaign titled "Fuck the Recession" has created a lot of viral buzz and helps position the hotel chain as a respite for the trendsetting, hipster crowd. And while not actively promoting the campaign on their Twitter site, I am sure the followers that are attracted to edgy promotion who learn about this campaign elsewhere will be very much inclined to communicate with this brand on Twitter versus some of the other TOP TEN brands listed here.
::Morgans Suite Tweet::
Fairmont may have the trademark for "Suite Tweets" since their profile reads: "'Suite Tweets' courtesy of Fairmont Hotels & Resort, a collection of distinctive hotels." With Mike Taylor at the helm, it appears that Fairmont has done a commendable job in targeting the travel media from their Twitter perch. The PR team at Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has created a presence on Twitter with an emphasis on the travel & news media. The brand’s Twitter page was established with writers in mind and provides journalists with daily updates on the brand and their unique collection of luxury hotels.
Updates range from products announcements and renovation updates to press trip itineraries, and with 4178 followers they appear to be attracting a good number of believers in the brand. Taylor calls this "perception management," and it's becoming more and more important. "It's more just so that we can keep in touch with people," he says. "It's about brand awareness." He also adds "every hotel and brand should consider Twitter. Even if time proves it to be a passing fad, so what? It costs nothing, it's easy to learn and extremely quick to use."
::Fairmont Suite Tweet::
Millennium Hotels (similar to the Ritz Carlton) named their account 'MillenniumPR.' In so doing, the hotel chain makes it clear that they place an heavy emphasis on their public relations ability to tell the brand's story on Twitter. Since joining Twitter on November 11, 2008, their tweet updates of 108 are somewhat limited, but their engagement with their customers appears to be very welcoming and genuine.
Even with their PR emphasis, this brand's messaging is not self-promoting and often provides tips and links to industry trends that are helpful for the traveling public. Of particular note were several recent tweets that provided links to authoritative sites such as MSNBC and New York Times on topics that related to how to leverage social media when traveling.
::Millennium Suite Tweet::
Tiara, a Portuguese hotel group is very active on Twitter with almost 1030 updates, more than 2152 followers and an outstanding 1641 Twitter accounts they follow. And they do an excellent of acknowledging their fans on #FollowFriday, the traditional Twitter courtesy of "tipping one's hat" every Friday to followers as a 'thank you' and encouragement for others to follow based on one's recommendation.
Nuno Valinhas of Tiara Hotels asserts that Tiara's strategy in the social media environment is "to get outside...to be visible... and to try to reach more and more potential clients. Beside our offline Marketing campaigns and actions, the social media networks enable us (with a cost of ZERO) to somehow influence and engage more people to get to know our brand/name as well as our hotel, and their locations."
::Tiara Suite tweet::
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I chose not to name the Four Seasons Hotel firm as one of my TOP TEN. While an excellent 4-5 star hotel brand, their activity on Twitter does not present them in the best of light. In my humble opinion, they have opted for a "push" strategy in how they utilize Twitter. What that means is they're more interested in pushing information out to its 2,049 followers. This is evidenced by the fact they are only following 5 Twitter accounts.
It is also my opinion that the hotel brands listed here and the hundreds of others not mentioned are all in the midst of a long-term learning curve. No one brand has all the answers. Nor is there one brand the others emulate at this point in time. They have all realized the value of the Twitterverse and how it can reinforce brand loyalty and attend to customer service issues in a timely fashion. They now need to assess what is and is not working as it relates to their clientele and potential guests on a more personal level. The hotel industry, long known for its hospitality-focus needs to take what they know best in the hotel environment and apply those best practices to attending to guests online.
If you are trying to find other hotel brands on Twitter, here is great resource that includes links directly to their profile pages ---> HOTELS ON TWITTER.
Now, I would like to hear from you. Which hotel brand do you feel is doing the best job on Twitter. Vote here and retweet this blog to others so your friends, business clientele and associates can vote as well. Final results will be tabulated on September 10, 2009. Check back often to review the ongoing results. And if I have omitted your favorite brand in this TOP TEN list, please leave me comment as to the hotel brand name and why you think they should have been included. Thanks for checking in~