This guest blog is by Diana Plazas as part of our themed content hosted the first week of each month, with December focusing on hotels and resorts. Diana serves as Online Marketing DIrector for DoubleTree Hotels, a Hilton Worldwide brand.
Since 1985, DoubleTree by Hilton has presented a warm, deeply comforting chocolate chip cookie to each guest at check-in as a small expression of welcome and appreciation. We have also embodied our commitment to our guests, team members and communities via our culture of CARE (Creating A Rewarding Experience), and although many things have changed throughout the years, the cookie and that culture remain unchanged at our 270+ hotels around the world.
Some of the things that have changed have done so dramatically, including how guests interact with us and with our hotels. We now have platforms such as Facebook for guests to post pictures of their stay with us, Twitter so they can send us a quick note about their thoughts on the hotel’s location and YouTube where they can upload videos of their guest rooms. Because more and more travelers are participating on these channels, we found it important for us to ensure that our hotels were armed with the tools, resources and knowledge necessary to make the best of them.
We also knew that consumers wanted not only share opinions about our brand, but to interact with our brand directly and personally with our brand and properties on social media. Seeing as it would be nearly impossible for us to be able to make the best local recommendations for a restaurant near a hotel 2,000 miles away, or to provide directions to the arena down the street from the hotel 500 miles away, it had to come down to the local property level.
We entrusted Digital Royalty to develop a comprehensive training program that would allow us to unify our brands in the online space, and provide them with the right information and tools to fully prepare them to succeed on social media. To start, more than 500 DoubleTree by Hilton employees participated in a six-week social media training webinar series. The training was comprised of five separate, customized modules covering topics ranging from account set-up on a variety of channels to best practices and tips on how to best engage and grow their online communities. There was a specific emphasis on infusing their online brands with DoubleTree by Hilton’s deep-rooted CARE culture.
We understood that our teams already had a full plate with their daily responsibilities on-property and the amount of time and resources available to focus on social media was going to be limited. Not all would be able to attend the webinars. Because of this, we created numerous one-sheets with best practices and step-by-step processes for implementing social media strategies ranging from simple (changing an avatar photo) to advanced (developing an iframe on Facebook). We also provide them with one-on-one consulting and additional help for questions or issues that may arise periodically, whether from the brand team directly or through our team at dR.
For those team members who went above and beyond to develop extremely engaging and powerful online presences for their hotels, we created the DoubleTree by Hilton “Socialite” Program. The Socialite program has been created to encourage and incentivize those who are managing social media outlets for each property. The goal of the program is to increase engagement with guests and provide rewards to employees who are go above and beyond to enhance the guests experiences through the use of social media. They provide us with feedback on what new things they would want to learn about, and how it makes more sense for us to share that across the hotels.
Socialites are selected according to which properties perform the best in:
- Listening – Are you actively listening to what current guest and potential guests are saying online?
- Monitoring – Are you using the tools provided in social media training to monitor guests comments and reviews?
- Engaging – Are you actively participating in the social media space and responding to guests praises, suggestions and comments?
- Being an expert – Are you offering value to your guests by providing helpful information to those on property and future guests?
- Increase awareness – Are you promoting your social media outlets on property, online and engaging with potential guests in the social media space?
- Provide an example – Can you provide an example of how you’ve enhanced the guests experience online, whether that’s through Twitter, Facebook or a review site.
We have received an incredible amount of information from the hotels that are leading the charge in the space, and using our training to do so, and also getting plenty of great feedback from them in regard to what is working and what is not and how we, as the brand, can further help them. We are also growing the size of the Socialite group and adding new hotels to the program each quarter thanks to their performance submissions.
However, this is not to say that all social media activity has been moved to the hotels and their team members. We continue to use the brand accounts to get the DoubleTree by Hilton message across, share news and travel tips, and listen to our guests and potential guests. We also use them to connect with guests that are on property but do not explicitly message the property, and also work very closely with our Guest Assistance team to ensure that all service related issues are handled in a timely manner, no matter how the guest submitted the request.
Communication, collaboration and education have been the three keywords for us this year as we continue to build upon or social media strategy and we have learned many lessons along the way. From the perspective of training for the hotels, we have learned that we have to make the information we provide adaptable to what they see day in and day out. For example, a hotel might not be able to give away 100,000 Hilton HHonors points through a Facebook contest, so we must customize alternative ways to build engagement and loyalty to their property. We have to provide them with the tactics and ideas that are practical for them, in order to see them used.
We also learned that we had to have enough data and research to show which platforms our guests were using, how they wanted to engage with us, and what we were seeing not only other hotels within our portfolio do successfully or poorly, but also what we saw our competitors doing. We needed to provide real life examples that they could understand and adapt to their own market, the personality of their hotel and the team member behind the accounts.
And last but not least, we learned that we had to be there along the way to guide them, answer questions, and truly make ourselves available. Although many of them were Facebook users, some of them had never heard of Twitte
r or Foursquare and we were now asking them to jump in and represent their properties in new territory. We had to have the materials available, and be ready to answer their emails and calls to make them feel comfortable with what they were doing.
We are extremely happy with the progress so far, and with the amount of hotels we currently have doing an amazing job, but know that we still have a long way to go with many more, ensuring our team members have the resources, tools and time they need, and ensuring our guests know that they can connect with us through social channels.
To find out more about how our hotels are using social media and the training that has been provided, you can find a list of some of their Facebook and Twitter accounts at:
Our team members around the globe are eagerly waiting to welcome you with our traditional warm chocolate cookie and maybe even a welcoming tweet, post or tip.