With so many channels, how do you organize?

This guest blog is by Pat McTigue as part of our themed content hosted the first week of each month, with December focusing on hotels and resorts. Pat serves as Director of Sales & Marketing of Hotel Indigo, San Diego. 

Prior to opening the Hotel Indigo San Diego Gaslamp Quarter in July of 2009, we knew social media would play a major role in creating awareness to our property. Before I tell you how we have made social media work for us, let me set the stage a little as to where we were, as a brand in 2009. The very first Hotel Indigo opened in Atlanta, Georgia in October of 2004. The brand was positioned as a midscale, boutique brand and there were about 18 properties scattered around the United States, mostly on the East Coast. As the San Diego property was being constructed, our guests had been telling us that they really enjoyed the boutique-style hotel; however, they wanted something a bit more upscale. Travelers wanted a guest experience different than they had been able to have in the past and we (IHG) felt we were the company to deliver that type of experience. Also in 2009, the state of our economy was not the best we have ever seen. On a local level, we worked very hard to get the news out about our coming hotel, but there was no way to really get the word out UNTIL we began our voyage into the social space.

As the Director of Sales & Marketing, I oversee our social media efforts as a whole; however, for me to personally manage all channels would prove to be a challenge. My options were to solely focus on social media, hire an outside company or embrace members of our team to assist in delivering our goal of creating a Great Hotel Guests Love. Our hotel is a medium size property with 210 guest rooms. Being of this size, we have enough staff that we could tackle our social media efforts in-house and work closely enough to ensure consistent messaging across all channels. A key point to remember about social media is that it is always changing. Sites are working to find better ways to for communities to communicate and engage and we really wanted to fit within that structure. We decided that our Front Office should manage TripAdvisor since they see and hear our guests’ everyday. Our front office team knows what requests are being made, what types of amenities are preferred and how our neighborhood appeals to our guests. We have trained the team how to respond and empower them to make decisions to provide an excellent guest experience. Our Food and Beverage team manage Yelp as the conversation is driven mostly around food. Hotel Indigo is LEED Certified and the greenest hotel in downtown San Diego. As part of this, we utilize local produce and vendors in our restaurant. By having our F&B team being a part of the conversation, we can modify our offerings to be more in-alignment with what future guests are looking for. Our General Manager manages Twitter for our hotel. Recently, Southern California experienced a major blackout. Through Twitter, we were able to keep guests and neighbors up to speed with realtime posts about the status and timeline for power to return. Guests and neighbors were put at as much ease as possible by being able to communicate and follow the status of their loved ones during this time of uncertainty. Personally, I manage Facebook and work share what is happening in and around our neighborhood. We share events happening both at the hotel and in our community and work to share the hidden gems to create a unique guest experience to all coming our way. 

Another key to our success has been to leverage local partners that embrace social media. When travelers come to an area, they are interested in what is going on in the local community. Have you ever been having a conversation with someone you met for the first time and struggled to keep the conversation going? Comparing that to a time you were with a group, it was probably much easier to keep the conversation going because everyone fed off of each other. The social space and local partners work just that way! For us, the Gaslamp Quarter Association is a great resource because they always know more about events in and around the Gaslamp than anyone else. By leveraging this relationship, we can engage with both our customer and our partner to ensure the guest has the best experience possible. We have also been successful in creating packages specific to events in the area. Through these types of partnerships, we can make these packages visible and easy to book generating exposure and ROI all at the same time.

I would like to share a recent conversation that took place involving a guest, our hotel and some local partners to create a truly unique guest experience. We had a guest coming to town and he started posting on twitter about his upcoming trip. His flight arrived a little later than expected and so upon arrival he posted ‘I hope they still have my room’. When he arrived at Hotel Indigo, we had a welcome amenity and a note waiting in his room that we were prepared and ready for him. While in San Diego, he had asked our front desk staff for a recommendation for a spa. He had such a great experience that he actually stopped by the local cupcake shop (where we get our s from) to thank the staff for the recommendation. All the while, he was tweeting about his outings. The Gaslamp Quarter commented about the cupcakes…adding another participant to the conversation. Later the guest asked where he could get a specific type of beer. Both Hotel Indigo and the Gaslamp Quarter provided recommendations via Twitter, where the Yard House confirmed having his beer. He was able to find exactly what he was looking for by hearing from the people that know our neighborhood the best! 

Reality is life on property gets busy. We respond to our guests, we work to be proactive in sales and there are a million other challenges that come up on a daily basis. We know our guests and clients want to know about a property before, during and after their stay. Being plugged into the social space helps us to be proactive and focus our efforts on those that matter most to our guests. Whether you are at a new or old property, recently renovated or changing flags, your guests will seek information. You can be a part of the conversation or not, but the conversation will still take place. Start with listening. Then engage your guests. The payoff is priceless!

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