How Social Media Has Changed the Hotel Business

By: Guest | November 2, 2010 | 

Guest post by Ann Manion, president of Hotel Advantage.

I would not describe the hospitality industry as a community of early adopters when it comes to social media.

As a specialist in hotel reputation management, I’ve watched hoteliers confront companies such as Trip Advisor and request the removal of unfavorable reviews from their profiles.

Too many hotels have no track record for responding to online guest reviews. And not enough of my colleagues have dipped their toes into Twitter and LinkedIn.

A general manager once described Yelp to me as being like his neighbor’s barking dog.

But things are moving forward, and hoteliers are growing more interested in hearing about social media success stories beyond The Roger Smith Hotel.

That’s why I wrote a Twitter Case Study that describes Hotel 71 Chicago’s elegant handling of a sticky customer complaint – from Amber Nasland, VP of Social Strategy for Radian6 – that was broadcast to the world.

Followers asked me to dig deeper. So I did.

A Conversation with Hotel 71 Chicago’s director of operations, Steve Ellingsen:

What was your big “take away” from the incident?

Customer comments reach us from more places than ever before. We read everything and respond to concerns within 24 hours.

Amber’s remarks were received through two channels:  Twitter and Unifocus. It’s not uncommon for today’s sophisticated traveler to post feedback in multiple places. Because we monitor Twitter, we were able to respond to Amber in record time.

The lesson here is that monitoring social media channels can help hotels respond more quickly to the guest.

Has social media changed the way Hotel 71 Chicago operates?

Yes, here are a few examples:

  • Our marketing budget now has a line item for social media.
  • We’ve hired an intern to help support social media activities.
  • We’re using our YouTube channel more. For example, we posted a video clip of “Transformers 3” that was filmed here at the hotel.
  • We advertise special room rates directly to our Twitter followers.

What’s helped Hotel 71 Chicago take advantage of social media?

Our hotel management company, West Paces Hotel Group, gives us great flexibility and autonomy to manage our social media program. This helps us respond quickly to opportunities here in Chicago, a highly competitive hotel market.

Will Hotel 71 Chicago use social media more or less down the road?

Definitely more.

Our general manager, Steve Shern, started out at Four Seasons, and I began my career at Ritz-Carlton. We’re both classically trained hoteliers, but enthusiastic about trying less traditional ways for getting the word out on Hotel 71 Chicago’s specialness.

For example, a comedian visited the hotel and afterwards posted two videos showing off our prime Magnificent Mile location and spectacular water views of the Chicago River. Together these videos got more than 10,000 views on YouTube!

The floor is now yours. What advice do you have for other industries that aren’t embracing technology for communication and customer service?

Ann Manion believes the most important thing is what the customer thinks. Her company, Hotel Advantage, shows hotels how to build a strong online reputation that attracts more guests.

  • 40deuce

    I have tons of advice to offer many sectors about how to use social media, but I’ll save that for another day. Today I just wanted to say that like you, I don’t look at the hospitality industry as being early adopters, but some of the best stories I’ve heard about using social media for quick customer service response has been from the hotel industry. I’ve heard many great stories about people tweeting about problems with a hotel and the hotel being on it quickly and doing the est they can to rectify the situation.
    I’m sure a lot of hotel people will read this article, and I’d just like to say kudos to them on doing a great job at using new technology to make sure their guests are having the best experiences possible.

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos (

  • Sheldon,

    Thank you for your remarks!

    I love sharing social media stories and am always on the look out for hotel case studies that inspire hoteliers to take action. Perhaps some hotels will share their social media success stories here!

    What’s exciting to me is the untapped potential of social media for the hospitality industry.

    Right now if you’re a property with a brand monitoring tool, an active Twitter & Facebook account, and a part time digital facilitator, you’re seen as cutting edge. But to me, that’s just the beginning.

    The next step is real time translation of guest insights from social media channels into the hotel’s brand behavior. As we find ways to quickly disseminate information to the property mgmt. team, then magic will happen & we can create a stunning 21st century hotel guest experience.

    I think those hotels that have the least amount of time between learning about customer insights, and taking action on those needs can achieve top customer satisfaction rankings.

    And, I believe the power of social media to deliver customer insights in real time is a hotel’s greatest competitive advantage today.

  • ginidietrich

    @40deuce Thanks for stopping by! It’s pretty impressive to me, too, when companies (no matter the industry) use social media to communicate with their customers. Far too many business leaders (STILL!) are scared of it and don’t think it has any power. Baby steps, I guess.

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  • kostas_trivizas

    Thanks for sharing your experience and insights, well done!

  • matspersson0

    Good article! I really agree with everything you wrote. The best thing anyone in the hotel business can do is to get on the social media bandwagon as soon as possible. At least some simple steps can be pursued as the ones described in this article:

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