We’re entering a new age in luxury hotel marketing. Top-tier hotels are now using Twitter for concierge services, social geo-locating platforms to unlock free gifts, Facebook for customer service and YouTube to showcase unique properties. They are finding new, large and responsive audiences across the social web. No doubt, luxury travel’s latest destination is online.
Yet who is leading the charge in this recent wave of innovative hotel social media strategies? What are their methods and how are they finding success? In our ongoing series “Luxury Hotels & Social Media,” Pursuitist is interviewing the top luxe hotel leaders (Four Seasons, The Peninsula, Waldorf Astoria and many more) to gain insight into the online strategies of the industry’s elite.
Today’s interview is with Mac Joseph, Senior Manager, Social Media Marketing, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group. Follow them online at: http://twitter.com/#!/MO_HOTELS
Q. Why is Social Media important for your company?
A. Social media enable us to connect with our customers in ways we could not before. Prior to the rise of these channels, we communicated periodically with our customers, for example through advertising and direct marketing, or we responded when individuals expressed interest in a stay at one of our properties. Today, the touch-points occur many times daily and through a seemingly infinite number of real-time channels. Our audiences have welcomed us into their daily lives on Facebook, Twitter and others. Through these new media, we have an opportunity to forge stronger bonds with past, present and future guests and ultimately help to make their experiences with our brand even better.
In addition, these platforms allow us to broaden our brand’s digital footprint. While it may be much simpler to operate individual presences on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others, we have made deliberate strides to develop a confluent, interconnected network of brand and property presences across sites. Today, this network is most evident when visiting our website’s social media landing page (www.mandarinoriental.com/social_media). There is also a strong aesthetic consistency across accounts that brings everything beneath the same umbrella while still highlighting the incredible uniqueness of each account and platform. For example, each Facebook page across our Group features a custom landing tab with visuals and content specific to that page. Users can even begin the booking process directly from the Facebook tab. We believe that these and other initiatives will allow us to increase our reach through social media while maintaining a cohesive presence unique to our brand.
Q. How many people manage your social media channels & what types of tools do you use?
A. We have a small internal team managing our brand-level social media activities, split between our corporate offices in New York and Hong Kong. We find that having our feet on two sides of the world grants us better insight into how different regions are using social media. One of the more obvious examples is China where a parallel social media landscape as emerged. It is not an option to simply replicate one’s Twitter activity on Sina Weibo, China’s popular microblogging platform. The China landscape requires a unique understanding of each channel. On the property-level, each of our 26 hotels and resorts has a dedicated colleague responsible for managing their unique accounts and liaising with our corporate team.
Globally, we use various tools to assist in management of our activities, including Twitter applications, website analytics and a robust travel review report suite, Brand Karma, but in many cases I find that the most effective management tool can be the social media website or application itself.
Q. What has been the most effective content to engage users?
A. Simply put, anything other than an overt sales pitch. Social media users are there to communicate with friends and family, indulge their interests and passions, and to discover what is outside their physical reach. As does every brand, we are proud of our unique story and strive to share that with our social media audiences. Often, visual content in the form of video and photography is most effective at transcending the confines of a smartphone or laptop and taking the user around the world with us. Beyond sharing our brand and individual property stories, we find there is great demand for our audiences to join the conversation and tell their own stories of engaging with our group of properties. By asking a simple question, such as “When you hear ‘Mandarin Oriental,’ what comes to your mind first,” it is amazing to see the incredibly breadth of responses. Our customers associate us with service and luxury travel, but also with more personal experiences such as a favorite spa treatment, a honeymoon and a home away from home.
We have also watched consumer appetite grow for more editorial and localized content, which in part led to our recent launch of Destination MO (www.destinationmo.info), the online version of our long-standing print publication, MO. On this website, visitors can find incredibly rich content about each of our global destinations, including features on food and wine, spa and wellness, and various cultural events. In the future, we look forward to adding new features to Destination MO, such as a more active blog and a dedicated video section.
Q. What measurable results or successes have you seen due to Social Media?
A. We measure various aspects of our social media activity, including engagement levels, audience share, website referrals and, when available, direct revenue. Quantitative metrics aside, the most incredible results have been anecdotal. Through these real-time conversations with our customers we have been able surprise and delight with personalized welcome amenities and even turn the occasional sub-perfect experience into a lasting, positive memory. On customer service in particular, more and more of our guests are turning to Facebook and Twitter to ask for assistance. It is our responsibility to understand the social media landscape so we can effectively extend our brand-defining customer service through these channels as well.