Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Latest Article for eHotelier

This article is about how hotels can make their Facebook fan pages more engaging, and it came out today. You can see it in its original format here (including one annoying typo), or read the copied in text below.
10 Ways for Hotels to Engage Facebook Fans


After you’ve set up a Facebook fan page, you still have to have something to say! As you build your community of fans, keep in mind that relentless pitching will get you laughed off the virtual stage. Remember, today’s fans just might turn into tomorrow’s customers, or, even better, your unpaid word-of-mouth sales force. Make sure that you’re talking about what they want to hear.

1. Set up comprehensive Google Alerts to deliver the latest news to your inbox. Try topics like “business travel tips,” or “things to do in [your city.]” Everything you get won’t be wort posting, but you’ll get some tidbits that will interest your fans.

2. Use an aggregator site like AllTop. This site pulls together tons of resources on tons of topics, and it lets you build a page of content feeds that interest you.

3. Encourage fan photos, videos, and stories. It’s often illuminating to see your property through someone else’s eyes, and people love to tell their own stories. Think about a free night for the best photo or story featuring your hotel.

4. Put yourself in your fan’s shoes. Don’t post something that you would be annoyed to read from your least-favorite business, much less your most-favorite. More than a couple of posts per day, and more than a couple of sales pitches per week, and you will get ignored.

5. Schedule 30 minutes a week for content brainstorming. Put it on your calendar, and spend the time writing down as many things as you can come up with to post about. Take notes in your Blackberry when you think of things, and ask your co-workers to help.

6. Use your page for value-added promotions. Don’t just ask your followers to visit your new website; give them an exclusive discount rate code to use for upcoming soft dates. Your fans should benefit from paying attention to you – with first dibs on news, offers, and events.

7. Ask questions. The fans of your hotel want to help you determine your next steps. Ask them to help you choose which charity you’ll support this quarter. Take a poll about what time the pool should close. And, PS, actually care about the answers.

8. Don’t be afraid to court controversy. Take an issue that inspires passion – like resort fees or early departure charges – and ask your fans what they think. Create a space where people can debate – just try to keep yourself above the fray.

9. Be funny. Everyone appreciates a mental rest stop. Post occasional links to diversionary sites that you like, or tell crazy stories about the hotel – there’s no shortage. Don’t be afraid to court hoteliers as fans with inside jokes, either; every time a front desk clerk comments on your posts, they get spread to people you might never reach.

10. Don’t fake it. Your fans can tell whether you are sincere about being part of their online community. Social media is at its best when it lifts the curtain to show the human side of a business. Cut the corporate speak, and connect.

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