Thursday, July 9, 2009

Social Media for the Savvy Hotel Salesperson

My latest for eHotelier....

In this economy, hotel sellers need to use every possible tool in the shed to drive business results. Here are some ideas for using social media to help make your booking goals.

Step One - Get on board; social networking is not a fad.

Get yourself set up on your network of choice. Carve out a rainy Sunday and play around with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. If you like to take pictures or make videos, add Flickr or YouTube. All of the sites make it easy for you to import your Outlook, Hotmail, Yahoo, or Gmail contacts. You don’t need to be especially technically-savvy to do this, and I promise you can’t break the site or your computer.

Also, don’t feel like you have to do everything at once. It’s better to do a great job of networking on one site than to do a mediocre job on three. Take your time and figure out what you like best.

Step Two - The requisite cautionary note.

Understand that everything you do or say online lives forever. Forever is a long time, so be careful what you say and who you copy. You’ve heard that before about email. Multiply that by infinity, and you’ll get an idea of who can ultimately see what you’ve said or written on the web. Check your company’s policy, and try to get your boss as a follower/friend/connection for a bit of CYA. Your clients are watching, as are your future employers.

Horror story: You whine to your Facebook friends that your boss is a huge pain. One of them comments in sympathy, which shares what you said to all of their friends, many of whom you don’t know. Unbeknownst to you, one of your friend’s friends is married to your boss. Opposite of a brilliant career strategy.

Step Three - Do something! Here are some ideas:

Prospect. Using, set up a search for “bride,” “wedding planning,” or “engagement” within 15 miles of your ballroom. Reach out to brides in the planning stages. Caution: lighten up on the spam-attacks. Try a low-key approach, like, “Hi, I don’t want to get too spammy, but I see on Twitter that you’re planning your wedding. I work at the Wedding World Hotel. Let me know if you’d like to talk more.” This can work for meetings and other events, as well, if you tweak the search terms.

Promote special events. Having a client event or industry networking happy hour? Use Twitter to get the word out to your local tweeps, and invite people be creating an event on Facebook. This is also a great way to test the waters before you invest. Ask for feedback on possible attendance to see if it’s worth your time.

Establish expertise. Post links to articles that relate to your business niche. If you sell association business, talk about the new badge swipers you saw. If you focus on entertainment business, tweet about concerts coming your way.

Follow key clients and hot prospects. Follow and retweet your customers to build or strengthen strategic partnerships. Set up searches to understand what’s happening in your best account’s industry so that you can match your solutions to their problems, before they even ask you to. Learn your new contact’s likes and dislikes before you meet. Get the real scoop on a competitor’s top client to help build your share-shifting strategy.

Watch the competition. Follow your competitors – both the hotels and the sellers. Not only can you stay on top of what they’re doing, but you may get some great ideas to try. Either way, you’ll know what the playing field looks like from a different perspective.

Make people laugh. In between tweeting great industry-related articles or posting pictures of your ballroom, be sure to be funny. Be non-controversially funny, maybe, but be funny. If you put something good out there, it will spread, and you’ll be known as that funny sales manager at Awesome Inn and Suites.

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