As digital marketers, we can ramble off best practices for your hotel’s social media accounts, websites, and search engine optimization until we lose our voices. While our team members are all experts in their fields, we know that we do not know everything. It is important to gather outside insight and gain a fresh perspective when it comes to digital marketing. Understanding the wants and needs of your hotel’s target audience helps our Blue Magnet team of experts develop best practices, optimize our strategy accordingly, and attract the right people.
In order to help your property’s sales team thrive, the purpose of this interview was to learn the (digital) wants and needs of a professional meeting planner. Read our interview with Ricci McDonald, a Director of Meetings and Education at Illinois Podiatric Medical Association, to learn how your hotel can improve its own digital marketing efforts and strategy when it comes to locking down group business – an excellent source of recurring revenue.
Where do you go to look for hotels to host meetings/ conferences?
I rely heavily on CVB’s and hotel national sales reps to figure out what spaces would be the ideal fit for the size and type of conferences we are planning. Once I have it down to a few options, it is all about research. I seek out reviews for the hotels we are looking at. When you do a site visit, hotels are very careful to give you the best experience possible, so it is important to pay attention to what other guests have experienced in order to get the full picture of the hotel and their service quality.
If I do a search on Facebook, for example, and the majority of reviews reflect negative experiences and the hotel has not been responsive, it is a big red flag. A few years ago, when brands were starting to use social media to add a level to their customer service, I was discussing the power of these exchanges with colleagues. We decided to test the hotel we were staying at by tweeting that we were out of something in our minibar. The hotel never responded, which none of us were upset at, but if they had responded or better, just had the missing item delivered, it would have been a story we all told for years on outstanding customer service.
Reference: Best Practices for Responding to Online Hotel Reviews
How important is a hotel’s social media presence in your decision making?
While I would never rule out a hotel based on the brand having channels on social media, if a hotel or chain has a great social media team using social platforms to add to their guests’ experiences, I think that is a great way to engage potential guests. A strong presence on social media also adds a level of service that can be unique to your brand.
What social media channels do you connect with hotels (from a business perspective) on?
I use LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Typically, I find LinkedIn and Twitter most helpful, but Instagram has proven to be the most beneficial in terms of gathering ideas for event themes, tablescapes, and uses of space at a given property. I was at an event the other day and actually had a hotel banquets representative tell me to check out their Instagram because they were so happy with how the hotel was showcased. It struck me because it was the first time that a rep had ever promoted their social media channel to me. I ended up being very impressed with the property and their capabilities and will definitely be keeping the hotel in mind for future conferences. Hotels should take the approach of looking at their social media accounts as an online portfolio. While your website’s photo gallery is still important content, photography on social media can come across as more relatable and help planners envision their conferences in your space.
What do you wish more hotels did on social media?
HAVE FUN. You can promote your space, expansions, renovations, restaurants, and meeting spaces on social media but do not forget to put some personality behind your brand. There are so many options when it comes to hotels, it is important to show your character to your guests as well as engage them to set your brand apart. For example, if you are a dog-friendly hotel, showcase your fur-guests on your Twitter or Instagram feed? Planning renovations? Let your Twitter followers vote on the final carpet or wall coverings. Redoing the menu in the hotel restaurant? Poll your Facebook fans on what signature dish you should add. Seeing that type of involvement and engagement would definitely make me think more highly of a brand.
What information do you seek out on a hotel website?
I go straight for the meetings and events tab to find floor plans, capacity charts, and catering menus. I will also look at pictures to get a feel for the property.
What information do you wish more hotels had on their websites?
It is not so much what the hotels are missing but more so making information easy to find and up to date. Even after we have booked a space, instead of digging up a contract or an email to get a floorplan, I will pull up the hotel website to view the information. I hate having to go through multiple webpages to find what I need because the information is buried.
Typically, are you able to easily find meeting information you need on a website?
For the most part, yes, unless the hotel website makes it difficult to locate needed items because of a poorly designed website or a website that is not user-friendly.
Reference: The Future of Web Design: Trends for 2019
Favorite Social Media Accounts to Follow?
On Instagram, I follow hotel brands that showcase multiple properties like Preferred Hotels or Omni. I will follow hotels that cultivate unique ways to showcase their properties like Rancho Bernardo Inn. I think I’m on Twitter more than anything else these days so I’ll say @meetingsnet for professional growth and engagement. They will often highlight hotel partners and give updates on expansions, so it is a great way to keep up on changes in the industry. I also follow @Wendy’s because I love their mix of fun and sassy interactions with competitors and customers, @chrissyteigen because she’s hilarious and relatable, and @dogrates because on a stressful day, there is nothing better than cute puppies and dogs to cheer you up.
About Ricci McDonald: Ricci McDonald is a meeting planner with over 15+ years in the hospitality and conventions industry working for both corporate clients and associations. She is currently working as the Director of Meetings and Education for the Illinois Podiatric Medical Association and Midwest Podiatry Conference.
Need help fine-tuning your digital marketing strategy to increase group business? Contact the experts at Blue Magnet Interactive and our team will help you devise ways to reach your intended audience.