Daring to go digital: building clear communication on the “new” media journey

In her column for Hotel Industry, a leading publication for the hospitality industry, Hotel La Tour MD Jane Schofield, takes a look at how the hotel uses social media.

Whether you love it or hate it, get it and use or are leaving it up to a young intern and are not sure how to track success, digital media is here and wields a degree of influence on how our businesses are perceived.

Like so many of our industry peers we began our journey into the social media landscape as a bit of an exploration into the unknown. As a small, independent hotel company we felt comfortable with a marketing and PR strategy integrated in the more traditional channels of communication but were aware of the growing importance of social media via platforms such as facebook, twitter and the blogosphere. We took the decision to embrace all things digital at a time when we were quite literally in the middle of a complex building project to bring our £24m hotel out of the ground in Birmingham city centre. With a limited budget and a small team of people, we set about researching best practice, seeking advice from practitioners and harnessing our internal resources.

At the time we were working with an agency to relaunch our website which would take us up to opening in the spring of 2012, and took the opportunity to integrate a blog which, updated at least three times a week, would help enormously with our SEO. By connecting to this via twitter and facebook and encouraging people to visit the website and register for a monthly e-newsletter, we started to build a marketable database.

The blog proved a great place to feature regular updates on the build progress, start our recruitment process, and showcase all the great things going on in Birmingham. Two years later we are just shy of 4,500 followers on twitter and have found, by trial and error, it is so much better to interact rather than to sell, be useful rather than self-promoting: on Facebook, our most liked post in recent weeks was a photo of an umbrella jammed into an open car window (a guest had inadvertently left their window down when the rain poured so, unable to contact them, a team member came to the rescue with a large brolly).

In the weeks immediately prior to opening we took a deep breath and got ourselves set up on Tripadvisor. Despite the mood, which was very much rumbling at the time with “fake” reviews and other controversies, our view was where else can an operator access such volumes of objective advice? Today, a great review causes our spirits to soar and anything mediocre or critical still makes us feel very disappointed but we embrace this is as a measure of how personally the team are invested in the experience they are creating for our guests. We have made tangible changes as a result of Tripadvisor criticism too: improving water pressure in our showers, better communication of our restaurant offering and more IT help for people to connect to our in-room media hubs.

We continue to encourage our guests to post their views on Tripadvisor. All reviews get a timely response from our General Manager who is the first to congratulate the whole team when – as I am delighted to report frequently happens – we are ranked #1 hotel in Birmingham.

My advice on digital media is to embrace: it’s here to stay so be a part of the conversation.

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