I’ve been blogging from Chanters Lodge for more than 3 years, but have only recently discovered the marketing possibilities of sites like Twitter and Facebook. This piece from Caryn Eve Murray on HotelInteractive interested me as it seems opposite from the way I’ve been going! Anyway, this is what she says:
“It is no longer sufficient for hotels to have a presence on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, three popular but somewhat different means of social networking. Now some hospitality scribes have begun making dutiful entries online, “Dear Diary” style. But in this case their diary is not just an open book but – in keeping with the computer age – an open blog.
Formerly viewed largely as a vehicle for individuals’ indulgent self-absorption or revelations, blogs are now maturing as the next big marketing tool in the social networking portfolio.The call to blog was so strong, in fact, for Embassy Suites that earlier this year the Hilton brand took its pre-existing Web site, businessbalance.com, and gave it a makeover. Businessbalance.com debuted in blog format this past spring, harnessing the talents of freelance bloggers who, each in their own way, address work-life issues that often challenge Embassy Suites’ business travelers: fitness and health, food, family life, managing stress and travel strategies.
“The perception has been in the past, and rightly so, 20 percent of the people on blogs account for 80 percent of the content”, said John Lee, vice president of marketing for Embassy Suites. “They were always talking about themselves and there wasn’t much real content folks could really use. We see that changing. And if it is managed correctly, we can see a lot of benefit.” Having third-party experts “gives the brand a little credibility, some third-party endorsement. It is not that Embassy Suites is saying you should be doing this. It is people like Jane and Michael Stern [the authors of ‘Roadfood’] who are updating the content for us.”
Most importantly, said Lee, “we don’t try to sell anyone anything. They are smarter than that. If they have a relationship with the brand because of this cool Web site, the bookings will take care of themselves. If we can grow share of heart, share of wallet will follow.” Blogs are, for the most part, still uncharted territory in the hospitality industry, even though they predate the now-well-trod other social media now crammed with hotels and motels among their ranks. Unlike the realtime interactivity of Twitter, blogs can offer shelf (or screen) life, with the posts archiving for reference again later.
“There are more or less only a handful of blogs from hotels,” said Kent Lewis, whose Anvil Media is the marketing consultant for the Provenance group of boutique hotels. Marriott International’s chairman and CEO Bill Marriott was something of a pioneer when he launched his interactive blog about two years ago, said Lewis, “and then only the big guys were the ones doing it.” But Provenance was already getting its blog act together offline with the goal of establishing a blog foothold for three of the brand’s five properties.
In Nashville, the Hotel Preston has been blogging its heart out since the autumn of 2007. “The Sounding Board” is a music-centric collection of posts. “It is what is unique to the vibe of the Preston,” said Lewis. The blog embraces the Grand Ole Opry, the CMA Music Festival and the Country Music Hall of Fame, and mixes its posts with specifics about the Preston, a hotel in the center of that music mix. “You’re talking about adding value to the community,” said Lewis. “We treat it like a publication, somewhere between news stories and anecdotes, fun things, interesting things.”
Good writing has a particularly long history at the Newagen Seaside Inn near Maine’s Boothbay Harbor. Jason Schlosser, innkeeper, is quick to point out that writer and ecologist Rachel Carson was a summer guest there in the 1960s, and wrote portions of her landmark works, “Silent Spring” and “The Edge of the Sea”, while seeking respite and inspiration on the Maine coast. “We are committed to this process,” said Schlosser, who said the blog went online 18 months ago. It now boasts videos and photos (some sent in by guests) and lots of tips about vacation-planning, wedding-planning and sightseeing, in Maine and in general.
The inn, then, is a starting point for the blog, rather than an endpoint. “And it is continuing to evolve. I don’t know if we have arrived yet.”
Here here! The picture? Nashville, Tennessee