The Laura Miti Experience

Our weekly radio show – The Chanters Lodge Experience with the Milli Jam Ingredient featuring Jay Hillz – was back on the air last Sunday after a two week break due to national mourning, following the death of Zambia’s President Michael Sata. During national mourning in Zambia only solemn music may be played on radio stations, and the music on The Experience is far from solemn! We feature latest international and Zambian hits interspersed by chat with our Guest Of The Week. On this show we were delighted to welcome Zambian celebrity Laura Miti (above), well known writer, human rights activist and political commentator. We don’t usually ‘do’ politics on the programme but Laura weighed in hard given the current state of flux in this country prior to the upcoming presidential by-election on January 20th 2015.

Laura told listeners that she is employed as a public service accountability monitor by the Research Institute of Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa. By coincidence, she said, she is responsible for reporting on the Zambian situation and therefore travels frequently between the two countries. “Legally but not practically” married she has one son completing Grade 12 this year and three sons of her (ex) husband who call her ‘mum’. The Research Institute monitors and trains public service accountability in all of the SADCC countries. Civic actors, MP’s and journalists are amongst those with whom Laura interacts. In Zambia Rhodes University works in conjunction with Caritas, Zambia. “And is there public service accountability in Zambia”? We wondered. Laura smiled…..

The music on the show was good and featured tracks from Gareth Malone and his All Star Band, One Direction, Passenger and The Veronicas. Others were from Jay Rox ft Cleo, Femi Alade and Coztem ft Camster. We give a prize of a dinner for two with drinks at the lodge on the show to the first person to text us the name of the artist on our oldie of the week. On this show Jay and Milli Jam chose a Zambian track by Frankiss ft Manas, but no-one won the prize! “Better luck next week!” We said.

Laura told listeners that she loves tennis and football. In her younger days she was a keen follower of Power Dynamos in Zambia and even used to travel to away matches. These days she supports Arsenal. Milli Jam and I were happy about that! Her favourite tennis player is Raphael Nadal. At one time she wrote columns for the Post and Sunday Times newspapers but right now is not published – except on Twitter, which she confessed to love! She completed Grade 12 at Roma Girls and obtained a degree in education at the University of Zambia. She would be in Livingstone for the following week and although she had no plans to bungee jump she told us that one time she had done the gorge swing. Milli Jam also had no plans to bungee jump – as usual!! Music wise Laura loves John Legend.

Asked where she would like to be and what she would like to be doing ten years’ from now our intelligent, personable and outspoken Guest said she wanted to be back in Zambia and very much involved in charity work, especially the feeding of young, vulnerable children. She also wanted to be a granny. We thanked her for appearing on our show.

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Chanters Lodge and Social Media

Inspiration
Yesterday I received this query on the Chanters Lodge Facebook page “Quick question: Is it possible to book two single rooms online and then pay on arrival at Chanters?” There followed an exchange of messages on Facebook which culminated in the following remark from the Guest: “Just booked a night’s stay in Livingstone through Chanters Lodge, Livingstone. Very prompt & efficient communication. A Zambian business using social media well. Kudos.” To which I replied: “We give discounts for bookings through Facebook and for Zambians and Zambian residents. It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s good value for money – Chanters Lodge, Livingstone.” We do not have an online booking system at the lodge, but pride ourselves on replying to booking enquiries within 24 hours – and usually much quicker than that, we have two internet service providers ensuring that we are very seldom totally offline – African internet is not great!

Here’s a general resume of our social media activity and the role it plays in our business:

Facebook
We have 734 likes on our Chanters Lodge Facebook page – I haven’t ‘gone chasing’ for a while but I will! I have 1885 ‘friends’ on my own Facebook page – we post pretty much daily on both pages – the whole idea is to market the lodge, but subtly without direct ads like ‘come and stay at Chanters Lodge’. We prefer to post pictures of Victoria Falls, talk about activities in which our Guests are involved, and post updates on our local radio show. As mentioned, we love to get reservations through Facebook and give discounts! One of the reasons we are so active on Facebook is that it is a very popular medium in Zambia and we would love to have more Zambian business.

Twitter
We have had a Twitter account (@livilodge) for a number of years and follow about 8000 accounts. We have a similar number of followers ranging from friends and family and pop music lovers, through Arsenal supporters, Zambian account holders and people involved with hotels and travel. I love Twitter – it’s a major source of immediate news apart from which you can find yourself talking to people all over the world about common interests. We have had plenty of reservation enquiries from Twitter resulting in confirmed bookings and once again we offer discounts for Twitter reservations. Why? Because we hope it will encourage people to book through this medium. It’s short, quick and immediate and it is, for a small lodge, another means of marketing. Most of our Twitter bookings have come from people in the travel trade or Zambians and we offer discounts to both groups anyway

Pinterest
Pinterest is relatively new but we have had a page (Richard Chanters) for about a year following a recommendation from a Guest. We have boards for the lodge, Victoria Falls, Zambia, family and the Zambezi as well as Africa and Random pictures. I have found it very useful when Guests ask for pictures of the lodge to be able to refer them to Pinterest – meaning the pictures of the lodge which appear on our website are supplemented on Pinterest. For example we recently pinned pictures of the bedroom renovations in progress at the lodge – photos we would not normally post on our web site as it is a work in progress. There are also photos of staff on that board. On Pinterest we have 198 followers and are following about 250 sites. I often upload photos from Pinterest to post on Facebook if the photos are beautiful or more often funny!

Blog
We have been blogging since 2006 – at one time we posted every day but these days usually two or three times a week depending on available material and time to write. These days our weekly radio show forms the centre piece of the blog. We write up the show with a photo of the Guests, reporting the subjects discussed on the programme and the music played – it makes a nice record for the Guests of their appearance on the show as well as keeping blog readers informed. The blog covers a multitude of other issues often involved with the hotel and travel business as well as some funnies. One of the presenters of our radio show, Kaufela, also provides material for the blog writing about Zambian musicians and the local music scene. Thanks to Edward Chanter our blog uploads straight on to our main website.

TripAdvisor
We estimate that some 80% of our accommodation enquiries are a result of potential Guests reading some of our more than 250 Trip Advisor reviews, mostly, but not all good. Once again the advice to ‘get on Trip Advisor’ came from a Guest. We are proud of the certificates of excellence awarded from that site in recent years. We respond to each and every review written in English and encourage Guests to write reviews on departure. Once again thanks to Edward, reviews upload unedited straight on to our lodge website.

Other
We post on to LinkedIn and Google+

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Social Media – Do You Need It?

Another interesting piece from HotelInteractive, this time from Megan Sterritt. I’ve shortened it to bring out the highlights.
  

1) How can Social Media help me? Do I need it?
Whether it’s for branding, to reach media for coverage or directly get in front of eligible consumers, social media marketing is an effective strategy for companies/brands to capture users in all phases of the shopping process. In today’s world, consumers demand honest, accurate, timely and engaging information.

Branding: You control your message. Social channels take you direct to your consumer so you can control 100% of what you say to them. But, as Evision stated in a recent report, “sell yourself (softly).” Meaning, talk about your features and benefits briefly and selectively. Your social content should not be all about you, all the time. You also control how you look to consumers. Make sure your brand personality is consistent across all channels.

Brand Awareness
: You control how many people see your message and hear about your brand. By tagging and other methods for extending reach, it’s really up to you the number of times your potential consumer hears and learns about you and what you have to offer. With one billion monthly active users on Facebook and over 300 million on Twitter, a brand is not limited to the average 30K magazine circulation.

Reach Influencers: Social media influencers do just that – influence consumers to act (e.g. discussion, purchase, recommend, etc). They could be print journalists, broadcasters, bloggers or anyone that others see as a point of reference. And while traditional PR is responsible for reaching out to influencers on their home court (at the magazine, TV station, on the blog, etc.), these same influencers usually congregate together on social media during Tweetchats. A tweetchat is a discussion between a group of people about a certain topic on Twitter, normally following a specific hashtag during a set time.

Example: the #TNI (Travelers’ Night In) tweetchat at 3:30 pm every Thursday gathers many travel writers and travel influencers together to discuss a specific travel topic – this is perfect for hotels or travel companies looking for publicity. #Foodchat is another, perfect for restaurants or food brands. (also #TTOT Travel Talk On Tuesday – ed)

Build Brand Ambassadors: Social Media can help brands personalize a customer’s experience – in a unique and immediate way – like no traditional platform. The Four Seasons Lanai crafts a unique turndown amenity telling guests to tweet them during their stay. When on property, if a guest posts that they’re interested in dining or going to the spa at the resort, the resort can send them directly to the reservations page. Not only does it make the experience easier for the guest, it gets them to purchase at the hotel instead of next door. The more you engage with a person, the more likely they are to be happy with their experience and SHARE the experience with others.

Reputation Management: Social channels are a convenient way for your customers to give feedback. They also allow you to more easily monitor and respond. If a person goes out of their way to say something about you on social media, they want you to know. In his book The New Influencers, author Paul Gillin said, “Conventional marketing wisdom long held that a dissatisfied customer tells ten people. But…in the new age of social media, he or she has the tools to tell ten million.”

Don’t give a negative reviewer additional ammunition to continue talking badly about you because you don’t respond. Always respond, and do it honestly. If it’s a review on Tripadvisor or Yelp, positive and negative reviews should be addressed ASAP. Approach negative reviews with a solution, and positive with appreciation. There is nothing like saying Thank You to someone that likes you. That will make them ten times more your brand advocate.

SEO & Increased Traffic to Website
: One of the three core elements of Search Engine Optimization is popularity, which is the sheer number of inbound links to a website. Using a shortened URL (that’s relevant) at the end of your tweets or posts will drive visitors to your website. In addition, producing good content naturally attracts back links and social signals (such as Tweets and Likes) that tell search engines that your content is popular with actual beings, further building up your site’s credibility for the crawlers.


2. How often do I need to be on social media
?
Simple answer: every day. Every day you should be monitoring discussion on your channels. See you later snail mail. Customer service is 24/7. If someone poses a question, they expect an answer almost immediately. And, going back to reputation management, reviews need to be replied to ASAP.

When it comes to disseminating new content, it depends on the channel. One should not post on Facebook every day. The #1 reason for un-liking on Facebook is “cluttering the newsfeed.” Carefully craft your posts, and space them out, to engage your consumer without annoying them. On the other hand, Twitter is a channel you should be publishing from at least several times a day.


3. How long does it take to show results?

WOW images can create overwhelming responses immediately, but to create true brand advocates a good six months should be expected.

4. What is included in a typical social media campaign?
There is no cookie cutter campaign model for companies or brands looking to embark on social media. The components of a social media strategy should be reflective of the type of company and its business objective. Whether its brand awareness, website traffic, sales or strictly reputation management, the social media channels used will be different.

Social Media can yield many valuable rewards, including increased sales, but always remember the true nature of social media is engagement and creating brand advocates.

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Managing Through Social Media

I enjoyed this one from Mr. Larry Mogelonsky – CHA, on HotelInteractive for you hoteliers out there!

“Here’s a marketing creed that was scribed into textbooks well over 30 years ago, back when I was an MBA student: People connect with other people, and not necessarily with businesses.  For a long time, this wasn’t exactly feasible.  Even in the hospitality world where personality is king, managers meeting customers on a one-to-one basis wasn’t always in the cards.

Nowadays though, sites like Twitter and LinkedIn are paving the way for a resurgence of quality communication from management directly down to the consumer.  But look closely at this practice: nothing has really changed.  Even with the leaps and bounds of electronic messaging systems, people still crave that personal touch.

Hence the title.  Whenever, or wherever, you can get your guests to ‘meet the managers,’ you’re not only giving your hotel a real face, but drastically enhancing client retention.  With this in mind, social media presents both a challenge and opportunity to accomplish this task.

The challenge is that managers have to commit themselves to a role in the public eye, albeit even when reluctant.  People are the new brand; no longer just the hotel logo and top brass.  What managers say on their personal online accounts is now intrinsically linked to their respective properties, whether for good or for bad.  Luckily, many have already found the opportunity within this trend, harnessing these new channels to build stronger personal connections and grow their businesses.

Obvious from the introduction, embracing social media is imperative for this process, but a first step should always involve a trip to HR to see whose job descriptions might curtail social media responsibilities.  From there the answer is in the specifics, so let’s go through a few choice techniques I’ve seen work in recent years.

When it comes to LinkedIn, every manager should have an account and join your company group.  Although the site is chiefly for professional networking, it will open your staff to a worldwide forum for business ideas, emerging trends and potential partnerships.

Twitter offers a host of options for building these bridges.  For your generic company account, only one or two people should be tasked with posting material, giving them space to add some zest and initialize direct messages.  Next, talk to your managers about their own profiles and how they would use the site to converse with guests.  The idea here is to form person-to-person connections; something much harder to accomplish when a guest converses with a faceless corporate account.

The prospects are good for Facebook, too.  You can easily design a tab to introduce each manager (with a picture) or even build a custom fan page for each department and link them all to the main page.  Managers should also be active participants on the wall, commenting on what fans are saying as well as providing original insights.

Blogging is the fourth big one here.  Most blog content management systems allow you to designate regular columns authored by specific staff members.  You’d be surprised how far the phrase ‘By XX Manager’ goes when at the end of an entry.  Or, you could even run a ‘Manager of the Month’ editorial to highlight your team’s characters and fun stories.

The online possibilities are aplenty; even including video which I did not previously discuss.  But to me, however, they are just a launch pad.  You still have to find ways to squeeze in some face-to-face time for maximal efficacy.

To start, personalized greeting letters should be in every room; the power of a handwritten note working its charm.  Seeing managers in the lobby welcoming guests is another powerful statement, especially when it comes to a VIP arrival or a group coordinator.  A sharp uniform can exacerbate their presence, too.  Beyond that, you have to get creative.

Look to what your hotel offers and to where staff might interact with customers.  If you run a golf resort, how about a tournament where guests are paired with managers?  Perhaps a manager could greet and eat with patrons at the lobby bar.  How about a follow-up phone call after a guest has left?  Not only are these personal, but they’re great avenues for constructive feedback.

So, what I suggest is you sit down with your fellow managers and discuss your strategy for heightening interactions with guests; both online and face-to-face in a winning combination.  Have a plan and stick to it.  Sure, it’s a lot of effort, but the rewards are definitely worth it.”

Good advice in my opinion!

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Claudous Tembo Hunt

“The guest’s on his way to the lodge to see you” said Milli Jam to me over the phone last Sunday. He meant the guest for our Sunday night radio show – The Chanters Lodge Experience with the Milli Jam Ingredient featuring George da Soulchild Kaufela, airing at 20.30 hrs every Sunday on Zambezi 107.7 fm, Livingstone’s leading local radio station. I had to take some lodge Guests to the airport and when I came back I looked around, but the only person I could see was a very young looking boy sitting in the lounge. I called Milli Jam – “the only person I can see waiting is a 12 year old!” “That’s him” said Milimo, and so it was. There he is in the photo above – see what I mean? Anyway, Claudous Tembo Hunt, for it is he, assured me that he’s actually 21 and he did indeed guest on our latest show.
Claudous is a full time presenter with 107.7 fm which he joined in October 2011, following a spell with HotFM in Lusaka, one of the capital’s most popular radio stations. He may look young but he doesn’t sound it, and he has quickly built up a large following on the two shows he presents daily on 107.7 fm, the Airtel show in the morning and Drive Time in the afternoon. His favourite music is genre is rock, but he told listeners that he has to choose tracks bearing audience preference in mind. (Don’t we all?) He said he was self taught as far as radio presention was concerned, but he had learned a lot from watching and listening to other people.
The music on our show was good, we opened with ‘Ray Bans’ from B.o.B’s latest album, back to back with Calvin Harris ft Ne-Yo and their smash ‘Let’s Go’. George chose ‘Nafikilisha’ by JK with 2WO-1NE’s ‘Party On A Hill’ – remember ‘Vitumbuwa’ by 2WO-1NE? George reminded us, and indeed we do! Milli Jam dropped Sean Kingston’s ‘Wake The Neighbours’ together with Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Mr Know It All’. Oldie of the week was a Zambian track ‘Alema’ by K’Millian ft PJ and the phone was hot with listeners texting us to tell us the name of the artist. ‘Gaspari’ won a dinner for 2 at the lodge.
Claudous told us that he was educated at Mufulira High School on the Copperbelt and completed Grade 12 in 2008. He was very interested in art and animation and hoped at some stage in the future to be able to receive further education in these subjects. He had recently bought a guitar and was enjoying the lessons he was receiving learning how to play. “How come you have the name ‘Hunt’ as well as Tembo?” Milli Jam wanted to know. “It’s an intrinsical thing, positive reinforcement” Claudous replied. I, for one, was none the wiser! “People say you have an English accent” said Milli Jam, warming to his theme! “I learned a lot from exchange students we had when I was at school” replied Claudous.
“Where would you like to be and what would you like to be doing 10 years from now?” Milli Jam asked Claudous towards the end of the show. “I’d like to be educated in animation and playing in a band” replied the young man. Good looking, talented, ambitious and intelligent, I wouldn’t bet against him achieving his ambition!

As usual at the end of the show we gave our listeners all the news from the lodge and social media as well as world wide chart news. We greeted guests as well as staff at the lodge, including their families at home.

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Pinterest For Hotels

 
Mr. Larry Mogelonsky – CHA on HotelInteractive has this to say about Pinterest for hotels. You can find me on Pinterest at richardchanters. I use the site to post photos of Victoria Falls, the lodge, Zambia, wildlife, family and then random stuff that gets my attention. I love it! Anyway here’s the piece:
Late last year, I was made aware of one of the newest and most interesting social media sites – Pinterest – and I was far from alone in this regard.  Pinterest now holds the record for crossing the coveted 10-million-unique-visitors-per-month statistic, completed in November 2011, the fastest stand-alone website to do so in the history of the Internet.  In fact, Mashable.com recently cited Pinterest as the third most popular social network in the United States, right behind the family names of Facebook and Twitter with 104 million users.

With all this fever, Pinterest is next to impossible for hotels to ignore.  But, as always with social media, will an investment of time and money into this new website actually bear fruit?  Or, will it be yet another cantankerous divergence of much needed human resources?

Set to a clean, minimalist design, Pinterest is a type of online scrapbook where members can ‘Pin’ visual media to their profiles, organized under a series of ‘Pinboards’.  From there, it works much like Facebook and Twitter whereby you can follow other users and their Pins will appear in your newsfeed, leaving room for you to like, comment or ‘Repin’.  Easy to grasp, Pinterest works almost as a system of anonymous recommendations, helping you find and share ideas based on common preferences.  As well, members can utilize the ‘Tastemakers’ page when browsing for more relevant Pins or Pinboards. Pinterest integrates with Facebook and Twitter via a seamless notification system and a mobile version is already available.

So, how can hotels use Pinterest?  Due to its photo-centric design, this social network can act as a valuable tool to increase inbound traffic to your website or Facebook page.  All pictures shared on Pinterest contain a click-through link back to the source – all the more reason to upkeep your website with high quality photography.  Guestsourcing is also a possibility, allowing you to Repin material from other sources to your Pinboards.  Think of it as ‘curb appeal’ for your property.  You give users of the site a sneak peak of what’s in store for when they visit your website, and hopefully, for when they arrive onsite.

For starters, the website is not a place to advertise your brand, but rather to express a certain lifestyle by posting interesting photos, offering suggestions to other members and, as always, engaging your audience through comments, likes and Repins.  The modus operandi of Pinterest is that content drives conversation.  You need to have good and current visual content to get people to notice you and drive traffic to an external website of your choosing.

But the difficulty is that this has to occur on a continual basis in order to achieve a desirable efficacy.  Suppose you’ve chosen to use Pinterest to highlight three unique aspects of your hotel (that is, via three different Pinboards) including Cuisine, Décor and Weddings.  Not only does this mean more work for your PR Department (or for whoever manages your social media), but also for the other departments who generate the content.  It takes time and consistency to add real value to your profile.  This will require your chef, weddings specialists and other managers to work in tandem with your web gurus to produce the necessary photography or videos for Pinterest as well as write their external host pages, rich keyword descriptions and links between your main site and other networks.

In short, the time adds up, especially when compounded by all the other social media which may be deemed as requirements for business these days.  Due to Pinterest’s visual nature, it requires a full effort, both in terms of strategizing how you will distinguish your brand through various Pinboards and in upkeep.  In addition to all this, the lack of direct analytics makes it difficult to measure results over a brief period.  Moreover, there hasn’t been any significant evidence to suggest that the heightened brand awareness from Pinterest has any immediate correlation with increased activity on booking engines.

These negatives aside, Pinterest can be a winner for you if your property has a distinctive character already in place and the photography to boot.  So, take a minute and think in terms of furnishings, crafts, architecture, weddings, spas, food, golf, gardening and other popular hobby topics.  If you can add to the conversation in any one of these areas on a continual basis, then perhaps Pinterest is worth your time.  But it nonetheless requires a significant investment and if you treat it as a blanket marketing solution, then your efforts will be in vain.

 
 
 

Mr. Larry Mogelonsky – CHA on HotelInteractive has this to say about Pinterest for hotels. You can find me on Pinterest at richardchanters. I use the site to post photos of Victoria Falls, the lodge, Zambia, wildlife, family and then random stuff that gets my attention. I love it! Anyway here’s the piece:
Late last year, I was made aware of one of the newest and most interesting social media sites – Pinterest – and I was far from alone in this regard.  Pinterest now holds the record for crossing the coveted 10-million-unique-visitors-per-month statistic, completed in November 2011, the fastest stand-alone website to do so in the history of the Internet.  In fact, Mashable.com recently cited Pinterest as the third most popular social network in the United States, right behind the family names of Facebook and Twitter with 104 million users.

With all this fever, Pinterest is next to impossible for hotels to ignore.  But, as always with social media, will an investment of time and money into this new website actually bear fruit?  Or, will it be yet another cantankerous divergence of much needed human resources?

Set to a clean, minimalist design, Pinterest is a type of online scrapbook where members can ‘Pin’ visual media to their profiles, organized under a series of ‘Pinboards’.  From there, it works much like Facebook and Twitter whereby you can follow other users and their Pins will appear in your newsfeed, leaving room for you to like, comment or ‘Repin’.  Easy to grasp, Pinterest works almost as a system of anonymous recommendations, helping you find and share ideas based on common preferences.  As well, members can utilize the ‘Tastemakers’ page when browsing for more relevant Pins or Pinboards. Pinterest integrates with Facebook and Twitter via a seamless notification system and a mobile version is already available.

So, how can hotels use Pinterest?  Due to its photo-centric design, this social network can act as a valuable tool to increase inbound traffic to your website or Facebook page.  All pictures shared on Pinterest contain a click-through link back to the source – all the more reason to upkeep your website with high quality photography.  Guestsourcing is also a possibility, allowing you to Repin material from other sources to your Pinboards.  Think of it as ‘curb appeal’ for your property.  You give users of the site a sneak peak of what’s in store for when they visit your website, and hopefully, for when they arrive onsite.

For starters, the website is not a place to advertise your brand, but rather to express a certain lifestyle by posting interesting photos, offering suggestions to other members and, as always, engaging your audience through comments, likes and Repins.  The modus operandi of Pinterest is that content drives conversation.  You need to have good and current visual content to get people to notice you and drive traffic to an external website of your choosing.

But the difficulty is that this has to occur on a continual basis in order to achieve a desirable efficacy.  Suppose you’ve chosen to use Pinterest to highlight three unique aspects of your hotel (that is, via three different Pinboards) including Cuisine, Décor and Weddings.  Not only does this mean more work for your PR Department (or for whoever manages your social media), but also for the other departments who generate the content.  It takes time and consistency to add real value to your profile.  This will require your chef, weddings specialists and other managers to work in tandem with your web gurus to produce the necessary photography or videos for Pinterest as well as write their external host pages, rich keyword descriptions and links between your main site and other networks.

In short, the time adds up, especially when compounded by all the other social media which may be deemed as requirements for business these days.  Due to Pinterest’s visual nature, it requires a full effort, both in terms of strategizing how you will distinguish your brand through various Pinboards and in upkeep.  In addition to all this, the lack of direct analytics makes it difficult to measure results over a brief period.  Moreover, there hasn’t been any significant evidence to suggest that the heightened brand awareness from Pinterest has any immediate correlation with increased activity on booking engines.

These negatives aside, Pinterest can be a winner for you if your property has a distinctive character already in place and the photography to boot.  So, take a minute and think in terms of furnishings, crafts, architecture, weddings, spas, food, golf, gardening and other popular hobby topics.  If you can add to the conversation in any one of these areas on a continual basis, then perhaps Pinterest is worth your time.  But it nonetheless requires a significant investment and if you treat it as a blanket marketing solution, then your efforts will be in vain.

 
 
 
 
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Hotels Online

I liked this by Melanie Nayer on 4Hoteliers not surprising, I suppose, considering the amount of time I spend on line! Here’s the piece:

“As more consumers move online, it’s becoming more important for business to maintain trust and respect on social channels. Without face-to-face conversation, your consumer needs to rely strictly on your word. Bottom line: if they don’t trust you, they won’t buy from you. So, how can you ensure you’re building trust through social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and FourSquare?

I consulted a few hoteliers to get their thoughts:

“We view social media as a powerful channel to build consumer trust and deliver on our brand promise, which is to surprise and delight our guests by providing service that is gracious and sincere,” said Mac Joseph, Social Media Marketing Manager for Mandarin Oriental Hotels, which currently has 8100 followers on their main Twitter page @MO_HOTELS. “We focus on building genuine relationships with consumers on Facebook and Twitter by engaging in two-way dialogue. Through listening first to our audiences, we are able to add value to their experiences with our brand online.”

Joseph told me that Mandarin Oriental recently came across a tweet from a guest at Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona, wanting a guestroom with a bathtub. Joseph said his team connected with the hotel, who were able to move the guest to the desired room type that same day. “Through this open dialogue, the guest and our audiences witnessed first-hand that we are not simply pushing content through our social media channels but also listening, in the hopes of making a difference in the guest experience,” he said.

InterContinental Hotels
, which also has various twitter accounts for individual hotels but one main channel, @InterConHotels, with over 7,200 followers, recently made headlines with their new mobile platform and iPad accessibility in worldwide hotels. The hotel group also uses social platforms to introduce guests to local information before they check in, giving them a sense of environment before they arrive at their destination. “Even though we are interacting with our guests and our friends as a brand, we try to be as human in our interaction as we can,” said Charles Yap, Director, Global Brand Communications for InterContinental Hotels. “This means being conversational with our approach, highlighting some of the fun discoveries our guests have made in their travels, providing local assistance through our InterContinental Concierge teams to those who need it, and taking every opportunity to help should things go wrong.”

As a consumer and industry expert, I’ve found a few things to be beneficial when working with hotels online:

    Constant tweeting and Facebook messages are great ways to promote the hotel and converse with guests, but it’s also a great idea to post testimonials from your clients. These reviews are coming from the guest themselves, and other potential guests will rely on the feedback of their peers before making a purchasing decision, especially when it comes to travel.

    Keeping it personal adds a level of emotion to your conversation. By putting a name with a Twitter account or Facebook post, you’re introducing your guests to other hotel employees, allowing guests to learn a little more about the hotel and destination on a local level.”

The picture? The stunningly beautiful Lake Malawi, I worked there some time back!

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Social Media Projections 2011


I liked this from Trevanian Legg – the owner Nigel Legg is pictured above – don’t know if he’s right or not – what do you think?

* Twitter will go mainstream.
I’m surprised that, with around 150 million users and over a thousand tweets a second, according to PEW Research only 6% of the adult US population are on twitter. The total usage number is only around 20% of the total figure for Facebook (currently estimated at around 570 – 600 million users, depending on who you believe), so this combination of data suggests that in other parts of the world Twitter is already close to being mainstream, and I believe it will soon catch up.

* Facebook growth will slow.
A point will be reached, probably in the next year, where the growth of facebook – currently estimated at 700,000 new users PER DAY – will slow, as there just aren’t enough people left for that kind of growth to carry on for much longer. Of course, a massive increase in internet access in poorer countries where it is currently limited could delay this.

* Diaspora will be forgotten.
The huge network effect of so many people using Facebook will outweigh the privacy concerns that lead to the development of Diaspora over the summer, and very soon the open-source system will be forgotten, going the same way as Google Wave.

* Facebook places will make Foursquare and Gowalla relegated to irrelevance.
Facebook Places, the social network’s location based service, will be rolled out to users and, through sheer weight of numbers, make existing services, such as Foursquare and Gowalla, irrelevant. The huge size of Facebook will mean they can attract better deals and more development work, thus making it more attractive for people to use their service.

* Social Media Monitoring will be replaced by Social Media Research.
Increasing demand from the C-Suite for confirmation that Social Media demands attention will lead to increased complexity of work required to provide the data required. At the same time, the ever growing numbers using social media in all it’s forms will mean that using social media as a data source for providing the vital insights a business needs will increase in value. Both of these will lead to a growing professionalisation of the monitoring / research role within corporations, and an associated development of specialist companies dedicated to carrying out social media research for their clients.

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