Find out what it takes to be a great hotel community manager or hire one for your hotel
Social media marketing and engagement used to be what we call 'bathroom business' – something that a hotel's staff could do in their downtime, a few minutes at a go, even while on the toilet.
Up until quite recently, if your hotel was doing any social media marketing at all, you already had a solid edge over your competitors because they most probably were not. A few tweets here, some Facebook posts there, and a bit of effort to keep your blog and other social media accounts fresh was all that it took to stand out and claim more market share.
Not any more.
Now, just about everyone and his dog is active on social media. There is so much competition that managing your hotel's online community and social media marketing strategy has become a 24/7 job for properly-trained professionals. Say hello to the new role of hotel community manager.
However, while everyone knows that hotel community managers are responsible for ‘the social media stuff’ (obviously!), it still is quite unclear what HCMs should do exactly and what specific skills they need to have. Even aspiring HCMs themselves are often at a loss, let alone their prospective bosses who need to find and hire the best people for the job.
The role of hotel community manager is new and continually evolving, and with limited information available online it can be very hard to train for the job and keep up with it as it changes.
Let’s take a look at what successful hotel community managers should be doing and why they play a vital role in the hotel business.
A crucial full-time and in-house job with the hotel's reputation at stake
Today, people carry around their social media in their pockets. This means it is practically easier for a guest with a problem or a complaint to pull out their phone and post about it on your hotel's Facebook page for all to see than it is to ring the front desk. This is in fact what actually happens very often and at any time of the day or night, and the trend of going online to voice a grievance is steadily on the increase.
That brings us to the first and most important job of the hotel community manager: reputation management.
The primary task of an HCM is to have all eyes and ears out on the different social media channels (and also on the rest of the Internet) to monitor what people are saying about your hotel and respond appropriately. The HCM has to work together with the rest of the hotel staff so that problems are solved quickly, guests are kept happy and the hotel's reputation remains untarnished.
It should already start to become clear that the position of hotel community manager is a full-time job that cannot be outsourced effectively or even assigned to an intern.
In fact, the HCM has to be a bridge between your hotel's different departments, including Marketing, Reservations, Public Relations, Food and Beverage and so on, working with them to coordinate the team effort and make sure any necessary action is taken promptly.
Hotel guests obviously don't care about what goes on behind the scenes. They just want a quick and effective solution so they can get on with enjoying their stay.
This means that a hotel community manager needs to have a solid working knowledge of the hotel, its policies, its facilities and of how the different hotel departments function together, so that any issues are addressed effectively before an online complaint has a chance to spread and go viral. It also goes without saying that excellent manners and communication skills are vital too.
Spearheading the hotel’s online presence, social media and content creation
Reacting promptly and averting potential online PR disasters is just one side of the coin.
Another key role of the hotel community manager is to take charge of your hotel's online presence and social media outreach, which includes your content creation and distribution strategies.
Proactive online engagement is a three-pronged effort where hotels
- generate and publish their own content
- invite media and influential travel bloggers to stay at the hotel and report back to their audience
- encourage guests to share their photos and experiences on the various social media platforms
The last point is the most important by far. Nurturing guest-generated content is key to online success because your hotel's brand is only as valuable as your guests think it is. Besides, it goes without saying that anything a guest posts online about your hotel is going to be viewed as much more credible than if the hotel posted the same thing itself.
This means that guests should be the ones creating and sharing the bulk of the content about your hotel (which the hotel can then share and promote, of course) and it is part of the hotel community manager's job to encourage this practice and make it as easy as possible for guests to do so.
Inviting over established media and travel bloggers to report on their stay at the hotel is another very effective online marketing strategy. It gives your hotel an excellent opportunity to reach out to an established target audience and showcase not just the hotel itself and its facilities, but also the surrounding area and destination as a whole.
And, of course, hotel community managers should have good production skills of their own, so that they can create interesting in-house photos, videos, blog posts and other content, which can be shared by guests and the media alike.
Roping in staff, building personal brands and promoting the hotel together
Social media engagement is not a job for the hotel community manager to do alone.
Part of the role of HCM is, in fact, to take the lead in the hotel’s digital transformation and community building. This involves training other staff members in social media marketing and supervising a coordinated effort to interact with current and prospective guests both online and face-to-face on a daily basis.
This includes teaching social media best practices and helping staff create and manage their own personal brand profiles on the different social networks. It is important for the hotel community manager and also other members of the hotel staff to project strong personal brands through their social network accounts. This is because people respond much better to someone who comes across as a real living and breathing person rather than an anonymous face on the Internet.
A good and friendly relationship with guests puts the hotel community manager and other staff in an excellent position to then promote hotel events (both before and afterwards) and launch and manage competitions and promotions. This also helps a lot with another aspect of the HCM job description, which is to upsell in-house guests on hotel products, as well as trips, excursions, restaurant meals and other services offered by the hotel’s partner businesses.
It goes without saying that hotel community managers need a good dose of charisma and leadership skills to go with their social media expertise and the other qualities we have discussed.
Successful hotel community managers need to be able to prove their worth
What we have described so far is routine, day-to-day work for an HCM, but there are are other tasks that also need to be done from time to time, such as networking with your hotel’s strategic partners, seeking out new ones and building new business relationships.
A hotel community manager should also follow competitor hotels and similar hotels around the world, to learn what they are doing and stay ahead of the game. Then there is the task of overseeing SEO and other paid placement advertising, which means HCMs should have a good understanding of how search engine ranking and ad buying work.
And to top it all off, successful hotel community managers have to be able to communicate effectively with the hotel’s management and show the fruits of their work.
While social media is not a distribution channel, good HCMs do help increase both direct and indirect bookings, although the cause and effect relationship can be hard to actually demonstrate in practice. And yet, from the shareholders’ point of view, the ultimate measure of success of anything a hotel does is, of course, the bottom line, and it is up to hotel community managers to prove their worth to the hotel brand and justify their salary.
It’s going to be easier than ever to excel as a hotel community manager
All in all, being a hotel community manager is a challenging role, but a fun and rewarding one too when it is done properly.
And helping hotel community managers succeed and prosper is exactly what we are setting out to do. We’ve got over a decade of social media marketing experience under our belt, as well as a solid hands-on HCM track record, that has won critical acclaim.