5 steps for leading your social-engagement plan

Social media remains the most effective way to interact with guests post-stay. Photo credit: Getty Images/ViewApart

Social media reviews drive buying decisions. It is reported by Phocuswright that more than 80 percent of people trust strangers’ social media reviews as much, or more, than recommendations from their own family and friends. And it is a certainty that people are skeptical of our carefully crafted marketing messages. Guest perception is the reality, and we are no longer in control of our own reputations.

But we can control proper company responses to social media reviews. Local responses (not marketing department responses) are authentic to guests, and authentic experiences always win. Here’s how we can engage in a real and meaningful operational way that shows how much we care about creating great guest experiences. All it takes is a five-step process for creating a strategy for each property:

1. Determine how you will measure success. Will you be reporting back on same-store sales increases, placement on the review site, star ranking increases or online engagements with a specific number of people?

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2. Determine your rollout strategy. Who will manage the replies, who will be the backup and when will they schedule time to do it? If you need to start slowly to prove viability, consider beta testing by cherry picking the most engaged GM and rolling it out in one location. Once you are up and running, consider making the training an integral part of your manager-in-training program.

3. Claim pages and set logins. Claim your business page and have login information set on the big three review sites of TripAdvisor, Yelp and Google. Keep in mind not to use personal emails for security reasons and make sure you have signed up for alerts so you know when there is activity on the page.

4. Create resource documents. Supporting documents should include how to claim the business online, logins and templates for how to reply to and personalize responses for both positive and negative reviews.

5. Develop skills-based training. Determine what training is needed. Make sure those responsible have the resources that they need, such as time, a laptop or a tablet, and a quiet area with no distractions.

It can be frustrating when a reviewer makes personal attacks or distorts the truth to a narrative more in their favor. Work with your team to rise above that and address concerns in a nonemotional and professional manner. In the event they can't write a polished response, remember that no response is better than a bad response.

It is well worth it to enlist, train and empower those responsible to give them the knowledge and confidence of how to best engage in the online world with our guests. Online has the power to grow your bottom line. By leading your social-engagement plan, you will grow guest loyalty and positive word of mouth, and ultimately drive people to your business.

Colby Hutchinson is the senior manager of customer care and guest feedback for Best Western Hotels & Resorts. He is an active member of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers. He can be reached at: [email protected].