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How Hotels Can Use Social Media to Attract Meeting Planners

By Julius Solaris
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If you are an hotelier and want to attract meeting planners, social media can be of use. Here's how.

Lately I've been fascinated by the interaction between hotels and meeting planners.

I was quite keen to learn more about the dynamics of this recurrent relationship. I did a bit of research and the findings were quite captivating.

Despite what we may think, interacting with hoteliers is not like addressing common venue managers. If you think about convention centres or exhibition spaces the dynamics are quite repetitive and standard.

When it gets to hotels there is a whole consumer world that kicks in. The hotel guests.

Hotels in fact usually have a more traditional consumer offering which is accommodation, but also a parallel business: meetings.

What About Social Media?

Social Media can help hoteliers in many way to attract event planners. There are several areas that I found very relevant for those hotels who want to use means like Facebook, Linkedin, Youtube or Twitter to attract meeting planners.

My underlying assumption is that meeting planners belong to the wider B2B community of decision makers who look at social media in their decision making process (reference).

Therefore themes like customer service, location based marketing and video - traditionally tools more adopted in a B2C context - all of a sudden become weapon of mass marketing in the hotelier/planner exchange.

15 Social Media Tactics Hotels Can Count On

I collected what I think are the most valuable tactics available for hotel marketing teams to attract us planners.

1. Use hotel's social channels to promote the event

If an hotel offers to advertise my event on their social networking channels, as an event planner, I am happy. Very happy.

An immediate requirement for hotels would be to then grow the reach of their social channels. If your hotel targets a particular kind of events, it helps to grow the reach only in relevant user bases.

Cross promotion effects can be great.

2. Offer stable connectivity for social interaction

This fits more into the venue requirements but it has a definite social implication. Bulletproof connectivity ensures that social dialogue happens.

Attendees tend to praise performing wifi and that can become a promotional tool for hotels.

Offering a working wifi is equivalent to having a toilet that flushes for some communities. Your connectivity must be state of the art.

3. Use location based services to feature events

Foursquare is a powerful tool for hotels. Hotels managers can raise their profile with customers but can also make an impact on event professionals.

Events can be featured on hotels' pages thus offering another promotional channel.

Another interesting angle is entertainment. Meeting planners choose on the basis of the entertainment available in the area. Hotels who created lists of hotspots on Foursquare can use them to highlight the leisure offering in the area.

4. Use video to display venue capabilities

This is possibly the most commonly used tactic from venues. Yet the number of hotels using means like Youtube or Vimeo to display their unique venue arrangements is embarrassingly low.

Youtube is the perfect tool to showcase video from previous events as well as selling points of your hotel.

5. Have a customer service twitter account to manage satisfaction during the event

Twitter concierges are becoming common. They usually provide help to important customers, answering questions or sometimes surprising them.

What about event attendees?

Offering twitter customer service during events can ease the workload of planners and guarantee satisfaction for attendees.

6. Have live streaming ready equipment

Live streaming is increasingly popular with wise event planners. Offering live streaming capabilities can make an impact on the planner's budget, saving her quite some $$$.

Tools like the livestream.com Livepack can be a cheap yet effective addiction to your connectivity offering that can pay itself surprisingly fast.

7. Use blogs to give meetings ideas

I've discussed the use of blogging in the Destination and DMC sectors. I believe this is especially relevant to hoteliers.

8. Use webinars and events to educate planners about the tech possibilities

One of the best B2B case studies from the naughties is Dell offering a social media learning portal for small businesses on Facebook.

Alas, hotels can become experts on technology and social media using extremely popular B2B tools such as webinars to educate planners about using social media.

9. Use Facebook apps to facilitate meeting booking

Facebook is B2C, LinkedIn is B2B. These are 2005 categorizations that do not apply nowadays. ROI is what counts.

My experience tells me that yes, you can make good B2B money on Facebook.

Therefore a tool to book meeting rooms on Facebook can be an enjoyable surprise for your revenue sheet.

This is especially important as some meeting planners may like your Facebook page because they've been guests. Once back home they'll put their event pros' hat on and possibly start from your page to search for their next event venue.

10. Showcase positive mentions from planners across the social web

A happy meeting planner brags about how cool you are all around the place, as a regular customer would do. This is obviously the case for negative experiences as well.

Your job as a tech savvy hotel manager or marketing professional is to collect the positive mentions and make them become testimonials.

Nice, huh?

11. Involve influencers in ad hoc events

Events is what is all about, the prime social tactic. Calling on online influential peeps to attend a tailor made event can increase the chances other planners on social media will notice.

There are communities such as our LinkedIn Group or #eventprofs on Twitter who are eager to discover that you care.

12. Build a reputation on Tripadvisor.com

Tripadvisor has shaken the hotel industry big times. Guests tend to write their very biased reviews on the site, telling their horror or dream experiences.

Yet few hotels realize they have quite a strong weapon on TripAdvisor, reputation building.

Hotels who know how to engage on TripAdvisor will make an impact also on those event planners who search for reviews on the site before booking a meeting room.

13. Flickr, Facebook and Instagram dedicated event streams

The above 3 websites can guarantee enough traffic to make you become millionaires. Hotels can implement very effective social media marketing tactics with photos.

Displaying the fun and enjoyment of event attendees can wipe any doubt out of perspective buyers.

Get a written authorization to use events pics on these sites, the opportunities are interesting.

14. Establish a reputation on venue search engines

Venue search engines are becoming the TripAdvisor of meeting planners. Some systems that offer RFP capabilities also feature reviews.

It is key to ask those who book your spaces through venue search engines to leave a review. It can really pay off on the longer term.

15. Tailor offers to specific communities

I mentioned a couple of the paramount communities of event professionals online. Becoming active in those communities is the first step. Once you become a power user think about creating special offers exclusive to such communities.

Remember to always check with mods or managers for the best way to promote your offers as the thin line with spam is, well, thin.

How to's, Case Studies and Training

I wrote this post as I am about to begin a tour in Europe in several hotels and destinations training executives about the use of social media in the industry.

During the training I will give more depth to all of these items. We'll be looking at case studies and I'll offer custom made advice to attendees. If you want to host such a training session, you know how to get in touch.

In Conclusion

Hotel marketing professionals have a valid ally in social media to attract one of the busiest and stressed working category on the planet, event planners.

If wisely implemented and tied into a wider social media strategy these tactics can really make a difference and display positive returns immediately.

Speaking about strategy, does your hotel have a social media strategy?

Well, that's a different story and possibly a different post.

 

 

Photo by Stuck in Customs

about the author

Julius Solaris
Julius Solaris is the editor of EventManagerBlog.com, he is an international speaker, author and consultant.
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