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Differentiation: Social Media Strategies

What comes to mind when you think of San Diego? I’m sure you’ve listed things such as the tranquility of the aqua blue Pacific Ocean, pristine white sandy beaches, an abundance of sunshine, tropical climate, spectacular mountain and ocean views, and attractions, just to name a few.  But have you thought about the various hotels and resorts that are located throughout the city—Downtown, Coronado, South Bay, La Jolla, North County?  San Diego offers visitors a choice of 270 economy and luxury hotels & resorts that will satisfy everyone’s style and budget.

Although San Diego has a plethora of hotels and resorts to choose from, I have two favorites: The Grand Del Mar and the historical Hotel Del Coronado.

The Grand Del Mar, a triple 5-star luxury resort located in Del Mar just minutes from the coastline (north of downtown San Diego), was recently awarded the coveted TripAdvisors Travelers’ Choice Award 2015 and is TripAdvisors’ #1 Luxury Hotel in California.  The brand continues to be a top performer, year after year, in multiple industry categories and rankings.  They clearly know how to roll out the red carpet for their customers.  It’s no wonder that they are a favorite among so many customers.

The legendary Hotel Del Coronado, a 4.5-star luxury beach resort, has been awarded various distinctions including AAA’s Four Diamond Award, 2014 and TripAdvisors’ Certificate of Excellence, 2014.  This iconic brand has hosted U.S. Presidents, dignitaries, and celebrities alike for more than 125 years.  The Hotel Del is nestled on beautiful Coronado Island—named as one of the Top Beaches for Families in 2014 by Family Vacation Critic—located just a short distance from downtown San Diego (take a drive over the San Diego Bay Bridge or jump on the ferry).

Now that I have given you a bit of background about these two award-winning luxury resorts, keep reading below as I delve into their social media strategies.  My goal is to compare and contrast their social media efforts to date as well as discuss how these two brands use social media to differentiate themselves while advancing their strategic goals.

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is essential and not having a social media strategy in place, prior to launching a social media page, is like flying a plane without a compass—going nowhere no time soon.  Additionally, marketers must align their social media strategies with the company’s business objectives, by doing so, they will be able to clearly implement social media activities that support a strategic function.  For example, The Grand Del Mar and Hotel Del Coronado’s business objectives, generally speaking, is to increase brand awareness, increase customer satisfaction, decrease costs, and generate revenues and profitability.  Social media marketing can help meet those objectives.

Social Snapshot

Social media marketing can be applied to any business plan.  So, how does The Grand Del Mar and the Hotel Del Coronado utilize social media?  Let’s take a look at their social activities.

Both luxury resorts are visible on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn.  Below is a snapshot of the Hotel Del Coronado and The Grand Del Mar’s audience reach.

Hotel Del Coronado

Facebook: 85k followers

Twitter: 12k followers

Instagram: 4k followers

LinkedIn: 1853 connections

Google+: 1265 followers (views not displayed)

YouTube: 234 subscribers

The Grand Del Mar

Google+: 3.5 million page views (followers not displayed)

Facebook: 12k followers

Twitter: 4k followers

LinkedIn: 1167 connections

Instagram: 1147 followers

YouTube: 97 subscribers

Differentiation

It is clear that both luxury brands predominantly utilize Facebook and Twitter to reach their target market.  Hotel Del Coronado uses Facebook to engage with fans and has successfully promoted its “Fun Fact Fridays” campaign—the resort shares stories about the history of the Hotel Del (increasing brand awareness).  Fans are encouraged to share their stories and memories via Facebook and/or on the Hotel Del website’s “Coronado Hotel Social” page under Share Your Story tab.  Additionally, the resort uses both Twitter and Facebook to keep fans up to date on what’s happening at the famous Del and/or within the city of Coronado, to promote new products and services, relevant content, and high-quality photos of the hotel grounds and visitors, alike.  The Hotel Del utilizes Facebook very well to differentiate themselves and takes the necessary time to engage and interact with fans (improving customer satisfaction) by responding to fan comments and concerns, consistently.

In review of The Grand Del Mar’s social activities, Facebook is the resort’s go-to social site to engage fans and to promote products, services, upcoming events, high-quality photos of the resort, and the latest news about the resort—awards and accolades.  The Grand Del Mar is an exceptional resort with outstanding facilities, services, and employees.  The resort’s social activities are aligned with the overall business strategy of “improving the guest experience”.  The Grand Del Mar uses social media to differentiate itself from other hotels and resorts by simply promoting its outstanding services and awards.  Fans are encouraged to engage and interact via the resort’s social pages.  Also, the resort consistently engages with fans/customers and encourages them to participate in customer surveys and other campaigns.  For example, the Grand Del Mar has recently been nominated as a Top Hotel in the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards.  Fans who take the survey will have a chance to “win a $10,000 dream trip to the destination of their choice,” according to a recent post on The Grand Del Mar’s Facebook page.

Lastly, the Hotel Del Coronado and The Grand Del Mar are both on the right track as it relates to social media marketing.  Engaging and interacting with fans is key.  Hopefully, they will also incorporate the social site, Pinterest into their social media strategy as there are 70+ million users on the site.  By the way, I haven’t been paid by any of these brands to endorse their products or services.

For more on how to develop a social media strategy, read “Social Media Strategy Development” courtesy of the Social Media Academy.

What are some of the strategies that you utilize in your social media marketing efforts?  Please leave a comment.

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Is Your Brand Social?

Say what? You have yet to launch your social media strategy, what are you waiting for?  I’m sure you’ve heard the news that social media has taken every industry by storm, and yes, that includes the travel and tourism industry.  If you—your travel brand—have not launched a social media strategy, you will be left behind wondering what just happened as the dust settles.  Meanwhile, your competitors—you know, the ones who have already successfully implemented their social media marketing strategies—are sitting somewhere on a beach soaking up some vitamin D while reaping the benefits of their social media marketing campaigns.  Convinced yet?

As with every business decision and strategy, there are challenges and risks associated with taking your brand social, or not.  I’d like to first remind you that social media marketing is an added layer to your current traditional marketing campaigns.  Social media marketing doesn’t replace your traditional marketing efforts—the two strategies go together like peanut butter and jelly, you cannot have one without the other.

Social Challenges and Risks

Although social media has taken the travel industry (and other industries) by storm, there are still a large amount of hospitality, travel, and tourism organizations that are “slow to go social” or in other words, they haven’t embraced social media.  Some fear social challenges and risks such as the learning curve of social technologies, competition, public relations crisis, brand reputation, security breaches—brand hijacking—loss of control of brand communications, legal issues, and many other challenges and risks that I haven’t mentioned.  However, the benefits of social media far outweigh the risks, especially if you have a strategic social media marketing plan in place.  By utilizing social media, you have a competitive advantage over your competitors who aren’t using social media.

To be successful in your social media campaigns, you must not only signup with more than one social networking tool (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+) to reach your target audience, you must also provide relevant content, high-resolution graphics, videos, creative phrases (status updates), and most of all—you must engage with your customers, regularly.  And I don’t mean SHOUTING at your customers by continually posting advertisements, discounts, etc., all the while ignoring your customers when they reply. Customers (your target audience) want to engage with your brand.  They want you to post thought provoking and clever status updates, they also want you to listen and respond to their concerns.  Additionally, it’s very important to monitor what your customers and potential customers are saying about your brand.  Using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Social CRM (SCRM) monitoring tools like Hootsuite, SproutSocial, Conversocial, HearsaySocial, eBuzzConnect, and others, will help you manage interactions with your customers, publish status updates to multiple social platforms, analyze data, and will assist in managing your company’s reputation and public relations.

Speaking of reputation/public relations, a great example of a pioneer company who took charge of their PR crisis using social media and is now “driving change”, is GM (General Motors).  Earlier this year, GM was (and still is) in hot water regarding the massive recalls of its Chevy, Pontiac, and Saturn model vehicles due to faulty ignition switches and other defects that resulted in 13 deaths, spanning over a ten year period.  The company’s CEO, Mary Barra, utilized social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to profusely apologize to the public as well as to offer information and updates and to answer questions regarding the recalls.  It is clear that the company understands the power of social media and they have conquered the fear of “social PR” by not running away from it, but more so embracing it while communicating and listening to their customers and stakeholders.

Did you know that social monitoring can generate revenue for your brand?

Yes, it’s true!  Social monitoring can generate revenue for your brand.  By actively monitoring your social platforms, you can stay in the loop on what your customers are saying as well as find out what their needs are.   For example, according to a recent Journal of Travel and Tourism report, “the Omni San Diego demonstrated how active monitoring of social media could lead to revenue generation and product distribution.  Their response to a wedding planner’s tweet about a potential choice of hotel for a wedding won them business because they responded on Twitter but others did not”.

So how can you implement a social media strategy that is similar to GM and the Omni Hotel for your hospitality, travel, and tourism brand?  First, you must “take your brand social” by actively utilizing social tools such as Twitter and Facebook to monitor and engage with your customers, you will increase brand awareness and gain loyal customers.

If you want to learn more about the benefits of Social Media, read this article “The Hidden Benefits of Social Media Marketing: Why Your Strategy May Be Working Better than You Think” by Stephanie Chandler, Speaker & Author, Forbes Contributor.

What are some of your experiences with social media?  How has your company benefited from social media?  Please leave a comment.