Social Media is about building relationships, not selling! We hear this again and again, some of us are even put off by it, and it is a true statement…too an extent Before we can influence someone we need to get them to accept us, this is a VERY basic concept of human nature. We use this open door to begin to persuade, to be honest this is an everyday thing! We ask our friends and family what their opinions are on … well everything! Where do you want to eat? Who cut your hair? Where did you get that shirt?
We ask and then, sometimes, we listen and we act! That’s the key right there…we learn to trust someone, or at least to pay attention to people who interest us, then we start listening to their opinions and then, sometimes, we buy! The hard part for most business people to swallow is the ROI, WHAT IS THE BOTTOM LINE? Relationship building is hard to quantify and even when it ends in a conversion it’s hard to track, although that is changing. I recently discovered that Best Western Hotels can sign up for a “social” rate code that is trackable via their PMS, that to me is a “Win” for those of us who depend on metrics to justify our livelihood!
However, not all brands have set up any metrics at all and, even when they have, not all consumers are savvy enough to use these coupons and trackable codes (how many coupons end up in the trash I wonder). So even though it IS improving, it’s not a perfect system and ROI numbers are still hard to come by. That is why I decided to tell you a story, paint you a picture about how well Social Media works, and to show you at least a small Social Media win!
In the picture above you can see that a Twitter “keyword” search alert brought @justnelson to my attention as a potential guest! I opened up his profile to get a little insight into him and I noticed that he and I had something in common, we were both members of the same fraternity! So I opened up a dialogue by simply asking him what hotel he had ended up in the night before (I noticed him late in his travel day), and I also included a little bit of a Sigma Nu fight song to encourage him to accept me as a peer!
This small connection was actually enough to get him to engage in a little conversation about fraternity days as well as to SWITCH HOTELS! This is what it means when we, Social Media people, say that the goal of Social Media is to create relationships, not to “sell”. People are willing to accept a lot of ADVISE from someone, even a virtual online someone, they have created a relationship with. The sales, the ROI, is there but the most important part, the relationship building, is largely under represented on your traditional revenue heavy metrics. Now, this isn’t new, just think back to the latest and greatest “pyramid” scheme, they always start by telling you to target your friends and family, to start with those you already have a relationship with (mainly because if they waited for you to build new ones they might not still be around)!
This idea of relationshp building is very closely tied to a concept I used to hear bandied about a lot in the 90′s in the hospitality industry. It was largely accepted that it took about 6 months for the average Sales Manager to begin to see returns from “cold calls”, we knew this and accepted it. This was also before the “.Com boom” and the thought process that the internet means instant gratification/sales. Social Media Marketing is, actually a throw back to the “old days” of “outside sales” and “cold calls” only instead of “pounding the pavement” we are canvassing the Social Media space. Hopefully this story helps illustrate a concept that, in my experience, many hoteliers and other small business owners seem to find frustrating. You have to invest TIME into Social Media for it to pay off! Good Luck and remember to Get Social … Media!