2012 will be the year when hotels wake up to the power of social media as a primary (rather than alternative) customer communications and relationship channels, says the Hotel Yearbook 2012 report. According to another projection, half of the travel industry will be using social media as a way of generating revenue and bookings by 2016. Globally, hotels are ramping up and fine-tuning their social strategies. They are adapting to the social web dynamics and building goodwill building with customers.
A leading five-star hotel Grand Millennium Kuala Lumpur recently became the first hotel in Malaysia to offer direct room booking on its Facebook Page. Users can check room availability and instantly book the room within the Facebook environment. Those who book the rooms can also enjoy fans-only rates and earn loyalty reward points. Grand Millennium is working with Sabre Hospitality Solutions to enable this social booking feature.
According to Melvin Lim, General Manager of Grand Millennium Kuala Lumpur, the seamless booking experience on Facebook provides distinctive value proposition to its customers. He said, “Many hotels in Kuala Lumpur or Malaysia feature a booking engine, but what they are using is just a connection or link that leads the user away from Facebook and into a completely different environment. This can be daunting for some Facebook users that have become familiar with the social network environment. What sets us apart is the Sabre Hospitality Solutions’ technology that allows users to book directly and safely without leaving the Facebook environment.”
He continues, “We believe our technology capability will allow us to be in the frontier of engaging our customers, but also at the same time provide us a good e-commerce platform that provides a reward for their loyalty to our brand on one of the most popular social networks.”
Since the middle of 2011, the hotel has been setting up social outposts on Facebook and Twitter. The hotel created four Facebook Pages, each targeting different audiences with different types of contents. Together, these Pages have over 45,000 fans (so far).
- Grand Millennium Kuala Lumpur: For International travelers coming into KL conversation.
- The Mill Café: On seafood buffet dining lovers.
- Lai Ching Yuen: On Chinese restaurant dining and dim sum
- Pulse Ultra Club: On nightlife entertainment and party.
Blogs and social networks are becoming key sources of information for travelers and holidaymakers. There is a shift from trusting the “wisdom of the crowds to wisdom of my friends to wisdom of my friends with taste. Grand Millennium KL uses sponsored stories to tap into its fans’ social graphs and the result has been encouraging.
According to Adhiyanto Goen, Director of Marketing & Communications, “we found this works really well, but of course at the beginning it was very slow as we had to cultivate enough fans number in order to be able to use the sponsored stories.”
During the early phase, they “started with word-of-mouth, including having our Pages’ URLs on our business cards, collateral. We also did one massive campaign with LivingSocial Malaysia, which we got a lot of fans from there as well. It was challenging at the beginning but our efforts paid off,” said Goen.
On how the hotel intends to use its social media channels, Goen explains, “Social media is a network of community of people that is exchanging information or sharing interest and we don’t want to discourage it by bombarding with constant promotion, our key approach is building a steady conversation with the community that helps position people’s perception towards our service.”
Hotels are selling experiential products. Social tools like Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are designed for users to share their life experiences. For hotels, the objective is to stay interesting and excite its brands via social contents curation and meaningful engagements with the social web users. Then, these social engagements can be transformed into brand loyalty or inspire target audience to make bookings, directly on Facebook and other channels.