I spent roughly the first 10 years after college working, in some capacity, within the hospitality industry. I chose a profession within the hospitality industry because I am really passionate about two things that it encompasses: making your guests feel special and helping people have an enjoyable experience.

It was 2009 and I was the Sales and Social Media Manager for AAA’s only Four Diamond Property in Portland, ME. For brands, social was still a new medium. We were just beginning to realize how the platform could help our property reach new travelers and add value to our current customer’s experience. We discovered our voice on social and we were seeing results.

With ROI always being the first question on a General Manager’s mind, it was important that we could prove our social media efforts were working. Over the course of the next several years, we were able to execute new site tours, attribute direct sales and account for new clients via our social media efforts.

Below are three tactics that we used to drive measurable business results and stand out as the premier property in our city.

Listen to What People Are Saying

Social listening and monitoring are key and a social media management tool makes both tasks more efficient and effective. I find value in Sprout Social’s monitoring tools. Features like Smart Search and Brand Keyword makes it easy to search and oversee questions and phrases that existing customers and potential travelers are asking on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

If you are a business within the travel and hospitality industry, you can use these tools to find out what people are saying about your city, property and services. Using Twitter Search Operators you can filter Tweets within a 20-mile radius so you won’t have to worry about being inundated with posts from patrons outside of your target market.

At our hotel, we would monitor for phrases like:

  • Planning a trip to Maine
  • Headed to Maine
  • Breakfast in Portland, Maine

It is one thing to listen to what people are saying but it is equally important to proactively respond and engage. Our business would add value to the existing conversation by identifying users and asking them what they planned to do when they arrived in Maine, what area of the state they were going to. We were looking to add value and create a connection.

As the conversation progressed and, only if  it made sense, we would invite them to stay at our property or offer a complimentary cocktail at our restaurant. We never tried to sell our services first and then build a relationship. That would have been inauthentic.

Support Your Business Goals With Social

In December 2012, one of our goals was to drive more business to the hotel’s restaurant. One of the ways that we did this was by taking advantage of a timely and heavily-publicized rumor that the world was going to end on December 21, 2012.

We decided to run a doomsday promotion so we created a specialty cocktail for December 21, 2012 and name it “The End of the World Martini.” Across all of our social media, we ran posts leading up to the “end of the world.”

We provided tips on how to enjoy your final days on earth, what you should eat, drink, and make sure to do. To further amplify our efforts, we stole an idea from word of mouth marketing expert, Saul Colt. We plastered Portland with signs that said, “THE END OF THE WORLD IS COMING! So why not celebrate with the End of the World Martini?” The posters directed visitors and residents to our Facebook page for more information.

That weekend we sold twice as many high-profit martinis than usual, generated a lot of buzz around the city and likely got customers who otherwise wouldn’t have visited our restaurant in the door.

Reach out to High-Value Corporate Clients & Influencers

Shortly after Google+ launched its Business Pages, our hotel set up an account. To get a better understand of the social channel, we began to follow other early adopters. One afternoon I noticed that best selling author and marketing expert, Chris Brogan, had posted a photo of himself drinking a cup of coffee at a coffee shop near our hotel.

I quickly responded from my personal account asking him if he was still in Portland. He responded and told me that he was in the city meeting with his team. I knew that Chris held seminars throughout the country and I thought that our property may be a good fit for one of his future events. So, I decided to reach out and invited him and his team to meet our GM, tour our business and enjoy a complimentary lunch at our restaurant.

What I didn’t know was that Chris also came to Portland on his own quite often. During our lunch he signed an agreement for a special corporate rate with our property. Without being prompted, he Tweeted about our hotel. His influence on Twitter alone made the time we invested in the impromptu lunch worth it.

It is my opinion that social media best practices that deliver an impactful ROI are no different than the best practices for providing hospitality offline. Listen for conversations that you can add value to, acknowledge unique events that you can take ownership of and build momentum around, and most importantly don’t forget to be human and nurture those real life relationships.

These tips coupled with consistent posting and visually appealing photos of your city, property and services, will help drive more business to your establishment and help you stand out as a company that adds value and cares about community.

Update: Instagram made changes to their Graph API in 2018, which may affect functionality mentioned above. Read here for more information