Community Management is something I think few brands do really well. It’s a hard thing to pull off, not only because brand culture needs to be on board with having a conversation with its community instead of blasting crap messages out constantly, but also because of the strategy development and tactical execution involved. It’s hard enough for brands to get marketing right with the tools we’ve always had, let alone blending the old and new.
A big part of my job at Mall of America is managing and developing its online community. Listening to what people say about the Mall of America brand, interacting with our community and continuing to build it by having meaningful conversations. This tactic of our work fits within the guest experience and innovative marketing programs piece of our social media strategy.
Working in this space is interesting (for so many reasons), in that rarely do I (as a consumer) experience the level of digital outreach we provide our guests at MOA (and I’m not insinuating we’re perfect at this either). I’ve just had such an experience at InterContinental Hotel Times Square in New York City that I believe many brands could learn something from.
When I booked travel for my New York trip (I attended and spoke at Blogworld & New Media Expo NYC 2011 last week), there was no particular reason for my choosing InterContinental TS, other than proximity to the conference center. Their website was pleasant and booking was a breeze. Upon arrival, I had a very positive first impression. The hotel is new, beautiful and located a few blocks from Times Square. The staff is very friendly and welcoming. When I got to my room, I was delighted by its modern, yet homey feel, the amazing bathroom, quality of the iron (I need a good iron) and amenities, not to mention my stellar view.
Being a Foursquare user and someone who likes to share where I go, what I do and experience (basically everything), I opened my Foursquare app, checked in and uploaded a picture of my view.
Moments later I received this tweet from @IC_TimesSquare:
They’re listening… and engaging… saying hey and utilizing new media (conversation) tools as a way to extend their brand promise. I dug this. Even though I spend a bulk of my time making sure people who mention Mall of America in their tweets and/or speak directly to us are acknowledged in whatever way necessary, it really blows my mind and gets my attention when brands do that for me. I appreciate it because I hang out on Twitter, therefore I enjoy it when I am followed up with or essentially, marketed to there.
Our conversation continued:
I left the hotel to grab dinner with coworkers, returning to find an envelope under the door. I thought it may be a receipt, as my stay was prepaid. NOPE! It was a lovely hand written note from Victoria, the InterContinental Times Square’s community manager on duty. It read:
Thanks so much for tweeting with us and we hope you enjoy your stay! Please let us know if there’s anything we can assist you with.
It also included a ‘drink on us’ ticket for the fantastic hotel lounge.
What’s the ROI of this?
I can’t possibly leave this post without validating why an activity like this yields. Here’s my perceived ROI of my experience at IC_TimesSquare:
- Branding – @IC_TimesSqare‘s digital activities are an extension of their on-site guest experience. I can’t stress the importance of this. It is one of the biggest struggles when it comes to integrating new tools into an already existing strategy. The ROI – I’ve told at least 10 people and am writing positive media about them here.
- Loyalty – Provided superior guest service, making my stay a positive one, ensuring that I’ll pursue them before any other hotel in New York next time I travel. When I make travel arrangements elsewhere, I will be more inclined to search out an InterContinental.
- Revenue – At least $60 spent in @IC_TimesSquare lounge. Two of the most awesome dudes I know, Dave Fleet and Chuck Hemann, met me for drinks.
How do you do this too?
This impressive experience made me curious (of course), so I sought Victoria to ask about how Intercontinental manages social strategy. This was her answer:
“Currently the set-up for InterContinental hotels is that each property is set to look after themselves – with cross promotion and educational opportunities offered from the corporate level. At this property specifically, I work on-site with a team off site to help feed relevant and interesting content as well as making sure there is a constant conversation happening with our customers.”
I liked her answer. While short, it covers a lot of ground and also remains consistent to the experience they’re providing. They’re offering autonomy to employees, while also providing framework at the corporate level.
So… make sure you know what your key messages and marketing communications strategy are, develop social strategy (which really is a human approach to your marketing – that’s all) around existing marketing communications strategy, and the tools will follow. Easier said than done, of course. If you’re looking specifically for listening tools, etc. Google it. Many have written on the topic, or I’m happy to provide recommendations in comments.
Big thanks to InterContinental Times Square for providing me this experience. Made my trip to New York that much better!