Social networks are useful, powerful, and are not going away. It is undeniable that there is an opportunity for many companies, especially hospitality brands, to embrace these channels of communication to build brand loyalty and engage customers. Yet despite the potential benefits, social networking also introduces a number of worries for hospitality organizations, including that of monitoring employee participation beyond that of one or two key people.
Employee conversations regarding work will happen and it is of course up to the brand to control participation. However, being overly concerned with monitoring messages and usage is a reactionary step. While many companies are far too worried about monitoring employees versus utilizing them, the Roger Smith Hotel (www.rogersmith.com
) in New York City has taken the stance of encouraging online engagement from all departments.
The boutique hotel has a philosophy: "It's all about the people." Being a part of the Roger Smith family is based on human growth, and when employees are encouraged to think, participate and share, that culture becomes stronger. The tools of social media and technology are only as effective as the people contributing.
A team effort
From the owners to the bartenders, participation on social networking sites is encouraged, supported and developed from within. When it comes to social monitoring of employees, the Roger Smith Hotel is proactive and finds creative ways for team members to be productive using the tools of social networking.
Four years ago, the Roger Smith Hotel started a video-based blog, which has evolved into a network of social sites including Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and lastly a blog. The key to "Roger Smith Life," as these outlets are collectively named, is life. Contributions to all of these networks come from a diverse group of people and all employees are encouraged to take part.
For instance, the hotel has incorporated sales and customer service into its social networking efforts. Using Twitter, the Roger Smith Hotel has increased brand awareness, sales, customer service and more. The hotel currently has more than twenty employees using Twitter, and most recently, the hotel's director of revenue joined Twitter (@RevGirl) to facilitate guest requests for reservations.
By including all departments and individuals in the process of being social, it accomplishes a few different objectives: first, employees become more valuable to the organization while still performing daily tasks; second, employees realize the importance that personal branding brings to the whole business; and finally, employees are taught the importance of social media as it relates to work, not as a time killer.
Philosophies to follow
In 2009 the Roger Smith Hotel started loosing control, for the best. Instead of dictating the message, it supported the messenger through the following strategies and philosophies:
- Use employees to build alternate channels of communication and exposure.
- Employees are people, and people connect with other real people. Take advantage of this.
- Building trust takes a team of people standing behind and representing the product.
- Using social networks educates clients about the company, and more importantly, about the people that make the business unique.
- Individual people sharing stories of the Roger Smith Hotel, and their own stories, is the way that social media works to its fullest potential.
The ability to involve employees, customers and the virtual community all on one plane is a key component to the Roger Smith Hotel's success. If 2009 was all about new tools in social networking, then 2010 should be about integrating these tools into everyday business and focusing staff members to do the same. When a company makes its employees a part of the bigger picture and allows participation, especially in hospitality, the outcome is most often greater customer satisfaction and loyalty. Continuing to utilize employees in social networking will be a main focus at the Roger Smith Hotel.