Is Facebook All a Twitter? Making Sense of Social Media

The big question about all this social media hubbub in the innkeeping industry is – will getting on Facebook, Twitter and other similar “social media sites du jour” bring me reservations? I think we should look at the rise of social media sites in three ways with regard to effect on innkeeping – learning, reservations and novelty.

Reader Interruption…If you don’t know what Twitter is, click here for a neat video explanation. If you don’t know what Facebook is, click here for Facebook’s explanation.

My short and sweet explanation …Twitter is a program that allows people to share short statements, called “Tweets,” about what’s on their mind, anything from “Just made bananas foster pancakes for 8 happy guests” to “Just read this blog post about B&B cancellation policies.” Users are limited to 140 characters, and each person has followers and can follow others. It can be passive (you get others’ “Tweets” sent to your cell phone) or active (you could log in and check them out at your convenience). Facebook is a much more comprehensive site that allows users to post all kinds of content on their own “pages,” including photos, links to items of interest, personal information, business information, and so much more…so much so, that it’s hard to encapsulate in a few sentences. Your “friends” on Facebook get updates when you change your page and add any content, and you get the same updates from them. It’s a bit overwhelming, but it is just as interesting as it is overwhelming. There’s a reason Facebook has over 200,000,000 users.

So, why should innkeepers strongly and carefully consider jumping in with sites like Twitter and Facebook, when on the surface it might seem like just a bunch of noise, hype and Gen X stuff?

Learning
One of the biggest benefits I get from being on Twitter and Facebook is picking up bits here and there of useful information. I glance through the sites every day, although I hear about many who spend hours and hours diving through all the content every day. Colleagues of mine in the innkeeping industry, many of whom are consultants, actively Tweet about articles they encounter about travel, tourism and hospitality. Innkeepers share what wonderful and frustrating things are happening to them during the course of a day. I put a premium on networking with bright minds; I hope it makes me a little brighter. Sites like Twitter and Facebook are enjoyed and used by people who like being around other people, even if it’s virtually through cyberspace. Raise your hand if you like going to conferences. If you raised your hand, you would more likely enjoy learning from your peers through sites like Twitter and Facebook than those who don’t care to learn about others.

Reservations
I’m starting to hear about some innkeepers getting their first bookings through Twitter and Facebook. I think today Facebook has a much stronger chance of earning you business than Twitter, but that could change over time. You can do some amazingly targeted advertising on Facebook (i.e. I want my B&B ad only to show on users’ pages who are in the state of Virginia and who have college degrees in History, because there is some historically significant about my destination or my inn). I think that if a fan of Facebook and Twitter knew that the innkeeper at the B&B they were considering were also active on Facebook and Twitter, it certainly would give that B&B a competitive advantage. If socializing with the innkeeper is still an important part of staying at B&Bs, I would be excited to meet the innkeepers I’ve been checking out on Facebook or Twitter. Some of your loyal guests can become “fans” or “followers” or “friends” on these platforms, which means another (yet much more meaningful) way of staying connected with more of your guests. Your “fans, followers and friends,” can become evangelical about your inn, because THEIR “fans, followers and friends,” will see their affinity for your inn.

Novelty
Getting on Facebook and Twitter is a lot of fun. You get to connect and reconnect with so many personalities and friends. It’s part of life’s spice! Some of what I see can be trivial, but it’s just plain neat getting a glimpse into people’s thoughts, lives and perspectives about what’s happening to them. Many innkeepers feel that innkeeping is a fairly isolating profession – there is no doubt that can be the case. Programs like Twitter and Facebook allow peers in our industry to stay connected and a little less isolated.

I often hear “who’s got time to do this stuff?” The simple and true answer is – you can give it as much or as little time as you want. There’s no pressure to be highly active. You naturally won’t give it a lot of time unless you feel like you’re getting a lot out of it.

So, if you’re inclined, “follow” me on Twitter here, and if you want to become my “friend” on Facebook, you can find me here. Look for the guy with the beard behind a microphone.

If you’re particularly interested in learning more about leveraging the power of Facebook, PAII is hosting an online, 60-minute webinar entitled “Marketing Your Inn with the Tools of Facebook” on May 19th at 2 pm EST. Click here to log in and register.

Give it a shot, folks! Be social on the web. I surely believe there is more to gain than lose.

Jay

Author: Jay Karen

Jay is the President & CEO of the Professional Association of Innkeepers International.

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