LinkedIn is the king of social selling for most industries and hospitality is no exception. However, you may be missing some opportunities if you spent all social selling time there.
First, I think it’s important to distinguish between social selling and social marketing. You should understand your goals before you embark in your selling campaign. Otherwise, your efforts may be wasted. If you want to want to elicit some interest in your hotel and generate some leads, then there are some great marketing tools out there. If you’re responsible for direct sales that involve prospecting, relationship building, and closing, then there is a different way to go about social selling. LinkedIn is one way, but let’s take a look at when you should use this tool and the advantages of some others.
LinkedIn is used primarily by the business community. This is great if you are a corporate sales person. You can find individuals within a target company or industry and learn things about their background. You can join groups that will allow you to network with your targeted clients (since we so rarely get to do that in person any longer). You can regularly communicate with your contacts through their posts and messaging. There are many other ways to use this resource to your advantage.
However, what is LinkedIn missing as a tool? Ask any hotel sales person that sells weddings, reunions, sports, government, and other SMERF markets. It lacks personal and social information needed to capture some of that business.
So what about Facebook? It’s certainly personal. You can google any target and, depending on their privacy settings, find out anything you ever (or never) wanted to know about a potential client! Some people are very open to connecting to people they don’t know well and others are uncomfortable about connecting with any business connection. It is better to wait until you have a stronger relationship with this person to decide whether it is acceptable to connect or not. However, there are some other sites you can use.
Most companies have pages on Facebook. You can learn what is going on and what they are strongly promoting. With Facebook’s advanced search tool, you can find out if you have friends of friends that work for certain companies in certain cities. This can help if you are having a hard time breaking in to a target company and need some inside info. Another great resource is to search for events going on within your city over soft dates. You may be able to reach out to those event organizers and get rooms.
The next social site worth your time is Twitter. I know many people do not use this because they don’t tweet! Well, you don’t have to tweet to use this as a research tool. Search for companies and people that have accounts. Search for hashtags to find out what they are saying about your hotel, your competitors hotel, your city, or events coming up. Play around with the search terms until you find ones that work for you and your market. There are also some great ways to interact or engage with potential clients that are unique to Twitter.
Instagram can be used to find interesting information on organizations as well. You can use search terms to locate ones of interest. Then follow them to see what they are promoting and who are engaging on their photos. The same rules apply as mentioned before in Facebook. You may not want to connect with a client unless you are prepared to see all their baby pictures and intimate vacation shots!
Don’t stop at the social media giants. If you have a niche market, then there is probably a social site that fits that group. For instance, if you sell to weddings, you are in luck! Sites like theknot, weddingdetails, and brides.com are great places to look for providers of flowers, dresses, cakes and other vendors in your area that you can contact to trade referrals. Also, get on the forums and discussions. When we do this for our social media prospecting classes, we always find leads where someone is asking for a good hotel in a certain location.
There are sites like this for reunions, government, colleges, and many others. These are great ways to research, look for leads, and connect within your market.
Signature Worldwide always ends our sessions with an action planning exercise. As important as it is to establish goals before you get started, it’s equally important to follow up on them to make sure you’re achieving what you need to. Social media selling can be a great source of revenue for hotel sales people, but it can also be a time waster if you don’t have a plan and stay on track. Now, you have some action items to start your plan!