Prior to the introduction of the new social listening and customer experience tool, Dorchester Collection's social media strategy was creative, authentic to the brand and fun. Our strategy primarily focused on the OUTBOUND social metrics, engagement with the community on our official channels and the messages we were sending out to our fans and followers. However, we did not have any way to collect the thousands of messages, photos and videos our guests were sharing while at our hotels. While our communications experts certainly tried to engage with guests and followers actively seeking recognition, due to the pure volume of posts this was difficult.
We recognized the opportunity to introduce an INBOUND social media strategy, enhancing guest experience and connecting the physical and digital worlds. In partnership with Local Measure, we introduced a tool focused on capturing social media activity generated by our guests while at our hotels.
The primary objective of this new tool was to enhance our guest experience by recognising and communicating to our guests via their preferred channel, and more importantly to close the gap between physical and digital experiences. The secondary objective was to break the organizational silos and enable guest-facing, operational departments to create bespoke moments that matter to our guests. In other words, we operationalized social media.
The measurement of success we set for each of our hotels was to submit at least two guest stories per month whereby this tool gave us enough insight to create a bespoke engagement with our guests.
Michael Porter said: "Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs and deliberately choosing to be different".
The CHOICE we made was to "operationalize social media" – the risk many choose not to take as it is often perceived as too complicated. To allow thousands of employees to engage with our guests on a digital platform where footprints stay forever takes a tremendous amount of trust and strong organizational culture.
The TRADE-OFF we had to make was pace of scaling. This new tool requires new skills and new talent which doesn't live in a box; it requires creativity, resourcefulness and the ability to act on insight.
In an era of consolidation of the hotel brands and centralization of services, we CHOSE TO BE DIFFERENT by not centralizing inbound social media; we decentralized it.
We were able to use the EXPERT resources from our partners at LOCAL MEASURE. This, in turn, saved us thousands in consultancy fees.
During this stage, we relied on the expertise of Local Measure. Along with a six month pilot at The Beverly Hills Hotel, we delivered multiple presentations to educate our hotels on the current state of social media and the need for us to embrace it. These keynotes were useful in identifying the gap in knowledge… As a result, we realised the need to create clear guidelines as analysing social media posts, deciding when and how to engage is a skill set that we needed to build upon.
Roll out of the project occurred in April 2017. Some 85 team members across the collection volunteered to be part of the CORE team and support implementation. We communicated that the purpose of this important initiative is to (1) enhance our guest engagement and create loyalty to Dorchester Collection (2) enhance our hotels' reputations (3) engage our employees by enabling them to create individual bonds with our guests (4) break organizational silos and (5) drive global & operational learnings. We broke organizational silos as 16 different departments were involved in the launch (from kitchen to finance). A shorter version of the guidelines was shared on three cross company video calls in five countries, attended by more than 200 people, across 16 different departments (from kitchen to finance).
During the roll out of the project we were able to sense the positive momentum. There was no resistance, just excitement.
To evaluate buy in, we created a monthly activity summary (previously elaborated) which measures how well we use this tool and the pure volume. Within the first month of the launch, we engaged with 44% of our guests who posted on social media during their stay.
Following the global roll out, the LM team hosted 10 webinars to ensure each team was set up for success.
We periodically check in with each hotel. Key DC leaders periodically visit each hotel and host a workshop to evaluate the programme. We further reinforced it through our employee newsletter.
IMPACT AND REACH
In the first seven months of the launch we collected 154,392 posts from 93,867 guests, reaching an audience of 1.7 billion. As a collection of nine hotels, we responded to an average of 45% of posts within one day. Our guests posted 121,430 photos, 7,439 videos and 25,001 text comments. Finally, if we were to estimate the ROI on this initiative using the formula suggested by LYFE Marketing - we would need to spend £311,309 in marketing fees to achieve the buzz created by our guests.
SOCIAL MEDIA GUEST STORIES
Since our approach was not a traditional social media strategy, we created our own platform to share stories designed to bridge generations and make these stories accessible to all individuals in the organization. We developed a "non-digital" yet fun and creative template helping us to inspire creativity and instil competitiveness within Dorchester Collection. In 2017 we collected 308 stories elaborate on what this is.
GLOBAL LEARNINGS THE PROJECT
We did not anticipate to have so many global learnings. In one of our hotels we have learned that the most photographed area of the hotel is a public bathroom which is not the image we wish to portray to our guests. In another hotel people simply love to take sunset photos which is quite tricky. We engaged a professional photographer who teaches our employees how to take good sunset photos. They, in turn, share tips with our guests.
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