Social Media is amazing it allows us to find people and things we would not have otherwise. Daniel Calderon came into my sphere of awareness in this way. He is a passionate hospitality professional with deep roots in social media. I admire his friend making ability and consistent presence in my online world. Recently I asked him to write a guest blog post for spirocks.com and he obliged me with the following. Enjoy.
Hospitality: My Service is my Product – is Social Media Right for me?
There are tons of blogs, articles, and case studies exploring how large and small companies are successfully using the newly hip “Social Technologies” to engage with customers and acquire new ones. The hospitality industry has always struggled to keep up with technology. With that in mind, Hospitality businesses that provide a service as a product are skeptical whether they should leap into their own social adventure.
My social journey started with Xanga, Hi5, and Myspace. Later came WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Foursquare, and Gowalla. Using all these different platforms gave me a sound understanding of social networking. In November 2010, I decided to start helping other hospitality professionals understand the dynamics of the social world. After speaking with Chris Tripoli, the president of A’La Carte Foodservice Consulting Group(link http://www.alacarteconsultinggroup.com), I became their social media manager. This position allows me to connect A’La Carte with restaurateurs who seek professional assistance in “Creating Winning Concepts, Operating More Profitably, and Growing Successfully.” In February of 2011, I became the social media manager for Hospitality Pro Search(link http://www.hprosearch.com), an executive search firm recruiting management, culinary, accounting and corporate positions exclusively for the hospitality industry.
In the personal arena, I manage two twitter accounts: @TheFoodieTeam and @DanielnCalderon. These enable me to meet and learn of many great companies, organizations, and individuals who are doing a fantastic job in their social networking efforts. I would like to expose a few examples in hopes of sparking new ideas on how you can customize an approach for your social media campaign.
Let’s start with @Noahs_Kitchen, a non-profit organization whose goal is to provide the less fortunate with nourishment, nutritional education and other assistance as needed. This organization uses Facebook and Twitter in combination to post all the volunteering event dates, times, and locations. Check them out on www.facebook.com/noahskitchen and you will see how they utilize Facebook to help them achieve their goals and gain support. For instance, last year they helped “Team Houston” win the Ford Fiesta Movement. How did they help? Simply by creating a buzz with their ninja-like social media skills and enlisting the Houston community as advocates for the campaign.
They’re not a company, and you may be skeptical how their experience relates to you; but if you think about it, because they are not a “profit” driven entity, they face an even greater challenge in gaining support and followers… or so you might think! Now, feeding the homeless is not an easy task. How did they manage to bring people together? How did they get them to volunteer and create a hype? Easy, Noah’s Kitchen started with those closest to them: Their friends, personal contacts, colleagues, and family. It’s exactly the same in the social media world. Once you’ve created the accounts and filled the bio information completely, tell everyone you know. If you’re a company, add the links to your social accounts on all collateral business materials. May they be invoices, envelopes, business cards, and especially your e-mail signature. It is simple to do and you will be surprised how fast the word spreads.
My second example is @alexthedriver. Alex Feigelson is a taxi driver in Houston, Texas. He is a gentleman with an awesome personality – who adds a special touch to all the rides he provides and messages he shares. A taxi driver using Social Media is definitely not the norm. But it works, and as strange as it sounds, Alex manages to meet people through Twitter which he then converts to loyal customers. How he does it is simple. He keeps the dialogue going and when he meets someone for the first time, he shares his contact information. From then on, they have the option of contacting him through his Twitter account or mobile phone. Very neat and again keeping it simple works!
Going back to the service industry in general, what should a service-related business share? Focusing on core competency and the essence of each business is a good start. Think about what you’re good at, with emphasis on your strengths and those of your company. On Facebook: in addition to your personal profile, make a business page (free and easy) and use it to promote the projects you’re working on, but also to share news and stories related to your services/products. If you decide to use Twitter: once you create an account, share your own thoughts, share a little of your inspirations, and maybe a quote or joke every now and then. On LinkedIn: I strongly suggest setting up a profile, joining relevant groups or starting a group of your own, and participating in discussions. Don’t feel obliged to use all of the social platforms out there, but do keep in mind that if they’re free, all they require is a little of your time to set up. And even if you don’t plan on using them all right now, set up the accounts for the sake of saving your companies’ name on each network. Now, a very important part, all of these profiles should include a link to a main website or blog. Keeping the feel consistent throughout all profiles, you need to have a main “hub” where all these social platforms direct traffic.
In Social Media, the most important part is “Content.” With that in mind, I must mention @AFlirtYourself. Check out their Twitter bio: “@AFlirtYourself is all about flirting and making new friends in the real world with real people. Not selling anything.” While many consultants and articles offer advice on what to share, when to share it, adding links, catchy lines, etc… @AFlirtYourself is a master at creating content that others like to spread. In a little over a year, they managed to attract over 24,000 followers with less than 6,000 messages. The best of it all is that they don’t use links, pictures, videos, or any other media except great messages. Impressive eh? Yep, sometimes that’s all it takes, being thoughtful on your messages can get you a long way. And don’t worry too much about media content! Be genuine and acknowledge everyone. You never know who may lead to a business deal!