By Julie Matthews
Concierge service is a fairly standard hotel accommodation. A typical concierge assists guests of their hotel, often providing them with suggestions for various venues and services. Less standard, however, is the provision of a concierge that serves travelers regardless of guest status, often approaching them rather than the other way around. With this second type of concierge, Hilton Worldwide has built an innovative Twitter initiative.
Under the handle @HiltonSuggests, Hilton staff members tweet suggestions for everything from manicurists to photographers to travelers around the world. Vanessa Sain-Dieguez, Director of Social Media Planning & Integration at Hilton Worldwide, explains in a guest post on Edelman Digital that authenticity was an important concept in the creation of Hilton Suggests. In order to achieve this authenticity, tweets don’t come from a central headquarters. Instead, Sain-Dieguez writes, “Hilton Worldwide decided to give a voice to select employees in key markets and set out on a mission to build their very own Hilton Suggests team.” In using this team, Hilton Suggests is able to provide personal, conversational suggestions that draw on local knowledge.
There are two elements that make Hilton’s use of Twitter particularly effective:
- Useful Content
Hilton Suggests is designed to serve potential customers with useful information rather than blasting them with an unwanted sales pitch. This exemplifies a concept called Youtility. In “Is Youtility the Future of Marketing?,” Jay Baer writes of Youtility, “Sell something, and you make a customer. Help someone, and you make a customer for life.” In providing useful suggestions, Hilton is able to get its name in the minds of potential customers and potentially build loyalty and good will with existing customers. Customers are likely to go out of their way to avoid marketing that only profits the advertiser, but they may become engaged with or even seek out marketing that serves them.
In addition to providing Youtility, Hilton Suggests uses its Twitter account as a two-way conversation facilitator rather than a one-way megaphone. In “Social Media is a Conversation: Don’t Turn Your Back” on Social Media Today, Harry Kierbow advocates businesses using social media to have open dialogue with customers. He writes, “Don’t just throw your content out and walk away. Make sure you are accessible and responsive to any feedback coming from your fans.” Hilton Suggests doesn’t just spit out suggestions; instead, the Hilton Suggests team both seeks to start conversations with those looking for something and conversationally responds to tweets directed toward them. For a personal touch, tweets are signed with the initials of the team member that is tweeting.
In one case, user @tmonhollon, asked Hilton Suggests for a food truck recommendation, and a third party @DowntownCLE joined in with a suggestion. Rather than ignoring this and robotically providing an additional, unnecessary suggestion, Hilton Suggests wisely joined the conversation and complemented @DowntownCLE on their recommendation.
Several social media bloggers have taken notice of Hilton’s creative Twitter initiative. In a post on HootSource, Evan LePage proffers Hilton Suggests as an illustration of the fourth of eight tips for social business: engage to build a community. He describes the “non-sales oriented approach” of Hilton Suggests as “an engagement for engagement’s sake position.” In “Digital Concierge Creates Brand Loyalists,” Mackenzie Michel commends Hilton Suggests for going so far as to recommend a restaurant to a customer of a rival hotel. She writes that this increases the probability of that person choosing Hilton Hotels for a future trip. In “Why Just Being Useful is the Secret Marketing Edge for Hospitality,” a quote from Hilton Worldwide social media director Vanessa Sain-Dieguez is included that speaks to this strategy, “That’s where we can make a difference, because they’re not experiencing our hospitality within the hotel, and if you’re not in the hotel, you may not be getting the same service, and we could win you over.”
As of Sunday, September 29, 2013, these are the statistics on the @HiltonSuggests account:
- 15,189 Tweets
- 5,532 Followers
Given its plethora of tweets, Hilton Suggests is clearly a very active project into which a lot of work has been invested. While its number of followers is modest, there is likely a group of people who use the service without following the account, due to the number of @replies it generates. Adapting to a changing social world, Hilton Worldwide has redefined hotel hospitality.