by Michala Maly, iiWorks Sydney Social media is an ever changing process of staying connected. What started out with limited instant messaging over two decades ago has grown into Google+, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, Vine and so on. Consumers and business owners alike are aware of the power of feedback on social media. The comment, rating or feedback sections of business pages are frequently the first tab clicked and the most thoroughly read. What does this near-obsession with feedback have to do with hotel branding? The answer is more than you might imagine. Surprise surprise, a new angle There are over 45 thousand hotel marketers around the world, making competition for attention and business in the industry, fierce. Cutting edge hoteliers and their marketing teams were quick to spot value in social media. Due to guest ratings and comments, hoteliers can fine tune their ad campaigns. A hotel marketer, with an ad campaign boasting a convenient location in the city centre, may realise through feedback, that it's also considered a favourite by repeat guests for being on a quiet street yet still near the action. That knowledge changes the way ads are worded, effectively rebranding the hotel as a quiet retreat yet close to all the excitement in the city. TIP: All social media accounts should have links to the hotel website where online booking and feedback are quick and easy to access. The cusomter is always right, or are they? In retail, the saying goes "the customer is always right." For the most part that is true. However, the hotel industry has a way of bringing out the growling bear in people. Guests often arrive tired, hungry and frazzled from travel. Any little thing wrong is going to be big in an already existing state of irritation which explains certain tweets. "Got to hotel and had to wait an hour for room #HateHotelX." That's harsh, and seemingly negative until somebody tweets in reply, "I've stayed there. Check-in is 4pm. It's 10am. #ChillOut." Before you know it, a conversation is started about Hotel X, including a mix of insights and feedback. TIP: Don't waste time trying to remove negative feedback. Rather, go ahead and engage with the customer. If nothing else, negative feedback creates opportunity for improvement. People respect a willingness to communicate and interest is piqued when solutions are offered. Keep social media relevant Gone are the days when a hotel could rely on a simple postcard or email reminding customers of an upcoming deal. Hotels should keep up with social media, regularly updating business pages with entertaining, informational and relevant posts. When social media pages go stale, it's akin to serving rancid orange juice at the continental breakfast bar. Everyone knows it's there but finds it distasteful. TIP: Contests are a big draw on social media and remain popular as long as winners are announced and people are thanked for liking and sharing the page. Maybe a like & share could be rewarded with a percentage off a 3 night or more booking. This type of marketing is what keeps people looking at and showing interest in specific hotels. Take a risk and benefit In a move that some might have considered marketing suicide, The Victoria Hotel in Melbourne announced on their web page it was being renovated. In reality, it was brilliant because their use of social media kept past and potential guests up to date on progress. Upon project completion, their rebranding from tired but historic to 1880's landmark with modern comforts, where no two rooms are alike, made the hotel a favourite in Melbourne. All along, people enjoyed the updates. The Victoria Hotel put the power of feedback to excellent use by staying in touch with potential guests. If your hotel isn't already using social media, or isn't doing so effectively, jump onto the train before more opportunities pass and watch those bookings increase. Michala Maly is a PR & Digital Analyst at iiWorks Sydney