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Industry Briefs
Choice Hotel Expert Urges Industry To Use Social Media Better

One of the leading social media trainers for Choice Hotels International urged hoteliers to set up a social media presence and to keep abreast of the rapidly changing field. For those without such a presence, Leon Thomas recommends, "that at a minimum – they go to those areas and try to find what consumers and what guests are saying about your hotel."

Thomas, who lectures at the Choice University, reminded hoteliers, "they can improve their search engine optimization by using Facebook, twitter and other social media areas as a marketing tool by using the proper links."

And, how do these links help? "Links on Facebook direct guests to your property's webpage, direct guests to a partner business in your area, help improve the search engine optimization of your hotel to make you easily found on the Internet."

High on the list of services to watch, alerted Thomas, is Four Square, increasingly being used by savvy travelers: "Four Square allows guests in hotels, and patrons of other businesses, to provide recommendations and tips and leave comments about your hotel."

He pointed to increasingly discriminating customers using the site: "Many guests check 20 to 25 online review sites before they make a hotel decision and Four Square is proven to be one of the most popular of these areas."

As to how hoteliers can stay on top of the service: "I really suggest that hotels become involved in Four Square. Read the comments and respond to those comments. But most importantly provide services that would lead to positive comments."

Thomas, who addressed the annual Choice Hotel Convention in Las Vegas in May, detected a new direction for another social media giant: "Twitter is becoming a research tool. Guests are going to twitter to research hotels and other businesses that they would like to investigate."

Again, the social media maven counsels close attention and response to issues raised on the site: "The comments that are left in twitter are very powerful and research shows that more and more people are on twitter trying to find things and trying to locate information – they are using it as a research tool, almost as a secondary type of Google."

For hotels that don't want to be on social media sites because they are concerned about what guests will say about them, Thomas asserted: "Guests will talk about you on the Internet or on social media even if you don't have a site setup ... so they're going to talk about you anyway. Social media sites give you the opportunity to respond to those guests right on those sites, so that others can hear and read your response."

While social media is perceived for the younger set, Thomas contends it is no longer the case. "All ages are using social media, so social media is not just for those in their 20s. Everyone is using it and there are so many things to use it for. It's just not a place to go and talk. It's a valuable business tool."