Social networking new craze among Middle East hoteliers

Luxury and value hotels are increasingly using social networking sites to promote their brands
Social networking new craze among Middle East hoteliers
By Elizabeth Broomhall
Mon 11 Jul 2011 10:21 AM

Social networking sites are proving highly
popular among Middle East hoteliers looking to get on board with region’s the
online marketing craze.

Websites such as Facebook, Twitter,
LinkedIn and Youtube are gaining increasingly more attention from both value
and luxury hotels, often playing a pivotal role in their wider marketing
campaigns.

According to hotel managers, the sites’
ability to communicate with thousands of potential customers makes them an
effective medium for raising brand awareness, increasing customer interaction
and plugging promotions.

“We are using social networking sites such
as Facebook and Twitter for our food and beverage promotions and events,” said Kezia Da Rocha,
business development and marketing manager
at the Holiday Inn Dubai Al Barsha.

“We have an in house dedicated team which
is updating our offers and promotions and also interacting with our
members constantly.”

Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Youtube are
among a crop of popular internet social networking services which gained global
attention this decade and are still growing in the Middle East.

As of January 2011,
Facebook, the first and most popular of the sites, had more than
600 million active users.

Also using the site to drive business is
Dubai’s Crowne Plaza.

As well as marketing the hotel, the company
has found networking sites particularly useful for promoting specific nights
and events.

“It has been a great tool especially for Zinc Night Club. We
have just under 4000 people in the Zinc Group (on Facebook) and about 1200 on
the Zinc fan page.

“We receive daily postings from fans about how much they
enjoyed the night and get tagged in photos from across Dubai. Our newest tactic
is using the ‘My Location’ application for all our DJs so their fans always
know when they are at Zinc.”

Luxury hotels however, remain fairly new to the phenomenon,
and tend to use the websites in a different way.

Traditionally less inclined to plug cheap deals and
promotional offers, hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton and Jumeirah Beach Hotel
focus mainly on increasing brand awareness and driving visitors to their
booking sites.

“It is more challenging for
a luxury brand to get into this space because you can’t talk about price, it’s
about news and information sharing,” Vivienne Gan,
regional director of Middle East public relations told Arabian Business.

“We use Louis Vuitton as a benchmark for our campaigns, we
don’t do hard promotion. It’s not about cost
and event promotions. It’s about elevating the brand.

“The great thing about
being in the social media space is that we can now interact with anyone who is
interested in our brand, and this is a huge advantage over traditional forms of
communications where the communication flow is generally one-way.”

Currently, the Ritz-Carlton has as many as 43,000 fans on
its webpage and 10,000 followers on Twitter. Among the newest luxury hotels to
get involved in the social networking craze are Hyatt and Hilton, both expected
to announce details of their campaigns in the second quarter of the year.

Terry Kane, director of digital strategy for Jumeirah Group,
says the best thing about social networking sites for luxury hotels is that
they attract those genuinely interested in the brand, keen to discover more and
keep up to date.

“Social sites have enabled a multi-purpose platform that
makes the content relevant to the people that contribute to the conversation,
and the ability to freely feed into the conversation gives a deeper insight
into the brand than advertising could ever provide.”

He adds that the growth of jumeirah.com in the Chinese
online market, up 400 per cent in the first quarter of this year compared with
2010, has been largely driven by social networking.

In addition, over 80 per cent of job applications come
through jumeirah.com, almost all of which have visited Jumeirah Beach Hotel
pages on social networking sites.

“Social channels are a challenge to traditional thinking and
traditional communication styles, particularly for luxury brands.”

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