IABC-Atlanta Recap – 3 Tips from IHG’s Social Media Journey

At this month’s luncheon hosted by the Atlanta chapter of The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), we heard about InterContinental Hotels Group’s (IHG) social media strategies and how they’ve created systems to demonstrate the value of listening and responding to the conversations about their hotels.

Nick Ayres (@nickjayres), leader of the global social marketing team for IHG, presented best practices and shared case studies from his team’s experience in launching a social media strategy and continuously monitoring its effectiveness.

Tip #1: “Begin With the End”

In his closing remarks, Ayres advised to “begin with the end.” In other words, consider where you would like social media to drive your business and what you expect in return for your efforts. Philosophically, IHG treats customer interactions on social media as they would any other interaction with the employees at their hotels. They developed their social media team from within – hiring employees who were well-versed in the company’s standards of excellence and commitment to service, and then training these employees in the tools of the social media trade. This approach puts their business philosophy squarely at the forefront of their online presence – letting their business drive their social media strategy, not vice versa.

Tip #2: “Complementing. Not Complicating”

To launch their social marketing efforts, IHG built upon their existing infrastructure. The company developed a dashboard for monitoring and responding to conversations about their brands and integrated the system into their existing intranet. The dashboard was tested with select managers and then streamlined for ease of use prior to its broader release. In support of the rollout of the new dashboard, IHG developed social media best practice documentation, conducted in-person trainings and web-ex demonstrations, and dedicated resources such as a special inbox for social media inquiries.

Tip #3: “Be Maniacal About Avoiding Scope Creep”

It’s easy to let conversations in the marketplace drive your reactions.  IHG’s social marketing team diligently prioritizes conversations based on their actionability. Foursquare check-ins and Instagram uploads, for example are often very neutral sorts of instances. Since launching their listening efforts, IHG has estimated that less than 10% of the mentions they review actually merit follow-up actions. They address those instances which merit a reply. And allow other instances meriting no response at all to go without acknowledgement. Because IHG has a process in place they are able to effectively manage their online presence without becoming reactive and creating scope creep.