Wednesday, July 21, 2010
By Jennifer Rodrigues
Q: I’m fairly new to the online space and I want to make sure that I project the best possible image while interacting with others online. Any tips that you might have about what to do and what not to do when communicating online?
A: Lodging is the people’s business. As much as we in the industry like to reduce the day-to-day operations of hotels into rooms sold, occupancy percentages, and departmental contributions, most of the business of hotels consists of human interactions. Hoteliers email, of course, and spend time online comparable to their office-corporate counterparts, but the bulk of communication conducted in a hotel is just as it was two decades ago: person to person, face to face.
But proficiency in online communication is of utmost importance these days, and in an industry that is perhaps more practiced at traditional interactions, understanding some of the pitfalls and best practices in online communication is imperative. This isn’t to say that hotel managers and marketers are somehow inherently inferior in the area of electronic communication; in fact, the common sense tips that appear below are just as applicable to a business that exists exclusively in the online space as to hotels. But for hoteliers, for whom the concept of social media marketing might be brand new and still unfamiliar, a little brush-up in netiquette can be quite useful.
This concept applies to everything in the online space, no matter how small. Typos, inappropriate abbreviations, grammatical errors, and larger missteps, like posting wrong or misleading information, sending email correspondence to the incorrect contact list, or mismanaging a social media account are all surprising rampant in our digital age. Whether this arises from the sheer amount of written communication being transmitted or from a collective disregard for the basic rules, inaccuracy nonetheless conveys a negative impression of the person who committed it.
An integral part of proper netiquette, then, is ensuring that you don’t misspell words, send a document with typos and grammar mistakes, and above all being factually accurate whenever possible. Even though a blog post or an email blast takes very little time to create and/or send, inaccuracies within these communication units will be picked up by their intended recipients, who might well take offense. Remember, netiquette is respecting your audience enough to get things right.
Be Consistent and Responsive
Nothing is more infuriating than sending an email and getting no response, except perhaps for sending emails and consistently getting responses until one day, no response comes. Responsiveness and consistency in responding to anything online- emails, comments to a blog, Facebook friend requests- signals that you and your hotel care about those trying to communicate with you. In the people’s business, this is important.
It may not be feasible to respond to each and every online missive (though it is eminently doable- you may find the time it takes to be universally responsive rewarding), at least being consistent in what you respond to and how goes a long way toward creating an atmosphere of respectful communication. Perhaps not every blog comment deserves a retort, but every email from a guest deserves a response. Draw the lines here carefully, and be consistent.
Flaming, or writing in all caps, is a common mistake on the interpersonal communication level. All caps represents SHOUTING in the online space; make sure to use this sparingly, if at all. This includes indirect communications such as status updates and Tweets.
This may be self-explanatory, but as electronic communication has become more casual and commonplace, profanity has a tendency to creep into the most unlikely places. Swearing is an absolute no-go in public forums, which today includes most social media sites and blogs. On the individual level, it should be kept to a minimum, and avoided altogether in professional communications. “Professional communications” gets to the heart of this rule; blue language may be OK for personal use, but never in a professional setting. Those lines may be blurring, but getting rid of all curse words is a hallmark of good netiquette.
In the same vein, don’t allow your personal views or commentary to seep into professional communications. Some informality and intimacy is acceptable on Twitter or Facebook, but remember that any communications initiated on behalf of your hotel should be relevant to the hotel. It is not just irrelevant to share personal details in professional communications, it is impolite, and thus a violation of netiquette.
These five rules are not intended to be exhaustive, but they are good blanket principles to keep in mind. In general netiquette is about respecting whoever may see your online communication, so the best way to ensure that you’re practicing good netiquette is to ask the same question your mother might ask: Would you like it if someone sent that to you? And then act accordingly!
Did this information help you? If you have other questions, I’d love to hear from you – please don’t be shy! Send an email to email@example.com.
And don’t forget to check back twice a month for more PR and Marketing Q&As.
About Jennifer Rodrigues
Jennifer Rodrigues, Visibility Development Manager with ThinkInk and TravelInk’d, is a seasoned public relations professional with a passion for the hospitality industry, which is expressed in her role at ThinkInk’s travel division, TravelInk’d. At TravelInk’d, she is responsible for developing cost-effective and creative public relations and marketing strategies for clients in the travel and tourism, airline, lodging, cruise and meeting/event sectors. For more information on TravelInk’d, please visitwww.travelinkd.com or contact Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more news about PR and marketing in the travel industry, follow TravelInk’d on Twitter @TravelInkd and visit the TravelInk’dFacebook Fan Page.