A fundamental truth about social media style guides: one size does not fit anyone. A style guide is an extension of your brand guidelines and specific to how your hotel looks and sounds. If you’re looking for text that you can cut and paste in response to guest posts, you’re on the wrong track.

When hotels get to the point where they realize that posting content and communicating with people 24/7 on social media requires more than one person, it seems logical that a rule book of sorts should be implemented. However, what the guidelines shouldn’t include are templated responses that employees copy again and again.

Who should use the social media guide

Everybody who has a login to your brand’s social media accounts should be familiar with the guide. Its main purpose should be to:

  1. Help familiarize new hires with how the brand communicates and your tone of voice.
  2. Allow staff to feel confident in knowing how to respond to various situations.
  3. Inspire staff to engage freely with guests.

Since engaging with guests is a round-the-clock, service-related task, the social media style guide should fit in as part of your guest service guide and should be integrated with service training.

So what should your social media style guide include?

Firstly, your guide should distinguish marketing from guest engagement. Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest are great platforms for publishing brand content and holding promotions. How the brand does this should be outlined in the guide, but publishing brand content is a separate activity from the day-to-day interactions that the brand has with individuals on social media. From a service perspective, the guide should inform staff about:

Promoting conversations, not transactions
Staff need to understand that each interaction is part of a conversation with an individual, it’s not a one-off transaction. Focus on developing the relationship, rather than replying in a way that shuts down conversation. Ways to develop the relationship include demonstrating common interest, engaging in topics that the individual is interested in, and alluding to future visits etc.

Who to engage with
Remind staff that it’s about quality, not quantity. Generic, templated responses to guests are not nearly as powerful as a personal response. People who post about your brand on social media tend to be your Promoters (with the small exception of people who are making a complaint). Decide with your team which people to engage with as a priority eg. influencers with +50,000 followers; guests celebrating birthdays and anniversaries; guests getting married or on honeymoon; repeat guests etc.

Tone of voice
Every brand should have a defined tone of voice. However, within the brand tone there needs to be an adequate degree of flexibility so that you can dial up or down certain elements according to the context. For example, the way that you speak to a guest on social media should be the same as you would speak to a guest in-person. That might mean dialing down the formality typically used by your brand to meet an individual who is very informal. Staff can gauge this quickly by looking at the comments already posted. You might also explain how the brand tone varies depending on the context – such as with a guest posting a complaint versus a guest celebrating their birthday.

Staff sign-off
Since the social handle your staff use is most likely your brand name, it’s an impersonal sign off. Your social media style guide should inform staff of the best way to sign off their comments, whether that’s with their initials or first name and role.

When to take it offline
There is only so much that can be resolved in a comment box. Make a list of the situations in which staff might suggest taking the conversation offline and how they might do that. Is it by inviting them to visit reception? By leaving them a note in their room? By asking them to call or email the hotel if they are not currently on property? If a complaint has been made, let the individual (and their followers) know that you are genuinely committed to resolving their issue and that you will follow up in person.

When to take action
Social media listening tools allow you to set alerts for significant events, such an influencer arriving at your hotel or a VIP making a compliment or expressing a concern. Sometimes guests hint at the services or amenities they would like through social posts. Decide what type of posts merit an action – such as sending a small gift, or following up in-person.

User generated content
How you ask permission for someone’s photo, video or testimonial will be different depending on whether it’s your first time interacting with them, or your tenth time. Repeatedly copying and pasting the same legal text across an individual’s Instagram account is not ideal in either case as it feels transactional and impersonal. Find ways to phrase questions that meet your legal needs, while still being sensitive to the fact that you are interacting with a person – not a company.

Often the more succinct the guide, the better adhered to it will be. Ultimately, if you’ve hired the right people, with whom you trust to interact with guests in person, empowering them to respond on social media won’t be a problem. Allow staff members the freedom to use their own judgements and instinct and your brand will be more authentic as a result.