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Social Media Savvy Helps Hilton Hotel Convert Facebook Fans into Brand Ambassadors

As the largest hotel in the region, the Hilton Hotel and Suites Niagara Falls/Fallsview prides itself on being ahead of their competition, having just completed a $150 million expansion, including a 53-story all-suite hotel tower and adding three new restaurants, effectively doubling the size of their property to over 1,000 rooms. An expansion of this magnitude, in this economic climate is challenging. Add the new U.S. passport requirement and a strong Canadian dollar and the challenge is frightening.

Travelers are more sexy and sophisticated; they browse for deals, offers and critiques. They are more educated and selective, demanding more for their money. For those individuals who get less than they expect, they have dozens of forums to share their opinions with thousands of other potential guests. Prior to their June 2009 expansion, the Hilton had not monitored or used social media, they relied solely on traditional marketing mediums such as: radio promotions, Web and print advertisements. But as the property changed, so did their marketing focus. Management realized that if the Hilton didn't cultivate a social media presence to engage their customers, opinions and complaints in online conversations would happen regardless and there would be no way to control what is said about the property.

Cashing in on social media
These challenges forced the Hilton to look outside the box when marketing their property or community with their customers. Following research conducted by the property, the Hilton realized that virtually none of their direct local competition was exhibiting any relevant or engaging social media presence. Not only was the decision made to fully integrate online social mediums into their existing marketing strategy, but it also made a lot of sense financially. The time was right to capitalize on this opportunity, to be a first mover in the Niagara Falls tourism industry.

The Hilton hired a full-time staff member who was devoted to establishing the property's presence on social media networks. Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube profiles were all set up and populated with exciting and engaging content, information and pictures. As the sites began to grow fans and followers, the Hilton increasingly provided interesting content that promoted sharing and engagement online. The property uses trial and error when it comes to online exclusive contests and promotions; this allows them to determine what is successful and what isn't. The Hilton wants people they connect with online to stay at the Hilton on future visits to Niagara Falls, because they know these social media users will talk about the Hilton and maintain an online relationship once they return from their stay.

Currently, 1,200 people follow @Hilton_Niagara on Twitter (more than Hilton Worldwide and Hilton Grand Vacations), Hilton Niagara's Facebook page has over 600 fans and images on Flickr have been viewed thousands of times. To monitor their social media activities, a monthly productivity report is put together, with areas of improvement highlighted and addressed prior to the next month's outreach. Additionally, Hilton Hotel and Suites Niagara Falls/Fallsview is constantly monitoring TripAdvisor comments, blogs and any additional online social media conversations. As a result of this the property has become increasingly transparent, they're able to identify problems or concerns and address them almost immediately.

Based on current momentum, the Hilton Hotel and Suites Niagara Falls/Fallsview recognizes that social media is an ever changing and integral part of their overall marketing campaign. It is the online relationships that they cultivate, which transform fans and followers into much-coveted brand ambassadors.

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