Starwood's Rules for Social Listening

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Digital and social trends are the key factors driving the evolution of retail marketing today. According to survey results release last week by SAP conducted with University of Arizona students, Nearly 50 percent of participants said there is need for improvement in their companies' digital and social "listening" strategies, as well as in how they use customer data to improve marketing efforts.

Digital and social trends are the key factors driving the evolution of retail marketing today.

According to survey results released last week by SAP conducted with University of Arizona students, Nearly 50 percent of participants said there is need for improvement in their companies' digital and social "listening" strategies, as well as in how they use customer data to improve marketing efforts.

"While retailers are aware of the increasingly critical role of digital and social channels in marketing, they clearly perceive the gap in their ability to effectively leverage these trends," said Lori Mitchell-Keller, senior vice president, Global Industry Business Unit for Retail, SAP.

At Frost & Sullivan's Customer Contact East conference last week held in Marco Island, Fla., Stephen Gates, vice president and creative director, Global Brand Design, Starwood Hotels and Resorts worldwide, touched upon the gap in social listening when he presented his rules for social media engagement. Here are Starwood's six rules to follow:

Rule #1 - Constantly work to identify trends.

The old way was advertising lead social. Initially advertising generates a lot of interest, but now you have to treat social media differently. Social media can't be just a PR stunt or an ad campaign. The new way is having an ongoing conversation. The reality is the consumers' expectations of their interactions with a brand is no different than those they have with their friends.

Rule #2 - Monitor and connect through positive and negative feedback

Rule #3 - Learn, educate, and anticipate any unknown with ongoing training and sharing best practices.

Our focus [At Starwood] is on the dialog with the guest at every point during their stay. Our teams are empowered to act on opportunities.

Rule #4 - Your brand is never too big to make a customer feel special.

Rule #5 - Only launch social media channels when they have content and will be supported indefinitely.

There are a number of our brands not on Twitter because they don't have the content or support to make it an engaging channel. I refuse to make those channels go live just to say to our board of directors that we're on Twitter. That's digital wreckage. Just because you're on Twitter doesn't mean that's good brand engagement. You have to be prepared to support it. Being there is like being at a dinner party--you don't want to be sitting in the corner and not saying anything.

Rule #6 - Technology isn't an idea
When you already decide what the execution will be you limit the experience. It never should be technology-led. We first evaluate what the customer needs and then figure out what technology works to fit those needs. So many companies go after the shiny object and that can lead you down the rabbit hole.

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