Online & Social Media Managing Strategy for Minya Hotel

Entity Introduction

Hotel exterior and logo (Minya Hotel, 2016)

Minya Hotel is a Chinese five-star hotel located in Chengdu city, the capital of Sichuan Province in southwest China. Opened in 2010, featuring 370 hotel rooms and suites, three restaurants of different styles (Chinese, Italian restaurant and a western buffet) and fully-equipped leisure facilities, such as 24-hour swimming pool, gym and Spa. Minya hotel equips all the components that a luxury hotel needs to provide excellent experience.

Current online profile

At the moment, Minya hotel does not have any profile on any dominant social platform in Chinese society such as Weibo, WeChat etc., which is not a rare phenomenon with Chinese entities in less developed parts of the country. To understand how social media work, establish their own accounts and keep the accounts well maintained requires expertise and manpower, in other words, cost. Management cannot see the direct transformation of engagement on on-line social media into revenue, hence decline the significance of social media and decide to stay with it.

Below is the official website of Minya Hotel,

http://www.aimicc.com/20581/img

Selected Platforms

To start utilising online space to promote the hotel, and build up Minya Hotel’s own channels for outgoing marketing information, three predominant social media in Chinese society are selected as main tools to serve these purposes. They are Weibo, WeChat and Youku. They will afford different functions in the framework in the on-line strategy for Minya Hotel.

(Weibo, 2016)

Weibo is a Chinese microblogging website, akin to Twitter in the West. It is one of the most popular and visited social networking sits in China. According to Rapoza (2011), Weibo is used by over 30% of the Chinese Internet users, which presents a market penetration virtually the same to its counterpart Twitter’s performance in the United States. Weibo functions virtually the same as Twitter as well. Users can post messages on their timeline with a 140-character restriction.

Users can use @UserHandle to mention someone in their posts;

An example of the use of @ on Weibo. (the UN, 2016a)

repost other users’ posts through //@UserHandle formatting;

An example of the us of //@ on Weibo. (Li, 2016)

and add hashtags #topic# to create a topic. Hashtags function on Weibo is slightly different from Twitter, as it needs two hashtags one before one after the topic, due to the lack of spacing in Chinese characters.

An example of the use of # on Webibo. (The UN, 2016b)
(the UN, 2016)

Weibo is chosen as the main tool for Minya Hotel online networking tool, not just for its massive popularity and extensive audience. Its verification feature makes it a social media not-to-miss for Chinese companies that are considering utilising online space. Same as Twitter, companies, organisations, celebrities or basically anyone that can provide legal documents to prove “you are you” can be become verified account user and get a V behind their handles to show the verification of identities.

Besides its popularity, verification feature, no limit on daily posts, anyone can read posts without being a follower, customise background features, same as Twitter, Weibo allows image, video and webpage link embeds, and Weibo posts can be easily embedded on other social platforms, makes it suitable to be set as the main official platform for Minya Hotel to engage mass audience.

(WeChat, 2016)

WeChat is the most widely used smartphone messaging app in China. According to Business Insider, till May 2016, there’s over one billion created WeChat accounts, 700 million active users. Developed on the messaging model of Whatsapp, WeChat provides the same basic functions: text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, group chat, video calls, sharing of photos, videos and locations.

Integrated with its basic messaging function, WeChat developed two more networking features that Whatsapp does not have. First is Moments. Like Facebook and Twitter, Moments allows users to post pictures/videos and texts with music. However, same as the sharing restriction of Whatsapp, only one user’s contacts can see his Moments posts and comment or “like” it. Moments posts cannot be directly reposted.

(Moments, 2016)

The second function, official accounts which are designed for companies and organisations. Companies and organisations can register as official accounts, the same principle as verification feature of Weibo, legal documents are required for registration. There are two kinds of official accounts platforms that can be selected for companies. The first one is called subscription account, which allows accounts to push one feed to subscribers per day. WeChat provides viewing rate of each feed at the end of it. Feeds can contain texts, embedded webpage links, music, image and videos, same as a Medium story. Subscribers can repost feed in their own Moments page.

An example of a WeChat feed. (Chengduxiaochi, 2016)

The second kind of official account is service account. It enables companies to use WeChat as a platform to provide services, such restaurant booking and ordering, bank account managing or hospital pre-registration. The profile and interface of a service account can be customised.

In a way, WeChat’s official account provides a platform dedicated to business-oriented functions. However, it suffers from the same restriction for its messaging function that only its contacts, subscribers, can be reached. For this reason, WeChat is suitable to be utilised to manage Minya Hotel’s clients data base/member club if there is one. And through providing “little treats” to in-house guests, such as provide free wifi or a little appetiser to subscribers, WeChat subscriber numbers will increase rapidly over time.

Youku is one of the top online video platforms in China. YouTube’s Chinese counterpart. It allows users to upload videos of arbitrary length. Minya Hotel as a luxury hotel features fancy restaurants, videos of its room decorations, restaurants environment, records of important events held in the hotel can all be restored on Youku, then the URL of the videos can be used as embed components of posts or feed on other platforms. Such as Weibo and WeChat introduced above.

www.youku.com

All Weibo posts, WeChat Moments posts and Youku video links have been designed to be able to directly share on Facebook and Twitter. However, virtually all major social media apps that are predominant in the West such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Youtube, Medium and so on, are banned in Mainland China by the government and could not be accessed without VPN. This is also the reason none of them have been chosen as channels to promote Minya Hotel.

The reader of Weibo needs to be a subscriber in order to gain access to the content. Inserted Weibo posts do not display in Medium story. WeChat is only smartphone end app, which cannot be displayed on webpages. Hence, as substitutions, examples provided for this assignments are screenshot of views from my own subscriptions.

Strategic outline

Weibo

As suggested above, among the three recommended social media, Weibo should be set as the main platform to for online engagement with audience. Primary reason being, it is open to public (all Weibo account). It allows users to post as many messages as possible and this is ideal for Minya Hotel as it allows them to communicate with different groups of audience that are interested in different services and facilities of the hotel.

First is to establish the Weibo interface and get the account verified. As an organisation with a verified account, Weibo provides top pinned box to showcase the company and its products. The content in this box will be filled with photos of the hotel products, and links back to detailed information to the corresponding parts on the hotels website. The use of photos is preferred as opposed to videos in this instance despite videos being more informative is that smartphone users will want to skip this part to save data if it was video.

showcase window of Hong kong InterContinental Hotel as an example. (Hongkong InterContinental, 2016)

The photos used in the pinned box can be updated regularly according to Minya Hotel’s promotion plan.

Following the sign up process, the account will start to follow a number of accounts to form an initiative network for future interaction. In order to spread its wings to the far reaches of the country, Minya Hotel’s official Weibo account will be following mainly these five kinds of accounts:

1,Local media, those have tourism or cuisine columns. Industry media will regularly talk about certain topic that coincides the hotel’s promotion or facility. Interacting with these posts on Weibo to promote through the voice of media give the promotion more credibility.

2, Guests stayed at Minya Hotel in the past and have posted about it. Particularly celebrities. Good guest reviews can be reposted to gain reputation for the hotel. Interacting with guests with positive reviews in public also build up guest’s loyalty to the hotel. Celebrities’ positive comments on the hotel will affect and encourage their fan groups.

3, Official accounts of tourist attractions, especially those that are within the reach of Minya Hotel. Interacting with these accounts gives target audience of Minya Hotel information about where they can go for leisure activities during their stay, hence increase the attraction of the hotel itself.

4, Official accounts of Online Travel Agency (OTA). OTA accounts often post about discounted air tickets information. Repost these types of information and act as the tourist information recourse for travellers those are the target audience of the hotel will increase their interest in Minya Hotel’s account.

5, Official accounts of other luxury hotels that have a high engagement with audience on Weibo. Keeping an eye on other hotels’ activities will keep Minya Hotel updated with up-to-date trends in the industry, also it is important to learn from successful practices of more experienced Weibo accounts.

As the main channel for outgoing information for Minya Hotel, weibo account will stay active and produce a number of posts on a daily basis to broadcast different information, by drawing on different functions within the affordance of Weibo. This is done for two main purposes; increase follower numbers and thereby increase hotel’s market awareness and garner client base for its WeChat account for direct feeding; and communicate to followers with hotel information, hence promoting the hotel among its target audience.

To accommodate the different intentions of different posts, different combination of post functions will be chosen for individual posts. @tag and #hashtag will be used in all posts in order to strike up conversations and maximise audience engagement.

1, basic post format: text + images + @ + #

In the drafting of every post, besides necessary description in text, related photos must be included in the message as well, a good photo speaks louder than one thousand words. People that have high potential of reposting the post, or media that might be interested in the content should be tagged. Also hashtags function needs to be drawn on always to create a topic.

An example, Hong Kong InterContinental Hotel’s Weibo post about a cuisine competition they organised. They described the event, showed the photos of the competition, created two hashtag topics, one is the competition itself, and the other one is the Chinese restaurant of the hotel where the competition is held. A local cuisine journal is tagged.

(Hong Kong InterContinental Hote, 2016a)

2,”long microblog”: text + image of more text +@ + #

This is a method to overcome the 140-character restriction of Weibo platform. In some cases 140 characters are just simply not enough to express the information. There’s a number of third party apps that allow users to create pictures with words in them and ensure the text will be clearly readable after inserted into posts.

Beijing Heyi Hotel released this post as its official response to a riotous assault happened to an in-house guest in the hotel lobby. In this case, 140 characters are not enough to describe the situation and to elaborate on the hotel’s actions in addressing the problem and express the perspective of the management of hotel, hence they resorted “long mircroblog”. However, they should have tagged the related media and created a topic to frame the issue from the angle favours the hotel.

(Heyi Hotel, 2016)

3, to strike up conversations: repost+ text + @ +#

This technique is for increase audience engagement. To repost posts from in-house guests, or positive review from guests that once stay in the hotel. Particularly celebrities and people those are famous in certain areas, could evoke interest of audience to participate the in conversation.

Travis Kalanick posted a photo taken at Chengdu InterContinental Hotel during his stay at the, without being explicit about it. Hotel’s Weibo searched and found this post and reposted it, with tagging another hotel Travis once stayed in Chengdu to create a dialog.

(Chengdu InterContinental Hote, 2015)

4, to tell a better story: text + Youku video link + @ + #

Instead of images, sometimes a video tells a better story of the event with the background sound and presenting the event from different angles. Videos can be uploaded on Youku website, and then insert the link into Weibo post. Needs to bare in mind that videos should not be considered unless it’s necessary that a video would absolutely achieve better effect than images. As video streaming consumes considerable amount of data, which would be costing for smartphone users.

Hong Kong InterContinental Hotel’s Weibo post about the Hong Kong City New Year firework celebration. In order to present the beautiful scenery of the firework and be clear that it can be viewed from hotel rooms, they used a video in the post. And created three topics with hashtags to increase the chances this post shows up in people’s conversations relate to the firework event on Weibo.

(Hong Kong InterContinental Hotel, 2016b)

5,direct to bigger recourse: text + links of webpage/WeChat feed

To give a proper description of an event, such as a restaurant promotion, just text content and images are enough to tell the clear provisions of the promotion, or present it inviting enough. Inserting a link of the webpage that’s dedicated to the promotion would be ideal to address the problem. However, it’s time-consuming and costing to create special webpages for every promotion that goes on in the hotel. Here the combining use of WeChat and Weibo comes very handy. WeChat official accounts can create one feed every day to push to its subscribers, and usefully, this feed can be insert into a Weibo post. This one stone two birds strategy doesn’t just save social media managing team time and energy for other tasks, but also ensures outgoing information on these two channels are synced. Meanwhile, using Weibo platform to promote the WeChat account, transform Weibo followers into WeChat subscribers for deeper engagement.

Jiuzhai InterContinental Hotel always inserts its WeChat feed into its Weibo post. People can read the text content of the Weibo post to get a main idea of the promotion, then click the link of WeChat feed if interested. Below is a hotpot promotion of Jiuzhai InterContinental Hotel promoted in this method.

(Jiuzhai InterContinental Hotel, 2015)

WeChat

As mentioned before, WeChat provides two types of platforms for official accounts of companies, subscription account and service account. The main feature of subscription account is that it allows companies to push one direct feed (one main heading with a few subtopics) to subscribers per day. Service account can be used as a service platform for companies to provide some basic functions such as restaurant booking and ordering, bank account managing or hospital pre-registrations. However, the restriction of a service account is that it can only push four feeds to its subscribers per month.

At the initial stage, Minya Hotel’s official WeChat account will set as a subscription account in order to be able to send feeds out every day, keep a high activeness of the account to build up subscriber base.

For daily managing, the official WeChat account will follow through a few policies as below:

1, Although WeChat only allows one feed per day, it is very important to know that it doesn’t mean every subscription account can only send one message out. Each feed can contain one main feed and up to seven subtopics. So to maximise the usage of WeChat, Minya Hotel will draft a few different messages contains different information of hotel promotions. For example,

Main feed: Guest Room promotion

Subtopic 1: Chinese restaurant promotion

Subtopic 2: Italian restaurant promotion

Feed of Chengdu InterContinental Hotel on 1 June 2016 as an example. Main topic is its buffet restaurant promotion, first subtopic is its lobby lounge promotion, second subtopic is its French restaurant promotion. (Chengdu InterContinental Hotel , 2016)

2, Instead of sending drafted feed, which is like a Medium story, to subscribers, subscribing accounts can also send pure text messages, or images as the daily feed. So, on major festivals, graphic designing team of the hotel can design festival greeting card as one image to push to subscribers, which subscribers can easily share within their social groups. This is a very useful practice for promoting the hotel’s image and guest room promotion. For example, a card for new year that contains hotel new year holiday guest room promotion can be created and send to all subscribers prior to the holiday.

Feed of Jiuzhai InterContinental Hotel on 27 May 2016, as an example, is a greeting card for 1 June Children’s day with its promotions for that day. (Jiuzhai InterContinental Hotel, 2016)

3, For the purposes of maintaining existing subscribers and encourage them to develop their social contacts to become subscribers, some promotional feeds could provide subscriber a promotion code which can redeem a special discount or other forms a gifts to specialise WeChat subscriber group, make it beneficial to become a subscriber.

4, Always encourage subscriber to post feed in their Moments space, spread hotel’s information among their own social contacts. Moments posts can received comments and “like”s from subscribers’ contacts. To draw on this feature of WeChat, campaigns such as “ collect likes to win a fancy dining experience” can be launched to encourage sharing feeds.

Youku

Youku mainly functions as the video database for the other two platforms. Hotel’s official advert video and other promoting material need to be uploaded to Youku for future use. However, some interesting events the hotel has catered can also be recorded, with the approval of the guests of course, and upload on hotel official Youku account. Such as weddings, auto shows etc

Platform Monitoring

Both Weibo and WeChat need a great deal of manpower for establishment and daily maintenance. Minya Hotel will need to open up special position dedicating to this job. Or resort to third party managing company.

Both Weibo and WeChat provide functions for followers and subscribers to private message the official accounts, responding to these messages, functioning as the liaison between online audience and operational departments of the hotel is also the responsibility of the social media managing team.

For Weibo account, manager will need to follow up recent hashtag topics online that he created, monitor the development of them, guide and tend them for the hotel’s favourable interest. Repost positive branches of the conversation to participate and develop them further. One key task has to be done on Weibo on a daily basis is to search the hotel name, monitor posts that mentioned hotel name. Actively interact with posts that speak positively of the hotel, and prevent negative reviews develop into issues.

On WeChat, viewing rate of each feed needs to be recorded. Feeds with high and low viewing rate needs to be recorded and analyzed for successful or failing reasons. Audience may like feeds with certain type of information, such as promotions, and loathe some other kinds, hotel culture stories.

References

Chengdu InterContinental Hotel. (2015). Weibo post in regard of Travis Kalanick’s Chengdu trip. [screen capture]. Retrieved from http://www.weibo.com/1878171993/CjTfrnttE?from=page_1006061878171993_profile&wvr=6&mod=weibotime&type=comment

Chengdu InterContinental Hotel. (2016). WeChat official account feed on 1 June 2016. [smartphone screen capture]. Retrieved from Chengdu InterContinental Hotel WeChat official account.

Chengduxiaochi. (2016). Restaurants feature summer seasonal cuisine with beautiful views in Chengdu. An example of a WeChat official account feed. Retrieved from https://medium.com/r/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fmp.weixin.qq.com%2Fs%3F__biz%3DMzA4MDA5OTU3OQ%3D%3D%26mid%3D2652041865%26idx%3D1%26sn%3Dfde07cbef6834323448a54753e1d0d45%26scene%3D1%26srcid%3D06119umx3DOmdI7JxKpJiMxY%26key%3Df5c31ae61525f82ebc2f97f0b1b258afd5231d8307b61e3e584c1915d3e1b3712388edce358a85a3cc2cac8d2b3934ab%26ascene%3D0%26uin%3DMTI1Mzc0NjQ0MA%3D%3D%26devicetype%3DiMac%2BMacBookAir5%2C2%2BOSX%2BOSX%2B10.11.5%2Bbuild%2815F34%29%26version%3D11000006%26pass_ticket%3DHsR079q%2FECPun7qBR4c0L1L15TqsLyCTzyvWxx2ssuJdpsJux89vKp6pV98NxL0n

Heyi Hotel. (2016). Weibo post in regard of an official hotel announcement. [screen capture]. Retrieved from http://www.weibo.com/1985757342/DpCvdj6mm?from=page_1006061985757342_profile&wvr=6&mod=weibotime&type=comment#_rnd1465625613685

Hong Kong InterContinental Hotel. (2016). Weibo account interface [screen capture]. Retrieved from http://www.weibo.com/interconhk?refer_flag=1001030101_&is_hot=1

Hong Kong InterContinental Hotel. (2016a). Weibo post in regard of a culinary competition. [screen capture]. Retrieved from http://www.weibo.com/1737991031/ChPqeiYRh?from=page_1006061737991031_profile&wvr=6&mod=weibotime&type=comment#_rnd1465625285129

Hongkong InterContinental Hotel. (2016b). Weibo post in regard of the new year firework. [screen capture]. Retrieved from http://www.weibo.com/1737991031/Dhw0f5php?from=page_1006061737991031_profile&wvr=6&mod=weibotime&type=comment

Jiuzhai InterContinental Hotel. (2015). Weibo post in regard of a hotpot promotion. [screen capture]. Retrieved from http://www.weibo.com/1962704771/D7rLsF7Db?from=page_1006061962704771_profile&wvr=6&mod=weibotime&type=comment

Jiuzhai InterContinental Hotel. (2016). WeChat official account feed on 27 May 2016. [smartphone screen capture]. Retrieved from Jiuzhai InterContinental Hotel WeChat official account.

Li, X. (2016). An example of the use of // feature on Weibo. [screen capture]. Retrieved from http://www.weibo.com/mygroups?gid=231011290009885969&wvr=6&leftnav=1

Minya Hotel. (2016). Hotel exterior and logo [image]. Retrieved from http://jiudian.yuding8.cn/50969/rooms.html

Weibo. (2016). Weibo website logo. Retrieved from http://www.earthandskynz.com/window-to-the-universe/images/Weibo.png

Rapoza, K. (2011). China’s weibos vs US’s Twitter: And the winner is? Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2011/05/17/chinas-weibos-vs-uss-twitter-and-the-winner-is/#1ae2cc4b646f

The UN. (2016). The UN Weibo account logo. [screen capture]. Retrieved from http://www.weibo.com/un?refer_flag=1001030101_

The UN. (2016a). An example of the use of @ on Weibo. [screen capture]. Retrieved from http://www.weibo.com/1709157165/DyT20wLSs?from=page_1001061709157165_profile&wvr=6&mod=weibotime&type=comment

The UN. (2016b). An example of the use of @# on Weibo. [screen capture]. Retrieved from http://www.weibo.com/1709157165/DzbXeDjeB?from=page_1001061709157165_profile&wvr=6&mod=weibotime&type=comment

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