Boost your Social Media Marketing with a Successful Internship Program

We cannot stress enough how important it is for a hotel community manager to train the rest of the hotel staff and actively involve them in the hotel’s social media outreach efforts. People who have a deep knowledge of the ins and outs of the hotel are naturally at a huge advantage and will probably do a better job of engaging current and prospective guests and making them feel welcome.

However, the practical reality is that hotel staff are often too busy to handle all of the social media marketing that is necessary. While we discourage the idea of using interns as a substitute for hotel staff on social media, having the support an internship program can be an effective and successful compromise solution if it is done right.

Planning your social media internship program is vital for success

Your social media internship program has to be well thought out if it is going to be effective. Start by drawing up a plan that includes the social media tasks your interns will be doing. This will help you clearly explain what is expected of them.

Interns’ tasks will include being active on the hotel’s social media accounts, however you will also need to train them to recognise more sensitive or delicate situations that they need to refer directly to you as hotel community manager.

Here are some examples of tasks you can easily assign to interns.

Flickr:

  • favorite photos
  • make new contacts
  • comment on photos
  • invite people who post relevant photos to join the hotel’s Flickr group
  • create galleries
  • add and optimise new photos, making sure they have tags, are mapped, and have title and descriptions

Twitter:

  • favourite tweets
  • retweet
  • add guests to lists
  • build other targeted lists (partners, tourism departments, travel bloggers, guests etc)
  • find new followers

Facebook:

  • like all comments and reply on easy neutral ones
  • like postings from other pages
  • add photos
  • engage with guests and potential clients

Instagram:

  • follow other accounts
  • like other people’s posts
  • comment
  • add photos
  • engage with guests and potential clients

Google +:

  • add target audience to circles (staff, partners, guests, tourism bodies etc)
  • plus and comment other page posts
  • update page at least three times per a week

YouTube:

  • subscribe to other accounts
  • comment on and like other videos
  • reply to comments and like them
  • create playlists with relevant videos
  • make sure the account videos are optimised for the right keywords

General reputation management:

  • subscribe to google alerts for your hotel or resort’s name
  • give your interns access to Revinate or other review management software so they can keep an eye on all review sites and social media mentions.
  • encourage ‘harmless’ engagement, but sensitive posts or issues that crop up should be referred back to you as the community manager

Once you have established what your interns will be doing, the next step is to put your plan down in writing and prepare the necessary training so that new interns can quickly get up to speed.

We highly recommend that you make your internship program free to join, and also easy and enjoyable. Don’t treat your interns as interns. If they are having a good time and enjoying their stay at your hotel, they will be much better able to contribute greatly to your marketing efforts.

Find a steady stream of qualified social media interns

Once you have planned what you want your interns to do and how you will train them to do it, the next step is to look for qualified candidates for the job.

It is a good idea to build a relationship with a tourism university (or more than one) that has an internship program. As you build trust with the institution over time, you will work better together and both your hotel and the interns you take on will know in advance what to expect.

Explain clearly to the university that interns should ideally have a working knowledge of social media, as well as some photography skills if possible. Ask prospective interns to include links to their social media profiles together with their internship applications, so that you can evaluate their skills and know where they need most training. Educate them in advance about what you expect so that they can prepare their social media profiles accordingly to demonstrate the attributes you are looking for.

It also goes without saying that interns must have impeccable manners and very good social skills, so be on the lookout especially for these qualities as you evaluate applicants.

Of course, you want to have as many good candidates to choose from as possible, so don’t forget to drum up some publicity for your internship program.

Start an intern blog and social media accounts that interns manage when they come over and where they can talk about their internship and experience. These social media accounts should be separate from your hotel’s main social media and are aimed at prospective interns who want to find out what it is like to work at your hotel.

Also, make sure your university partner promotes your intern blog and social media channels to their students. This will sell your hotel as the go-to place for interns and will generate more interest and applications, giving you even more to choose from.

Once interns have concluded their stay with you, ask them if they could leave a recommendation for your internship program in the relevant place on the university website or intranet.  Also ask your best past interns if they are willing to connect with prospective candidates on social media, in order to better share their experience.

Some more tips on making the most of your internship program

Once you have one or more interns on site at your hotel, you need to keep them active and make sure they have plenty of exciting things to share on the social media. Your interns should post about not just your hotel, but also the surrounding area, places of interest and the destination as a whole.

Strike agreements with local tourism-related businesses where they offer free services to interns in exchange for write-ups and posts on the interns’ social media accounts. Of course, if the quality is good enough, you could also have your interns create content for your hotel’s social media channels, which would make this proposal even more attractive to your partner businesses.

At the same time, supervise your interns and continue to train them as they take on the tasks you wrote down in your plan. As you get to know your interns better, you can adjust their responsibilities accordingly and possibly allow them to do more demanding and critical tasks, such as contributing content to the hotel’s main social media accounts.

One of the biggest mistakes you could make is not communicating the interns’ good work to other interested parties. Ask your interns to produce reports about their work using Jing and Google Drive Presentations. Make sure these reports are shared with your hotel staff, partners and even your local tourism authorities.  This has a two positive effects: it boosts the interns’ morale and it also gets your partners more interested in your internship program and hopefully more willing to cooperate.

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Once your internship program is underway and you have sorted out the initial planning and startup issues, you should be able to keep it going with relatively little effort. However, be sure to continuously oversee and evaluate your internship program and to fine tune it for best results.

This leaves you free to focus the bulk of your time on the more crucial and demanding parts of the hotel community manager role, in order to achieve the best online success for your hotel.

Written by  Andrew De Gabriele & John Beckley 

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