What does your Twitter avatar(picture) say?

Twitter avatars

Twitter avatars

How do you expect a potential customer to recognize you and your tweets in a crowded sea like this?

In this case I think it is clear that the default Twitter avatar is not ideal. it is also worth noting that a transparent background for your avatar is also not ideal as many Twitter users are viewing their feed and tweeting outside of Twitter.com.

Exterior shots, of hotels in this case, are very small and while the hotel might recognize the location it will be difficult for customers to identify the image.

Use of the brand logo appears to be a good option if you have one that will work. Hilton Garden Inn has an easily recognized flower with the red background. Consistency from a brand would be key when a franchise is involved like in this example.

It is important to remember that people are not waiting for a message from you via an Inbox. They are scanning lines and lines of messages from many different sources. Make sure people can easily pick you out.

Some other observations from others are here and here.

Why my wife will never use Alice.com

Several weeks ago I read a blog post or Tweet from someone announcing Alice.com as the latest e-commerce shopping site around. Sorry to whomever announced it but it clearly didn’t leave a burning impression on my brain. Then this post from TechCrunch pops up via Twitter and so I had to make my way over to Alice.com again to see if anything changed. Clearly they know what they are doing and have a business model that appears attractive to the VC’s out in the valley.

I see this as a pretty neat opportunity to save a little money and at the same time “automate” some mundane tasks that would free up time for my wife to do other things. Just think of the quality time she could spend with me watching the Cowboys suffer another heart wrenching defeat instead of going to the grocery store. Okay, not really, but I would have less, “Can you pick up XXXX on the way home?” trips.

As cool as this tool is my wife will never use it. Not even consider it. Despite the apparent ease of use and cost savings it just isn’t for her. Although she began her career in a web services company she prefers the tangible to the intangible. Her preference is to us a day planner and physically write everything down. She has lists for everything. I think she made a list for me to boil water one time. The hurdle online companies face is that people like my wife are not motivated by time savings shopping online because the list management is fairly detailed and daunting. She compares, size, color, weight and price in the context of a grocery store. If an item is on sale when she happens to be in the store she may choose to purchase based on a price motivation, yet other times price will not win over quality.

I have not tried to figure out how she shops. I’ve been to the grocery store with her and have since been banned from ever doing that again. She appears to adopt some sort of Coast Guard search patter than flies in the face of logic. Truth be told my father used to do the shopping in my family when I was a kid and literally organized his list in the order it was laid out in the store. I mean from endcap to endcap his list was laid out like a map. I wish the Alice.com team the best of luck and perhaps one day the logic will exist to do some predictive analysis on the buying habits of my wife.

Hotel Tweeps: What’s that chirp?

Since I work for a hotel company the idea of hotels in social media has me kicking around some concepts about what might work. It is important to note that not all hotels or hotel brands are created equal. For example Hilton has everything from the humble Hampton Inn in a small town to one of the most recognizable hotels in the world in the Waldorf=Astoria in NYC. These are very different brand voices that need to be molded to fit the expectations of the target audience. These comments are not intended to be “law” but ideas to be debated, tested and validated.

My audience is…
One of the biggest problems I have noticed with the hotels that are active on Twitter is they seem to have no idea who they are talking to. An audience for any given hotel could be sliced many different ways with many different demographics. It is important to know who is interested in your hotel and cultivate the relationships with those that can influence decision makers to stay at your property. You need to understand that business travelers, families, meeting planners, CVB, Chambers of Commerce, travel agents, reporters, etc. want to know more about your property. Keep in mind that you have many different customer types with different motivations checking in to see what you are up to. This should provide plenty of opportunities to shape your messages.

Who are these people?
It is imperative that you review the followers on your account. Number of followers do not mean anything, so don’t get caught in the trap of finding lots of people to follow you. When you review your followers some clearly identify themselves, make note of who they are and who they are affiliated with. If you find you have a healthy number of travel agents following then take advantage of the opportunity. They want to know about your property and the more you can do to sell your property the better.

Additional Links:
Social Media Today
Pew Internet

I’m getting a grown-up voice now.
Many hotels have younger employees manage the Twitter account. General Managers need to regularly review what is being said and help these employees shape the “voice” of the hotel. Additionally you don’t want to move away from the overall brand identity. There are some hotels that are able to translate their brand and hotel voice online successfully. I am fond of the @HiltonSedona and @HiltonCancun for providing a nice balance.

Additional Links:
JPROF: Writting for Twitter
The Morning News

Where’s my $$$ from Twitter?

There is so much talk about Social Media that you might think the Internet Messiah was en route. Social Media is not a money making venture. So the sudden push to monetize this channel is humorous but expected. Make no mistake, I really like getting into the conversation and collaborating and sharing stories and solutions. But let’s get real for a second. Dell claims to have made $2 million via Twitter since 2007 according to this USA Today article. In all of 2008 the revenue for the whole company was $61.1 billion. If my math is right that would be .00003%.

This isn’t really fair since the Twitter revenue spans more than the fiscal year 2008. So it is likely the number is much lower over the same date range. This is why I don’t get too excited at the prospect of making tons of money off Twitter. If a small business were have annual revenue of $1 million in a year then they should be happy if they make $30 a year from Twitter? I don’t claim to be a math genius, but if my motivation is revenue, Twitter does not appear to be a profitable place generate revenue. The overhead is surely going to outweigh any revenue gain for the small business person.

Not all is doom and gloom though. I suspect there are many more small businesses that are successful at managing their customer expectations and comments via Twitter than Dell is able to do. But I think it is important to point out that Twitter is not a cash cow waiting to be sliced and diced. Without a clear execution plan your expectations can get in the way of reality.

Why can’t we just “unthink” a little

Yesterday I found myself in a hurry to grab some lunch before a marathon webex meeting. I figured I grab something quick, inhale my sandwich and run to the conference room. I unexpectedly ran into some colleagues from another floor and had a brief conversation in the lunch line. Idle chatter by most respects, until we got to where we pay for our food.

Before I continue the story I need to provide a brief explanation of our Deli. This is a family run business that must be doing okay because they have expanded in the nearly four years I have been in this building. They are modest but serve good breakfast and lunch options at a decent price. They are also know for their snacks. They have frozen yogurt that many around the building crave daily. They also use the power of baking cookies to lure unsuspecting midday snackers.

Back to the story. As we approached the cash register my colleague asks if I’m getting a cookie. The deli cleverly offers cookies as part of the special instead of a bag of chips and many do this. I say, “No. I never get the cookies. In fact I’ve never had one.” This is the part that gets me in trouble. The deli owner has seen me for 4 years and is stunned that I have never had a cookie. He opens the lid and orders me to grab the last cookie off the cookie sheet. Before I can pay he tells me to take a bite. You might be thinking this is a brilliant move on his part. It was! They are darn good cookies. I see why people gush over these things.

This example is similar to how we can engage customers online in Social Media. He wasn’t thinking about the PR angle, he didn’t run through a cost/benefit analysis or a A/B test. He simply overheard a conversation and was so sure of the product he offered to let me try a warm, delicious cookie on the house. This brings me to my headline. I understand the value of analysis, trends and communications that are “on message”. I had a call earlier that morning that was hotly debated about where Social Media fit in the discussion. My interaction with the deli owner was a refreshing example of being social that big corporations stand to do a little more. Can we just “unthink” a little?

Apple brings productivity to a crawl

Today was the big announcement that kept the tech blogs bubbling the last few weeks. Gizmodo, Engadget, TUAW, etc. speculated and tracked down rumors trying to eek out truth from fiction. Google News results are pretty lengthy but it wasn’t the announcement of iTunes 9, new shuffle, nano and iPod Touch or even the enhancements to the store that made my day.

To me the real story is the mythical status Apple has created for itself with these announcements. Rumors were pointing to the tablet, the Television or even the addition of the Beatles catalog. No doubt millions of people around the world were eagerly awaiting the news. Will they need to save their hard earned money for the latest and greatest? Will the Beatles officially be available with the original mono mix in the iTunes Store?

This event was really nothing more than a product line refresh that Apple has done consistently for years. The news today from any other company might have come from a press release, software updates and store updates. The Internet was brought to it’s knees as Twitter and Facebook slowed down according to John Scoble’s Twitter favorites. My attempts at keeping up via liveblogging from Gizmodo and Engadget left me less than satisfied. I’m sure a number cruncher somewhere will reveal how many millions or billions of dollars were lost during the hour and a half event.

Just for the record I was on my lunch break during the event.

So much for getting my feet under me

Just when I thought I was going to be right back in sync with writing everything flipped upsidedown and then back around again. The real story is actually quite simple. My focus switched from writing to job hunting. The short version is that Hilton Hotels Corporation, my then and current employer, was purchased by Blackstone Investment Group (press release) in 2007. The expectation was that changes would eventually happen in the organization and those changes took place earlier this year. I’ll not dwell on the impacts of those changes other than to say I was directly impacted in the group where I was previously employed. Hilton allowed employees affected by the change an opportunity to apply for internal jobs. Thus, I am still employed by Hilton Hotels Corporation.

That said the focus went from finding a job to learning a new one while getting a knowledge transfer from other employees that were truly amazing and patient. My current role is managing the transactional communications we send out. That means your confirmation emails, pre-arrival emails, post stay emails and a myriad of other “automated” emails are managed through my group. For a short time I managed the @hiltonhhonors Twitter account and Facebook page. It was our first foray into Social Media and I’m glad to have been apart of that. I owe Virginia Suliman (@virginiasuliman) a debt of gratitude for encouraging folks to help get things going.

You can expect any number of things but I will endeavor to keep the posts relevant to the world in which I operate which generally means if there is a topic connected to the Internet it should be fair game here.