Social Media wake-up call… People talk to people, not brands

by Stan Phelps

in Gift Economy, purple goldfish project

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A lesson in being personable

#818 in the Project was recommended via Josepf Haslam @josepf via a tweet:

four seasons palo altoIt comes from a post by Thomas Marzano @thomasmarzano:

It wasn’t until my last trip to Palo Alto, where I stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel, that I had a firsthand experience with customer engagement through social media.

A smooth landing

Before arriving at the Four Seasons I posted a tweet where I mentioned @FSPaloAlto and expressed how much I was looking forward to relaxing at their spa after the long journey. To my big surprise @FSPaloAlto replied to my tweet fairly quickly asking me if they should make reservations! WAUW! I was impressed!

photo-2Once in my room I found the following handwritten note welcoming me.

You can imagine that this put a huge smile on my face! It made me realize how a personal handwritten message can suddenly give a big hotel chain such as the Four Seasons a human and personal feel. Most importantly I felt welcome!

Enhancing my customer experience

Although I had a basic room, I was very happy with the high quality of it. A very big bedroom with a very comfortable bed, huge TV and an awesome bathroom with a huge bathtub!

So after a lovely night sleep I woke up and tweeted the below tweet to my followers.

bathroomAgain @FSPaloAlto was quite quick in their response and as you can see, next to wishing me a good morning, they also took the opportunity to “up sell” me a dinner in the hotel restaurant (which is a very good restaurant by the way). This is very clever, I totally welcomed this tweet and did not mind the up sell at all. Actually I found it quite thoughtful!

photoBut nothing prepared me for what I found in my room when I returned during the afternoon. Another handwritten note, but this time wrapped with a little present. Based on the morning tweet I posted about the great bathroom, they gave me a bottle of bath salt to fully enjoy the bathtub experience! This really blew me away. The thoughtfulness is incredible, and I was just delighted! (and had myself a perfect bathtub chilling!!)

Service becomes great and personal with social media

Now you can imagine I was getting quite spoiled, and at the same time I thought this was the best physical experience social media ever gave me, next to meeting great tweeps in real life.

To my astonishment when checking out the sweet lady tweeting for @FSPaloAlto came to personally wish me a safe trip home, this completed the experience. People talk to people, not to brands.

What can I say; I think this is an awesome example of how social media can be leveraged by the hospitality industry. Four Seasons clearly understands how important personal experiences are and have jumped on the social media bandwagon to increase their level of service. A good investment, as they not only give people like me a great experience, they have turned me into a brand advocate.

Marketing Lagniappe Takeaway: Social Media is not about you the brand.  There is a ‘me’ in social media and it’s all about me the customer.  Social media is not a CRUTCH. It’s not a substitute for a personal touch, but rather it plays a complimentary role. People talk to people and twitter is just one of seven ways of creating a dialogue (see video below). Great job by the staff at Four Seasons to use handwritten notes, small thoughtful gifts and a personal ‘thank you’ in tandem with 140 characters.

Do you agree?  Can a person have a social relationship with a brand? Or does it  ultimately come down to the people behind the brand?

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra for good measure) – Robert Scoble @scobleizer of Rackspace’s Building 43 chats with Kelly Nelson, director of marketing at the Four Seasons Hotel in Palo Alto, CA, is the first in the 82-hotel chain to get permission to Twitter officially on behalf of the chain.

Lagniappe defined: A marketing lagniappe, i.e. purple goldfish, is differentiation through signature added value.  It’s anytime a business goes above and beyond to provide a ‘little something extra’. It’s that unexpected surprise that’s thrown in for good measure.

How do you stand out in the sea of sameness? How do you win repeat customers and influence word of mouth?

Are you Giving Little Unexpected Extras? What’s Your GLUE?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rick Liebling June 22, 2011 at 7:28 am

Great story, great effort by @FSPaloAlto. Not to be a buzzkill, but I wonder if @ThomasMarzano gets the same level of treatment if his @Klout Score is 62 instead of his actual, very impressive 81?

2 Jenn Seeley June 23, 2011 at 11:19 am

Agreed, Rick - it IS a great story and effort. Interesting question you pose, too. Was it a random act of kindness? A typical effort to make all guests using social media feel special and heard? Not the same calibre perhaps, but it reminds me a bit of the KLM Surprises campaign (

No matter what the reasoning or the purpose behind the acts of awesome - it is easy to see that @FSPaloAlto is demonstrating the power - and the value - of social media through engagement - and lots of G.L.U.E.

Great read! Thanks for sharing :)

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