3 Valuable Lessons in Surprise and Delight from @HiltonSuggests

By: Samantha Wood

January 18, 2018

Who’s the friend you turn to when you’re planning a trip? The person you know who seems to have travelled everywhere, and can recommend the best coffee shop, restaurant or casual bar completely off the beaten path, and not something a simple Google search would bring up.

Hilton Suggests is that friend, available for everyone travelling in or around more than 115 cities worldwide. Launched in 2009, the Hilton Worldwide initiative is a collection of Hilton employees who volunteer their best local advice, with the aim of surprising and delighting travelers on Twitter.

The unique service isn’t based on Hilton finding tweets using a hashtag or @HiltonSuggests. They are found strictly through social listening for anyone who’s planning a trip to one of the participating cities, and not just Hilton guests.

Sabrina Callahan, Director, Social Media Planning & Integration, Hilton Worldwide

Sabrina Callahan, Director, Social Media Planning & Integration, Hilton Worldwide

We recently talked to Sabrina Callahan, director of social media planning and integration at Hilton, who leads the social team responsible for training and working with more than 120 representatives worldwide who master surprise and delight on Twitter.

The team uses Lithium Social Web for social listening, and has created specific listening rules to find and reach travelers who might never expect to hear from Hilton.

Callahan says that after years of social listening, Hilton developed a “travel excitement” layer of keywords in early 2017 based on past tweets and team member feedback. With that research, Hilton compiled “a rather lengthy list of words and phrases that people use while sharing excitement and anticipation for an upcoming trip.”

Callahan will also be chatting about how to craft killer tweets at the 2018 Social Shake-Up Show. We asked her for some of the best lessons she’s learned since the launch of @HiltonSuggests.

1. Any Tweet Can Make an Impact

The Hilton Suggests program is all about making a personal connection with travelers, and showing that Hilton is local, knowledgeable and available to help. The tweets aren’t carefully scheduled or crafted with an editorial calendar. But even the simplest tweet can play a large role in making someone’s trip much better. Callahan adds, “Sometimes [travelers will] take photos and tag us to say thanks for the great recommendation, and that is a huge win.”

Creating personal interaction play into Facebook’s new emphasis on genuine engagement instead of just ad after ad for its Newsfeed. Although Hilton Suggests is designed for Twitter, the approach could apply to any platform.

2. The Program Is Not for Everyone

Hilton Suggests is voluntary for Hilton employees. The employee may be someone who works at the front desk of a Hilton hotel, but has never touched a social media strategy plan, she says.

And because employees offer to participate doesn’t mean they’re right for the program. Callahan and her team put representatives from across the world through an intense training program. Still, the key is for employees to exhibit a personal touch (and, of course, good recommendations). “We don’t want to suggest something that someone could easily look up on Google,” Callahan says.

3. Internal Branding and Marketing are Important, Too

“I think many of us have experienced the reality that just because you’ve built an employee program (or platform), this doesn’t mean they’ll participate,” Callahan says.

Although the program began in 2009, the company is continually focusing on internal marketing to recruit representatives from across the company, she says. “You need to make the ‘What’s in it for me?’ really clear in order to recruit participants,” Callahan adds.

It is also critical that as programs grow over time, the voice and vision of these efforts are revisited. In 2016, Callahan’s team implemented an approach to @HiltonSuggests that included complete rebranding, new employee onboarding, updated storytelling, and additional recognition opportunities such as the Global Guide Awards. Now, with more than 120 representatives, the challenge is to constantly keep up with the latest social listening tactics to find opportunities to surprise and delight travellers with personalized recommendations.

Connect with Samantha: @samantha_c_wood

At The Social Shake-Up