Full Transcript of the Interview with Adam Wallace and Brian Simpson from The Roger Smith Hotel
Recorded in person in the 16th floor penthouse at The Roger Smith Hotel, Manhattan, New York
Jim Hopkinson, Wired’s Marketing Guy
Adam Wallace, New Media Director
Brian Simpson, Director of Social Hospitality
Sarah Prevette and Elizabeth King (Giggling in background)
Or listen to the podcast while you read:
Hi, this is Jim Hopkinson, Wired’s Marketing Guy, bringing you the marketing trends that matter. Welcome!
My guests today are Adam Wallace and Brian Simpson of the Roger Smith Hotel – two of the leaders using social media to build community, grow revenue, and truly create world-wide awareness for their business.
Jim Hopkinson: Hey everybody, today we have Adam Wallace and Brian Simpson of the Roger Smith Hotel, New York’s hip social media hotel. Adam’s the new media marketing manager while his partner in crime, Brian, is the assistant food and beverage director. They are marketing masterminds behind a hotel that promotes brand by personally connecting with its fans on all the major social networking platforms. So, welcome guys.
Adam Wallace and Brian Simpson: Thanks so much, Jim.
JH: So, why don’t we tell your background; how did you get here? Adam, why don’t you start out?
AW: Sure, I’ve been at the Roger Smith Hotel for three years now. I started out doing a video-based website for the hotel, working with John Knowles, my cousin who’s a filmmaker, and has a small production company called, “Panman Productions.” We did a video-based interactive site called, “Roger Smith News” for the hotel. And my position has evolved over the years, and our online presence has evolved, still doing a lot with video; that’s evolved to a blog now which is, “Rogersmithlife.com.
Still doing video for the hotel and now we’re doing a lot, much bigger social media program when Brian came aboard with all of his Twitter experience and contacts, it brought a whole other world of engagement. I’ve been on Facebook since, basically, since it’s come out because I was still in college then. So, I’ve been engaging there in a long time, but the whole program has expanded over the years, and it’s been exciting to see it evolve, and now exciting to see it as sort of a common marketing practice for businesses across the board.
JH: Cool, what about you, Brian?
BS: Well, I’m 30 years in the food and beverage business. I didn’t grow up with the computers and everything, but I left my job at the Plaza Hotel to come over here, because of my interview for the Assistant Food and Beverage position – Mr. Knowles, the owner. The first question out of his mouth to me was, “What do you know about this Web 2.0 stuff?” which I thought was a real interesting question for a food and beverage position.
And, that’s when I first learned about their initiatives, and, how Adam was moving into this new role, and how I could assist, because I had a blog, and I had just come recently. I literally still had no hair and bald at the time, cause I’d just come from seven months of chemotherapy where I really got involved with the Twitter community and realized the importance of it, and realized the outreach and the scope that it had, and thought, this is really something that could really translate into the hospitality business, and really expand the scope of any business.
But, I was hired, and my job duties were, basically, to oversee the restaurant and all of the food and beverage of the hotel and to assist Adam with some of the outreach of all the great content that him and the Panman guys were producing, and that slowly evolved to my position being less about food and beverage, and more about creating the audience that we needed, of the community that we wanted to build, as far as guests, and all of our events bases in the restaurant. And, it’s evolved as of one week ago was my one-year anniversary here, so, I’m not here certainly as long as Adam, and while we were on Las Vegas at BlogWorld, we got the word that they’d hired a new restaurant manager so, even more of my time now can slide from food and beverage to helping Adam really take it to the next level.
It’s been a year where we’ve seen plenty of other places jump into the spaces, the social spaces, and now for us, I think, to stay ahead of them, it’s going to take a little but more effort and a little bit more creativity, and a little bit more time from both of us, now I’m with him.
JH: Because you’re really unique when you started out doing this, there weren’t a lot of hotels doing this, and now you’re saying everyone else in kind of jumping into it?
BS: Absolutely. The whole Twitter community, the Facebook community, it’s not just hotels, almost any business now with the whole social media revolution, so to speak.
JH: We need to be on Twitter!
BS: Yeah, exactly.
JH: Everyone! Johnson! Get us on Twitter!
BS: Absolutely, that’s great, and we want that. There are a couple of places, The Roosevelt, we’ve supported them and helped them, and have done our Tweetup groups over to their hotel because it’s an environment that’s not going away. And, it’s one that we think that we are; we didn’t think we were frontrunners in it, but we’re starting to realize that what we have done is starting to lead the industry a little bit, we’re a little bit unique in that, and we’re […] pushing with it.
JH: I think it’s a brilliant strategy; I met you guys at the Sprouter party – Sarah Prevette Sprouter, and I’m like, “What a great idea”, because I’m a connector, I’m a marketing maven, I’m a New Yorker, and people come to me, they’re like, “In addition to being a techie, hey what DVD player should I buy, what cell phone should I get?” People say, “Hey, I’m coming to New York next week and where should I stay?”
And, in general, I don’t have a strong preference, and I say, “I don’t know, I guess the Marriott or you’re kind of competing on price, but after I got talking to you guys and how you connect people, and you’re really dialed in with social media, this is the place that I’m going to recommend people to stay, just cause it’s differentiated, it’s such a different experience.
AW: You know, we’re a single property hotel, a unique hotel, so not everyone knows about us right off, and so the ability to create those strong relationships with many different people has really, really helped us build exposure through the hotel. So, it’s not necessarily just that we have x number of followers on Twitter, x number of fans on Facebook, that really hasn’t been the key factor in building, you know, people coming and staying with us, but someone like you, someone like Sarah Prevette, someone like all these countless number of people that we’ve built relationships with online that then have their own audience that then endorses us, because we’ve built those relationships.
We really, with the online tools that we have to really connect and build the relationships; we can do that with so many people, and then the word just spreads. And I think being a single property family-run hotel boutique, we’re not the big corporate chain, it is a unique sort of property, every room is different, and it’s not your typical place. So, I think it caters well to a people-driven business and relationship business, rather than just a big sort of corporate identity.
JH: Right, so who is the typical person who’s going to going to stay at the hotel? Is it a business traveler or a tourist coming on vacation, who are you kind of targeting?
AW: Well, a few different communities that we’ve dealt with for a long time, we have a lot of tourism from Europe, specifically Spain and Sweden. Our owners built relationships there and that sort of happened over the years for one reason or another. And, then a lot of business travel within the U.S., but what we’ve been able to do online now is really put ourselves in the online space and relationships in the online space; and have a great community of people that we’ve developed here who are in the tech industry, the online communities, doing social media professionally, and we’re really very quickly have built this community and audience, and so that isn’t necessarily just one specific demographic of people, it’s not just young people, it’s not just business-type people, it is a range that we engage with online. But, in that community of bloggers, we did a blogger special last winter which led to a few other specials; but in that community of bloggers, people we’re connected with through social media, and people who are doing online marketing, texting people, we sort of become part of that community and how a lot of people stay here from that community.
BS: I think the common denominator is the people we attract are ‘people’ people. We’re not a corporate travel headquarter. If you want to be left alone and go check in, grab your suitcase, grab your laptop, go to your room, do your work, go to bed – that’s not our hotel. We’ve got managers on the floor for breakfast that are going to learn you name, and they’re going to talk to you, and they’re going to ask you where you came from, and then get to know you, and our front desk people, and if we, if you’ve sent here through a social media channel, Adam and I are going to meet you down in the bar and have breakfast or lunch, or have a drink with you. So, if you don’t want to engage with people, you’re not going to want to stay here, because that’s all we try to do.
JH: Now, I’ve heard you’ve actually connected people that are staying here, saying, “Hey, I’m Sarah, this other person who’s coming, and they also run a start-up where they’re also in the entrepreneurial community, you guys should meet up, you guys should have a drink, he’s coming in on Thursday at 7:00″, something like that.
BS: I think that’s one probably one of our first initiatives, getting this off the ground about a year ago now, was trying to figure out, “OK, if we want to use these social tools, the best ways to use the tools is to be entrenched into the environment, or into those communities”, so, instead of faking it and saying, “Oh, we have a Twitter account, look at us”, it was, “Hey, all you people with Twitter accounts, come here!”
We started to solicit the people, “Hey, if you’re having an event, if you’re having a tech event, if you need to do a meeting, if you need a breakout space, come do it here”, so that way we got to, selfishly, “Oh, come with us.” It seemed like it was a great idea, like we were doing it for them, but we really wanted to kind of absorb what these people were already doing, and listen to the people that were already in it. And try to learn from them, and then adapt that and take very little piece from people that we’ve learned – there’s no right or wrong. So, we try to listen to a little bit of everyone and figure out how we can engage those items into what we’re doing.
JH: So, we have a lot of marketers that listen to the podcast, and when you think of like of a big corporation marketing, Marriott or Sheraton, they’re doing giant billboards, or they’re working on Orbitz and doing straight marketing like that, and a lot of companies say, “Oh, we want to do ‘word-of-mouth marketing.’ Now that’s something you guys are really doing. Tell us how the word-of-mouth marketing is kind of better than just like a straight advertising campaign.
BS: Absolutely. I think one of the analogies that I use coming from the food and beverage side of it, and it’s one that I used a lot, so I hope it doesn’t bore people to hear this is. If we put a sign in Lily’s that says, “We make the best Bloody Marys in New Your City”, some people may read it, they may believe it, they may come in and try one. If you, Jim, call your buddy who says he’s going to brunch tomorrow and says, “Where’s the best Bloody Mary?”, and you say, “Go to Lily’s at the Roger Smith Hotel, they make the best”, they’re going to believe that, because they’re going to trust you. So, it’s really about building that community, it’s not Adam and I, it’s not Mr. Knowles, it’s not the owner’s telling these communities how good we are, it’s the people coming here and us just being genuine and being people, and giving them the experience that they want, giving them the things that they need as travelers, or as a diner, and then them hopefully expressing that to the people.
We were just at BlogWorld and I think that the most touching thing that hit my heart out there was all the people coming up to us saying, and there was a few that said they’d stay here that we didn’t even know, shame on us, but we will try, saying that the whole experience from the front desk to talking to Kelly in sales, or Emile in the dining room, or Paul behind the bar; if Adam and I drove a 1000 people through our efforts and our team at the hotel didn’t do their job, they would go tell as many people as they’re telling we’re good, that we’re bad. So, the whole product that we get to sell is really, really a benefit to us, because we’ve got a good product behind us, and that let’s that trust go, and people recommend us with their heart, and I think it’s believable.
JH: Right. Because, Adam, we were talking earlier how there has been price advances where you can say how many hotel rooms are sold in New York, and depending on that fluctuation, you can do an algorithm and see how you should price it, and, in comparison to your competitor; but, after you get kind of through price, you have to have that genuine experience, and you have to have friends in community, you have to have another reason besides price to pick a hotel that you’re going to stay at.
AW: Sure, and I think with the prices in New York changing so much, where we’re at an advantage from everyone else is that we have connections to people, and we do that through online social tools that we may not have had before. And, I’m sure you can have connections with people on a phone, via email, but now, it’s word of mouth; sort of, on steroids here. The amount of people you can communicate with and then the amount of networks that those people have – the referral basis and recommendation to the Roger Smith. We’re always going to be competitive with everyone else, the rate is going to change every day, and everyone’s going to change every day, and they’ll be competitive with us, and we’ll be competitive with them, but what’s going to set us apart, being an independent single property that’s not paying for a lot of expensive advertising; it’s the fact that we have relationships to people and that we have a network, and we also have relationships to people who have a network. And, so I think that that differentiating quality that we communicate with people to build relationships, and the people that we do communicate with online we’ll take care of here – we’ve got an interaction with them, and it actually is social media online.
JH: So, what is a typical day for you; you’re communicating, do you start off on Facebook, is there a set routine that you go through each day?
AW: It’s sort of chaotic [laughs].
BS: We try. I think the first and foremost thing, if there’s somebody that we know from social media staying in the hotel, our day starts with breakfast with that person.
AW: Breakfast is a good start to the day with someone we know.
BS: We’ll get up at god-awful hours to have breakfast with these people.
AW: I think it’s totally a mix between online and offline. And sure, a lot of the day is on Facebook or Twitter, or creating a video for YouTube, or editing photos from an event the night before, getting those on Flickr, Tagging People on Facebook, and Images, there’s lots of stuff online. There’s so many different platforms to produce content to that, we’ve got different people in different places, so we’ve got an art gallery that produces a lot of content and they’re doing a lot with or Facebook page. We have a video team that’s doing a lot of video production, we got Brian whose doing tons of Twitter; so, we’ve got a whole range of people, it’s not just me, or it’s not just Brian, it’s not just the video team. So, we do have a whole team – for me it ends up being bouncing between all the different areas, and then not only different type of media and content, but also different communities that we’re dealing with. So, we have a social media community, but, we also have an art community, we also have a whole restaurant community. And, I think that’s the next step that is really building relationships, and audience, and community in each one of these areas.
JH: Specific events you’re targeting?
AW: Yeah, yeah, right. So, like for instance, the wine interest with the restaurant, we wanted to be known for our wine, and the food; and, so we did a whole thing with our chef in the gallery on the corner, where it was ‘Lily live'; so, the chef cooking live in the gallery, so there was a big promotion on him live on the corner of 42nd and Lexington promoting the food and the restaurant, and then that led into a week with Gary Vaynerchuk doing “Wine Library TV” from the hotel. So all live-streamed through our video team, it goes out through our Twitter network, our Facebook network – very interactive.
JH: It sounds like an extraordinary amount of work to do all these and tap into all these media connections.
AW: That’s why it’s good that we have a whole team.
JH: Yeah, you’re doing pretty much, too.
AW: You know, for the last couple of months, Brian’s pretty much run our Twitter Roger Smith account, which has been fantastic, and the galleries run our Facebook page, and the video team has run our YouTube account, so, it actually is a different way of doing business now. And our owner, luckily, has supported and funded a lot of people spending time in these areas, but I think that it’s something that businesses across the board – one things I heard at BlogWorld is a lot of business are moving to multi-blog platforms where they have multiple employees blogging. And I think it makes sense in this day and age, everyone should have a voice, everyone has a voice in a different community; for us, be it culinary or restaurant or Twitter, with social media people.
JH: You can appeal to each group.
AW: But I think, we’re filmmakers, we did a whole thing over the summer called, “Roger Smith Shorts” which are all young film directors doing videos from here, so there’s a whole film community we’re appealing to.
BS: Literally shocking the hotel. Just to clarify that. It was a whole week of six directors shooting six short films in the hotel.
JH: How did you think of that idea, how did you spread the buzz; like how did that get done? Say, “Hey, stay at our hotel, oh, and by the way, do a film here, and promote our hotel on the side, kind of, right?
AW: Again, a cool thing about having a video team that’s working very closely with us, Panman Productions. So they set up the whole thing, the hotel and the owner was generous to sponsor the whole thing; so, they basically did audition tapes for directors. They picked six directors, we sponsored them for the whole week, fed them for the whole week, and gave them a crew from the Ghetto Film School that’s here in the city, and they shot six amazing films, short films, that were all very, very professionally done completely different – from comedy, to a whole range of things.
BS: Utterly amazing, yeah.
AW: And it was actually, it didn’t get a huge amount of press, but it was a really unique marketing idea.
BS: The content was amazing.
AW: The fact that we got these young filmmakers actually using the hotel as a backdrop, nothing to so with Roger Smith Hotel, in fact, a lot of them used a different name of the hotel, it didn’t have to be Roger Smith, but the fact that the hotel is the backdrop for these really interesting films; they’re going now and pitching them to short film festivals.
JH: And then are they hosted on your site?
AW: We haven’t released them online because they’re in the process of pitching them to film festivals, and I guess if it doesn’t go through the film festivals circuit, then we’ll release them online. But that was sort of an independent sort of promotion project. But the point being that the whole, it’s not just myself being interested in this, or Brian bringing Twitter to the equation, and in the community the equation, but it’s actually the whole range of people and an interest across the board, in people, in communities, in relationships. And that’s the bottom line of the hotel – it always has been since James Knowles started being the owner, is that he’s people-driven, not revenue-driven. The first thing when he comes in, in the day, is not what the bottom line is, it’s who are building relationships, who are making connections, and how is that going to lead to revenue? Of course, and it does. And so, that’s the interesting thing – it’s actually people business leading to revenue, not necessarily first, just looking at numbers.
BS: And I think something that what I’ve probably since summer started, probably since July, the last three months, maybe, is, at the beginning we were dabbling in all the social sites and knew it was going to stick; like everybody, it’s still experimentation – everything is in its infancy, even at three years old, it’s still young. And, I’ll steal this quote from BlogWorld, from C.C. Chapman, saying, “Once you have these sites up, you need to continually give people toys to play with.” And, by those toys, it’s new videos, new promotions, new events, and new things that you gotta have a reason. As anyone listening to this I’m sure knows, that you don’t go back to a site if they don’t continue to give you something to play with. So, we’ve started to really focus on content – the user-generated stuff. People that are going to come in and contribute for us, and want to; people are willingly now wanting to add stuff in and want to be in the pictures, want to be in the Facebook tags.
Adam does such great pictures and photography, and we see spikes in our analytics, and we look back, like, “Oh, that was the night of that party, and we put all those Facebook pages up the next day, and everybody came to the site tagging themselves” – we really want to build the community, and it’s working. It’s really working, the more content – the “Content is King thing.” We’ve got two things I think that rule is location, location, location, around 47th and Lex – done, check, check that off!
And, then now, content being king, now we’re really start focusing on content, and because the owner is behind it, the owner lets us do films, he lets us do shorts, he’ll let people come in, like we’re sitting right now, in the penthouse, on the 16th floor, doing a podcast at 10:30 at night, he lets that happen. The corporate world isn’t going to let that happen. We have an advantage, we’re going to take it and run with it.
JH: As awesome as you guys are, as awesome as the staff and the events you’re doing, it is a service industry. So, what happens if customers have complaints?
AW That’s the best.
JH: Why is that the best?
BS: Because. We’ll know, we’ll know about it. For 30 years I dealt with people – here’s what happens. If you run a restaurant, you really want someone to tell you if something’s wrong. You almost sometimes beg people to tell if something’s wrong; you just want to hear everything’s great. So, I know for one example, I was at home checking Twitter before I went to bed at one in the morning, and one of our guests was complaining that was on Twitter, but shot out a Tweet saying, “If anyone from Roger Smith is out there, my air conditioner is making an awful noise.” And, I got on the phone, called the front desk, and I knew what room these people were in, I knew the name, I think. I said, “Could you please call up, and if there’s a room available, can you please switch them; let them know that we found this on Twitter.” And, of course, I got back, the room got switched, and everybody was happy. So, it’s really the follow-up and the customer engagement. No one’s perfect – you’re going to make mistakes. It’s indifference to mistakes.
JH: Right, to tell you when people fall.
BS: If we do something wrong and we’re indifferent about it, people will then look upon us in a negative light. If something goes wrong, and we react and say, “We’re sorry, what can we do to fix it?” – we want to know. We will fix it, we will do whatever it takes, and if we don’t know, we’ve missed. It’s a missed opportunity to correct something that could have been a simple fix. I love, I want to see negative stuff – if it’s there, tell us, we’ll fix it. Â
AW: And I think, too, I heard someone recently and I thought it was a great point, is that customer service with the nature of being online being so interactive now in social, that customer service almost becomes a new marketing channel. That if you’re doing proper customer service online, and actually caring about people, and caring that they have a good stay, and that we take care of them, that that is actually is now seen across, people react to that, and that that becomes the marketing channel. So, now, in our social sites, if we’ve interacted with someone on Twitter, and they come and stay with us and they have a problem, and we take care of it, of course we’re going to take care of it, we cared about you coming, we’re going care about taking care of any problem. So, I think that that becomes almost a marketing channel in some ways, that that’s how it shows your interaction with people and how you treat people.
BS: I think we were at the airport, so I’m all excited, it was either at the airport or when we got back to New York on Sunday, somebody still in Vegas at BlogWorld wrote, “Anyone else staying at _____ Hotel, because my air conditioning smells like a urinal.”
JH: Huh. [Laughs]
BS: And, I just retweeted that and I just said that, “This is why hotels need to be on Twitter, and my retweet got retweeted about 13 times, because it’s there, it’s a channel.
JH: Anyone out there that does the, “Why should I be on Twitter, why, I don’t want to know what people are eating for breakfast.” Well, if you’re saying what you’re eating for breakfast, you’re doing it wrong. The reason you should be on Twitter, is, a) if you’re staying at a hotel and you have a problem, you can Tweet it, it’ll solve your problem. And the other reason is if you’re a company, if you’re a service industry like a hotel, you can answer customer service questions and have happy customers, and make more revenue – that’s what Twitter is being good for.
BS: No doubt.
JH: Alright, so you might use social media, your Facebook page, or Twitter to get people to, “Hey, yeah, I’m going to try out this hotel.” But then, once you get someone to stay here once, how do you maintain that momentum? How do you get them to keep coming back?
BS: I’d say one of the first things is getting to know their habits; getting to know what they like, what they want. I think it became sort of a little bit of a jokeÂ here, but Chris Brogan had a Tweetup, and it was after the ‘140 Conference’ back in June, and we were thinking, “What’s kind of hot on Twitter, what’s kind of funny, what’s kind of quirky?” Adam and I sat there like, “Uh, maybe if people come in we’ll give them a free drink, or this or that.” We thought, “No, bacon – we have great bacon, first of all. It’s wonderful bacon.” So, we’re like, “Here’s what we’re going to spread at ‘140’, “If you come back to the Roger Smith Hotel, and you take a Twit Pick of your drink or your food, or just say to people that you’re here, we’ll begin you a small side of bacon.” It’s become this big joke with us. And, we’re out in Las Vegas, and Chris Brogan’s giving the keynote in front of all the people there, Adam and I are humbly embarrassed when he says, “There’s two guys over here from the Roger Smith Hotel who have packed bacon in their suitcase, and brought it all out here, and the next thing he says, “If you’re in New York City and you don’t stay at the Roger Smith Hotel, you’re just a monkey.”
But, we knew that that would be a funny thing, that if we brought this bacon and announced it that that Chris would get on to it, and hook on to it. We know what rooms Sarah Prevette likes to stay in. I know, and the servers now know that when Julian Smith is here, he brings a book, he will go through a pot of coffee before he wants the server to even take his order; the servers know that now. And that after he’s read a few pages, and his coffee is almost empty, they go over and they take his food order. So, it’s learning the habits of our guests and making it personal. Once we have a guest, that’s just the beginning of it – where a lot places that’s where, “Ok, great, they’ve booked, they’ve paid, who’s next?” We’re like, “That’s great, they’ve booked, they’ve paid, where are they, who are they, what do they like, how can we help them?”
AW: And, I think just to take, it’s fantastic with those people that we’ve developed tight relationships with, but to take a step back as to what the opportunities that these tools provide on a bigger scale, is that there’s those people that we have these tight relationships with that really, you can’t call them anything less than friends at this point, and there’s a lot of those. But, also, you don’t have to be in that tight circle for those tools to be valuable as a business, and we have ongoing relationships on Facebook on our fan page with people who have stayed here. Now, we may not have met those people in person, Twitter, as well. But, to be able to provide interesting content on a continuing basis to a wide, to scale it out to much thousands of people, we’re in their stream of where they’re paying attention. And, I think for business is to sort of get that – people spend their time on Twitter and Facebook, and even if they’re not engaging with us on a day-to-day basis, we’re part of their life, something about what we’re doing has had them […] into following us, the content is interesting enough that they’re still there.
And, so, it expands out from the 10, 20, 50 people that we have, that we’re friends with and want to make that 1000, and 10000. But realistically, for other businesses, may not have that face-to-face with everyone, but the tools are there to have an ongoing relationship online through being in the stream and providing interesting content, and I think that for a lot of companies, hotels, whatever it is, can be extremely useful, and has for us, as well. When we’re in their stream on Facebook, that’s where they’re spending their time and they think of, “Where do I stay in a hotel in New York, or where does my friend stay?” We’re on the top of their minds. So, I think it zooms into the macro of people that we’re really, really tight with, and then also the bigger picture of engagement with the big audience.
BS: I think, this, too, is a great place, I love quoting all of our friends, but, with Chris Brogan, I think, really, and I probably re-used this quote so many times since Vegas, and I’ll probably adlib it a little bit, “A community will fight with you and fight for you, where an audience will just watch you fall on your sword.” That’s the difference. We don’t want just followers, we don’t want just people that opt in and click, and never interact with us, never promote us, never ask us questions, never want to be engaged. We want people that want to be part of it, so it’s a tight knit bond of people that we want to deal with and it’s working, because those people are valuable.
JH: So, that’s kind of the follow-up question is, so companies are trying to do this, “Hey, we should be on Twitter, we should be on Facebook”, and what corporate is probably asking is how do you measure the success? Like, do you go back and give reports to the owner? It sounds great that he’s not focused on just how many rooms do we sell today, but, how do you kind of quantify that?
AW: We do a monthly report, and basically we have three revenue sources at the hotel, so we’ve got rooms, and we have events, and we have a restaurant and bar. Every business is different, but for a hotel those are the typical revenue sources, and we’re seeing great, just in the last, when we started reporting and measuring, in the last six months, and we’ve seen great results and great growth in that, as well. The events measurement is simple, basically, anyone we’ve connected with online, and anyone related to social media, host an event here – it’s events revenue. And so we’ve had a lot of those events – social media clubs have hosted their events here, Sprouter has done an event; we did stuff with Gary V., so many others. Social Media Breakfasts is a regular one, there are all these social media groups that have done their events here.
JH: So, you’ve got these physical events and the obviously you can do analytics, how many pages do you blog, how many share of Facebook friends, how many Twitter followers?
BS: And, I think going into this, really quick with Yelp. Yesterday, someone called and was looking for a space one night; I’d answered the phone and I said, “How did you hear about us?” And the girl said, “Oh, we went into Yelp, and we just put in a search, “Cool places in New York.” And, our place came up like number two or three. So, then I looked at like those Yelp responses that people have said about us that put comments in there, and almost, I think it was like eight out of the ten that I read through, somebody said something about ‘cool place’ -Â cool place for this, cool place for that, cool place for… So, it was an interesting way that had come up through those channels.
AW: Yeah, and then taking in terms of actually measuring, because, the question of measuring revenue – rooms we do, promo codes online or when someone either DMs us or contacts us directly, or calls directly, we do a lot of call-ins. So, it’s actually a measurement of this big question, “Oh, you can’t measure social media”, and though there’s a lot of business that comes in that we can’t necessarily measure, maybe someone stays with us and they’ve seen us online, or a friend referred them online, and then they just booked. But, we always have a discounted rate for people who are connected with online – the standard is 10%, it goes up to 20%, sometimes it’s a standard rate. Whatever it is, we value anyone that we’re connected with online, we’ll always give a lower rate to them, or someone who’s connected with online and someone we’re not; if you book through Priceline or Expedia, we’ll always give you something better through Twitter or Facebook.Â
JH: I think you should measure success in terms of pounds of bacon sold.
AW: Yeah, there you go. [Laughs]
BS: Successful then.
JH: So, where do you think all this is going? What’s the next step, what are the future trends that you’re seeing?
AW: I think that with us, with all the people now that we’re starting to have a community, I was going to have some breakfast with Sarah Prevette this morning, and all of a sudden, the two of us in our Twitter stream get something from Karen Hartline from San Francisco saying, “Well, I’m here, can I come down and join you?” The conversation came up amongst the three of us at breakfast that it would be great to have something where you can find where your friends are, and with the travel business, and with tourism and with, I think a lot of people within this space are doing a lot of traveling in there, and kind of bi-coastal or whatever they’re doing, is being able to locate where your friends are, and within that, you’ll be able to get true recommendations of places to stay.
We want to start doing little videos from our employees saying, “Ok, Sayip, you’re a server here. When you get off of work where would you go to get your favorite piece of pizza?” And, we want a little clip of Sayip saying, “Well, I go to this little place down in the Village.” And, then we want to give that out to our viewers; I think it’s going to be less about us pitching ourselves, and us pitching what we can offer for our guests to come and stay here when they come to New York, and what they have to do, that they won’t find in the guidebook. That they’ll only find when they come and talk to the locals that live here and work here, and we’ll give them a responsive. And, it’s a good tip; if you’re ever traveling ask a concierge when they get off work, “Where do you go eat dinner?” Not where do you send you guests, “Where do you go eat dinner?” I think that is something we can start to incorporate in, when people hit JFK, I want them to be able to go to their iPhone app, click and say, “Ok, I’m staying at The Roger Smith Hotel, but on my way there I really need to get a cappuccino, and I hate Starbucks, where can I go?” Like, we want to start to offer tools and tips and make the experience better, make the travel better.
BS: Yup, and I think that the question of what’s next, where’s it going on a bigger picture, not just specific to the Roger Smith Hotel, but where is this technology going, what’s next, what’s next for business, what does this mean? Again, going back to the BlogWorld, the one big take home for me was that it’s not just about these tools, it’s not just social media in a box, it’s not this side thing, it’s not just Twitter and Facebook, but the reality is that business is moving more towards business being people-driven. And I think that, and again, Chris Brogan, we’re quoting him too much here, but, this is his what’s next big insight, and I think that that’s right, and it’s something that we’ve wanted to do for years, and have done for years is people-driven, but people are now people online.
It’s not just corporate websites, it’s not one-way advertising messaging, it is interactive, it is engagement, it is about people, and I think that that people who are around the words, ‘authenticity and transparency’, and all these things. But, I think that it just comes down to people, people being people online, people having real relationships, human-to-human, not business-to-human, and people can be human on Twitter, and businesses can be human, too. And, so I think that’s the next thing in business, in general. And, it’s not just us; it’s bigger trends. And, I hope that every other hotel does the same thing that we do. I hope that not just in New York, everywhere, but I think that that’s the big next step is that it just becomes people are the driving force in business; they’re who stay here, they’re who have the interaction with, and I think that’s where it’s going.
AW: I think every connection we make, our goal isn’t just to make a connection, our goal is to hopefully shake that person’s hand one day. That’s why we do this.
JH: Well, all my listeners, as far as I know are people, so if you’re a person, if you’re in New York.
BS: Yay, people.
JH: If you want to shake someone’s hand, if you want to meet other people that are staying at a cool hotel, going to cool places around here, where do they find you, and how do they follow you, and interact with you?
BS: Well, we’re ‘RS Hotel’ on Twitter; ‘Roger Smith Life’ is our blog, ‘Rogersmith.com’ is our wonderful website that shows all of our rooms and all of our event spaces, and you can book through that. Where else, I’m also at ‘Bsimi’ on Twitter. And Adam.
AW: At ‘Adwal.’ Also, our art gallery we mentioned is the ‘Labgallery.com’, interactive space on the corner, and our video team that does all of our productions for YouTube, and a lot of interactive stuff with us is Panman Productions.
JH: Great, I’ll put all those links up on the ‘Hopkinsonreport.com’, and thanks so much for coming in today, guys, like me coming in here. [Laughs]
BS: Thanks for being a person, Jim.
Twitter links of social media rock stars mentioned during the podcast:
This has been the Hopkinson Report podcast. I’d like to thank my guest Adam Wallace and Brian Simpson of the Roger Smith Hotel. Hey, if you’re coming to New York, why stay in one of the corporate giants when you can get the same great location and competitive price, but also support a business that really gets it in the social media space.
To learn more about their hotel, their restaurant, their art gallery, their movies, and you connect with all the social media stars that we mentioned in the podcast at the Hopkinsonreport.com for a full list of URLs.
Thanks for listening.