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Social Media for Bloody Important Senior Executives.

I know very little about brands in the hotel and hospitality industry. That should never stand in the way of a good speaking opportunity though. Not ever.

If anyone’s prepared to pay me good money to shout at them about brands, there’s a reasonable chance I’ll say, “yes”. So I found myself in Berlin as a speaker for the International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF). It was a reasonably big conference with over 2000 global hotel investors, financiers and senior executives in attendance. It was certainly big enough to warrant a decent Wi-Fi connection. You’d have thought.

My research had indicated a certain degree of social adoption by the hotel industry, limited predominantly to ‘customer services’ and running scared of TripAdvisor. The senior executives – the ‘C-Suite’ – however, were wholly disengaged. Social wasn’t really on the agenda. They had more important matters to attend to. That proved sufficient inspiration for the title of my presentation – ‘Social Media for Bloody Important Senior Executives’.

My thinking has moved to the ‘Social Enterprise’ – a place were the entire business drives the engagement of the organization. From the bottom of the enterprise to the very top, everyone is empowered, enabled, motivated and rewarded in its online endeavour to satisfy customers and prospects – including the senior executives. It’s only a matter of time. When the next generation of digital native middle management reach the boardroom, the enterprise will be social. Or at least it will have a chance. I don’t think it’s such a stretch. But it’s a very long way from Berlin and even further from the hotel industry.

I spent three days talking to delegates who, almost without exception, were clueless as to the opportunity or impact of social channels.

In one of my presentations to over 100 people, only three of them had heard of Slideshare, none of them were using it. With over two thousand delegates attending the conference, I was anticipating a deluge of Twitter activity, but they could only manage a trickle of tweets. The general response was, “In the hotel industry we expect to do business face to face”. Well, yes, we all expected to do that years ago. We expected to travel by horse and cart a little while ago too, but the world has changed. So has business – whatever industry you’re in. The importance of direct contact in business is undeniable, but it’s not the only way of connecting with your audience.

As I stood at the front of the room giving my presentation, I couldn’t help but be slightly distracted by a man on the front row equipped with an SLR camera and strobe flash. Every time I changed the slides, he took a flash photograph of the projector screen. I had 60+ slides so you can imagine how it might get on your tits after the third slide. My presentation was about distributing social content, about build ing your brand and helping your audience by sharing information. “It’s OK,” I said to the man, “you really don’t need to do that – this entire presentation will be available on Slideshare and YouTube just as soon as I have a Wi-Fi connection.” He carried on taking flash photographs of the screen regardless. What I should have said is, “Are you STUPID or just not LISTENING?” but based on President Kennedy’s Berlin experience, all he would have heard is, “I am a donut”.

Scot McKee