Peeping, Prying, or Pampering?

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We know that hoteliers have wanted guests to post their (positive) experiences far and wide in social media land. But did you know that some are now monitoring guests' Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts to better personalize their experience? I did not until I read about hotel stalking on HotelChatter, and I'm not sure what to think.

On one hand, how cool is that that they'd take the time and effort to find out what breed of dog you own, when your birthday is, or whatever data points they want to find to make your stay more about you—think a bedside framed photo of your pup in your room, or a bottle of birthday bubbly if your day falls over your stay. Nicer and/or smarter hotels have long kept a database of your preferences if you're a repeat customer, so is this really any different? And how lovely it would be to have them appear to read your mind and unobtrusively make everything just about you. I remember one magical meal at a magical place where the organizers had done some digging to find out something about each of the guests, and had the waiters sing our personalized verses. It surprised and delighted, and in no way left me feeling pried into.

On the other hand, eww. The idea of them sifting through my incredibly banal Facebook pages or doing a Google search is a little off-puttingly Big Brothery. Who wants a hotel stalking them online? It just doesn't feel right, but I think the key is probably to keep it feeling surprising and delightful, not intrusive and skeevy. To do that, the hotel would have to be able to figure out what to do to keep its actions feeling like pampering instead of prying. Which of course would be different for every guest, since we all have different tolerance levels when it comes to privacy (though the truly private are not, one would guess, sharing too much of themselves on social media anyway).

On the other hand ("There is no other hand!"—sorry, channeled Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof for a second), how many hotels really have the person-power to do this for any but their most important VIPs? When I read so many posts on Cara Tracy's excellent Fully Committed blog about how even salespeople don't bother to look up basic details about a potential meeting looking to book their hotel, I can't imagine that someone's going to take the time to find out my Australian shepherd's name is Mango and that I love chocolate and somehow incorporate that into my stay. Though I did hear about something called LibraOnDemand that'll automate the job for you, though the idea of automating personalization just makes my head hurt.

And meeting managers, of course, you must be thinking along these lines as well. Your attendees likely come up on a Google search. They're probably tweeting, and blogging, and Facebooking too. Can you, should you, would you take the time to find out more about each of them and use that information to make each and every one of them feel special while on site? It sounds like an overwhelming idea, but, especially if hotels do in fact lead the way, something we may see more of in the future.

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

on Feb 11, 2014

This just feels intrusive to me. It's one thing to provide information if asked, but another to have the hotel do that research unsolicited and gather information that has nothing to do with my hotel stay. I don't see it as improving my hotel experience.
On the other hand... information shared on social media is public so if it's out there I guess it has become fair game.

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