Marriott and the impact of social media: the conclusion

Marriott gave me a great opening to a speech on social media and a lesson in how anyone can create content, distribute that content and influence a brand conversation. Above the first four slides of a talk I gave at Sears.

If you’ve been here this week you know the story of my dripping hotel room ceiling and my frustration with Marriott’s initial response.  But I’m pleased to report the story has a happy ending for all involved.

For starters, the ordeal gave me a brilliant opening to a speech I was making to Sears HC the next day. Perfect timing for a talk titled “The End of Us and Them,” and the thesis that media is now in the hands of two billion amateurs rather than a select group of privileged professionals.

I opened with a photo of the ceiling, thanked Sears for putting me up there, and then proceeded to reveal the early morning Tweet stream along with a video I’d shot and edited on my iPhone that morning calling out Marriott.  (Truth be told I didn’t actually post the video on Youtube, but faked it in my presentation to make the point.)

Needless to say it got a great reaction and emphasized that in an age of social media, when consumers control both content and distribution, all brands need to learn a different set of rules and behaviors.

Anyway, the rest of the story worked out well on a number of accounts, too. When offered free nights and points by the Marriott (nice of them) I told them, “no thanks,”  and instead requested a public apology on Twitter and a comment on this blog. The point wasn’t to embarrass anyone but simply to get the hotel to admit its mistake, acknowledge my frustration, and turn the entire mishap into a conversation from which people could learn.

It appears to have worked. The comment stream on the last post is a rich one. It questions whether one’s social footprint influences the response that they get from a brand.  It reveals disappointments with service in general. It earns Marriott credit for engaging. And, perhaps most importantly, it shows that a blog post that exercises a little restraint, replacing the venom-filled rant with some productive advice, gets a slightly better reaction that one that simply vents.

Furthermore, the hotel actually suggests that there’s room for improvement in both customer service and employee responsiveness. We may even see a guest bill of rights.

Lance Misner, the manager of the Marriott Hoffman Estates, has become a reader of this blog, a Twitter user, and maybe even a convert to social media’s potential for learning, engaging and marketing.

Here, in fact, is what he’s had to say in response to my last post and his own exposure to the story playing out in the social space.

“Let me say first of all that I do not know anything about Twitter so if I sound ignorant I am. I signed up myself in order to publicly apologize.  I hope that worked.”

“There are some incredible things going on in the business world as it relates to social media.  This has been a real wake up call, I need to embrace these concepts and find opportunities to further market our property. In fact I am looking forward to showing your blog at my staff meeting on Tuesday.”

“I would love to pick your brain as this old dog needs to learn a few new tricks.  I hope your presentation went well at Sears and if you are home, or wherever you are tonight, I hope you are able to get some rest.”

I supposed I should add that Lance also threw in a bunch of points and an upgrade to the big suite next time I’m in town.


We should make our issues public.

It’s smarter to offer suggestions than criticism.

We should welcome any brand or individual who tries to learn and engage.

If we want brands to deliver better service, it’s partly our responsibility to guide them there and hold them to it.

This just in:  Just as I was about to post this, I got an email and phone call from Marriott headquarters letting me know they plan to use this as a learning and training experience.  Not sure if it would have generated that kind of response if it weren’t posted, blogged and tweeted about, but that turns out to be just one more reason that consumers should wield their new power and brands should heed it.

Finally I made it clear to Marriott that I hoped no one employee would be called out, but that it the entire incident be turned into something positive.

Your thoughts?