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An Interview with Wendy Murray, DOSM at Sanderling Resort, on their Social Media Practices

June 7, 2016

Greg Ceo: Can you give me a little info about your background and how you became the DOSM for the Sanderling Resort?

Wendy Murray: I have always been at resorts but started out in Hilton Head at a flagged property. It gave me a great background but was too corporate for me. I moved from Naples (La Playa Beach Resort) to Irvington, VA (Tides Inn) before being on the pre-opening team at the Inn at Palmetto Bluff. During this time I did group sales, catering and conference services, weddings, reservation, revenue and public relations. I was offered the DOSM job at the Sanderling in 2009 during the downturn in the economy and have been here for 7 years.

Greg Ceo: How has your job changed in the last 10 years?

Wendy Murray: It definitely has cycles. Some based on the economy but many other factors such as weather patterns, media exposure, election years and unfortunately last year, sharks. The booking window changes frequently, affecting pace, and many factors influence the group market, their budgets and their timing. From a marketing standpoint everything needs to be mobile responsive and there is so much more focus on digital online. A lot of online public relations now focuses on digital influencers. Social media, and even the introduction of positions to assist with all the platforms, is now necessary. Online review sites such as Tripadvisor are a necessary evil that need to be monitored, responded to, and better understood.

Greg Ceo: How do you use social media to attract guests to Sanderling?

Wendy Murray: Educate them, incentivize them, entice them - make them want to be at the beach.

Since we are the only resort on the beach I don’t have to worry so much about the market competition. I really use the destination and all there is to offer to sell them on the OBX and then we are the logical choice if they are not looking for a vacation home and want a true resort experience.

Greg Ceo: What social media channel and what types of posts have been the most effective for you?

Wendy Murray: Our clientele is mostly Facebook so we push a lot of content about theresort and the destination out through there. Weddings love Pinterest. Instagram is growing for us and we have such great pictorial content to use. Twitter is by far my least favorite and I typically just share articles that we are in on there.

We do some boosted posts and audience advertising on Facebook along with tagging our partners and resources. It has gotten to the point where if you don’t do those things, few people will see what you are posting.

Greg Ceo: What posts have you tried, that did not prove to be effective? Have you run any sales or specials that received a wonderful response and resulted in bookings?

Wendy Murray: Our 12 Days of Christmas has done great for us. We are giving away something but they will like, share, comment in great numbers.

We have a hashtag #sanderlingmoments that we encourage people to use. We use a platform called Pixlee (seen on our home page) that pulls in images that use our handles or hashtags so it’s more about real people posting real things instead of things the resort is initiating. I think people really like to see that.

Greg Ceo:What is your stance on responding to negative posts on social media from guests?

Wendy Murray: We make an effort to respond to every post. The guest service team does a great job of handling guest recovery issues that are brought to their attention prior to negative postings occurring however it’s an opportunity many times to educate another traveler. For example, a guest may not understand the $30 resort fee and what it is for. My response would serve as a note to future travelers listing all the items the resort fee covers.

Greg Ceo: As a follow up to the previous question, what is your policy on social media blackmail posts?

Wendy Murray: We do not allow a guest to blackmail us to get what they want in exchange for not putting it on social media. That just allows them to keep doing it and makes it a very hard thing for the industry. We work with a guest that is threatening the same way we would any guest that expresses concerns. If we know their claims are going to be unfounded we can report it to Tripadvisor prior to the posting and based on what the guest writes they will determine if it meets the guidelines to post or if indeed it’s slanderous and blackmail. The hotels lose a lot of these and just have to use them as educational experiences.

Greg Ceo: When a writer or a blogger requests a free or reduced rate stay in exchange for publicity, how is this handled at your property?

Wendy Murray: We have a public relations firm that vets all inquiries. Sometimes they recommend we offer a reduced rate, sometimes we decline. If they are on assignment specifically for the Outer Banks and Sanderling we may offer the accommodations complementary. They are an amazing liaison that I would consider one of my most important “tools” in the box.

Greg Ceo: Any final words of wisdom you'd like to give to new DOSMs at hotels and resorts regarding social media?

Wendy Murray: It’s like throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. Sometimes what you think will work does not make the phone ring and then some image you post about a seal coming ashore goes viral and you get all kinds of shares and likes. You just have to work all the platforms, read about the changing trends and fortunately we have been able to hire someone to help me with all these tasks.

I will also say that a blog with good content (and good search keywords and tags) linked to various places in your site or sample itineraries for vacation ideas, etc is a good tool and gets posted on all the platforms and then archived. It’s amazing how many hits they get over time.

Greg Ceo: Thank you Wendy for taking the time out of your busy day to speak with me about social media marketing as it relates to Sanderling.

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Greg Ceo is a professional hotel and resort photographer based in Brooklyn, NY and Savannah, GA. He has worked on an episode of Hotel Impossible and written for Lodging Magazine. He has shot for Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Omni, Starwood, Wyndham, and boutique hotel properties around the world. See more of his work at www.gregceostudio.com.