It was Twitter that first broke the news of Whitney Houston’s sudden and tragic death this past weekend. She was found unconscious and not breathing in a hotel room at Beverly Hills’ prestigious Beverly Hilton late Saturday afternoon. Many people turned to the hotel’s Twitter account, hoping for insider photos, updates, etc. of the chaos surrounding the star’s passing. What did they find instead? Jovial pictures and tweets about celebrities entering the hotel to attend a Pre-Grammy Gala being hosted there. While the hotel did post one tweet extending its sympathy for the passing of Houston, it continued on shortly after that with photo upon photo of smiling celebrities. Twitter users quickly became outraged by this apparent social media faux pas, posting such comments as “such poor taste,” “just plain stupid,” and “odd and IMO, completely disrespectful.”
So what is the best response if there is a crisis at your property? What is the best action to take to disseminate the appropriate information, keep people happy and calm, and most of all, continue to be respectful? It depends on the circumstances surrounding the crisis. Regardless, people will be flocking to your hotel’s Twitter account to receive information about what’s going on at your property (Beverly Hilton’s Twitter account has gained over 1,000 followers since Houston’s passing!). You don’t need to be a news source providing up to the minute news on anything other than what’s happening on your grounds. Twitter has really changed the way hotels broadcast to their guests and followers, and while it’s great to take advantage of this channel, it’s also important to be respectful and not overdo it.
In some cases, it might be appropriate for a Twitter account to “go silent” in honor of someone’s passing. In Beverly Hilton’s case, where the hotel basically invoked a “the show must go on” approach, the Pre-Grammy Gala began, and there was no mention of Houston for quite a while as the hotel started tweeting about arriving celebrities. Twitter users were upset to find updates about celebs instead of information about and respect for Houston. A better idea might have been to incorporate both events together. For example, “George Clooney arrives, appearing somber, and pauses quietly at Houston’s memorial.” This shows respect for Houston’s death but also announces the news of Clooney’s arrival.
Another tactic might be responding to select tweets and retweeting your concerned fans as well, to let them know that you are listening to their thoughts and that you too are worried about the current events at your hotel. There are many options of how to react in the social media world, but acting as if everything is fine and moving on without showing your fans you actively care about the situation is not the best way to go and can appear discourteous to some. It is a great way to upset your followers and leave people with nothing but a sour taste in their mouths.