I met Adam Wallace and Brian Simpson at the BlogWorld Expo in Las Vegas, and the story of our introduction also tells the story of Roger Smith’s success.
It all started with Krista Parry. We were sitting at the back of a panel on travel blogging, crouched over our laptops next to the room’s only power outlet. Krista started telling me about Snow Mamas, the content marketing blog she curates for Park City Resorts in Utah. I showed her Sparksheet, and she told me there was someone at the conference who I really had to meet: Brian Simpson from Roger Smith Hotel.
Brian has served in the food and hospitality industry for over 20 years. A year ago he was diagnosed with a severe case of cancer and spent six months in chemo wards. While recovering, he found comfort and community on Twitter. After he left the hospital he quit his job at the Plaza Hotel and hooked up with Adam Wallace who was starting to do some innovative stuff with video and blogging for Roger Smith Hotel.
I had the chance to hang out with both Adam and Brian in Vegas. They came off as genuinely nice guys who understand that business, marketing and hospitality are all fundamentally about relationships. I don’t think we ever even exchanged business cards. It wasn’t until I got home and on Google that I realized just how engaged and influential Roger Smith really is.
The hotel has over 4,000 followers on Twitter, 1,200 fans on Facebook, 13,000 channel views on YouTube and 3,000 items in its Flickr stream. It’s been patronized and praised by celebrities and influencers like Chris Brogan, Mitch Joel and Gary Vaynerchuck and has established itself as the go-to hotel for wired Transumers. They even have a special rate for bloggers.
Why target this demographic? Adam explains it this way: “If we have 50 teachers from Maine stay at our hotel, they go back up north and that’s it. Social media people spread the word.”
Roger Smith has leveraged its midtown Manhattan locale to build a virtual community of brand evangelists. They hold a monthly social media breakfast and regularly host events and meet-ups with companies like Sprouter and 1938 Media. “We’re a hotel, we’ve got something a lot of brands and marketers would love to have,” Adam says. “A real life connection center.”
The hotel uses social media to lure people into its space, and then broadcasts the hotel’s “stories” back out into the world. Their blog, Roger Smith Life, is filled with videos, photos, event recaps and art from the hotel gallery. “Content has been the backbone of what we do for a long time,” Adam says. “It’s about telling people’s stories.”
And that’s the lesson of Roger Smith Hotel. As we friend, follow, and connect with more people online than ever knew before, our thirst for real world relationships and encounters is only fueled. Once travel brands become trusted facilitators and matchmakers, the marketing takes care of itself.
“Krista was so excited to introduce us, ‘Oh you two just have to meet,’” Brian tells me, as we reminisce about Vegas. “Social media itself is not a business plan. It’s about connecting people.”
Ultimately. this is a story about a brand that grasped the power of new media very early on. They’ve filled a key niche, fostered real relationships with influential people, and reaped tons of free publicity—and customers—as a result. Notice how no one ever talks about Roger Smith’s rooms or amenities? It’s all about people, and the incredible power of good will in brand perception and success.