Hilton’s Megan McDonald shares how her team created a Social Hub to tie together the social strategy for Hilton’s 14 brands

Hilton Senior Manager of Social Media Operations Megan McDonald works to support the center of excellence and manage high-level strategy for Hilton’s 14 major brands and 5,400 hotels globally.

“When I joined the team in 2015, each of the brands had a great social media strategy,” says Megan. “But there was nothing that tied them together.”

Initially, Megan and her team functioned as a support system to provide answers and processes to their stakeholders. Soon, however, they saw room to streamline processes and add more value to Hilton’s umbrella of brands.

“We knew that we had valuable information,” said Megan. “But we had room to improve on our strategy.”

So, in June 2016, Megan and her team began a project that would streamline their work and build more strategic guidelines for the brands: The Social Hub.

Each week we publish proactive guidance that we expect our hotels and brands to follow. Megan McDonald
Megan’s team went from answering 200 individual emails and questions a week to developing a growing, internal resource for the brands. “We wanted to start creating proactive guidance and being more strategic,” says Megan.

That guidance now covers everything from content recommendations around specific holidays or events, to advice on how brands and hotels can request consent for user-generated content.

“Each week we publish proactive guidance that we expect our hotels and brands to follow,” explains Megan. “So while they may have their own user-generated content strategy that they implement on their own channels, we still have the underlying strategies across the board for how they ask permission to use content, what hashtags they use, and how to provide photo credit.”

Megan shared how the Social Hub has also provided a valuable platform to store brand-related content.

“For something like a DoubleTree cookie contest, we are able to put all the assets and copy in the Hub,” explains Megan. “It really helps amplify whatever message the brands are trying to get out to a larger audience.”

Now the Social Hub is plugged into what’s going on at the enterprise level and is focused on spreading information and build community. “The discussion forum we incorporated on the Hub has been especially useful for that,” says Megan. “It gets all of our hotels on the same page, which has been extremely valuable for our programs.”

To promote the Social Hub and keep brands engaged on the platform, Megan and her team developed a content and communications strategy.

Several times a year we'll join a team's webinar, present what's going on in the social world, and plug the Social Hub. Megan McDonald
They publish a weekly newsletter that highlights what’s been added to the Social Hub and drive Team Members to the platform.

“That newsletter has helped drive a lot of traffic,” says Megan. “Then, several times a year we’ll join a team’s webinar, present what’s going on in the social world, and plug the Social Hub.”

Through these communication efforts, Megan and her team have grown the Hub to nearly 3,400 active members.

Megan also hosts a monthly Social Media Sync call with all the brand social media channel leaders. “I lead with any updates from my central social media team about technology and enterprise strategy,” explains Megan. “Then we do a roundtable where each of the brand teams shares an update on what they’re working on.” She says the call allows them to talk about campaigns and content developed, to create another pathway to the Social Hub, and to make sure everyone has the support they need.

Last year, Megan supplemented efforts with a governance workflow and playbooks to help communicate solutions and priorities.

The discussion forum on the Social Hub gets all of our hotels on the same page, which has been extremely valuable for our programs. Megan McDonald
The Social Hub includes a forum where Team Members can ask questions and submit issues. Megan and her team use that forum to track what the brands and properties need — and how her team can add most value.

For sensitive topics like TripAdvisor incorporating a social media component to its platform, Megan and her team dedicate more resources and create unique playbooks to address questions.

“We look at the frequency we’re hearing from the brands and properties on a certain topic,” explains Megan. “Then we look at whether something will be a legal or PR risk before we take action.” Once they identify a project that they want to tackle, Megan says they work on a average three-month timeline to secure buy-in and solicit input.

Megan attributes much of the success they’ve seen through the Social Hub to partnerships with different Hilton teams.

Megan and her team worked closely with Hilton’s corporate legal team to understand FTC regulations.

They also worked with their PR and corporate communications teams. “We partnered with them on the crisis communications playbook,” says Megan. “Together, we created a full playbook on how hotels and brands should activate during a crisis situation and when and what it’s appropriate to post. These have been important issues for our brands, so being able to manage that process with PR’s support has been very helpful.”

Megan and her team plan to continue looking at where they can grow and improve their processes.

We created a full playbook on how hotels and brands should activate during a crisis situation and when and what it's appropriate to post. Megan McDonald
“Right now my team is researching what other teams are doing in this space and what gaps we need to fill,” says Megan. “Once we know those gaps, we’ll know what types of platforms we need to look to in the future for hosting the Hub.”

Megan shares that, with the continued evolution of the project, she and her team are focused on change management.

“When I first joined this team we didn’t have a strategic focus,” says Megan. “We were answering questions, but we didn’t really have the buy-in to be that central source of knowledge and information. We had to position ourselves as experts and communicate how we could help and why it was important.”

The most important element of their process? That governance workflow.

“This workflow has helped us evaluate the priority of different projects and communicate them to our stakeholders,” explains Megan. “It’s been a real lifesaver for us.”

As part of their governance workflow, Megan and her team created shared spreadsheets to prioritize and code individual projects to track them and mark them for completion. “Having those two documents organized has been integral to the project’s success,” says Megan.

She would recommend developing a similar workflow to anyone interested in undertaking a project like the Social Hub.

But Megan shares the best part of the process so far has been the responses they’ve received from Team Members around the globe.

“We’ve been getting amazing feedback,” says Megan. “We conduct surveys and hear from our brands and Team Members who aren’t even touching social that they heard about the Social Media Hub, and they want to know more about it and how they can learn about social media because it’s such an interesting topic.”

Megan McDonald has been a member of SocialMedia.org since 2015. You can follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter.