Hotels in Manhattan: A Study in Success

In February, 2009, I asked people on Twitter where the cool kids were staying in New York City these days (rumor has it that there are more than one hotel there). The first person to answer me was Chris Kieff. The second to answer me was Brett Petersel from Mashable. The third person to answer me was the Roger Smith Hotel, who said I should drop by—they have a blogger’s special.

And so began one of my favorite case studies in the use of listening tools in social media, and part of the reason I shared the importance of growing bigger ears with you. Let me explain what happened.

Listening for Business

Brian Simpson and Adam Wallace work for an interesting man. James Knowles never does things by half measures, and he’s all about the creative experiment. One of these experiments was listening to a guy who helped run the restaurant and a young dreamer, and to let them start using social media tools like Twitter and Facebook to promote the hotel.

This is a small hotel. There are maybe 140 beds (this isn’t a profile on the hotel, so feel free to look up the number later). There’s a quaint little bar and a downstairs restaurant, and it’s nestled into Midtown, right down the street from a bunch of name-brand chain hotels. It’s clearly artsy. You can see that from the street. But where they get their business is shifting heavily into the online world.

How did they start? They set up searches on people mentioning that they’re visiting New York. Every now and again, they’d reach out and mention that the person talking about New York would be welcome at the Roger Smith. Over time, this became the norm and not the exception, and bookings began to improve.


Hotels live and die by online reviews, but in and around that, word-of-mouth is what seeds future growth. In the world of social media, word-of-mouth travels much further. I shot a little video and put it on YouTube, as well as wrote about the hotel on my blog. Others saw my tweets about it. Soon, there was a reinforcing message that the Roger Smith was the place to be in NYC, if you were in the online community.

Can’t Share the Numbers

The hotel is a private business. I can’t share their growth numbers. Let me say this: Brian and Adam no longer have “other roles” at the hotel beyond the social media marketing presence. Well, unless you count the fact that Mr. Knowles lets them develop future projects because social media was quite a success.


You can fuel this kind of growth in your business. Learn how to listen at the point of need (as said by Radian6 CEO Marcel Lebrun). Learn how to help potential customers become customers. And learn how to respond to people who are having problems with your service (or a competitor’s), such that you can potentially convert them into new evangelists.

In my five posts so far here at SUCCESS, I’ve stressed listening. That’s almost 50% of the posts I’ll be writing here. Does that give you a sense of how I weight listening as part of your potential future success? It’s a big chunk of what matters. If you’re skipping this and waiting for the parts that will earn you money, these are the parts that will earn you money. It just takes work.

So, how will you emulate the Roger Smith Hotel’s success?

Chris Brogan is the New York Times bestselling author of the NEW book, Social Media 101. He is president of New Marketing Labs, LLC, and blogs at [].


Chris Brogan is the CEO of Human Business Works and a six-time New York Times best-selling author. 

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