How The Roger Smith Hotel Built A “Culture of Content” And Reached Social Media Celebrity Status

I recently spoke with John Knowles, Director at Innovation at Roger Smith Hotel in New York City about their approach to social publishing. The Roger Smith is a ReviewPro client and is often referred to as not just one of the most innovative hotels in the world, but also one of the most creative brands in social media – in any industry.  In this article, you’ll find some insights that John shared about the Roger Smith management philosophy, and how this guides their approach to digital publishing.

“Culture of content”

The Roger Smith is building an environment where “everyone becomes a content generator.” Creating their online presence is not just the job of a few people. Not only are multiple members of their staff involved, but they frequently collaborate with other creative visitors.

Host events

If you visit their social website,, or one of their many social media profile pages, you’ll be impressed by the quantity of material they produce. For example, they’ve been creating videos for the past 6 years, and now have a library of around 800 videos. How do they create all this content? A big part of the answer is the event-driven calendar developed by the Roger Smith team.

The hotel frequently hosts art exhibitions and pop-up shops on property, connecting them to the artist community in New York City. This creates a dynamic scene on site, and provides the opportunity to create compelling media. After each event, the Roger Smith team interviews the visiting artists, which creates additional followup content. “We are committed to documenting events.”

Hosting events allows the hotel to connect and collaborate with other content producers. Collaboration leads to new content ideas and inspiration. “Guests and visitors are additions to our culture.” It also leads to increased awareness for Roger Smith Hotel, as visiting vendors and artists introduce the brand to their own audiences.

A good example of the media culture at the Roger Smith Hotel is the “Roger Smith Shorts” project, which had filmmakers using the hotel as the setting for their work.

Participate elsewhere

Not only does the Roger Smith Hotel create and host their own events, but they actively participate in others. The Roger Smith team frequently hits the road to attend events popular within social media community. They bring their cameras along, look for the interesting stories and people at the events, and then create videos around these.

Their commitment to documenting events creates face-to-face interactions that are followed up with media that encourages ongoing dialog. “This type of personal followup is very helpful for relationship building. It’s very organic.”

Involve everyone

The process of creating content can be very time consuming, and the Roger Smith Team overcomes this in part by involving others.  As people come in to visit the property, they often contribute online content that becomes part of the Roger Smith experience. “We’ve created a culture of content creation where material doesn’t just come from the hotel, but from others who are interested in being part of the culture. Whether that’s created with a Flip video camera, an iPhone or a pro camera – the tools are there. What we look to do is inform, educate and encourage people to learn and spread the word. The more people that engage with us, the more our network and influence grows.”

John believes hotels can be very unique settings that serve as a stage for creating interesting content. “There are many little elements that give it character. People come in and really want to engage with people who are creating the culture at the hotel.”

Internally, Roger Smith spreads the workload around for content creation. “It’s not just one person managing the Twitter account. It’s a division of labor with the similar goals of content creation and engagement.”

“Our goal is to create accessibility so that other brands can come in and engage with us and leave with rich media. They can engage with an audience that they may not have had before.”

“The more people we involve in our content production, the more we can encourage the growth of the ideas.”

Hyper-local stories

A big focus for the Roger Smith team is developing stories, and they try to do this in a way that’s “hyper-local.” The vast majority of content is created around events – both on their property and outside events that they attend. Because this material is very local and created within a specific context, they can develop stories that connect with individual people – building those relationships.

Content they create is always developed with specific persona in mind, a concept explained by David Meerman Scott in The New Rules of Marketing and PR. Creating for a specific persona helps adjust the message to include details that will appeal to many more people.

Face-to-face connections

Whether it takes place at one of their events on property or at an event in another city, the Roger Smith team has built a strong online community by developing face to face relationships.  Especially in the world of social media, where human relationships are very important, this approach essential.

While face-to-face meetings may be a traditional approach to relationship building, the way John and his team uses digital content in developing these relationships is new. For the Roger Smith team, video production is a tool for community building, and plays a key role in strengthening relationships.

Closing advice

The methods of Facebook and Twitter engagement require hoteliers to pay attention to their guests and their community. “You have to know you’re there to build personal relationships and help people with the needs they have as they come into the city. It’s a very organic model.”

“Our culture is one of invitation. We use the video and content strategy to fuel our marketing and business. The methods of social media will constantly evolve, but the dedication to community remains the same: Inform, educate, and encourage others to spread the word.”

A big thanks to John for sharing his thoughts with us. You can connect with John on Twitter @pancity and follow the Roger Smith Hotel @RSHotel.

[Photos copyright Roger Smith Hotel, used with permission]