How Using Hashtags in Your Social Media Posts Can Get You Free Ice Cream


The title of this post sounds funny, but it’s actually kind of true.

The hashtag, formerly known as the “pound sign” for us old school folks who only know it as the opposite of the star key on a corded telephone, has evolved and taken on a new identity in this age of information available at our fingertips. If you have remotely used any social media website, you’ll notice many posts contain a word or phrase preceded by the hashtag. For social media newbies, the hashtag’s purpose is to group together conversations of a common topic and make them easier to find by users.

In this case, the Howard Johnson Plaza Tampa Downtown’s use of the #CoreTour hashtag brought the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream truck to their hotel. The famous ice cream maker gave out free samples of their brand new core flavors on their nationwide promotional tour.

So how did a little ol’ hashtag do all that?

It all started with the morning Facebook browsing session by H.I. Development’s Creative Marketing Specialist, Kimberly Moore, to see what was current (or, “trending”), and if anything was worth re-sharing. She came across a post by another community page mentioning that if you were to go on Twitter and “tweet” to the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Truck (@BenJerrysTruck) with your desire for the truck to visit your office but you had to include the hashtag, “#CoreTour” in the post. Ben and Jerry’s obliged and on Monday, May 12, the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream truck set up an appointment to visit.

This social media campaign arranged by Ben and Jerry’s is a great example of just how effective social media can be in advertising. Kimberly shared the news with all the followers on the Howard Johnson Plaza’s page, other business pages and people commented, liked and shared the post, showing it to all of their followers. She also shared the information on Twitter, where the post was “re-tweeted” and “favorited,” all creating multiple stories, or virality.

“It’s basically just a big chain reaction,” explained Kimberly. “One one person likes it, all their social media following sees it, then if someone from their following re-shares, their following sees it and so on. The more times any action is taken up on a post on a social media website, whether it be a share, a like, a comment, a favorite or a re-tweet, it’s all generating more and more exposure. I’ve noticed we’ve gained some followers in an organic fashion (non-paid advertising) due to the popularity of the Ben and Jerry’s truck paying us a visit.”

And just think, it all started with just one little “pound sign.”


Increase Customer Satisfaction by Being a Good Listener

It may sound like a simple rule, like something we’re taught in elementary school to increase our listening comprehension skills in our crucial developing years. When I mean being a good listener, I don’t mean just listening well enough to take ample notes in class just to recite them on an exam later. I’m referring to listening in order to understand – essentially comprehension, but taking it to the next level when a customer has an issue. Nobody wants to see this scenario unfold, but applying some simple listening tips can make the experience turn out better for you and your customer.

In my years in customer service (over 10 years), which involves retail and call center environments, I’ve learned a lot along the way about interacting with the life source of any business: the consumer. They’re our blood and and breath, and really our reason for existence. Failing to listen to what they need can be a recipe for a not-so-tasty supper.

I learned some valuable listening tips when I was working in the call center. This training, I believe, can be applied to not only a telephone sales environment, but any kind of business, especially if the customer encounters a problem (which we always strive to avoid!). Taking a good listen is key to having a happier customer.

Again, there is a vast different between simply hearing and listening – truly digesting their words, listening intently with no distractions and empathizing. To be a good listener you must clarify, summarize, empathize and resolve.

Let’s talk a little about each point:

Clarify. I’ve found that in order to help the consumer the best, the first steps is to clarify the issue. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to get a better picture of what is going on. Was it something that could have been prevented? Was there already a solution your customer was unaware of?

Summarize. I don’t mean reiterate word for word, but by summarizing what your customer just told you shows that you were not merely nodding and smiling. You took the time to show them you listened and that you want to help. You want to fix it and offer to help as best you and your company can. 

Empathize. Validate the emotions the customer is experiencing; let them know you understand. You may feel it on the inside, but showing it on the outside lets the customer know what’s going on in your head (and heart, of course). 

Resolve. Offer to make it right, however it’s fit for your business to do so.

Being a good listener doesn’t only apply to actual in-person conversations; it can be applied to responding to guest reviews on travel sites like Tripadvisor as well. Always respond promptly and offer for the customer to call and further resolve any issues, because no one likes an un-pretty review. 

If they’re telling you what a great job your company is doing, express some gratitude! Responding to positive reviews is just as important as responding to mediocre or negative ones.

No matter what type of review it is, be thorough with your responses and make it personal. They chose your company to do business with; now give them a reason to do it again.

Sometimes saying “sorry” isn’t enough in today’s market. You have to stand out from the crowd and by tuning up your listening skills, you may be off to a good start.


Kimberly Moore is the Creative Marketing Manager for H.I. Development Corporation. 

“When All is Said and Done, More is Usually Said Than Done” – Lou Holtz



I am not a big Lou Holtz fan, however during his years as the head football coach at Notre Dame University he did share some glorious nuggets of wisdom. “When all is said and done, more is usually said than done” has always been an all to often forgotten favorite of mine. For me this quote has always been a reminder to do more walking the walk than talking the talk even though these days I seem to be too busy to do seldom more than talk the walk or has Coach Holtz may have put it saying the done.


As I blur through my days in and out of the many hotels and operations that we have here at H.I. Development I must constantly remind myself that I am always under the scrutiny of employees. They watch my every action to gauge both my belief in what I say as well my practice of the same.


The people most influenced by my actions aren’t always aware of how many projects I have going, how late I am for the next meeting, or the incredible amount of paperwork piling up on my desk. They only know what I ask them to do. Of course I am always quick to remind them that I never ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do or haven’t done myself. If you make statements like that you better make sure you are modeling the behaviors that you are expecting from everyone else.


Personally, my success has all come from walking the walk and backing up the talk. With increased responsibility and the need to delegate the many tasks necessary to keep the organization running smoothly has made me feel like I spend a lot of time talking about the walk.


As Managers and Supervisors we all have to remember that no matter how busy we are we must make a very conscious effort to make sure that when all is said and done that as much if not more was done as said.



by: Larry E. Collier, Jr., Director of Operations

Winner or Whiner?


by Larry E. Collier, Director of Operations for H.I. Development Corp.


Several years ago while making one of my regular visits to the Sales Department of a hotel, I noticed a book lying on the table centered in the room. The name of this book was “The Little Red Book of Selling” by Jeffrey Gitomer. (If you have never read Jeffery Gitomer, I recommend you Google him and get a book right away). I thumbed through the book and was immediately impressed enough to return to my office and order a copy.

I must pause here to say thanks to Nancy for bringing in that book and introducing me to Jeffrey Gitomer; I will always be grateful.

Coming up through the operations side of our business, I did not have a great deal of exposure to sales and marketing and my training in those fields had been limited to the generic offerings of the many brands I have been associated with during my career.  So, getting my hands on “The Little Red Book of Selling” was like someone turning on the light in the middle of the night. I found his approach to selling to be operational in nature, so I immediately took to it. In fact, it remind me of a lesson long ago learned as a Private in the United States Marine Corps. It was a simple leadership acronym for accomplishing an objective that I continue to apply today.

Begin Planning
Arrange Reconnaissance
Make Reconnaissance
Complete Planning
Issue Orders

Attacking sales in this manner made perfect sense to me.

Out of all the wonderful nuggets of useful and applicable information that I garnered from that book one of the central themes, and illustrated often throughout the book was “are you Winner or a Whiner”.

As I thought about all the Whiners in my organization, this concept struck a very deep and personal chord with me. I came to the realization that all to often I had joined in or even led the whining that was keeping me from winning.

 All too often we see the reasons we can’t do something as opposed to the reasons we can do something.  We become so focused on our limitations that we are unable to make the best use of our capabilities.

An honest look at any situation will easily help you determine if you are whining or winning. Sometimes winning isn’t the easiest, nor does it go the way you want. Make no mistake about it, winning will require sacrifice; it’s going to hurt, but it’s going to be worth it.  

As we enter into 2014, a year filled with huge opportunities for the hospitality industry, take a few moments to reflect on being a winner as opposed to a whiner. What does that future you look like? I am willing to bet pretty darn good.

Oh yeah, do yourself a favor and check out Of course I recommend “The Little Red Book of Selling”, “The Little Red Book of Sales Answers 99.5 Real World Answers that Make Sense, Make Sales, and Make Money”, “The Sales Bible”, and “ The Little Gold Book of Yes Attitude”.



‘Tis the Season for Giving


H.I. Development’s Creative Marketing Manager, Kimberly Moore and Administrative Assistant, Jennifer Schmitt headed over to Tampa’s Metropolitan Ministries to donate their time and efforts to make sure needy families and individuals were able to feed themselves and their families for Thanksgiving.

Working as “food shoppers,” Kimberly and Jennifer got to give one-on-one attention to each individual receiving assistance. “It was really nice to see the smiles on everyone’s faces as we helped them fill up their bags. I was overwhelmed at the sheer amount of food housed inside the building. People really do care about giving back to the community; that’s exactly why we came here too,” said Kimberly. 

“The number of volunteers was amazing. I was really impressed with the number of school-age kids that were volunteering. It’s so important to instill a sense of compassion in our children. The whole experience was very heartwarming and I hope to do it again next year,” said Jennifer. 

Metropolitan Ministries projects to help nearly 590,000 needy families this year, with help from compassionate, giving people. It all starts with a simple desire to help others; that is where true happiness is found. If everyone could have that same inkling of compassion in their hearts, just imagine what big changes we all could make on our communities as a whole. 




Choose the Update

ImageThere has been a television commercial running recently for the new Toyota Rav 4 that I find to be both humorous and thought provoking.

The commercial features a young couple preparing to leave for a short trip and uses the common perceptions of today’s youth by an older generation to showcase the features of the new Toyota Rav 4. The commercial says, “You say we can’t carry the weight of the world,” while showcasing the large cargo area of the Rav 4. My favorite part of the commercial features the automatic cargo door. The announcer says, “You call us lazy,” and as the actor pushes the button to close the door, he turns to the camera and says, “That’s not lazy, that’s just smart.”

When I see this commercial, it reminds me that this generation is now the better part of the leisure travelling public and an even larger percentage of today’s road warrior population.

They are the winds of change. As a hotelier, we have to make sure that we do not allow our preconceived notions about what we were as young people to influence how we serve this new generation of travelers.

They are called the “lost generation,” but nothing could be further from the truth. The young people of today have never been disconnected in their lives. They have grown up with hundreds of television stations, computers in their homes and schools, two income families and an Internet that has never required a telephone line to access. Young people today think Dial-Up is only a punch line for Internet jokes. These millennial youths can now add “surviving the worst recession in American history” to their list of accomplishments. They will only be lost by choice.

Access to information has never been faster and easier than it is today. Connectivity is as key to their well-being and as ingrained in their lifestyle as color television was in ours. No matter how much we believe that unplugging is essential to our generation they insist on connectivity, sharing, and engagement.

Fortunately for us hoteliers, most of the industry innovations are revolving around speed and mobility. We are seeing the emergence of mobile phone check in and checkout, cellular guest room access, wireless network and security advancements, that enable a guest to stay connected wherever they may roam.

I recently heard Oliver Bonke, CCO, Americas for IHG tell a great parable regarding a strategy for maximizing your market share of these new travellers as well insuring you are always one of the most attractive packages on the shelf. He said to “think of your hotels as an app.” Most software companies choose to do new releases and fixes annually, while Apple and Android, through the use of apps, are able to provide upgrades as soon as they are available.

Apps enable these companies to receive instant feed back from the users, put that information into the hands of developers and provide either an instant fix for a problem or and improvement to give the customer what they are looking for in a product.

So, look at your hotel like an app, gather the feedback, take appropriate action and “always choose the update.”

by Larry E. Collier, Jr., Director of Operations for H.I. Development Corporation

H.I. Development Proudly Supports Breast Cancer Awareness Month in 5k Walk


In light of the month of October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, the Creative Marketing Manager for H.I. Development, Kimberly Moore, and the Howard Johnson Plaza‘s Assistant General Manager, Tracy Foley, rose early on Saturday October 19th and hit the pavement for a good cause. From balloons and banners, to t-shirts, tennis shoes and face paint, the Tampa Bay Times Forum and the streets of downtown Tampa were filled with people donning the color that symbolizes the cause.

The Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K Walk is the largest network of breast cancer awareness events. They are held nationwide in various cities in most states. Participants can join a team or walk as an individual and make a donation of their choice towards the cure. The American Cancer Society, which holds the Making Strides events, is “investing in cutting-edge breast cancer research to better understand, prevent, find, and treat the disease.” Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Early detection and prevention are key elements to reduce the risk of having to battle the disease.

Kimberly and Tracy led the pack while donning all pink and big smiles as they made the trek down Channelside Drive to Bayshore Boulevard in the out-and-back walk. “I’ve never seen so much pink in one place at one time.” said Kimberly.  “It was breathtaking and emotional when they released the survivor balloons; we were able  to see such a huge number of people who fought the fight and won.”

Survivor balloons released into the morning sky

Survivor balloons released into the morning sky


The sea of perfectly pink participants making the final stride towards the finish line.