The Importance of Online Reputation Management

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In October 2013, a Huffington Post contributor, John Rampton, wrote an article questioning whether online reputation management was dead.  In a more recent Hotel Business Revew article, Jane Coloccia, President and Chief Creative Officer of JC Communications, asked how important online reputation management really is.

The answer to both of these questions:  online reputation management is incredibly important, and is certainly not dead.

While the spectrum through which hotels and other properties view the importance of online reputation management varies widely from companies that consistently check review sites, social media and OTA review columns, to those with a completely hands off approach, it is clear that the growth of the worldwide web makes this an issue hotels at least have to consider.

Coloccia talks about a time when a hotel’s only concerns were the actual physical appearance of a property, the professionalism of your staff, efficiency of operations, how your brochure and collateral materials looked, and what legitimate journalist said about you.

Now, you have to concern yourself with a new set of principles including website presence, the need for a booking engine and e-mail marketing.  Hoteliers who were on top of traditional marketing techniques needed time to catch up to the internet-driven, tech savvy traveler.

Why a Change is in Order

Dan Sorenson, president of the well-respected reputation management authority Big Blue Robot, posed the question, “Why would someone want to band their head against a wall?”

This may seem like an off-topic question, but he explains that metaphorically companies are banging their heads against a wall with their reputation management strategy.  Although the search world keeps changing, these companies still employ the same tactics they always have in an attempt to mold a great search engine results page and solidify their diminishing returns.

These companies are using these same strategies because in most cases, they do not realize they need to change, or do not want to put the effort into creating a new strategy.

The White House Office of Consumer Affairs reports that, “A dissatisfied consumer will tell between nine and 15 people about their experience.  About 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people.”  A decade ago, this was done by word of mouth.  Now travelers are getting on social media channels and reviews sites to voice their concerns.  Their reach with these outlets is no longer limited to 20 people, and may actually be closer to 200, or even 2,000 people.

Today, if a traveler has a negative experience with a surly front desk attendant, you can bet that by the time they have reached their room, the news has already reached Facebook and Twitter, if not TripAdvisor or the OTA site where they booked the room.

The Growth of Social

Just a few years ago, it was still okay for a company to ignore the social web.  Facebook, Twitter and other social sites were considered immature and unproven.  Some companies still consider social media as a young person’s fad.  However, today’s fastest growing demographic for Facebook is the 55-plus crowd.

Today, social needs to be a part of any marketing strategy and is essential to successful reputation management.  Social profiles are easy to create and they take up space in the Google results, improving a company’s online reputation.

Just having a social media profile is one thing, but truly managing a social media channel can make or break your online reputation strategy.  Consumers are taking the time to contact companies through these channels to complain about a situation.  In fact, many media today are actually advising consumer that if you are unable to get a response through a company’s customer service line, you will get a more immediate response on social media (nine out of 10 times this is in fact the case).

Not Everything Has to be Negative

Keep in mind that while your online reputation might be negative, it could also be quite positive.  You may be searching for your property on Twitter and find an amazing experience someone had at your hotel.  Travelers may post photos on Instagram and Pinterest of the mouth-watering meal they had in your dining room.

It is important to address this positive feedback the same way you would if it were negative.  A timely response is important in our “always on”, mobile-friendly landscape.  This is just a single example of how you can positively manage your online reputation, and how to leverage social media to create awareness for your brand.

Key Points

-Online reputation management is far from dead, and will continue to be an important aspect of your marketing campaign as the internet continues to play a large role in the vacation planning experience.

-Social media has recently driven, and will continue to drive companies to focus on their online reputation management.

-Having a solid online reputation strategy requires being aware of not only social media, but travel review sites and OTA review sections as well.

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