Category Archives: Content Writing

Five Ways Hotels can use Facebook’s Insights Platform

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Analytics software has moved to the social media platform as Facebook has released Facebook Insights, a new platform for all business listings.  With Insights, you have access to more data that shows just how likeable your brand is.  Here are five tips to keep in mind that will help you to better connect with your audience:

1. Follow Your Page’s Weekly Trends

The Overview section of the platform provides you with a quick look at Likes, Reach and Engagement over the past week.  You will also find a log of your five most recent posts.  Viewing this information on a weekly basis allow your to see trends and capitalize on the elements that are creating engagement in your campaign.  You will also have the opportunity to troubleshoot negative performance trends before they become an ongoing problem.

2. Figure out Your Optimal Posting Time

Marketers have put a substantial amount of research into discovering what the best times are to post on Facebook.  The Insights platform takes this a step further by tailoring this information specifically to your audience.  This is a great tool for helping you to organize your posting schedule during the days of the weeks, and hours of the day, when your audience is most reachable.

3. Customize Your Content for Your Audience

It is not enough to know only who is reading your posts, and when they are reading it.  The Post Types tab of Facebook Insights will show you what type of content your audience is responding to, as well as a post-by-post breakdown of recent posts.  It is still important to diversify your content, but focusing on post types that generate the most reach and engagement will certainly help your cause.

4. Make Sure You Are Not Alienating Your Audience

As with all forms of social media, your Facebook Page can never be all things to all people, but you do want to make sure your content is generating more positive reactions than negative ones.  The Reach Tab on Facebook Insight helps you determine when you are reaching people and how they are reacting.  Here, you will be able to see Hide, Report as Spam and Unlikes in a graph right below Likes, Comments and Shares.  These will all be a direct reaction to your posts, so if the negative reactions surpass the positive, you should look up that day’s content and avoid similar items in the future.

5. Get to Know Your Fans

You will be able to find a demographic breakdown for a wide variety of categories including those people checking into your property, those who are seeing or engaging with your content, or just your overall fan base.  This information will be helpful in tailoring your content to your audience, or planning future fan acquisition campaigns.

If, for example, you are seeing a demographic that is particularly engaged with your content or a demographic that is lacking on Facebook but is typically a strong market for your property, you can plan future campaigns to reach those users.

Online Content and Readability: They Both Matter

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With recent updates to Google’s infamous search algorithm, creating high-quality content is of the utmost importance.

Blog posts, articles and other forms of written content should be both highly relevant to your audience and tailored to them.  This is especially important in the language you are using.

Before you begin writing, it is important to understand your audience.  If you are writing for travelers in a particular area, it can be helpful to use less formal language, and perhaps throw in some of the local jargon.  Make sure the language you are using, and the readability factor, match for the audience you are trying to reach.

Some Best-Practices for Writing for the Web

Writing online content uses skills, language and design elements which are different from those used in standard print.  Here is some basic information to keep in mind when creating text for the Web:

  • Do not be afraid to use white space.  Keep paragraphs shorts (no more than six lines) and ensure there is clear white space between each.
  • Use shorter words and sentences, depending on your audience.
  • Use language that is known to the target audience.  Some jargon may be necessary, for example, when writing for technology or corporate markets.

Flesch-Kincaid Readability Scoring

The Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test was created by Austrian-born Rudolf Flesch, one of the earliest proponents of writing in plain English.  This formula works because it is based on some very complicated facts of human psychology, and is based on the way the human mind works.

Boiled down to the basics, the longer the word, sentence or paragraph, the longer the brain has to suspend comprehending ideas until it can reach a point where all of the words make sense together.

Because they require more mental work by the reader, longer words and sentences are harder to read and comprehend.

Flesch based his readability formula on three key variables:  total words, number of syllables in these words and sentence length.  On a score of 0 to 100, 0 is measure as the most difficult and 100 is the easiest.  To view the readability chart, click here.

Basic English is considered to have a Flesch-Kincaid score around 60, and if a text’s readability score is between 60 and 70, 13-15-year-old students should easily understand it.  You may think you are insulting your readers by sticking to a score of around 60, but you are not; you’re just writing in plain understandable English.

Here are some examples of average scores for various types of content:

  • Comics – 92
  • Consumer Advertisements – 82
  • Reader’s Digest – 65
  • Time Magazine – 52
  • Harvard Business Review – 43
  • Standard insurance policy – 10

It is obvious that scores differ according to the target audience.  Harvard Business Review assumes a readership with a certain level of education.  Most insurance policies will include a lot of industry-relevant language, causing their readability scores to be quite low.

Microsoft Office users can check readability statistics when reviewing a document, and can edit their work accordingly if it does not meet your content standards.

Troubleshooting

Let’s say that you have finished your blog post, and your readability score is 25.  Some editing options to consider would be breaking up long sentences into one or more smaller sentences and cutting out words of three syllables or more.

One of Flesch’s overriding principles is that there are no complex, legalistic words that cannot be translated into plain English.  Use the thesaurus to help you find alternatives that will make your content more readable.  It can also be a good idea to use contractions, such as don’t and they’re, to help keep your content flowing.

To sum it all up, the key to writing good content is to use language that won’t detract from your message.  Just because you, the expert, understands dictionary terms doesn’t mean your readers will as well.  Keep it simple, use plenty of white space and let the Flesch-Kincaid formula help you craft plenty of solid content!

Holiday Marketing Campaign Wonders and Blunders

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The holiday season can be the most wonderful time of the year…IF you’re marketing team is prepared!

Having the right social media campaign during the holiday season can mean the difference between presents or a lump of coal in the company stocking.  Retailers, consumers and marketing departments all feel the tension this time of year as everyone tries to stay on top of demand, trends and of course, the competition.

Because religious holidays are the reason for the season, it is important to be sensitive to the needs and thoughts of consumers.  No one wants to see brands and businesses capitalizing on the occasion and taking advantage of employees’ family time to generate more revenue.

Companies that use the right amount of planning and careful considerations will be able to create holiday marketing campaigns on social media that generate buzz and even get your brand in front of potential customers who may have otherwise missed it.

In a recent Marketing Land column, Alison Zeringue took a look at some of the recent Wonders and Blunders of holiday social media marketing.  Here are a few examples of each:

Wonders

OfficeMax – Elf Yourself

In December 2007, OfficeMax launched a user-generated viral video campaign called “Elf Yourself”.  Visitors of ElfYourself.com were encouraged to upload photos of themselves, friends and family, and even pets, whose faces were then placed on dancing elf bodies.  These videos could then be shared on social media or as e-cards.

This website was able to reach 39 million unique views in December, making it the fastest growing site of the month.  Over the length of the campaign, the site attracted more than 100 million unique views worldwide.

WestJet – Christmas Miracle

This year’s best and fastest growing marketing miracle is the WestJet Christmas Miracle video.  This international airline left no doubt about which of Santa’s lists they should be on this year thanks to a real-time giving project that no one can find fault with.

Fliers were given the opportunity to “talk with Santa” in the terminal of the airport.  Their Christmas wishes were recorded, and when they arrived at the baggage claim of their destination, their luggage was not the only thing on the carousel.  Presents from socks and underwear, children’s toys and even a big-screen television were waiting as well.

In a subsequent blog post, the company ensured that it “wasn’t about branding, it was about you.”

Sephora – SephoraClaus

In 2009, beauty and makeup giant Sephora launched their “SephoraClaus” campaign, asking customers to tweet an item from their holiday wish lists (up to $150) using the hashtag #sephoraclaus.  Sephora then granted a wish to one lucky tweeter each day for 30 days.

Sephora utilized a simple form of entry (tweeting @sephora) and a dedicated hashtag to create a widely visible campaign that generated 50,839 tweets by the end of the month.  Consumers were also talking and tweeting openly about various Sephora products for the entire month, keeping the company in the conversation throughout the holidays.

Blunders

Kmart – Black Friday Crisis Management

Black Friday has become a holiday in and of itself as the major shopping day following Thanksgiving.  In a race to get the most guests through the doors this year, Kmart announced it was going to open earlier on Thanksgiving Day than it ever had in the past.  This is a practice that is occurring across the retail industry, but Kmart was not ready to handle the public outcry.

Critics took to Twitter to vent on the ethics of the decision, and the clearly unprepared Kmart social media team responded rather robotically:

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The company’s lack of a social media crisis management strategy landed them among Business Insider’s list of 2013 worst social media marketing fails.

AT&T – Never Forget Tweet

Although it’s not a traditional holiday, September 11th is recognized and remembered by Americans annually with reverence.  Similar to religious holidays, consumers are not eager to appreciate a brand’s attempt to commemorate an event like this.

This year, AT&T made a marketing faux pas when they tweeted an image of a smartphone capturing the Twin Tower memorial lights with the text, “Never Forget.”  Many people found the tweet to be opportunistic and distasteful.

With these examples in mind, here are four real life tips for running your own holiday social media marketing campaign that will help you avoid the blunders mentioned above:

1) When using a holiday theme in your marketing, don’t have a pushy sales message unless it’s a coupon.  Consumers are sensitive to overt sales messages during this time of the year.  You should also avoid using any religious figures unless they are appropriate for your company

2) Don’t just set it and forget it.  Check your scheduled content frequently.   Plans can change when unexpected events pop up.  Remember to check back on previously scheduled messages to ensure they are all appropriate.

3) Have a crisis plan in place.  If your campaign could offend anyone, be sure to have a PR professional to avoid saying the wrong thing.

4) If your audience is diverse, consider a charitable campaign.  Rather than a giveaway or deal-centered campaign, be a good corporate citizen during the holiday season.  No one can complain with that!

Defining the Role of Social Media Manager

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When creating the coming year’s marketing plan, the ever expanding presence of social media platforms must enter the discussion.  Specifically, the role of the Social Media Manager and what the ideal candidate should look like.  Are you going to hire these services out to a third-party company that will manage these platforms on your behalf?  Will this be a junior or senior position?  These questions and more are addressed by Julie Lepp, Director of Marketing for White Oaks Resort in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, in a recent HotelExecutive.com article.

The current trend seems to be heading towards companies bringing on a social media manager as a junior position, typically a new graduate satisfied with a lower pay scale and very familiar with the various platforms.  You’ll be able to take care of what you perceive as more pressing marketing tasks knowing that the social media issue is under control.

The Voice of Your Brand

You should take into consideration that the voice in the conversation between guest and hotel should be warm and welcoming, presenting a friendly place to do business.  Is it right to trust the voice of the brand, with the potential to reach the entire world, to a new hire right out of school who has little to no experience with your hotel, customer service and the way you handle complaints?

Customer comment cards need to be taken very seriously in the travel industry.  They are an indirect way of having a conversation with your guests which may lead to return business in the future.  Print comment cards are still circulated to guests throughout their stay, but your new social media manager may, in a sense, be conducting online comment cards on a daily basis in the form of tweets, reviews and social media posts.

Because the return on investment is perceived to be low from social media, there has been some hesitance to hire Social Media Managers as key strategists in the hospitality industry.  The position is handed off to a junior person to simply manage.  The potential for a PR disaster with so little control or supervision is unprecedented.

The Social Media/Customer Service Relationship

Customer service is the cornerstone of the travel space, and social media should be seen as an extension of good customer service rather than some ambiguous marketing element that produces little ROI.  Conversations on social media platforms include anecdotes about the excitement of arrival to your property, disappointment in something that has gone wrong and even promoting the brand.  Because of this, the main criteria for managing your social brand is not just being familiar with these platforms, but having a strong understanding of the strategic plan for your company.  How, when and what you post, and how you respond to guest posts, should all reflect the company’s position, beliefs and goals.

Lepp points out that the argument can be made that a person interacting daily with your customers, who is directly affecting your sales and presentation to the world, should be a senior experienced member of your team.  At the same time, no experienced marketer is going to take on social media management for a junior salary, or be seen to be taking a step backward in their career development.

Until social media is seen and understood as a flexible marketing and communication tool as well as an extension of the customer service standards, little will change.  So you may just continue to see “Sally from the front desk” tweeting and posting away on behalf of major brands, composing whatever Sally dreams up that day.

5 Social Media Strategies for 2014

Taiga-Site_Social-Media-StrategyAs the calendar turns from 2013 to 2014, many companies have new goals and strategies ready to be implemented.  The evolving world of social media is no different.  However, the ultimate goal of those strategies remains the same:  to increase brand awareness, to enhance guest satisfaction and to drive revenue.

To help hoteliers reach these goals, Daniel Edward Craig, founder of the online reputation management firm Reknown, and his panel shared a list of social media strategies to adopt in 2014.

1. Identify and Target Social Media Personas

Historically, hotel marketers have been quick to segment guests into familiar buckets that commonly included group, transient and business.  However, these groupings are simply too broad to reach with a targeted, captivating message via social media according to RockCheetah’s CEO Robert Cole.

The who, what, when, where and how still matter, but the real question to delve into is why.  Why are travelers visiting a certain destination under certain parameters?  Why should they choose to stay with you?

To find those answers, it helps to create personas that represent a subset of travelers, giving each persona a name and detailed characteristics or traits.  Things to consider include age, income levels, interests and where your personas live.  With all of this specificity, marketers are able to tailor communications that are more likely to drive engagement with a specific cohort.

Although this example may represent a deviation from the high-volume aspirations of most hotel marketers, there is one thing to keep in mind:  You can’t be all things to all people on social media.

2. Integrate Paid, Owned and Earned Content

Paid content, including display ads, cost-per-click campaigns and online travel agency listings give marketers a high degree of control.  However, it typically has a low influence on traveler booking choices.

Owned content, such as a brand website, Facebook page or Twitter feed allows you to connect with a wide range of potentials customers, but still packs a rather feeble punch.

The third and most influential content is earned content such as user-generated reviews, views, media coverage and blogs.  Although traditional marketing has focused around owned and paid content, there needs to be a shift towards developing strategies around earned content.

To garner exceptional earned content, hoteliers must provide exceptional guest experiences.  Another way to encourage feedback is throwing out small pieces of content designed for engagement with guests and can be shared easily across multiple channels.

3. Make Reviews the Priority

Reviews, both good and bad, can be used as a tool to improve the guest experience for all of your future customers.  Imagine the type of reviews you want to have and become the hotel that inspires those reviews.

Positive reviews can act as a free advertisement for your property and encourage additional travelers to stay in the future.  If guests have negative feedback, changes should be made to remedy this issue immediately so that the same reviews are not recurring.

4. Get Social with Google

Google’s algorithm is currently placing an increasing emphasis on user-generated content, including reviews.  With the development of Google+ and Google Places, the company now has its own social media brand they can use in the search engine’s organic search results.  For example, if you want your hotel to feature more prominently, marketers should focus on capturing at least five reviews through Google+

Keep in mind that you can’t simply create a Google+ account and be done with it.  Like Twitter and Facebook, Google’s platform requires a constant stream of fresh content that will continue to drive traffic to your site.

5. Optimize Facebook for Graph Search

A number of recent changes have turned Facebook into a very important marketing tool for hoteliers.  Graph Search, one of the newer developments in the social network, is like a search engine within a user’s friend network.  For example, a user can use Graph Search to look for friends who have “liked” resorts in Cancun.

How do you get your properties showcased higher on these results pages?  The more guests who visit a hotel’s Facebook page, leave comments, take photos or just mention that page elsewhere, the more likely it will show up on Graph Search.

To see the rest of this list, click here.

5 Blog Post Options When You’re Out of Ideas

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All bloggers have been in this situation at one point or another: You’re facing an impending deadline with nothing to write.  Putting it off for a day or two just does not seem like a solid solution.  So what are your options?

According to Search Engine Watch’s Simon Heseltine, the important thing to remember is that no matter which type of content you decide to write, quality is the key ingredient.  It’s not always helpful to just throw a post together that adds nothing to the communal knowledge or is purely derivative.  Heseltine came up with a list of 10 blog post types that will save the day of bloggers who are simply out of ideas.

1. The Informative Post

You are knowledgeable about your industry, so you should have some idea of what would be an interesting read for your audience.  Think about challenges you have dealt with recently; there is a good chance that your readers have had similar experiences.  You may not consider this something worthy of a post, but it can act as an affirmation for your audience as you discuss how you’ve been impacted, how you’ve dealt with it and perhaps how it has impacted them.  Customers can realize they are not alone in going through these issues and it can even lead to someone commenting a solution you had not considered.

2. The How-To Post

The How-To Post falls under the same category as the Informative Post, but it can be an easy way to be seen as an educational resource for your customers.  Explaining how to use the latest technology, or new multi-channel applications will be helpful for you readers, and will remind them they need to keep coming back to learn more in the future.

3. The Timely Post

Timing is everything in the business world.  It’s difficult to break news weeks or months after events occur.  Your editorial calendar should tell you about upcoming events that may generate some great content ideas for you.  These events should be of interest to your audience while providing some crossover interest for readers searching for information about the event you are covering.

4. The Humorous Post

Knowing your audience fairly well gives you some insight as to what content is likely to tickle their funny bone.  Tell an amusing anecdote of a recent guest visit, or a story about your own recent travel experience.  Keep your audiences laughing and there is a very good chance they’ll visit your site again to see if you have another side-splitter.

5. The List Post

A list can be easily digestible to your audience with small pockets of information on a given topic.  If you are ranking items, your readers also have the opportunity to give feedback about your rankings, and the potential to dispute them in the comments section.  Building that connection with your readers gives them a feeling of value and will likely encourage them to return in the future.  Just remember to keep your list centered on a theme.

To read the rest of Heseltine’s list, click here.

4 Social Media Mistakes to Avoid

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Social media has become a tremendous tool for companies looking to generate traffic to websites, but what are you risking in your social media presence with a misstep?  Does your reputation become tarnished in some unknown way?  Are you failing to reap the full rewards of social media?

Social marketing is changing so quickly that everyone is bound to make a mistake or two along the way.  Here are four common mistakes related to the travel industry and ways to avoid making them.

Mistake #1: A Strict Business Focus

Focusing social media posts on company sales, promotions and news updates is fine, but it is also important to add a personal touch and a bit of fun and whimsy.  A general guideline to keep in mind is that a business page is successful when relevant information from others is shared 80% of the time. Focus on a balance between selling and marketing your travel products by sharing links, photos, video and content from suppliers, clients and destinations.

Let your personality and that of your business shine through!  Give your clients the opportunity to indulge in their travel dreams and they will reward you with their loyalty and hard earned money.

Mistake #2: Missed Opportunities

After spending an hour writing a blog post and another hour constructing your weekly newsletter, you realize that you never got around to writing any Facebook posts or Tweets.  Many travel professionals make the mistake of showcasing unique content on only one social platform.

When you are writing that blog article, take time to break it down into posts, tweets and pins, and make sure to link these back to your original blog post.  Repurposing your material allows your fans and potential new clients the opportunity to see your work on a variety of platforms.  If they miss your Facebook post because they were in a meeting, they can catch your tweet later in the day and have access to your newest blog post.

Mistake #3: Thinking Likes Equal Sales

Everyone is looking for fans, followers and contacts, but the focus still needs to be on keeping these people engaged so they remain loyal, revenue-generating clients.  Be vigilant about responding, listening and being pro-active to create new business.  People are always looking to do business with those who they really like – not just companies they “like” on Facebook.

Mistake #4: Not Having a Plan

Because social media plays such an over-abundant role in most people’s lives, you may be under the impression that you really do not need a plan for handling all of your accounts.  However, when it comes to professional marketing and communication expertise, you’ll want to leverage your success with a well-thought out long-term strategy.

A media calendar is essential and allows you to plan out your social posting themes so that they coordinate with your sales cycle.  You will also be able to integrate your social media posts, Tweets and pins with your traditional marketing.

When you sidestep these common mistakes, you’ll find that your social media presence will evolve and flourish.

The Evolution of Online Search: SEO, SEM and Keyword Bidding

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Search engine optimization and search engine marketing can be very effective ways for hotels to reach prospective guests, but as the “keyword world” changes, hoteliers need to keep pace.  As online search features continue to change, there must be a greater focus on developing higher quality content for guests to compete against online travel agencies.

OTAs’ ads outnumber hotel brands’ ads on Google, Bing and AOL, but not on Google Mobile according to a recent BrandVerity study titled “Hotel Brands, OTAs and paid search: How do these relationships unfold on the SERP?”

According to the study, each Google Search Engine Results Page included almost two OTA ads.  Bing and AOL had considerably more, with 4.77 and 5.27 OTA ads per SERP, respectively.  The number of OTA ads per SERP on Google Mobile was only .49.

It is important to nail down the art and science of keyword bidding, and this is evident in the case of Expedia. They spent a substantial amount of time studying the science, and as a result their “quality score” translates to less expensive cost-per-click prices.  You can learn more about keyword bidding here.

Budgeting for SEO and SEM can vary across the spectrum of hotels.  Budget and economy hotels do not need to spend as much time on SEO because they rely more heavily on brand traffic, walk-in traffic and ratings and reviews sites.  However, If the return on ad spend is positive and you are getting better returns than spending with OTAs, meta-search, meeting planners or travel agents, the investment should be considered worthwhile and continued.