Category Archives: Social Media

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.

10 Reasons Why Your Social Media Campaign Will Fail

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Social media is a growing piece of the marketing puzzle, providing a unique place for guest to property interaction.  Before social media, relationships with a hotel could only develop as a guest booked their room and during their stay.  Now, you have the opportunity to communicate before, during and after a trip has been booked.

You now find yourself posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest regularly, but your social following is not increasing.  Is it because you are not reaching the expectations of online interactions?  Are you “over posting”?  What are you missing?

Sherry Heyl, the Director of Social Media for the Sensei Project, discussed 10 reasons why your hotel’s social media efforts will fail in a recent Hotel Business Review article.  Here is a brief overview of a few of these traps you should avoid going forward.

1. Your Content is Too Promotional

Outside of the Super Bowl, how many times do you sit down in order to watch a bunch of commercials?  There is a reason online video providers like YouTube have added a “skip this ad” button for viewers.  People do not always enjoy trying to be sold a product, good or idea.

Instead, you should focus your social media efforts on educating, entertaining, informing and perhaps even inspiring your following.

It is true that many people follow brands looking for great deals, but this should only be done from time to time through your social channels.  Trying helping a guest to relive the most recent experience they had with you and build anticipation for their next trip.

2. You Ignore Complaints

An important part of successful social media campaign comes from realizing that your campaign is a two-way communication channel for all to use.  Guests use these forums to vent and occasionally to complain about your property.

You can use this negative feedback as a way to showcase your customer service skills in action.  People will watch how your team responds to a complaint, and this will give them some indication as to what their experience will be like.  Make sure to take corrective actions when needed so that more complaints and negative feedback do not pop up.

3. You’re Not Proactive

According to Ipsos MediaCT, 65% of travelers begin researching their trip online before they have decided where they are going or how they are going to get there.  Many of these individuals use social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to ask questions and seek advice from peers.  Having these discussions in an open forum allows you to “listen in”, and potentially engage in conversation to persuade a potential traveler in your favor.

The worst-case scenario when engaging potential consumers is that you will create new relationships.  In the best cases, it leads directly to bookings.

4. You Don’t Use High-Quality, Compelling Photos

Photos are your most valuable asset on social media, especially with the recent growth of Pinterest and Instagram, two photo-centric social media channels.  Even Facebook and Twitter posts with photos have a higher engagement.

As important as photos are to a successful social media campaign, the wrong photos can damage your efforts.  If the quality of your photos is poor, it presents a negative reflection on your brand.

Utilize photos to tell a story about your property.  Highlight features that are unique and inspire potential travelers to start planning their trip with you, and make sure to reinforce your specific brand values.

5. You’re Not Giving the Community a Voice

A common mistake when using social media channels is speaking at people instead of having a discussion with the community.  Every day, people upload photos, share their stories and experiences, and may even recommend your property to their friends, family and followers.

When hotels share other people’s posts with their followers and fans, they are showing that they are tapped into the community.  Another way to build your community is to ask your followers about a favorite local spot or a favorite memory they enjoyed while staying at your property.

To read about the remaining five traps to avoid with your social media campaign, click here.

Getting the Most Out of Multi-Channel Marketing

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A problem for hoteliers in today’s multi-channel world is having a database full of guests with which you cannot effectively communicate.  Whether this includes linking data from your mobile platform to your customer relationship management system, effectively using social data or combining online and offline information, a clear marketing plan starts with having all this vital information centralized.

No hotel company wants to base their marketing strategies on unsound data, but to overcome these challenges, hotel companies need a way to pull all of the data related to their guests into one system.

Why is integrating data from online and offline channels a challenge?

1) Understanding the emerging channels that comprise online data, bringing together that data and making sense of it all is no small feat.

2) Even traditional channels, such as guest profiles and loyalty program data, can produce problems because of missing or duplicate data.  Consider every time a brand new profile is created for an existing guest who makes a reservation through a new channel.

In a recent SASBlog post, Natalie Osborn, examines how using data integration and data quality capabilities can help pull your data into one system.  Osborn explains that data integration helps you consume the online data you have coming in, while data quality helps you match the online data with your offline customer profiles.

What are the benefits of a solid data management system?

Once you have your system in place, you can add to it with new sources of data and analytics.  Combining offline profile information with social media data may give you a clearer understanding of your guests’ needs.  The key is to have the data quality and data matching in place to maintain an accurate profile of your guests.

From here, you have the opportunity to take this data a step further with a preference center.  This allows you to manage interactions with your guests across a variety of platforms.  Preference centers can help you understand important information about your guests, such as email addresses and social media profiles.  You can learn ways in which communicating with customers is appealing to both sides.

To learn more about integration of data from online and offline sources, click here.

Using YouTube to Generate Bookings

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Content may be king of the marketing world, but the modern consumer is less interested in text-based advertisements and more interested in video.

The video content site YouTube claims to host more than one billion unique user visits to its website each month.  These one billion viewers spend more than six billion hours watching videos.  These numbers may seem astounding and nearly incomprehensible, but it follows the trend of a tech-savvy population looking for the quickest and easiest way to digest information.

Nielsen, a company known for producing television ratings, has noted that YouTube reaches more U.S. adults ages 18-34 than any cable network.  Seeing that this age group, commonly referred to as Generation Y or Millennials, will become the core customer within the hospitality and travel industries over the next five to 10 years, it is important to understand the best way to reach them.

If these numbers are accurate and video marketing is the key to attracting attention of hospitality’s largest audience going forward, why is video so underutilized today?

According to DJ Vallauri, Founder and President of Lodging Interactive, hoteliers simply “need guidance as to how to create videos for search engine marketing and guest engagement.”

Marketers must continue the evolution from keyword proficiency, to content-driven marketing that helped maximize search results for websites.  Now similar practices will be required to optimize video.

Valluri believes that the best way of turning lookers into bookers is found in delivering creative, yet relevant, content that informs and entertains travelers and prospective guests, and there is no better vehicle to do that than video.

Why is Video Effective?

“Authentic, compelling and informative video content will entice travelers and convey a hotel’s unique experiences to online visitors,” said Valluri.  “A video embedded on the homepage of a hotel’s website and also uploaded to YouTube and the other leading social media channels can be what sets your property apart from other destinations.  Video conveys visual and emotional touch points which are present in almost every travel offering, and that is what drives bookings.”

Facts and Stats About Video

-Bookings are 67% more likely to happen when a video tour of your property is available.

-Internet shoppers who view your video are 89% more likely to book.

-Google purchased YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion when the video site was only a year old.

-Both Google and YouTube offer tools such as “Google Trends” and “YouTube Videos Keyword Tool” to help hoteliers identify keywords to use in video titles.

– When it comes to engagement, Comscore says online video is 5.33 times more effective than text, and, site visitors who view video stay two minutes longer on average and are 64% closer to purchase.

Three Keys for Effective Video Marketing in the Hospitality Industry

1) Increase Awareness

2) Generate Buzz

3) Boost Bookings

To read more about the role of video marketing going forward, click here.

Personalization Equals Loyalty with Millennials

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A key question facing hoteliers and property managers in today’s travel landscape is how to build loyalty with the millennial generation.  Points-based loyalty programs are proving ineffective in capturing this ever growing demographic, so what is the answer to building this important connection?

Panelists at the 2014 Americas Lodging Investment Summit recently dove into this topic and what the trade-offs will be if hoteliers are able to build loyalty with millennials.

Teresa Y. Lee, a senior analyst at HVS and a self-described “token millennial”, explained that the loyalty of the generation is up for grabs. “It’s up to you to design a program we want to be loyal to.”

For travelers born between 1980 and 2000, personalization equals loyalty.  Benji Greenberg, founder and CEO of BCV, explained that millennials want to be wowed, and they want these amazing experiences built for them.  “They want to feel special,” said Greenberg.

Fortunately for the hospitality industry, today’s younger travelers serve up an abundance of personal data on a variety of websites and social networking platforms.  Lee McCabe, Facebook’s global head of travel, articulated that his company’s executives have recognized the potential and are working feverishly to make that information readily available to the company’s marketing needs.

“What we’re working towards is a very efficient marketing platform, a marketing platform built around people.  You’re not marketing to cookies, but visible faces.  You’re marketing to people,” he said.

Although hotel companies are getting better at this, the challenge is packaging relevant data to associates on property, most likely via property management systems.

To read more about this panel discussion, and how companies are paying for personalization, click here.

The State of the Online Travel Industry in 2014

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State of Digital recently released a Travel 360 report after collating the viewpoints and analysis of experts, thought leaders and key commercial players of both the hospitality and travel industries.  The report aims to act as a marker of the level of integration between travel brands and the various online channels within digital marketing.

The key trend throughout this report is the idea that companies must be able to adapt their business and marketing models in an attempt to future-proof their businesses.  Facilitating ongoing relationships and interactions with travel consumers has now become critical to survival.

The following are seven key points highlighted in this report that you should keep in mind going forward.  They address challenges facing businesses today, and the holistic approaches and angles that will provide real value, strategy and insight to your brand.

1) Communicating a holistic brand message, consistently across all channels, is now very important to a brand’s long-term prospects.  Consistency is crucial when planning your marketing strategy.  It is important that your message is the same whether consumers see it on your website, in e-mail blasts, on a mobile site or from a third party site (OTAs, vertical marketing sites, metasearch engines, etc.)

2) Brands need to install a startup culture and nurture a digital experience that runs through the business.  Word of mouth is a great way of advertising to dozens of people, but those numbers will not sustain your business over the long haul.  “Rewriting the rule book” should not be seen as a negative experience, but rather as growing with the always-changing digital landscape.

3) Storytelling helps the digital travel industry to get the right customers in the right way.  Honest, authoritative and local content, infused with quality storytelling is the future of travel content.  The millennial generation is looking for a unique experience when planning a getaway.  Capturing that audience by telling your own unique story will be an important marketing tool going forward.

4) Storytelling, marketing, PR and outstanding content will inspire loyalty and provide long-term success to a brand.    Brand loyalty has recently taken a step back to deals when consumers are planning to travel.  Re-establishing brand loyalty with quality content and marketing is a key to survival in the future.

5) There is going to be an increasing trend towards personalization and the creation of more unique experiences.  As noted earlier, this is precisely what a new generation of traveler is looking for.  Millennials are willing to spend the money if they believe their experience will be unique

6) Mobile is the biggest growth area in terms of sales.   Recent projections by PhoCusWright predict that U.S. mobile bookings will almost double in 2014 to $24.3 billion, up from $12.3 billion in 2013.

7) Mobile has led to the rise of the ‘always connected traveler’ and the possibility of in-experience interactions with brands.  Social media allows guests to provide feedback and interact with a company in a way that has nearly usurped the role of the on-site concierge.  Travelers use their mobile devices for everything from getting directions to their accommodations, to finding a restaurant or tourist attraction during their stay.

To download and read the full State of Digital Travel 360 report, click here.

Finding the Right Balance with Facebook Posts

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Too much of a good thing can be negative.  It goes without saying that you have heard a rendition of this phrase at some point during your life, but did you ever think it would apply to your social media account?  According to data accumulated from 2,121 resort and hotel Facebook pages by InsideFacebook.com, there is such a thing as too much of arguably the world’s most popular social media platform.

On average, hotels post on Facebook 32 times per month.  This is broken down into the following categories:

-1.9 links

-27.8 photos

-1 status update

-1.6 videos

Some top hotels including the MGM Grand, Aria or Sierra-At-Tahoe average more than 50 posts per month in an attempt to drive high interactions.  However, increasing the number of posts does not automatically guarantee that interaction.

If approximately 86% of your posts are images, links and videos, you have to ensure that the content you are creating is meaningful.  Showing the same picture once every three or four days is not going to do a lot to capture a new audience, and may make it difficult to retain loyal customers.

Posting 30-50 times in a month will provide your followers with a steady stream of information that they can easily digest without overwhelming them, but this is not the policy for all hotels.  Some companies are posting close to 30 times per day, and have only one-sixth of the engagement of some of their competitors.  That means your followers are being buffeted with nearly 1,000 posts per month, far too many to actually track and follow for the typical consumer.

The “sweet spot” for number of daily Facebook posts is somewhere between three and seven posts per day.

To learn more about what types of posts garner the most customer feedback (likes, comments and shares), click here.

Amplify Your Hotel Story on Instagram

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One of the most rapidly growing social media channels, Instagram, is taking advantage of the idea behind this famous Walt Disney quote:

“Of all our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.”

Taylor Short, who reviews hotel management products for Software Advice, was interviewed by the Leonardo travel blog and gave some insight into how hotels can use Instagram to amplify their story online.  After all, storytelling is one of the oldest forms of human communication.

Why the popularity surge?  Why should hotels care?

Short discusses Instagram’s appeal in its strictly visual nature.  People love taking pictures, and smartphone cameras make the process quite simple to accomplish.  Recent improvements in technology have enhanced the quality of the cameras in these phones.  Because of this, a platform based on photo sharing is, by looking at Instagram’s 75 million daily users, a platform people want to use.

Hoteliers have the opportunity to reach millions of potential guests by frequently posting quality content and engaging users with strategic campaigns that call for participation.

How to maximize your Instagram impact

There are three keys to creating an Instagram post that will attract potential travelers:

1) Be Creative

2) Be Genuine

3) Post Frequently

Engaging other users and gaining followers will help grow a hotel’s presence on the platform.  Make your communication authentic and avoid communication that constantly feels like a hard sell.

Instagram vs. other social media channels

Short explains that each platform should be viewed as an individual opportunity to tell your hotel’s story.  Facebook is a great tool for gathering guest feedback, while Twitter may work well as a customer service platform.  Instagram allow you to show off a visual story and the aesthetic appeal of your property.

To read this interview in its entirety, click here.

To learn more about creating your own Instagram account, head to the Instagram Help Center.