Category Archives: Social Media

Amplify Your Hotel Story on Instagram

instagram

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.

Is Social Media the Best Customer Service Tool?

socialMediaCustomerService_v1.1In December, we talked about the natural merger of the on-site hotel concierge and social media manager.  Patrick Mayock of HotelNewsNow took this idea a bit further and examined whether social media is the best client service tool.

At the Fitur International Tourism Trade Fair in Spain, Mayock sat in on a presentation about social media as the ultimate customer service channel.  However, he has some reservations about that designation.

It is obvious that social media has become a key tool in managing a customer’s online requests.  An eDigitalResearch survey found that more than one in 10 respondents expected to be able to speak to a brand represented via social media.

A similar report by the Aberdeen Group, conducted in 2012, found that 12% of service requests originated in the social sphere, with that number projected to have risen to 22% in 2013.

Companies have dedicated additional resources to marketing and social media subsets, and in general have seen success in this area.  Contact through social media is the quickest and most reliable way to get in contact with a brand and currently the only channel that will guarantee a reply to your query or complaint.

Companies may be responding to these questions due to fear of publicized customer rants on Facebook or Twitter, a common trend among the seemingly “Silent Travelers” who may smile about customer service on-site, but unleash when they have the right social media platform.

Mayock’s belief is that social media may not be supporting the increasingly digital customer service exchange, but rather the proliferation of handheld devices.  Because of the rise in these devices, hoteliers are creating new applications to reach guests – both on and off property.

The nature of these apps varies from company to company, but the consistent idea is allowing hoteliers to stay connected with guests, and vice versa.  The most important aspect of the conversation is that these companies are circumventing social media entirely.

To read more about Mayock’s travel industry insights, and to the read rest of this article, click here.

Emerging Travel Trends: The Silent Traveler

AirTravelTech_m_0724

The rise of digital technology and marketing in the hospitality industry has created a new kind of traveler who is adept at all available online and mobile tools.  They use these tools to jump across all industry-defined silos.  These new travelers do not require a lot of handholding, they shun human interaction and know their way around everywhere they go.

These travelers were documented in a Skift report titled, “14 Global Trends That Will Define Travel in 2014.”  How can you reach these travelers and keep them satisfied during their stay at your property?  Let’s take a look at some options that are geared towards the newly emerging “Silent Traveler”.

Mobile Check-in Opportunities

No traveler really enjoys the tedious process of a front desk check-in.  Waiting in line can be a hassle, and Silent Travelers do not always feel comfortable with extended amounts of face-to-face interaction.  One of our recent blog posts, “Hotels Expand Mobile Check-In Options” discusses steps hotels are taking to make the check-in process simpler and mobile-driven.

Third Space Creativity

Silent Travelers still need a place to be able to operate the technology they travel with, putting a premium on creating a usable third space on your property.  All travelers are looking for Wi-Fi connectivity, and most of them believe this should be a complimentary service.  Click here to learn more about third spaces.

Response to Feedback

If the hospitality — the actual human to human interaction — part of the travel industry becomes less and less important, how does the industry define itself? How does it understand the needs of its customers and fulfill them?

Although these Silent Travelers may not be talking to people face-to-face, they are often jumping on review sites, or a property’s own website, to leave feedback about their stay.  It is important to manage these channels and respond to this feedback as soon as possible.  This ensures that the voice of the Silent Travelers is being heard, and their concerns are addressed like those of any other guest.

The Declining Value of Social Marketing

SMStats1

Is social media a marketer’s dream, or a dreadful nightmare that just does not seem to go away?  Is everybody using it, or are people just hopping on board right as the calendar changes to 2014?  NextStage surveyed 1,700 U.S. and Canada-based companies about their own social media use, and the results may surprise you.

It is first important to get some context on exactly what social marketing entails.  Social marketing means creating a social presence and using that social presence to drive conversions.  Conversions cover everything from loyalty to acquisition to retention, and even customer service.

All interviewees were director level and above, knowledgeable social managers with two or more years’ experience in social, with more years in marketing in general.  Companies ranged from mom and pop shops to Fortune 100 corporations.  Wide varieties of tools were used to glean information about social campaigns including Expion, Google Anayltics, HootSuite and ReviewAnalyst among others.

So what did these businesses think?  Would they do it all over again?

Marketers who said they are new to social media: 6%

It almost seems like a cardinal sin for a marketing manager to have at least two years of experience on the job and still claim to be new to social media.

That being said, with so many social media platforms out there, it stands to reason that some marketing managers may be new to outlets like Pinterest, Instagram or Reddit.  Part of people’s newness claims did amount to an inability to keep up.  One respondent even said, “We’re not sure the platform we need is out there yet.”

That “which platform” question will be a considerable challenge for marketers in 2014 and beyond.

Marketer who said they were happy with social media: 7.75%

This low a percentage should not be a real surprise to marketers.  All successful efforts came down to four essential details.  The top two spots in this regard were knowing and respecting their audience.  Those who claimed success talked about knowing their audience and showing it respect.

Respect came in several forms including shared interests, shared social causes and shared social beliefs.  Letting an audience have a say and digital transparency that was seconded on non-digital channels were also highly ranked.

The third basic element for success was the old “location, location, location” slogan.   You want to go where your audience is, while not trying to push them in a direction where they do not wish to go.

The final element was deciding what to measure and then finding or making the tool that could accurately measure it.  A marketing manager’s office is a revolving door of vendors with lots of solid products, but they have to be the correct product for what you are attempting to measure.

Marketer who said they are going to “do something else”:  10.5%

This can include everything from revamping social marketing campaigns to completely rebuilding social teams to everything in-between.  Although these people are unhappy with their results, they are not unhappy enough to abandon social media altogether.  However, they are just unhappy enough to consider alternative spends.

Did these companies consider this social spending a waste of money?  Definitely not.  All of them considered their social campaigns learning experiences, and most believed that the campaigns simply did not succeed as well as they would have liked.

To find out what percentage of companies were dissatisfied with social, and where the rest of respondents fell on the survey, click here.

Modern Travelers: Smile Onsite About Service, Irate on the Internet

REview

Picture this scene:  You are traveling to see family during the holidays, and you decide to stay at a hotel for a few days.  The building itself is beautiful, with a nicely decorated lobby filled with incredibly friendly and helpful staff members.  You walk into your room and instantly notice it is bright, clean and big.

This was the travel experience of TrustYou’s marketing director Margaret Ady, and despite all of these positive aspects of the hotel, she gave a mediocre review.  What was her reasoning behind this decision?  She had to pay nearly $22/day for internet service.

Her frustration in having to pay for the internet service is not unique in today’s travel landscape that offers Free WiFi nearly everywhere you go.  To go online and voice one’s concerns with an average, or below-average review has also become the norm in the hospitality industry.

TrustYou worked with New York Univeristy’s Donna Quadri-Felitti PhD, from the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management, to release its first annual global reports, based on an analysis of over 14 million reviews written in 2013 to identify key trends in user reviews.

The consensus from the data matches Ady’s experience:  in most destinations, travelers were smiling about service, but irate over the internet in 2013.

As travelers turn increasingly to reviews to help with their hotel booking decisions, hotel management is under constant pressure to focus on improvement of review scores connected to their hotel portfolio.  In 2013, hoteliers rose to the challenge, with a majority of regions/countries (including leaders the United States, Spain and the United Kingdom) posting an increase in scores.

To read more about this report, including the recent drop of five-star reviews in major markets across the globe, click here.

Getting the Most out of Deals and Promotions

130305041541_w2s_travel deals 640x360 16x9

A great way for a company to focus on strengthening its awareness and garnering more followers on social media is to advertise deals and promotions.  Initiatives like this can be a push for short-term tactical sales growth.  They can also strengthen a major strategic message or unique selling proposition (USP), or simply raise awareness.  However, it is also important to deliver a high-quality experience with these deals and packages.

Carol Cork, the marketing director of PrivateFly.com believes that “Travel marketing is about experiences, more than just travel – there is a need to be disruptive and different.”  A successful digital travel marketing approach is to connect the brand with the reasons that customers travel.

PrivateFly.com combined strong content marketing and a partnership with Ski Verbier to create an amazing, all-inclusive ski experience promotion for the discerning skier.  Cork explains that it is not about selling a ski holiday.  Rather, it is about connecting the PrivateFly brand with target customers’ lifestyles and making it relevant and desirable.

Be Prepared

Here are a few things to keep an eye on when creating promotions:

-When finalizing a promotion, make the decision whether the campaign is a brand-building exercise or commercially driven.

-Offer travelers opportunities to buy an attractive value product while accounting for extra capacity.

-Underline the brand position/message while coming up with an attractive deal.  Some examples of this include find the lowest prices and smooth ways to confirm a booking.

-Target new customers, meet their current needs and match their propensity to buy.

Do’s and Don’ts of a New Marketing Campaign

Do:  Involve the team.  Marketing ideas and energy should be encouraged as widely as possible.  Members of a sales team, development team or finance team provide a vision not considered by a marketing team member.

Do:  Have a commercial lens.  It is important not to prize speed and agility over commercial success.  Create a criteria checklist to make sure your marketing campaign fits your target market.

Don’t:  Plan too far ahead.  Companies used to plan annual or semi-annual campaigns.  Now it is more about quarterly planning and a consistent flow of daily and weekly ideas.

Don’t:  Assume things are working when they are not.

 Some Tips for an Appropriate Communication Plan:

1) Deliver a message that is easy to understand.

2) Make the proposition an attractive one (whether financial or tangible).

3) Be relevant with the theme and content.

4) Ensure uniformity in communication across media channels and platforms.

5) Do not come across as just another deal or promotion.

Combining Business Needs with the Right Rewards

One thing that should always be considered when planning a deal or promotion is seasonality.  Campaigns should be worked out considering occupancy level, and key calendar dates; the validity of the period is always important.

When talking about rewarding customers, there always needs to be an element of benefit for the consumer.  This could be in the form of monetary saving or included amenity.  Overall, sustaining a structural approach to the execution of a campaign is crucial to remain feasible in operations.

Survey: Luxury Travel Trends in 2014

bigstock_Tropical_pool_in_luxury_hotel_14769413.jpg luxury vaca

Social media has become a dynamic way to attract guests in recent years with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and many other platforms exploding onto the scene.  Popular among Generation Y travelers, these forums are used as an online guest feedback tool, a place to share pictures while on a trip or even find recommendations for things to do on vacation.

However, when looking at Luxury Travel Trends in 2014, social media does not quite stack up to a review site or the traditional word of mouth endorsement from friends, family or an acquaintance.

Luxury Link, a leading luxury travel website, conducted a survey of 1,600 discerning and high-income (household income over $100,000) travelers to garner some insight about how these individuals will travel in 2014.  Here are some of those numbers, statistics and trends:

-Among global respondents, 29.7% stated they are most interested in visiting Europe, while 27.3% are Caribbean-bound.  Of those individuals traveling to Europe, 60.5% listed major cities like London, Paris and Rome as a primary area of interest.  Caribbean travelers will head to Turks and Caicos, the British Virgin Islands and Saint Lucia.

-Two countries, Croatia and Portugal, where tabbed as up-and-coming travel destinations in 2014.

-Staying active is important to high-end travelers with 46.3% of respondents planning to incorporate adventures such as hiking, sailing or SCUBA diving into their trips.

-Foodie-focused travelers make up 40.7% of the survey, and try to center their trips on fine dining and/or cooking classes.

-Travelers were asked to rank the relative importance of five travel resources in the vacation-planning process.  The results are as follows:

1) Review Sites (TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc.)

2) Booking Sites (Luxury Link, Kayak, Orbitz, etc.)

3) Word of mouth/personal recommendations

4) Media Content (TV shows, online videos, blogs, newspapers)

5) Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest)

 

-Must have hotel amenities in 2014 include:

1) Free WiFi (75.7% of respondents)

2) Early Check-In/Late Check Out (53.6%)

3) Free Breakfast (47.1%)

If you consider your property to be a luxury destination, you do not want to disregard social media as an advertising tool completely.  However, it is also important to dedicate your advertising dollars to mediums that will attract high-end guests.   A presence in a variety of mediums will keep your property visible, and hopefully keep travelers coming through your doors.

 

A Day in the Life of a Data Traveler

travel_cover_640x360

Improving the travel experience is a goal across the entire hospitality industry.  Technology now plays a critical role in the travel experience and smartphones have now become one of the most essential travel accessories today.  In 2013 alone, mobile data traffic soared, reaching 12 times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000.

Kelsey Cox of Marketing Tech Blog examines how smartphones have changed the travel experience, and influence how you make decisions.  Here are some of the key statistics she highlights in a helpful Infographic created by Mophie:

  • 82.6% of leisure travelers use their smartphones all the time on vacation.  This is a similar number to the percentage of leisure travelers (88%) who identify their smartphones as the top must-have device when on vacation.  Smartphones rank ahead of digital cameras, GPS and tablets.
  • On average, the top daily cell phone activities include:  talking on the phone (23 min./day), texting (20), e-mailing (18), browsing websites (16 ) and social networking (11).
  • Leisure and business travelers both have the need to feel connected while they are traveling, producing a skyrocketing of data usage while abroad.
  • Many travelers, unfamiliar with an area, will use their phones to find the perfect restaurant, an internet café or the closest beach, hotel or tourist attraction.

Find out more about a typical day in the life of a data traveler and take a closer look at the Infographic here.