Category Archives: Social Media

Defining the Role of Social Media Manager

SMMS_Logo

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

chalkboard

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

SMStats1

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.

Raising the Bar in a Multi-Channel Travel World

multiScreen

Customer experience in the hotel industry, as in any industry, is about consistency.  It’s not enough to have the newest self-service tools, mobile apps or improved services.  Individually, these initiatives can work, but there needs to be consistency across all touch points based on guest requirements to ensure satisfaction.

Hotels are currently attempting to generate solutions that address not only customer service issues, but user experience issues as well.  Creating an unambiguous cross-channel experience is of paramount importance.  Stan Kreydin, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Wyndham Exchange and Rentals explained his views on the subject:

 “Where possible, we want our customers to have a similar experience with our products via self-service channels such as the web as they do with our contact center agents for our assisted service channels.”

For most hotel guests, the experience enjoyed with the hotel staff is engaging in streamlined.  It must also be a top priority for consumers to feel the same way when interacting with a website or mobile app.  Some companies, including the Morgans Hotel Group, have made significant changes to websites including the ability to make reservations in a limited number of clicks, tour the city they’re visiting with a curated Google Map and access an Instagram feed populated with photos from guests staying at the property.

It’s always important to recognize your target demographic when utilizing new technologies.  Pullman Hotels and Resort focuses on delivering a cosmopolitan, vibrant and in-style experience for guests.  The company has worked on a unique guest technology ecosystem centered on synchronizing various screens – TV, smartphone and table – in order to create a unified network of entertainment services.

However, the multi-device phenomenon does not only affect the online experience offered by Pullman.  The hotels and resorts have multiplied IP addresses, which has allowed the company to increase the bandwidth at all Pullman properties.  Multiple power sockets placed near beds allows guests easy access to devices throughout their stay.

Hotels worldwide are currently all trying to match guests’ rising expectations.  Check-in and check-out is one area where guests do not like wasting time and expect immediate service.  The same goes for free WiFi which they expect to have access to as soon as they enter the property.  Amenities that were once considered luxuries have now become an expectation among travelers, and hotels need to adapt or will find themselves left behind.

MobileDigital_0

Future of Content: Upcoming Trends in 2014

MobileDigital_0

It is a tremendous time to be involved in the digital marketing sector with almost half of the global population having access to the internet.  However, the way consumers consume this content is rapidly evolving, and with that comes an interesting array of challenges and opportunities.  Having a firm understanding of these upcoming trends is vital in laying the foundation for defining the content goals within an organization and deciding where resources will be allocated.

Knowledge regarding these four trends is paramount for those companies looking to succeed in both B2B and B2C communication going forward.  Let’s take a look at the upcoming content trends of 2014.

Trend 1:  Competition to Gain Consumers’ Attention Will Increase

Each day there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 92,000 new articles posted on the internet.  This means that posting new, unique content regularly is not enough to drive traffic to your site.  Digital media publishers have created systems to produce the greatest amount of content for the lowest price.  Need an example?  The Huffington Post produces at least 1,200 piece of content each day, while Forbes produces 400.

What can smaller businesses to do differentiate themselves when they are unable to compete based on sheer volume alone?  This is where the development of a content strategy can come into play.  It is incredibly important to understand a company’s unique value proposition, and if a company does not have one, you must understand where there is space to create one.

Are you marketing a “think” product that requires heavy consideration before purchase, or is it a “feel” product where emotion plays an important role in the buying process?  You could be marketing a “high involvement” product, one where the consumer is heavily involved in the buying decision, or a “low involvement” product that is more likely purchased impulsively.

With high involvement/think products, the focus of your content should involve plenty of information on the product features, benefits of the product in addition to growing the product and brand awareness.  This will make it easier for consumers to both discover and search for your product.

Low involvement/feel products should have a campaign focused on connecting with consumers and appealing to emotions.  There should also be a focus on building brand loyalty and retention of customers for repeat purchases.

Trend 2:  Determining Key Metrics to Measure Content’s Success Will be Important

Traffic and page views have long been the chosen metrics for gauging content success, but these statistics on their own can be misleading.  More importantly, solely focusing on traffic can lead to an overemphasis on click-worthy headlines, overuse of keywords in a title and changing the focus from creating content for users to creating content for page views.

Whether you are using a combination of metrics to target and analyze (organic traffic, % returning visitors, changes in bounce rate and time on site), or gauging content by social metrics including Facebook likes and Twitter retweets, all of these activities can demonstrate the ability of a piece to gain a user’s attention, and that awareness is always worth something.

Trend 3:  Increased Interest in Content Integration/Content Being Produced for Multiple Channels.

The most sizeable obstacles involved in content often times have nothing to do with the content itself, and everything to do with proper resource allocation.  Whether this is lack of time to implement all goals, lack of budget to implement these strategies in an ideal way, or the constant battle with readjusting priorities, marketing becomes especially challenging.  This is only enhanced as more and more channels develop and digital innovation advances so quickly.

There is no perfect solution to this problem, but one way to balance hard resource constraints with the constant need for innovation is to develop better integration methodologies.  When a group of CMOs was polled by Forbes, they ranked integrated marketing communications ahead of effective advertising when it comes to the most important thing they want from an agency.

People are looking for that seamless retail experience, providing an on-brand, personalized, and consistent experience regardless of channel.  This requires content to be heavily involved in the multitude of channels from online to in-person to provide potential and current customers with one consistent conversation.

Trend 4:  Experimentation with Content in New Mediums

Did you know that approximately 60% of online devices are now smartphones or tablets?  Technology and digital innovation are experiencing rapid increases in growth, causing PCs to become a smaller percentage of connected devices.    As competition for attention increases, companies must be increasingly willing to experiment with content in new mediums including Smart TVs and connected wearables.

2014 will be an exciting time for the future of content. As technology evolves and competition for user attention increases, marketers need to be agile and adapt to the growing needs and expectations of their customers.

 

10 Travel Technology and Distribution Trends

Visuals

With the continued growth of technological progress in the travel landscape, hotel and travel companies that seek success must either catch up or risk becoming irrelevant, according to a new report.

“If you want to be successful and grow and perform well, you really have to understand the technology and what’s out there,” said Cees Bosselaar, director of business development and a destination marketing specialist for PhoCusWright, who presented findings from the company’s “Travel innovation & technology trends: 2013 and beyond” report during the World Travel Market in London.

Here, you’ll find five of the Top 10 Travel Technology and Distribution Trends that will help hotel and travel companies leverage innovation in the coming year and beyond.

1 – New Patterns of Content Challenge Distribution

The old model of travel distribution, which saw large intermediaries, including global distribution systems, aggregate content for booking, is being undermined by new models.

Personal clouds, for example, allow travelers to access information anywhere, anytime and on any device. The “Internet of things” enables integration of connectivity and objects that can influence a trip, such as real-time baggage location, weather conditions and homeland security advisories.  Pervasive online communications allow even small hotel companies to connect with customers in real-time, allowing them to shop and book without delay and from nearly any device. Those same companies, as well as the individuals they serve, also are better able to collect and integrate itinerary data from multiple sources without a GDS.

2 – Too Much Choice Means Less is Better

When people are given too many choices, their satisfaction level tends to decrease.  This model holds true with travel options as well.

Online travel agencies used to provide as many options as possible to exhibit their computing clout. Today the focus is on providing relevant results that target the specific needs and wants of each traveler.

New travelers have embraced technology and the multi-device format in which content can be consumed.  They want to be shown the correct information for their needs.

Providing targeted content is even more critical in the mobile arena, where smaller screens necessitate both streamlined offerings as well as the presentation of those offerings.

3 – Social Technologies Change the Shape of Travel

Facebook alone has more than 1 billion users, while social media as a whole reaches 85% of the world’s total Internet users, but some experts believe that travel companies have yet to unlock the true potential of this technological boom.

When it comes to a discussion of social media, the discussions of return on investment are outdated.  Instead, social media must be viewed as a way to engage with target customers.

Whether you like it or not, social media is here to stay.  And in the next five to 10 years, it will continue to generate leads and performance will be up.

4 – New Efficiencies Re-Energize the Customer Experience

As demand for customer service increases, new technological advances will lower its overall costs.  But travel companies must consider whether a penny saved comes at the risk of a pound of customer preference.

Excessive menu trees and outsourced call centers may cut monetary costs in the short term, but frustrate customers in the process.  Each travel company needs to determine how to use customer service technology appropriately in a way that continues to reduce cost while increasing customer satisfaction.

5 – Cross-Platform Data Access Engages Users

As customers realize their dreams of accessing desired digital information on any device or platform, hotel are facing a nightmare in providing the necessary development and support for this content.

HTML 5, which allows programmers to “write once, run anywhere” could be the solution to this frustration.

According to Bosselaar’s report, Cross-platform data access requires travel companies to track the changing user-interface patterns of their customers to provide the appropriate level of service. This must be a continuing process as new technologies evolve and businesses become less restrictive about the devices their employees can use for particular tasks. Suppliers and distributors that support the most user-friendly, convenient interfaces will enjoy increased market share.

It’s a continuing process of improving your apps and improving your mobile websites.  You have to continuously experiment, and you can’t be afraid to make some mistakes along the way!

You can see trends 6-10 and read the rest of this article here.

Time is Running Out! Creating Urgency in your Hotel Marketing

RAL.Nonexclusive.11-7

In the hospitality market, a seemingly lost conversion tactic is the employment of urgency on hotel websites, in hotel marketing collateral, and across social media platforms. Urgency is a long-used tactic in the world of driving conversion and increasing eCommerce. So the question remains to be asked, why don’t hotel owners use this tactic more often?

It may be for a simple lack of understanding of how to implement urgency into daily messages. It also may be the fear of turning to something different than what has been working well in the past. Whatever the reasons may be, creating a sense of urgency is a great way to increase website conversions for your hotel.

A recent article published by Marketing and hospitality insider Sam Weston discusses 7 simple tactics that any hotelier can take to increase website conversion. Let’s take a look at the best practices and explain in detail, the significance of each.

1. Availability Messaging - Availability messaging is as simple as advising your guests how many rooms remain at a discounted price, how many spots are still open on the wine tour that comes with their stay, etc. For example; “Hurry, only 3 rooms remaining at this rate!”

2. Tell Your Guests How Popular you Are - No, not literally. This is a simple tactic that advises your guests on how many travelers (like them) are currently viewing your property, package, or room offer. For example; “22 people have viewed this suite in the past 12 hours.” Simple messages like this create the sense of urgency that we as hotel marketers are looking for.

3. Countdowns & Timers - Perhaps the oldest tactic in the book to creating a sense of urgency is to place an ultimatum, timer or countdown on your offer. Adding a countdown timer to the deal pages of your website is a simple way to let your guests know that “time is running out!”

4. Countdowns TO Events and Sales - Similar to the “time is running out” idea, a countdown to a big event or sale is a great way to create a sense of anticipation and urgency in your customers. Getting the message out early is the key here. For example; “Only 3 days remaining until you save 50% on your 3 night stay!”

5. Adjust Your Message - Standard hotel language can grow repetitive and lose its luster…fast. Next time an offer, sale or event comes across your planning, try switching up the delivery of your message. For example; Rather than saying “Rooms starting from,” spice it up with something along the lines of “Today’s Best Rate.” Experimenting with what works best for your hotels brand will prove to be valuable time invested.

6. Give a Friendly Reminder - In the case that a guest starts to book but does not complete the process, a simple follow up email will do you great justice. A message as simple as “I see you were inquiring for a stay the week of November 20th, but it looks like you stopped. How can I help? The rate you were considering was $89 per night, per adult, a savings of 30%!” Messages like this instantly remind the traveler what they were looking at and plant the idea of booking back in their mind.

7. Email Follow Ups - For those guests who may have missed your sale, offer or event, offer them the opportunity to get advanced notice of the next offer. This can be as simple as asking them to sign up for an email marketing message, or distributing the information via social media. This not only creates a sense of urgency, but can also go a long way in maintaining a loyal customer base.