Why Your Hotel Needs Google Plus
When Google announced the exclusive, invite-only launch of their new social media platform, Google Plus, people had mixed reactions. While the early adopters heard the term "exclusive" and desperately sought out an invite, most others rolled their eyes and wrote it off as yet another one of Google's failed attempts to steal Facebook and Twitter's thunder (Google Buzz, anyone?). A lot of people who had taken the plunge and created a profile for Google+ had abandoned it soon after. It seemed as though individuals and brands were satisfied with their current social media marketing strategies and couldn't quite determine how to use Google+ effectively. So why, over 6 months past its release date, is Google+ gaining so much buzz in the online marketing world?
Google+ and Your Natural Search Results
Recently, Google began implementing a revolutionary change to their search results page called "Search Plus Your World." If you rely on Google to answer all of life's questions, you will soon notice that Google+ suggestions are merged in with your organic search results. Although this change hasn't rolled out to the masses yet, SEO man Danny Sullivan's first-hand experience can pose as a warning for us all: Google is now devoting prime SERP real estate to Google+ people and page suggestions, while neglecting to suggest profiles or pages on any competing social media platforms (ie. Twitter, Facebook, etc). So, if you haven't jumped on the Google+ bandwagon yet, jump fast! By integrating Google+ into all Google user accounts, across most of their products, Google has just made social media, and specifically Google+, an integral part of every business's SEO campaigns.
The Google+ Basics for Hotels
Like most social media networks, Google Plus allows you to showcase all the fabulous things about your hotel by uploading photos and filling out standardized text fields. It is important to fill out as much useful information as you can; incorporating keywords, highlighting unique amenities and mentioning special awards. Make sure you don't pass over the field titled "Bragging Rights." Even if your hotel has not won a prestigious award or is not ranked #1 on Tripadvisor, you can brag about your free airport shuttle or your outstanding customer service!
As you're setting up your profile, be sure to include:
- Photos- Showcase attractive photography with descriptive captions that highlight your hotel
- Brand.com website- A link under "Other Profiles" should direct people to your official Brand.com website
- Other social media accounts- Feature any other active social networking profiles (Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter). You can also provide links to your hotel's Tripadvisor page or Yelp reviews.
- Videos- Upload and share videos that provide tours of your hotel's guest rooms or meeting spaces. Want to add a little more splash to your page? Interview your staff to document their charming personalities or offer behind-the-scenes footage of your head chef preparing his or her signature dish!
Label Your Friends & Segment Your Circles
Circles gives Google+ users a way to categorize their community. People or businesses you follow on Google+ may be filed into designated Circles that you have labeled "friends" or "local businesses" or "meeting planners", etc. When you add someone to your Google+ Circle, you are opting in to that persons's stream of posts, much like the Facebook Newsfeed. However, you have probably elected to add each of these individuals or businesses to your circle for a particular reason. Sure, it all boils down to the fact that you're interested in what he or she has to say, but you probably plan to use that shared information in different ways. For example, a hotel may add their own brand's corporate Google+ page to a Circle so as to stay current on brand promotions or news. However, the hotel may choose to follow the city's science museum Google+ page with the intention of learning about valuable deals or packages and upcoming events that they can share with their hotel guests. By segmenting all of your Circles into specific categories you will be able to easily filter your incoming stream of posts depending on what kind of information you are looking for. In addition, you can also filter the information you share so that it is only visible to specific circles.
Hotel Circle Recommendations
Here are some recommendations for segmenting your circles to best benefit your hotel and your hotel guests:
- Brand- Create a Brand Circle where you can segment any hotels within your brand family. Not only will you stay updated on brand activities and corporate news, but you will also be able to monitor events and package promotions at hotels that are in your same chain scale. You may come across a promotion that sparks an idea for your hotel.
- Local Sports Teams- Organize your city's professional or regional sports teams together to stay current on upcoming games, scores, contests and giveaways. You can scroll through this circle when you are looking for information to post your own trivia question or you can simply re-share the teams' posts to educate your hotel guests. They might want to catch a game with their family while in town.
- Groups or Organizations- Combine any groups or organizations that often stay at your hotel or frequently host large meetings or conferences in your market. Establish an online relationship by welcoming them to the city using the tag feature (@Google+ Name). This will ensure that you are top-of-mind for their future events in the area.
- City Attractions- CVBs, restaurants, museums, theme parks, theaters and the like can all fall into a broad circle that will keep your hotel informed about fun, exciting and unique happenings in the area. Imagine that you are the hotel's online concierge and you want to discover the best tourist tips to present to your guests. Share your local expertise. Your guests will appreciate the personalized customer service.
- Niche Markets- Determine what sets your hotel apart. Is your hotel pet friendly? Dog owners lover to spoil their pups and usually feel guilty leaving them at home, so you shouldn't be surprised to find quite a large community devoted to sharing pet friendly accommodations. Just check out DogGeeks Google+ tagline: "Dedicated to helping dog businesses promote their business and dog lovers find dog friendly resources." So, if you have a niche market or a special amenity, start a circle of likeminded Google+ pages and start a conversation. You will likely get a Google+ shoutout which will help inform that niche market about the added value your hotel offers. And the added value to you? You will likely see an influx of adorable puppies popping up in your stream.
- Travel Publications- You will benefit from creating a stream of travel publications or popular industry leaders when you find inspiration. You may see a page that has strategically placed their photos to resemble a creative mural or you may observe how the Travel Channel posts engaging content to stimulate conversation with their own circles.
While Facebook and Twitter are leading forces in social media for now, Google+ may soon result in the most SEO value due to its standard integration with Google's search results. Get on board and create your own Google Plus profile and business page here. Use Google+ as a medium to interact with your customers on a "virtual concierge" level. Use your segmented circles and the search box to monitor everything from local news, brand buzz, competitor packages, incoming groups to your city, customer feedback and guest reviews. Share your promotions, announce renovations and brag about your latest awards. Although direct Google+ ROI may be difficult to measure at this point in time, if you establish a personality and effectively target your potential markets your Google+ efforts will ultimately drive bookings through natural search results! Google+ is challenging hotels and marketers alike to think of social media as a core component of search engine optimization and no longer just a mere afterthought.