When it comes to your hotel's online reputation management, think of the internet as high school and you’re trying to win the popularity contest. With Google’s plans to incorporate Google+ into personalized search results and the backlash of TripAdvisor’s misleading reviews, I think it’s fair to say that there’s a considerable focus on what people are saying about your brand. More than ever before, people are turning to each other through the internet to glean opinions about hotels, their staff, and even how the hotel dealt with problems, before making any concrete decisions about where to stay.

Here’s the real clincher: consumers aren’t just looking for their peers’ reactions; they’re also taking into account how the hotel responded to both positive and negative reviews. Your online reputation management will continue to be increasingly important as “likes,” “+1’s,” and reviews are intertwined into how we discover new information on the internet.

So, how will you amp up your online reputation management to make sure small blunders inside the hotel don’t go viral?

1. Listen to the locker room gossip

Know what people are saying about your hotel. Like any good prom queen in the running, you need to know what’s being said and where people are saying it. One simple and free way to oversee mentions of your hotel is to set-up Google Alerts. With Google Alerts, you’ll be notified via email every time your hotel name (or whatever keywords you deem relevant) are mentioned anywhere in search results.

Google Alerts for Blue Magnet Interactive

Another key strategy is to monitor your social media profiles daily. There are more opinions posted on those sites besides just reviews. Tracking the increase in visits, likes, re-tweets, shares, etc. can give you a good idea over how buzz worthy your hotel is or not.

Finally, if you’re a one-man show and need some minions to help build your reputation, you can employ technology services to help manage the process. Bookassist offers a service called “Reputation Alert” which not only collects reviews from guests who book through your brand.com, but it also crawls hundreds of sites to gather comments or reviews and brings them to you in one place. Some more comprehensive products to consider are ReviewPro or ReviewAnalyst. Not only do these services monitor and collect all reviews, but they also compile the data into easy-to-use reports.

2. Be a social butterfly

Be engaged with your online community. If you’re going to gain entrance into the cool crowd, you need to be outgoing and diplomatic to others. The same goes for your hotel’s image online. Similar to how you want to be accepted and liked by others, your guests or reviewers want to be heard and acknowledged, too! Responding to positive reviews about your hotel is easy enough to do, but a lot of hoteliers shy away from responding to negative reviews or complaints. These are the reviews that need the most attention, as these guests may have felt as though their issue was ignored on-property or not handled properly. Now they want to lambast your hotel for the whole world to see.

By simply acknowledging that there was an issue and offering a diplomatic response, you are engaging in an online conversation that other potential guests will see. People are eager to see how the hotel will respond or react to a negative situation.  Furthermore, the way in which its handled will give potential guests insight as to what they’ll be up against if a problem occurs during their stay. In fact, there have been cases in which a once disgruntled reviewer was so satisfied by the hotel’s response to their issue that they removed the negative review and became a cheerleader for the hotel. The more you engage with your online community through responses, blogs, and social media, the more positive your brand image will become.

3. Transform your ugly duckling into a beautiful swan

Interesting images and other content are key to growing your community. If you’re going to be a front-runner in the popularity game, it’s important to always highlight your best features. High quality and complementary images of your property will draw consumers’ eyes away from any negative reviews and into your photo gallery. New social media sites, like Pinterest, showcase destinations with beautiful landscapes or neat décor with a link back to the source (aka your brand.com).

What’s more, gaining new followers on your social media channels is more than just skin deep; you have to show your inner beauty. Provide content that followers will want to share with their networks. Interesting blog entries, fun contests, and “featured guests” posts are sure fire ways to gain attention and keep your current followers interested. Finally, posting pictures and posts about hotel staff events allows your followers to feel a connection with the hotel and helps make your hotel staff seem more approachable.

4. Campaign like a class president

Promote guest reviews. Although “Vote for Me” posters aren’t exactly within brand standards, there are other ways that you can encourage your guests to leave reviews on your social media channels that will help keep your content and reviews fresh. Adding links to your TripAdvisor, Google+, or Yahoo listings on your Facebook page is one way to ensure writing reviews is top of mind for your guests. More subtle methods include adding a link to your listings on email signatures, newsletters, and brand.com. Providing easy access to your business listings will keep reviewing from feeling like a chore to your guests.

The most obvious way to encourage exceptional guest reviews is to provide the guest with a great hospitality experience. Even if there are blunders during their stay, the way in which it’s handled can make or break a raving review. It’s important to train your staff that what happens inside the hotel may be reflected online, and reviewers aren’t shy about naming names if they’re really upset. They also aren’t shy about naming names when a hotelier helped make their stay really wonderful, so just ask yourself what kind of publicity do you want?

In the end, will you be a popular student or a wallflower? If your hotel stays in touch with their reviews and reviewers, provides valuable content on its social media channels, and encourages positive reviews when the opportunity arises, I could foresee Prom Court in your future. And remember, it’s the negative reviews that need the most nurturing and what happens inside your hotel doesn’t always stay inside your hotel. Good luck!

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