What Social Media Week Chicago 2014 session did you attend?

Stephanie attended Bored With Sweepstakes? Get Inspired For Your Next Promotion to learn how to transform run-of-the-mill promotions into powerful, interactive campaigns.

At this session…

Nikki Halcomb (Account Manager, Premier Business Solutions, LLC) and Kelley Whalen (Account Supervisor, Earned Media, HY Connect) shared their best practices for social media promotions. The speakers dove into the difference between a "sweepstakes" and a "contest" and how to comply with legal guidelines. They also discussed how promotions that are executed correctly can amplify your online presence, build customer loyalty, and drive revenue.

One of the most interesting things I learned at this session is…

In order to create a memorable promotion, amuse! Create great incentives and come up with messaging that not only reflects your brand voice but encourages participation. Kelley discussed how integrating a good cause can amplify engagement because "87% of consumers would switch from one brand to another brand based on the other brand supporting a good cause."  It's also important to keep things simple. A good cross-check to see if it's easy enough is to ask yourself, "Would my friends enter?" The adult attention span is only 2-8 seconds long, so it's important that your promotion is entertaining and uncomplicated.

How can a hotelier create an engaging social media promotion?

Promotions should be a part of your hotel's budget. A good promotion requires a lot of brainstorming and creativity, so plan ahead and put together a cohesive strategy before launching something uninspired.

Read more highlights from other Social Media Week Chicago 2014 sessions.

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What Social Media Week Chicago 2014 session did you attend?

Maggie and Stephanie attended McDonald's & The FIFA World Cup: Engaging Audiences Through Localized, Global Activation to learn how large brands continue to stay relevant to a global audience.

At this session…

McDonald's Global Director of Digital Engagement, Sosti Ropaitis shared how the 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign was created. The goal was to engage audiences across multiple channels (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and television in some regions) in 100+ countries.  McDonald's aimed to create a campaign that was  "language agnostic," portrayed "cultural relevancy," and had an "emotional connection." The campaign incorporated many elaborate pieces including a competition for artists to create a design to be featured on McDonald's fry boxes, an app that customers download to play an interactive game using virtual and physical space, a YouTube video featuring talented, local soccer players from around the world of all ages, and finally a set of videos created no later than 12 hours after each World Cup match titled #FryFutbol. Ropaitis successfully shared just how important real time, digital content is, especially for a 75-year-old brand. He also touched on the long, extensive process it takes to create such a powerful, interactive social campaign.

One of the most interesting things I learned at this session is…

Maggie: Digital content is hard to keep in one market, regardless of how hyper-targeted your campaign is. This is a good thing for added exposure, but it is important to keep this in mind when creating content to ensure it is easily read/adjusted/formatted for the market that you hadn't originally targeted.

Stephanie: In addition to what Maggie said, I thought it was interesting how Ropaitis discussed the success of the McDonald's Gol! YouTube video. He said that how many views the video received was not as important as the "I like this" to "I dislike this" ratio, which was something I hadn't considered previously. It was also eye-opening to hear that McDonald's had the first ever global promoted tweet, #FryFutbol. Ropaitis talked about the strategy for coming up with a hashtag that worked globally and was able to break the language barrier. Throughout the presentation he referred to the campaign as "GLOCAL" - a global campaign that needed to perform well on a local level, which can be a challenging task.

How can a hotel continue to stay relevant to such a widespread audience on social media channels?

Maggie: Ropaitis reiterated something I think is important for all brands to remember when considering their social strategy; views don't really matter, engagement matters. So, your hotel has 1,000 Facebook Fans, but now what? Simply posting content and having this audience view it while scrolling through their newsfeed is not enough. Focus on creating engaging content that will have fans and prospective fans actively participating in the conversation you want your hotel to be having.

Stephanie: It was interesting to see a large brand, such as McDonald's, use cross channel marketing for an event that was viewed globally. Their FIFA World Cup campaign was an excellent example of creating the right content for the right channel. Each specific piece of the promotion was created for specifically for where the content was going to live (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and the App). In turn, they saw their engagement skyrocket. It is so important for your hotel to understand that content should not be replicated through every channel, it must be tweaked and optimized for wherever the promotion is going to live.

Read more highlights from other Social Media Week Chicago 2014 sessions.

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What Social Media Week Chicago 2014 session did you attend?

Abby and Michelle R. attended Field Guide Live: Expert Insights from Top Community Managers to learn social media tips from some of the best and brightest social media managers.

At this session…

A panel of social media professionals discussed strategies they use to manage the social media for various brands, issues or challenges they have had to overcome, and tips for other community managers.

One of the most interesting things I learned at this session is…

Abby: One of the panelists suggested giving incentives to employees when they send social media content to the community manager. It can be as simple as giving a Starbucks gift card to the employee who submits the best photo of the week. It’s understandable that remembering to take pictures for your hotel's social media channels is hard to do, especially if that’s not your priority, so an incentive may help employees contribute content.

Michelle R.: Katharyn Gear, an eCommerce Manager at Hyatt, shared a simple yet efficient way to plan ahead for your social media posts and get all your hotel’s departments involved. Using Excel or Google Docs, create a monthly content calendar and have each department responsible for weekly or monthly posts. For example, if your hotel has an onsite restaurant, the restaurant team can be responsible for creating a post for every Friday afternoon that mentions the weekend food or drink specials. The calendar's content can even be due the week prior and each post can be scheduled in advance to save time. Along with creating posts, your hotel can also schedule a time where certain staff members should be monitoring each account to answer customer service related inquires or complaints. This is a great way to stay organized, never miss a post and involve each department of your hotel.

How can a hotelier improve their social media strategy?

Abby: Your hotel's team members are busy people, but they’re also the ones who are in all of the action. The best social posts are those that give a “behind the scenes” look at what’s going on at your hotel. Offering an incentive program or contest that encourages employees to contribute could be a fun way to gather a lot of social media content to use throughout the month or year. The catering team might be inclined to take a photo of the banquet set-up and the front desk manager may be able to snap a picture of a cute dog that just checked in – both of those photos are social media gold and can be hard for a community manager to capture! An incentive could also make social media more fun for the employees. Giving them a shoutout on Facebook for the great picture they sent you could be the highlight of their day.

Michelle R.: It you do not have a dedicated social media manager, it can difficult for your team to create a strong social media strategy, monitor each account, and create relevant and interesting content multiple times a week in addition to current daily tasks. Developing a shared content calendar and dividing responsibilities will allow each department to get involved, keep followers from becoming disinterested with near duplicate posts, and ensure your hotel is responding to a guest inquiry or message in a timely manner.

Read more highlights from other Social Media Week Chicago 2014 sessions.

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What Social Media Week Chicago 2014 session did you attend?

Anna attended Under The Influence: 5 Ways Shoppers Are Using Social Media to Discover, Research and Buy.

At this session…

Molly Garris of Leo Burnett explained that as shoppers continue to spend more time on social media, they are inadvertently being influenced by their networks’ opinions, recommendations, deals, tips, and news. Marketers need to get ahead of this behavior to drive traffic, sales, and loyalty and become the ultimate influencer. Molly broke it down into 5 concepts:

1. Passive Discovery: Content being posted and shared by friends, family, celebrities, brands, and influencers inadvertently sways your brand preferences and buying decisions. Therefore, brands that publish more content increase the likelihood of it being socialized through multiple channels and organically influencing other users outside of their original reach.

2. Researching: More shoppers start their product research on Amazon than through Google because the ratings and reviews given by customers are trusted and valued more than advertising. Brands should share feedback from experts and influencers, and publish user-generated content across channels to reach shoppers and influence purchases.

3. Buying: In-store shopping can be inconsistent and boring, whereas online shopping allows for fun, fresh experiences. By tailoring online deals, coupons, and incentives to your customers, they'll enjoy the purchasing process and be more likely to share their experience on social media and support your brand.

4. Getting Support: Don't abandon your customers after they've had an awesome, share-worthy purchasing experience. Offer support and solutions for customers by using simplified and visual content that's helpful and easy to scan. Listen to your customers and respond in a real, conversational tone.

5. Advocating: Give your customers a reason to be proud of their purchases. Be helpful and award differently. Turn online shoppers into brand advocates by listening, responding, and thanking them. By supporting your customers, you also build support for your brand.

One of the most interesting things I learned at this session is…

92% of customers trust user-generated content and world-of-mouth over advertising, which means brands need to focus on listening and responding to customers so they can in turn influence the people in their social circles. Providing an optimized, memorable online experience for shoppers will not only gain loyalty, but also encourage them to share their feedback and be a voice for your brand.

How can a hotel use social influencers to enhance their social media strategy and drive bookings?

Just as online shoppers research products, travelers research flights, hotels, and city attractions online. As guests share photos and reviews from their hotel stay, they are influencing others within their networks. Transform your guests into online brand advocates by encouraging them to share their positive experiences, responding to their comments on Facebook or Twitter, providing solutions to their questions, and rewarding them for their online engagement. Your hotel can become a top influencer by:

• Consistently posting relevant content that followers will want to share
• Publishing user-generated content from your guests
• Encouraging guests to post highlights from their stay
• Listening to guests and responding to their questions, complaints, and feedback in a non-robotic, friendly manner
• Making online booking an easy, exciting experience
• Offering unique deals or incentive to returning guests

Read more highlights from other Social Media Week Chicago 2014 sessions.

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What Social Media Week Chicago 2014 session did you attend?

Cat and Nicole attended Get Heard Above the Noise on Social Media

At this session…

Marcie Hill, Marki Lemons, Toure Muhammad, and Scott Steward discussed their insights on how to get your Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook posts noticed amongst the clutter and competition.

Marcie Hill's thoughts on Twitter:

  • The key to Twitter is to listen to what people are saying.
  • Take advantage of social share buttons located on articles. This is a great way to increase followers.
  • Create a relationship with followers by acknowledging their presence and content through hashtags, mentions, and retweets.
    • For example, use #FollowFriday to give shout-outs to your followers that you have been interacting with that week.
    • Acknowledge people just because. People are more likely to Retweet your messages if you frequently interact with them.

Marki Lemons' thoughts on Instagram:

  • Your followers want to get a feel for who you are so they can get to know you.
  • Photos create more engagement on social media than text-only posts. But, make your photos more appealing with different filters, borders, and text overlays.
  • People digest words much faster on a picture than they would separately.
  • Instagram is an easy way to leverage the rest of the internet with one simple app. You can easily share your photo with audiences on 5 social networking channels (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Flicker, and Instagram) with the click of a button.
    • Usually your Instagram photos will receive five times more engagement on Facebook than they do on Instagram.

Toure Muhammad's thoughts on Facebook:

  • On Facebook, the most shareable messages are images.
  • Make your content short and concise, but outstanding.
  • An effective Facebook post should include: short but interesting copy with a call to action, an intriguing high quality photo, and a visible name, logo, or website.
  • 75% of posts should be entertaining or informative to your audience. 
  • Be transparent and have a personality on Facebook. People want to interact with humans!
  • Understand why your audience is on social media and what they want to see. Analyze the Facebook insights to see what content people are engaging with.

One of the most interesting things I learned at this session is…

Cat: Simply having just text or just images in a social media post is not enough! People interact most with images that have a text overlay and are able to digest words on photos quicker than if the words were on their own.

Nicole: When it comes to social media, just understand who your audience is and make sure your hotel's content is relevant to them. By knowing who you are posting for, you’ll be able to create effective content. Social media is meant to be fun so have fun with it!

So, how can a hotelier ensure their message is seen on social media when there is so much competiton?

Cat: All businesses, including hotels, should be posting no more than 25% promotional or salesy content. People use social media to network, socialize, entertain, and stay informed and NOT to be sold too. If your hotel limits the amount of “salesy” posts, you will be more likely to retain fans and followers and have more fan engagement.

Nicole: A hotel will be able to tell their story better when they understand what their audience is looking for on that platform. Not all social media channels are meant to have the same message. Each channel has a different audience with different user-intentions, so your hotel should tailor its content for each network to create more effective messages.

Read more highlights from other Social Media Week Chicago 2014 sessions.

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What Social Media Week Chicago 2014 session did you attend?

Nicole and Anna attended Advanced Brain Science Web Marketing and Social Media Tools to Get Your Marketing on Track to explore how brain science and web marketing work together to create successful online marketing strategies.

At this session…

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media reviewed research, case studies, and specific web marketing tactics that work with natural, human behavioral tendencies.

  • Serial Position Effect: Users have higher attention and retention at the beginning and end of lists, menus, websites. Translation: place the good stuff at the beginning and the end to make sure it gets read.
  • Keep content short and simple. Write marketing content at an 8th grade reading level to ensure all users understand the message presented. 
  • Format content for scanners, not readers. Break large chunks of content into smaller sections that are easier to digest.
  • Use color contrasts for call to action. Create an invisible arrow showing your audience where to look. For example, if the girl is looking left in a picture, then the text should be on the left.
  • A case study presented at the session showed that Baskerville is the most credible font.

Hope Bertram of Digital Megaphone and Katy Lynch of Manifest Digital shared free and paid digital marketing tools that help increase traffic and customer engagement.

  • canva.com - allows you to visually enhance imagery for social media posts
  • followerwonk.com - analyzes your Twitter followers, compares them to selected competitors, and shows Twitter bios, interestss and location
  • fakers.statuspeople.com - shows how many fake, inactive, and good users are following your Twitter handle
  • imgflip.com - creates memes, gifs, and pie charts
  • piktochart.com - creates interactive infographics

One of the most interesting things I learned at this session is…

Nicole: When writing blogs, it is most effective for your paragraphs to be 3-4 lines because your readers are most likely just scanning the information. This is something that your hotel should keep in mind when writing landing pages for your website.

Anna: There are several free social media tools, such as fakers.statuspeople.com and followerwonk.com, that can help you research which users your hotels should or should not follow. They are also beneficial tools for eliminating fake and inactive users that spam your hotel's newsfeed or interfere with genuine engagement.

How can a hotelier use brain science, web marketing tactics, and social media tools to produce a successful online marketing strategy?

Nicole: When writing content for your hotel, it’s important to understand how your target audience is reading and understanding the information. Most people have a short attention span, so your hotel's content will be more effective when it is short, simple, and direct. Your hotel's information will also be more effective when it is sent out at the right time and to the right people. Your hotel should be taking advantage of these free or inexpensive social media tools to engage with relevant followers and measure your social media campaigns.

Anna: These behavior tendencies and social media tools can help your hotel properly engage with followers, establish loyalty, and increase guest-retention.

Read more highlights from other Social Media Week Chicago 2014 sessions.

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All social media and internet startups continually refine their products and services to stay current and meet the ever-growing needs and demands of their users. Typically those refinements are aesthetic changes to the layout or added functionality within the current framework to enhance the user-experience. Foursquare's latest changes to their app are much more controversial; Foursquare is completely rebranding and altering the purpose of their current app while also introducing a second app called Swarm. At first glance, this massive overhaul to Foursquare's structure seems rather insane, but it may just be pure brilliance. In the paragraphs to follow, I will explore the difference between Foursquare and Swarm and provide insight into how your hotel should cope with the recent changes.

Why is Foursquare splitting into two apps?

Foursquare's Vice President, Noah Weiss, recently told The Verge that they conducted a study to see how users were interacting with Foursquare and discovered that only 5% of users were opening up the app to find both friends and restaurants. This data inspired them to split Foursquare into two apps, each with a different purpose - Foursquare for finding places in the user's vicinity and Swarm for finding friends via check-ins. By doing so, they simplified the experience for 95% of users, and the small margin of users who use the app for both functions will be able to easily switch back and forth between Foursquare and Swarm as long as they have both apps installed on their device.


So, what exactly is Swarm and what changes can we expect to see?

  • Swarm is a one-stop-shop for checking-in at certain places (e.g. stores, restaurants, and landmarks) and finding friends who have checked-in somewhere nearby.
  • It allows users to broadcast a post to Swarm friends within their city, helping them facilitate plans with friends. Users can ask vague questions such as, "Beer?" or be more specific and tag a location such as, Anyone want to meet @Steve and me @thetavern at 7:30 for the Chicago Bears game?"
  • It features neighborhood sharing, which shows the user's Swarm friends what neighborhood they are in, even if the user hasn't checked in anywhere. This broad location-sharing feature can be toggled on and off by swiping across the profile picture on the top of the app.
  • It has a modified version of Foursquare's Mayorship guidelines. Users are now only in competition with their Swarm friends and not the entire world, making it more feasible to be crowned the Mayor of their most visited places.
  • Swarm replaces badges, which were intangible rewards users received for various activities, with stickers. Users now attach their own mood or category stickers when they check-in at places to virtually supplement their physical emotions or actions.

What implications does Foursquare's split have on your hotel's social strategy?

With the recent changes, users can no longer check-in to places on Foursquare, so if your hotel has used check-in functionality in the past, you (or your hotel's social media manager) should download the Swarm app immediately. You don't need to do anything else on property to set up your hotel's Swarm account other than downloading the app. Even though Foursquare and Swarm are separate apps, all information that is updated on Foursquare will automatically push through to Swarm. Therefore, you don't need to worry about having to update each app individually; the update process is very efficient for business owners. For example, updating your hotel's address on Foursquare will automatically update the address on Swarm. If your hotel does not currently have a Foursquare or Swarm account, simply set up a Foursquare account online and then download both apps.

Moving forward, it will be important to monitor user activity on both apps. Foursquare will now serve as a local search tool like Yelp. Users will be able to leave reviews about their experience and upload pictures. So, as with any online review site, it is imperative to actively monitor guest reviews on Foursquare and respond accordingly to both the positive and the negative comments. While users cannot leave feedback or reviews on Swarm, they will be checking-in to your hotel's location to let their friends know their whereabouts. If the user chooses to connect their Swarm account to other social media networks, like Twitter, it will share Swarm check-ins on the user's Twitter account. Just as your hotel monitored Twitter for Foursquare check-ins in the past, you should now monitor Swarm check-ins and initiate a one-on-one conversation to personalize users' experiences.

Although the apps will likely continue to evolve, I anticipate that you will spend more time managing your hotel's Foursquare presence than Swarm since that is where users are going to be leaving reviews, asking questions, and posting pictures. Your hotel should ensure that it has a strategy in place to monitor Foursquare regularly and take any necessary actions. Swarm should not require as much time and effort to maintain or monitor, as users will be interacting with nearby friends rather than exploring nearby places. But your hotel should make sure to encourage guests to use Swarm to check into the property because that will help extend your reach into their network of Swarm friends.

Will Swarm be a success?

While Swarm is still in its infancy, Foursquare has stated that over 75% of its users have already downloaded Swarm and are actively using both apps. As far as what the future holds for Foursquare, I will defer to what Will Smith first told Eminem when he began growing in popularity: "You will either be the biggest flop, or the biggest thing we've ever seen." While that may be a slight exaggeration as to the fate of both Foursquare and Swarm, it also may be spot on. If Foursquare is able to contend with Yelp in the local search market and Swarm goes toe to toe with the check-in features of Facebook, Foursquare and Swarm could both be heading for success.

While the fate of Foursquare and Swarm remains in the air, one thing is certain, all restaurants, hotels, and entertainment establishments would be remise not to utilize both apps to their full extent. Both apps serve an important purpose to consumers, so as long as consumers are searching for information, leaving reviews, and checking-in on both Foursquare and Swarm, business owners must ensure that users are finding correct and relevant information. Over the next few months as we begin to see how both apps mature and grow, we will be able to provide a more in-depth look into the opportunities for hotels on both apps, but for now we highly recommend downloading Swarm and seeing what all the buzz is about!

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Earlier this month, my colleague and I had the pleasure of attending WeddingWire World Chicago on behalf of Blue Magnet Interactive. The event intended to educate vendors about different strategies for successfully marketing their wedding business online. After a fun-filled day attending panel discussions and presentations by industry experts, we walked away armed with the latest trends and insightful tips for marketing your hotel's wedding business. In this blog, we'll share our key takeaways from WeddingWire's event, including facts and figures provided by the speakers, to ensure that you are well-equipped to market your hotel as an ideal venue for weddings and receptions.

Top 4 takeaways from WeddingWire World Chicago

1. Implement a social media strategy. Today's potential wedding client is social.
2. Take wedding reviews seriously. Today's potential wedding client does their homework.
3. Ensure your website is mobile-optimized. Today's potential wedding client is mobile. 
4. Revamp marketing materials and contracts to be inclusive of same-sex couples. Today's potential wedding client is attuned to social issues and perceptions.

wedding wire chicago


Social Media: As a wedding vendor, why should you implement a social media strategy?

Did you know that 1 out of every 4 minutes spent online is specifically spent on a social networking site? Today's engaged couple is extremely social, and typically begins the research phase of selecting a wedding reception site by browsing your social media pages and looking for things like pictures, reviews and the vendor's personality. The speakers offered countless tips for sharing wedding content on social media to help generate more engagement and sell your services as a wedding vendor.

Some of our favorite recommendations that can be applied to your hotel's social strategy include:

  • Sell your area and features. If a highlight of your hotel is the stunning view of the bay from the rooms on the top floor, ask your followers a no-brainer question. For example, ask: What view do you want to wake up to after your special day?
  • Ask open ended questions. It's easy to answer yes or no, so challenge your followers to engage with your hotel by asking a question that elicits an emotion. For example, ask: Where do you want your first dance to be, and why?
  • Get specific. Find out the key elements that your guests look for when planning their wedding so you can tailor your content to their interests. For example, ask: What is the top thing you need to make your wedding a success?
  • Utilize thank you cards and photos from previous weddings. Ask the couple if you can "show them off" on your social channels to give your followers a better visual of what they can expect at their own wedding. Showing remnants from a happy couple's wedding will resonate with followers more so than images from a staged photo shoot.

Online Reviews: Why should your hotel develop an online wedding review strategy?

If you haven't been encouraging your previous clients to share their experience through a review yet, this needs to be one of your top priorities! In fact, 95% of engaged couples use online reviews to select wedding vendors. In addition, younger generations are very inclined to read reviews; If your hotel does not have a positive reputation on various online review sites, it will probably struggle to attract any millennial shoppers.

Some key tips to ensure your hotel acquires valuable wedding reviews or testimonials include:

  • Give your clients a reason to write a review. Did you do something extraordinary to make their big day special? Did you exceed their expectations? What makes your location unique versus other places they could have held their wedding or reception?
  • Where can people find reviews of weddings at your hotel? Do you utilize a service like WeddingWire to specifically collect reviews on weddings and receptions at your hotel? Are you getting reviews on Facebook? Google+? Through email? One way to help with collecting reviews is to ask guests who mail or email you a review if they could share what they wrote on your preferred review site. Be sure to send them a link to your hotel's listing when you ask!
  • Capture the essence of your hotel's wedding venue with video reviews. Do you have a wedding planner who really connects with the couple on their wedding day? Ask the couple if it would be alright to catch them in a happy moment and ask them a fun question. This way, the couple doesn't have to worry about writing something later, and you can actually capture the experience you are trying to sell.

Mobile Strategy: Why must your hotel have a mobile-optimized website (or at the very least, a mobile-optimized micro-site specifically for weddings)?

81% of people leave a website when they have a bad mobile experience. A bad experience is typically a result of the website not being properly optimized for mobile users. While Blue Magnet Interactive has strongly encouraged hotel websites to be mobile-optimized since the beginning of the "mobile trend," it was pretty astonishing to hear this statistic at WeddingWire World!

Hotels that use email marketing to promote their wedding space need to be especially aware of mobile optimization because 65% of people open emails on their phone. The industry pros at the WeddingWire event recommended checking that the emails you send out are mobile-optimized, providing content that is to the point, and ensuring that the email itself is free of overwhelming amounts of text and images. More so, the links embedded in your email campaigns are likely pointing to your website, so if a user comes straight from a mobile-optimized email to a website that is not mobile-optimized, you are more likely to lose that potential client.

One of the speakers shared an interesting perspective regards to websites, pointing out that: "You don't get business from your website but rather through your website." We felt this was important because your website doesn't necessarily yield direct business; often times it's the information you provide on your website, and the experience you provide guests that generates client interest. They see the information on your website and then decide to connect with you, whether it be through your website's contact form, by phone, or through email. At Blue Magnet, we know that a hotel's website is specifically designed to help answer any questions a potential client or engaged couple may have, and often is an important resource towards the beginning of the shopping phase; so, by the time a client is ready to book a wedding at your hotel they've gained the necessary information through your website and are ready to contact you to move onto the next step.

LGBTQ Community: Does your hotel's marketing material and contracts contain inclusive language? How should your hotel be connecting with same-sex couples?

Kathryn Hamm from Gayweddings.com gave an outstanding overview of the growth the LGBTQ community has seen over the years and why vendors should be connecting with this segment now more than ever before. To start, Hamm mentioned that 77% of people under the age of 30 support gay marriage, meaning, acceptance is continuously growing. Additionally, she explained that 46% of same sex marriages wed in the couple's home state. The remainder of same sex couples travel, usually due to the restrictions of their home state. Therefore, if your hotel is located in a state that currently allows gay marriage, you should be actively marketing your wedding space to target the LGBTQ community, as there are likely more out-of-state wedding shoppers..

Kathryn also reminded the audience to avoid "vendor awkwardness." Believe it or not, one of the biggest concerns that LGBTQ couples face when planning their wedding is not due to cost, but rather anxiety: "When I call, is the vendor going to hang up on me?" To avoid vendor awkwardness and assure all clients that their queries will be well-received make sure your hotel markets itself as being inclusive and accepting.

A few ways you can ensure your hotel's marketing materials are inclusive of all couples include reviewing your:

  • Wedding Photos - Are the photos on your website and marketing materials only showing a traditional wedding, with a bride and groom? Add some wedding photos featuring all types of couples to show that your venue is not exclusive. This allows all engaged couples to truly envision their wedding or reception at your hotel.
  • Marketing Materials & Contracts - What type of language are you using across your website, marketing materials and contracts? Does it still use presumptuous language like "bride and groom?" Replace any instances of exclusivity with more inclusive terms like "engaged couple" or "partner".
  • Your Resource List - Do the professionals that you work with support gay marriage? Make sure your recommended and preferred vendors also support the LGBTQ community so you don't accidentally send a client astray.

Based on the changes happening across the country, particularly in Congress, Hamm left us all with one final question: Will your business be ready to support same-sex marriages by June 2015?

Overall, we gained some great insight into the wedding industry and learned several helpful tips to help hotels market their wedding space more effectively, all while having an awesome time mingling and networking! To learn more about WeddingWire World Chicago, be sure to search the hashtag #WWWorld. We welcome your questions and feedback so be sure to connect with us on Twitter @Blue_Magnet!

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Having a successful social media campaign can boost your hotel's awareness, increase visits to your site, and ultimately drive engaged followers to book a room. However, getting your hotel's social media activity off the ground can be challenging and not getting your desired reach and engagement can be frustrating. So, how can you give your hotel's social media presence an added boost to increase reach without spending ad money? You may not realize this, but your hotel already has social media ambassadors on hand to help your hotel increase social engagement. You see them every day. They are already putting their heart and soul into your hotel's offline marketing efforts by providing great service on property. Your social media ambassadors are your team. Getting team members involved in social media may sound intimidating or time-consuming at first; however, your hard-working team's engagement and support can be a crucial factor in obtaining social media success.

Why are your team members the secret ingredient to improving your hotel's social media performance?

For starters, they most likely are already active on social media sites. Team members that enjoy coming to work and truly love their brand are prone to spreading that adoration on Facebook, Twitter, and other popular networks. Additionally, if someone on your team shares your hotel's Facebook post, their entire network will be exposed to that post. If someone in their network then shares the Facebook post again, a new pool of Facebook users can now see the post. When your team engages with your brand, they present the opportunity to organically increase your hotel's reach into a much wider audience.

How do you get your team involved in your hotel's social media campaign?

There are plenty of ways to make it fun and easy for them. Your management team should cultivate an encouraging environment and set guidelines on what type of information is beneficial to share.

In fact, your team members that are active on social media are likely already checking into the hotel on Facebook, posting about upcoming events, and sharing their day to day experiences. Therefore, it is imperative that you provide your team with proper social media training and tools to facilitate involvement. Train your hotel team on best practices, common terminology, and how they can best assist in establishing your online community.

In this Slideshare, Blue Magnet Interactive highlights why team involvement is important for your hotel, how your property can foster their participation, and what your team can be doing to help your hotel reach its social media goals.

If your want to improve your hotel's social media strategy, please contact us to learn about our social media marketing services. Tweet your questions or comments to @Blue_Magnet.

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TripAdvisor’s newest feature, Questions & Answers, is a trip-planning tool that offers an easy way for your hotel to interact with potential guests. When browsing a hotel on TripAdvisor, travelers can scroll down to the bottom of the page and enter a question in the designated box.

TripAdvisor's Questions & Answers Box 

A representative of your hotel, past reviewers, and other members of the TripAdvisor community can then provide timely answers and feedback. This gives your hotel the opportunity to set travelers’ expectations by giving them all the information they need to choose your property for their next trip. The tool basically offers a more personalized version of the already popular TripAdvisor forum. Travelers can ask questions specific to your hotel like, “What time is breakfast served on weekdays?” or “We are planning to visit in December, will the renovations be complete by then?”

How Your Hotel Can Get Involved

When a new question comes in, your property’s registered TripAdvisor email will receive a notification. Login to your hotel’s TripAdvisor page to address the traveler’s inquiry as directly and concisely as possible. Responses must be family-friendly, original, and cannot include links or contact information. As a property representative, your response will automatically go to the top of the responses, giving it priority and authority over the comments from the rest of the TripAdvisor community. TripAdvisor community comments are sorted based on upward and downward votes by the rest of the users. As a hotel representative, you can answer the same question multiple times if something has changed at your property over time.

Other hoteliers in the same market will not be able to answer traveler questions for your hotel.  Additionally, competing hotels in the area cannot ask questions about your hotel. These rules have been implemented by TripAdvisor to combat spam on the site.

5 Ways TripAdvisor Questions & Answers Benefits Hoteliers

  1. Hoteliers can engage with potential guests before the purchasing stage
  2. Hoteliers have the ability to answer questions more than once, keeping the information as correct and up-to-date as possible. This is particularly useful because OTAs and local listings are not always updated every time there is a change on property, which can confuse shoppers. This platform allows travelers to get clarification on necessary information and eliminate confusion.
  3. Hoteliers can help humanize the hotel brand by showing guests that the hotel cares about their questions and concerns and takes the time to respond. Guests appreciate personal interaction!
  4. Hoteliers can improve their overall image by being honest and proactive. Not only does the person who asked the question appreciate the response, but other hotel shoppers will respect the hotel for responding as well. 
  5. Hoteliers can essentially audit their communication. What messages are clear across their channels and which messages need to be reworked?

In the first example below, the Marriott Oakland City Center effectively uses the Questions & Answers tool to communicate with potential guests. The hotel representative provides a brief but detailed answer to the traveler’s question in a timely manner. Now that the guest is well-informed, she can book an accessible room at the hotel with confidence.

TripAdvisor's Questions & Answers Positive Example

In the example below, the hotel has the opportunity to reassure a guest so he does not cancel a block of rooms. However, no one from the property has responded to the guest, who asked the question 7 days ago. The hotel’s failure to respond is detrimental to the hotel, since they will likely lose this reservation.  Plus, as you can see in the screenshot below, another TripAdvisor community member responded with her own warning to avoid the hotel, so the hotel’s silence will likely negatively impact the hotel’s reputation.

TripAdvisor's Questions & Answers Negative Example

5 Things to Keep in Mind before Getting Started

  1. Make sure your property is registered and that you have a designated staff member to answer questions in a timely manner. If travelers are inquiring about your property, they are probably ready to book. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to convert shoppers into guests!
  2. Balance your answers with brevity and helpfulness. Readers don’t want to sift through a lengthy response to find the answer to their question.
  3. Emphasize the positive. If the answer to a traveler’s question is “no”, supplement it with a positive remark. For example, if a guest asks whether you have a spa on-site and the answer is no, let them know that you have two top-rated spas less than 5 minutes from the hotel and that your concierge is more than happy to assist with scheduling and directions.
  4. If you are seeing travelers ask the same question time and time again, think about how you can display the information more clearly on your website, OTAs, and social media. 
  5. Although you want to respond to questions quickly, make sure you also evaluate your answers carefully before posting them. Answers can receive positive and negative votes from the community, so think about rephrasing your answers to ensure they are viewed as helpful and the votes are positive. 

TripAdvisor’s new Questions & Answers feature is a valuable tool for your hotel and potential guests since it opens up a direct line of communication. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to engage with travelers, improve your property’s online reputation, and convert shoppers into hotel guests.

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