Times are changing - the pound sign is now a hashtag, tweets aren't just for birds, and brands want things shared more than a kindergarten teacher. This past week, the Blue Magnet Interactive team set off to explore several educational seminars hosted by Chicago's Social Media Week to stay on the forefront of the everchanging online social landscape. Our online marketing team is eager to share how their key takeaways from these sessions can translate into successful hotel social media marketing campaigns.

What Social Media Week Chicago 2013 session did you attend?

Stephanie attended Good Habits of Successful Social Media Managers to learn new strategies and best practices for delivering successful social media campaigns from other industry professionals.

Chicago Social Media Week 2013

At this session…

Sprout Social moderated a panel made up of social media managers from Divvy Bikes, Grub Hub, and Social Ogilvy. Each social media manager shared their opinions on various topics such as choosing what social networks your brand should be active on, various tools to measure social media performance, and tips for responding to negative comments.

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

A great way to expand your social community organically is to team up with other brands that are relevant to your own. For example, a hotel might want to cross promote (on their social networks) with local vendors they often use for meetings, weddings, etc. This might come as a surprise to many social media managers, but a negative comment is not always a bad thing! It can often provide an opportunity to turn someone who is upset into an evangelist for your brand.

So, what is a best social media practice that the hotel industry should adopt?

Don't feel obligated to be on every social media channel! Before deciding what social networks to be active on, understand the strengths and weaknesses of each channel and how the user behavior differs. Every hotel’s strategy will differ depending on the market, target audience, and resources. So, the channels that work well for one hotel may not be necessary for another hotel.

Read more BMI highlights from other Social Media Week Chicago 2013 sessions.

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Times are changing - the pound sign is now a hashtag, tweets aren't just for birds, and brands want things shared more than a kindergarten teacher. This past week, the Blue Magnet Interactive team set off to explore several educational seminars hosted by Chicago's Social Media Week to stay on the forefront of the everchanging online social landscape. Our online marketing team is eager to share how their key takeaways from these sessions can translate into successful hotel social media marketing campaigns.

What Social Media Week Chicago 2013 session did you attend?

Kelsey, Matt, and Andrea attended Improving Social Media with SEO to glean insight from other marketing professionals on how to integrate SEO tactics into their social media strategy.

At this session…

Carolyn Shelby gave insider tips on how to optimize your online strategy by using SEO to effectively improve the reach of your social media campaigns. One of the key things Carolyn wanted to emphasize was to constantly use the words for which you want to be found. Whether you're posting a blog, a Facebook post, or even describing a Pinterest 'pin', you must consistently use the same primary keywords in all of your online marketing efforts. 

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

Kelsey Nupnau: Google+, Facebook and Pinterest are the top three social media channels that signal cues to the various search engines.

Andrea Mann: When posting social media content on Facebook, Twitter, and even Pinterest, do not use ambiguous copy! Be descriptive and use the full search term with which you want to be associated. You should be able to take each important keyword out of context and still understand the premise. All social networks have search functionality built in, so by including your full keywords within the copy or description, you are increasing your brand's exposure for relevant searches on that social channel.

So, how can the hotel industry benefit from improving their social media strategy with SEO?

Kelsey Nupnau: If your hotel is allowed to use vanity email addresses based on your vanity (standalone) domain, use them rather than using a gmail or yahoo account. The more exposure you can give to your website's domain name, the better! Also, if your hotel has outstanding photography, get it on Pinterest and be sure to describe each picture well, use the word hotel, and link to a relevant page of your website in case someone wants to click-through to learn more information.

Andrea Mann: Hotels should reinforce their messaging online and offline to be consistent with how they want to be found by shoppers. A hotel marketing team should decide whether they want to brand themselves as the "hotel overlooking Navy Pier" versus the "hotel within walking distance to Navy Pier" and then remain uniform in all marketing efforts. If a hotel coordinates every message sent to shoppers through all of the various online channels, they will create a longer lasting impression and they can eventually impact the way people search for the hotel.

Read more BMI highlights from other Social Media Week Chicago 2013 sessions.

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Times are changing - the pound sign is now a hashtag, tweets aren't just for birds, and brands want things shared more than a kindergarten teacher. This past week, the Blue Magnet Interactive team set off to explore several educational seminars hosted by Chicago's Social Media Week to stay on the forefront of the everchanging online social landscape. Our online marketing team is eager to share how their key takeaways from these sessions can translate into successful hotel social media marketing campaigns.

SocialMediaKeyboard

Read BMI's highlights from our Social Media Week adventures below:

 

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At Blue Magnet Interactive, we are passionate about hotel online marketing and we care tremendously about the success of our clients' online marketing campaigns. As one of the founders of Blue Magnet, my primary focus is company growth and new business development. While it's easy to get labeled as "that sales guy," I am not in the practice of throwing out a bunch of BS to get the sale; rather, I try to express Blue Magnet's true goal of positively impacting the hotel's bottom line by being honest and transparent about what they will need to be successful. Blue Magnet is not the type of marketing company that will sell you excessive full-scope packages that are unnecessary for your hotel, nor will we nickel and dime you every time you request an update to your hotel's website. That's never in your best interest, and, consequently, it's not in ours either. Because we know that hotel online marketing is rarely a one-size-fits all approach, we analyze your needs and then create a custom online marketing plan that maximizes your success AND fits within your hotel's budget. 

As many hoteliers have learned through past negative experiences working with the wrong online marketing companies, hotels need to exercise caution in selecting an online marketing partner. Every online marketing vendor operates differently, but being able to spot the warning signs of a bad partnership before you sign on the dotted line can save you a lot of headaches in the end.

When did you last speak to your hotel online marketing vendor?

Here are 7 warning signs that your hotel may be working with the wrong marketing agency:

  1. Lack of Transparency – Avoid vendors who fail to disclose how much time they commit to your account each month and don't provide details regarding the actual tasks they are performing. We're in the service industry, and we are providing our time and that must be budgeted each month. I can't tell you how many times I've spoken with a potential client who is comparing us to a competitor and they say, "Well they're providing the same services, but their cost is $200 per month." The response that is immediately triggered in my mind is: "Really!?! Hmmm. Something doesn't add up. How it is possible that my competitor is providing the exact same services each month yet can execute the services in a fourth of the time Blue Magnet is budgeting?" I've been in the marketing business a long time and I will tell you that for $200/month, they are not putting in the hours necessary for your hotel to be successful in any one online marketing channel (SEO, social, website management, etc), let alone a campaign that focuses on all channels. The bottom line is that this stuff takes time and there is NO automated system that completes all these tasks at a push of a button. 
  2. Spread Too Thin – Avoid vendors that assign you to an account manager who services 15+ other hotels. Unless the account manager is providing an extremely focused level of services for 15+ hotels (i.e. just link building), there is no way your campaign is going to receive the level of dedication needed for success. My advice is to ask your potential vendor if you will have a dedicated account manager and how many accounts each manager handles at any given time.
  3. Proprietary Content Management Systems – Avoid vendors that box you into a proprietary content management system. Most likely you will need a scalable and transferable solution. Over time, the needs of your organization will change, and potentially so could your online marketing vendor. If your website is powered by a proprietary CMS, should you need to transition to a new vendor or bring website management in-house, you will likely have to rebuild your entire website since you will be extremely limited in the content, aesthetic, and SEO updates that you can make on the proprietary CMS. Stick with open source CMS solutions like Joomla, Drupal, or Wordpress instead--they're flexible and can be migrated anywhere you decide to move your business.
  4. Expensive Website Hosting Fees – Be careful with vendors that charge you $200+ for their in-house hosting solution. Instead, ask your marketing agency to consider using a 3rd party hosting provider which could cost as little as $10-$50/month depending on your needs. In most cases your hotel website will only require basic hosting services. For $10-$50/month, this cost includes all the server maintenance, account login, and customer service support that you need. More demanding sites will certainly require more powerful hosting needs, but many basic hotel websites can succeed with some of the more inexpensive options.
  5. Unrealistic Guarantees – Avoid vendors that guarantee first place organic rankings in the major search engines. There are no guarantees in SEO and any company that offers them is likely using spammy/black-hat SEO tactics that will hurt your site's search engine ranking in the long run. While Blue Magnet has years of experience understanding how a hotel website can gain high rankings on search engines, no vendor has ultimate control of how Google displays and ranks hotel websites. That will continue to be in the hands of Google. A reputable vendor will be upfront about the personalization of search and the constant changes that the search engines institute which will affect your rank. For this reason, your SEO strategy should not be a "set it and forget it" strategy. Success comes from consistent and continual focus on all aspects of SEO.
  6. Automation Only – It is true that there are many wonderful tools that hotel internet marketers use as a means to maximize the potential of our internet marketing campaigns and in some instances streamline/automate our efforts. This, however, in no way means that these tools remove the necessity of the human element in implementing successful hotel internet marketing campaigns. As I stated above, there are no tools that will successfully automate your entire online marketing campaign.
  7. Level of Service/Response Time – This doesn't take a lot of explanation. If it is taking your vendor 7+ days to respond to you, I wouldn't consider that a true partnership. Blue Magnet account managers typically respond same day or at least within 24 hours. More importantly, it is not all about your vendor waiting for you to contact them. I think it is important for a vendor to be proactive in their account management, which means that in more cases than not, the vendor is reaching out to you even when you have not made a request. Blue Magnet always ensures that our team is proactive in its management of your account, consistent in our communication with your hotel, and innovative in the way we test new marketing channels and strategies. 

Above all, a successful online marketing partnership should be mutually beneficial for both the hotel and the vendor. It is crucial that you choose a vendor that will become a long-term partner for you and your online marketing crusades. Turning over vendors frequently will only stall your success, as you look to build your campaign back up from where the old vendor left off. Looking for the right online marketing vendor is much like looking for the right life partner--you want someone who is honest and transparent, someone who makes time for you, and someone who always sticks to their word. When those conditions are met, the revenue will be sure to follow...and, of course, the love.

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It's very possible that Katharyn Vera, Senior Marketing Manager at Blue Magnet Interactive, has cloned herself.  There's no other way to explain how one person can successfully manage so many different projects and internal company initiatives at once. And it seems that this advanced scientific knowhow has rocketed Katharyn right into the grips of the August Blue Magneteer Award!

Now, I don't have proof of her conducting advanced genetic research at her desk, nor have I ever had any chance encounters with Katharyn doppelgangers on the streets of Chicago; however, if the 1996 blockbuster comedy Multiplicity starring Michael Keaton is any indication of what science is capable of these days, then I'd say that Katharyn has certainly been paying attention. 

Katharyn wins the August 2013 Blue Magneteer Award!

It all makes perfect sense now.  As I understand it, here is how the Katharyns work together to keep Blue Magnet running like the well-oiled cloning machine that it is:

  1. Katharyn #1 trains new and existing team member on how to properly manage Blue Magnet's full array of hotel online marketing services, preparing them to be future Blue Magneteers (sans the cloning).
  2. Katharyn #2 expertly manages her own full plate of client hours, pushing her hotels' performance to new heights.
  3. Katharyn #3 helps organize and structure internal Blue Magnet processes to improve the efficiency of managing our projects, including web design and development.
  4. Katharyn #4 troubleshoots perplexing development challenges, such as .htaccess modifications, CMS configurations, responsive website setups and reservation widget problems.
  5. Katharyn #5 just hangs around waiting for any extra project to become available so she can offer to take the lead and totally crush it.
  6. Katharyn #6 plans team-building events and hosts Blue Magnet parties to keep the whole team smiling like the butcher's dog.
  7. Katharyn #7 covers the tracks of the other 6 Katharyns and ensures that their true identities remain secret.

Of course, the biggest pitfall of such a plan, as cautioned in Multiplicity, is that "sometimes a copy from a copy is not quite as sharp as the original."  Fortunately, Katharyn appears to have improved upon the cloning technology of 1996, since none of these clones seem to have suffered any loss of quality as a result of being copied. Although this would explain why Katharyn #6 has been seen running into walls every now and then. Although, we always chalked it up as an inevitable byproduct of her awesome parties. 

Regardless of how she does it, Blue Magnet owes a big thank you to all the Katharyns for the tremendous dedication they've put towards every project their 14 hands have touched. Best of all, it appears that Katharyn #1 has already begun to share her advanced genetic technology with other account managers, as we've notice several team members exhibiting similar talents of late. As a result, Blue Magnet has never been more productive and efficient. 

Thank you for all your hard work, Katharyns! Your extra effort gives me an even greater pride in Blue Magnet...and an odd hankering for some Doublemint gum.

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It's time to kick the old Frommer's guides and outdated maps to the curb and start using your hotel standalone website as a one-stop shop for guests seeking area info. They already skimmed through your website while searching for hotels in the area and then booked a room online. Now, start positioning the site as a helpful tool for the guest to reference while staying at the hotel.

Hoteliers may look at a standalone site as a booking engine, where a YOY increase in revenue is the only good news to come from an online marketer's mouth. However, I challenge you to exceed guest expectations by using your standalone site as a tool for guest satisfaction during their stay. From identifying points of interest within the hotel to explaining local transportation and highlighting nearby events, you can transform your hotel's website into an experience engine that guests can use throughout their stay.

How To Rethink Your Website Content

Beyond making tweaks and updates to the site that are valuable from an SEO standpoint, begin thinking about the kind of content that your guests will find useful and actually want to read. Valuable information to feature on your standalone site includes:

  • Area Attractions & Local Events: I always highly suggest building out a comprehensive Things to Do page on hotel websites. From a marketing standpoint, not only will your keyword strategy benefit from these area guide pages, but a Things to Do page will also allow your property to better connect with local partners and guests. From area attractions to shopping and entertainment, there is always something nearby that can pique guests' interests before and during their stay. Perhaps you have crafted a detailed landing page about the best Honky-Tonk bars nearby with your expert insider tips. Transform what was perhaps initially intended only for search engine performance into something valuable for guests by leaving the page up on an iPad at the front desk.

honky tonks a honky tonks b

Do your guests need a BART route map while in the San Francisco Bay area? They can easily find a public transit map on your standalone site that also marks your hotel's location. If your site's layout is mobile optimized, they will have an easy-to-use map at their fingertips throughout their stay.

bart example a bart example b

Your guests will appreciate your team's insider knowledge. Make sure the front desk staff and concierge are aware of what is available on the website so that they can point out the information available to a guest on-the-go versus sifting through a pile of flyers and maps.

  • Local Partnerships: Are you closely aligned with local organizations and attractions that guests may be interested in during their travels? Your guests will find it useful to be able to book tickets to these partnering attractions right on your hotel's site. As a hotelier, you likely receive discounts or complimentary tickets to some area sites that you can offer to guests exclusively on your website. I suggest crafting a page--possibly an expansion of the Things to Do page--on your standalone site that asks guest to inquire directly on your site about these local activities. Direct guests to contact your sales staff or concierge desk when booking a limo for a bachelorette party, a day trip to a nearby vineyard, or spa services. This content is not only helpful as guests book their stay, but also during their stay as they make last minute local arrangements.

online ticket purchase

  • Blog: As a content marketer, I love to encourage hoteliers to effectively use blogs as part of their website. Not only can an active blog improve your search engine rankings, but it can also provide great resources and insider secrets for guests. Did you recently write a blog post highlighting your hotel's green initiatives? Why not direct your guests to this blog article during their stay rather than printing out an extra piece of paper to include this information. A window vinyl with a QR code, green emblem, and "We've gone green!" statement could be a great way to direct guests to this fresh, unique information on the site.
  • Social Media: Are your social media icons and feeds easily visible on your site? Effectively displaying these social channels on the site will encourage guests to connect with the hotel online before and during their visit. Your tweets and daily Facebook posts now have another channel by which to reach your guests. Set the homepage on your business center computers to default to the page on the standalone site where guests can find the Twitter feed running. Broadcasting your social feeds on-site is a simple way to get the information noticed and will motivate guests to check-in or post about the hotel on their own social media channels.

standalone social feed

  • Full-Service Amenities: Standalone hotel websites allow hoteliers to highlight full-service amenities more than a standard brand site ever could. Properly reviewing all of the hotel's amenities is an important facet of your guest's journey as they book online, but these dedicated website components can also come in handy during their stay. Eliminate the need for random flyers highlighting special deals and events, and add all relevant information to your standalone site. This way, guests are led to one spot online as they search for dining deals or determine what spa services they want to book. Keep guests and locals coming back to your property by frequently posting special dishes, events, and exclusive deals.
  • Newsletter: Someone on your staff may already be combining local events, discounts, and employee highlights into a newsletter on a monthly basis. Make sure this newsletter is refreshed on the website each month. Then, post your newsletter in the lobby or elevator to provide guests with reading material. Include a QR code on the page so that they may continue reading and revisit the page later on during their stay.

Challenge Accepted!

I hope you have accepted my challenge to think of your standalone site as more than a booking engine. At Blue Magnet, we always tell hoteliers that a user-friendly and informative website can maximize the hotel's online presence and help the hotel act as a "local concierge" for guests. With the aforementioned ideas for content and on-property website promotion in mind, it is time to squeeze all of the value out of your hotel's standalone website! 

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Superstar Blue Magnet Senior Account Manager Katharyn Molinaro recently partnered with VFM Leonardo to share her experiences managing a successful online marketing campaign for the Hilton San Diego Bayfront hotel. Check out her video below: 

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Kelsey Nupnau hits the Blue Magneteer Award jackpot!

Kelsey Nupnau is no stranger to the bright lights of fabulous Las Vegas. In fact, it was her fastidious SEO efforts and hotel marketing prowess on behalf of her Las Vegas hotel client that helped launch her into this month's Blue Magneteer Award. But though her hotel client may stand tall in the heart of Sin City, Kelsey's online marketing tactics are totally clean; there's nothing but whitehat SEO in this house, and as any rehabilitated gambler will tell you: The house always wins

And win she did. Kelsey gave the Prize Wheel of Destiny a familar spin, like an old pro come out of retirmement for one final game. Conjuring fond memories of her days raking in fortunes at the roulette table, Kelsey watched as the prize wheel made it's final turn in slow motion. She closed her eyes. "No more bets," a distant voice echoed in her mind.  She took a deep breath, clearing her mind like a basketball player just before taking the game-winning free throw shot. One more click of the wheel...and then silence.  

She slowly opened her eyes and a smile crept across her face. A cool $15 gift card to Starbucks was her reward. As she walked away from the table that day she never once looked back. But she knew she hadn't seen the last of that wheel. She'd be back. And next time, the PTO day would be hers. Oh yes, it would be hers. 

A simple look at the overall visitors for this Las Vegas hotel website from September 2012 to August 2013 in the graph below shows the payoff from Kelsey's marketing efforts: sweet, sweet organic website growth! 

Las Vegas hotel visitor growth

In fact, the relatively new hotel website realized a 600% growth in revenue in Q2 versus Q1 of this year!  Additionally, Kelsey's fun and engaging Facebook campaigns, contests and community outreach have increased the number of new Facebook fans for her hotel by 350 users in a single week! This is complemented by 34 new content entries submitted for the hotel's Facebook contest in that same week. By integrating organic SEO, local search optimization, social media and targeted hotel marketing channels, Kelsey has managed to turn a potential gamble into a sure bet.

With that in mind, a big congratulations goes out to Kelsey Nupnau, our July 2013 winner and second recipient of the monthly Blue Magneteer Award! Thank you, Kelsey, for helping to make Blue Magnet awesome!

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The Blue Magneteer Award goes to Brittany Aller!

The Blue Magneteer Award for June 2013 goes to Internet Marketing Manager Brittany Aller for her exceptional client work and resulting performance increases! With an effortless flick of the mighty Prize Wheel of Destiny, Brittany's fate lay in the balance.  She waited with bated breath, hands folded in anticipation, her eyes wide with excitement, as the wheel wound through its final revolutions.  A hush fell over the crowd as team members leaned forward in their seats, anxiously waiting as the wheel clicked, clickkkkk, clickkkkkkkked to a final stop on...the line! The very first spin of the Prize Wheel of Destiny landed on a line between two prizes: an extra vacation day and a $10 Dunkin' Donuts gift card!

This unexpected turn of events called for a quick deliberation of the judges. It was a close call, and we had neither the time nor the scientific instruments to determine (from a molecular level) on which slice of the wheel the pointer fell. In the end, the vacation day seemed like a more fitting prize and the judges' decision was final.  

Brittany's award resulted from many months of hard work for a hotel client in the southwestern United States. This client's new standalone website has tremendous potential in terms of functionality and revenue-generating opportunities, and Brittany's contribution was to improve reporting capabilities, increase on-site engagement and highlight unique selling features of the hotel. Brittany also credits Senior Account Manager Katharyn Molinaro for her valuable assistance in making suggestions, answering questions and general guidance with the standalone site.

In addition to a happy client, Brittany's hard work and targeted marketing strategy paid off with some impressive stats for her site, including:

  • Overall site visits increased by 31%
  • Reservations increased by 43%
  • Room Nights increased by 16%
  • Revenue increased by 43%
  • June numbers are already looking to follow in this pattern

Congratulations once again to Brittany for all her hard work and for being our very first Blue Magneteer! We hope you enjoy your extra day off!

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Kim Armour at the wheelKim Armour is a woman with a vision. A vision where all Blue Magnet Team members are created equal (although some team members would be found to be more equal than others)! A vision for rewarding the creme-de-la-creme of internet marketing managers each month in an ostentatious showering of praise and prize. A true vision of Blue Magnet success.  In fact, it may have been a vision inadvertantly induced by the intoxicating aroma of our dry erase markers, but it's a vision nonetheless.

And thus, the Blue Magneteer Award was born.

The product of this vision is a prize wheel so grand that it serves as an affront to all other prize wheels. It is the Prize Wheel of Destiny.  Prizes range from free lunches to gift cards to extra vacation days to free flex days. However, the most coveted part of the wheel is the "Spin Again" slice, which gives the Blue Magneteer the opportunity to continue the joys of spinning a novelty prize wheel for what could be an infinite number of spins (should the team member play their cards right). 

Overall, Blue Magnet wants to reward its team for the extraordinary work and amazing personalities that make our company the best around.  Our business is only as good as our team, and the fact that Blue Magnet has primarily grown its client base by word-of-mouth referrals is simply a testament to the amazing things our people do on a daily basis. The Blue Magneteer Award acknowledges team members who have gone above and beyond Blue Magnet's already high bar and made a difference in our company.  

A big thanks to Kim (shown above during the wheel's construction) for helping to conceptualize and also create this fun monthly celebration! Technically, she is the original Blue Magneteer for all the hard work she's put into making our team stronger.  We'll be announcing upcoming Blue Magneteers on our blog each month so be on the lookout for the next big winner!

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