Posted in Hotel Online Marketing on August 06, 2013 by Matt Bitzer
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:
Posted in Blue Magnet News on August 05, 2013 by Matt Bitzer
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!
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!
Posted in Blue Magnet News on July 31, 2013 by Matt Bitzer
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:
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!
Posted in Blue Magnet News on July 31, 2013 by Matt Bitzer
Kim 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!
Posted in Social Media on July 29, 2013 by Kelsey Nupnau
Facebook is an extremely open platform, meaning that everyone is allowed to share their photos and tag the hotel they are staying at on Facebook. So for instance, someone can check into a hotel, upload a picture and post the update on their personal Facebook profile. With that in mind, how can hoteliers benefit from these tagged photos?
With the introduction of Facebook Graph Search, hoteliers are able to see the public photos in which their hotel is tagged and can use those photos (share them) on their hotel's Facebook page as valuable content! This gives hotels the ability to see which features of their hotel attract guests most based on their photos of the hotel, in addition to any feedback or review that gets posted with that picture. Sharing tagged photos on the hotel’s Facebook page can also provide an authentic glimpse of the hotel experience for future guests, as captured by a previous guest.
Public Posts vs. Private Posts
When a guest posts a photo and tags the hotel in that photo, it does not mean the picture will be added to the hotel's business Facebook page. The photo will be added to the guest's personal Facebook profile (timeline). If the person does not have strict privacy settings on Facebook and allows their posts to be made public, any photo they tag of a hotel will appear in a Facebook Graph Search, as well as in "Photos Taken Here" on that hotel's Facebook page in Facebook's Mobile App.
If a person does have strict privacy settings on Facebook and uploads and tags the hotel in a private post, others will not be able to see the photo through Facebook Graph Search unless they are Facebook friends with that person. Also, these private posts will not appear in the "Photos Taken Here" section on the hotel's Facebook page in Facebook's Mobile App.
You can tell if a post is public or private by looking at the icons on the post or picture:
Public post icon:
Private/Friends only post icon:
Facebook Graph Search and the Facebook Mobile App affect the way potential guests see your hotel and allow you as a hotelier to share and monitor the type of public content your hotel gets tagged in. Here are a couple of things you need to take note of:
By discovering how people are tagging your hotel in public photos, you will gain insight into the type of content your guests share, allowing you to re-share that fresh and interesting content on your hotel's Facebook page. Also, by monitoring these tagged images, you can request removal of any inappropriate or incorrectly tagged photos.
First things first, you need to understand the difference between doing a Facebook Graph Search and using Facebook's Mobile App to view your hotel's Facebook page.
What is Facebook Graph Search?
Need a quick recap of what Facebook Graph Search is? Click here for an overview on how Facebook's newest search function affects you as a hotel. Follow these three steps to conduct a Facebook Graph Search and see what public photos your hotel is tagged in:
Once you've entered your Facebook Graph Search query, you will see results similar to the screenshot below. You can see that someone has tagged your hotel in a photo with swans and you know for a fact that there are no swans at your hotel. This could have been a result of someone not taking into account what he or she tagged when posting the photo (they may have tagged the wrong hotel).
Moving down the results further, you see an inappropriate picture tagged at your hotel:
Now, do not panic. If you are an admin of your hotel's Facebook page, you can request that incorrectly tagged or inappropriate photos are removed from Facebook. Before we dive into how to get these removed, let's understand how these same photos are viewed on a mobile device.
How does "Photos Taken Here" affect my hotel's Facebook page on the Facebook Mobile App?
The "Photos Taken Here" section pulls in public photos that people tagged of your hotel on Facebook and places them after the "Recommendations" section on your Hotel's Facebook Page in Facebook's Mobile App.
So, if someone goes on vacation and posts a public photo on Facebook and tags your hotel, that photo will show in the "Photos Taken Here" section. Here is how it looks:
First, you will see the details of where your hotel is located along with the ability to like, check in, and call the hotel.
As you scroll down, you will see recommendations in addition to an area for someone to recommend the hotel. Next you will see "Photos Taken Here." In the example above, you can see that the inappropriate photo tagged at our hotel is included in the "photos taken here" section.
So, how do you untag these photos?
Removal requests from your company's Facebook Page
If you want to report a photo from your Hotel's Facebook Page it needs to meet one of the following requirements:
To report a photo from your Hotel's Facebook Page follow these 5 steps:
What happens if Facebook does not accept my removal request?
Your personal Facebook account will get a notification regarding the removal request you submitted through your Company's page:
When opening the report, you will see the following:
At this point, I recommend asking the person to remove the photo. You will now need to do this from your personal Facebook account. Or, create a personal Facebook account as the Director of Sales or Revenue Management that you use specifically for handling these types of requests. You can report it right away by clicking the "Ask [Person's Name] to remove this photo."
Removal Requests from your Personal Facebook Account
If you want to report a photo from your personal Facebook account it needs to meet one of the following:
In the case of the picture above--which is not a picture of your hotel--I recommend reporting it from your Personal Facebook account so that you can be specific in your message on why you don't like the photo (ie, because it is not a picture at your hotel).
Follow these 5 steps to remove tagged photos using your personal Facebook account:
What does this mean for hotel marketers?
As a hotelier, one of the best marketing tools at your disposal is a review from a guest. With the introduction of Facebook Graph Search and the ability of Facebook users to share their stories and publicly tag your hotel in photos, you can get a visual review instantly from your guests just by searching for publicly tagged photos of your hotel. These posts of public photos makes your life easier as a hotelier because you can share these photos as content on your hotel's Facebook page!
Of course, there will be instances where Facebook users tag your hotel by accident (when it should have been a different hotel or business) or share inappropriate photos. Luckily, you are able to find these tagged public photos through Facebook Graph Search and can take the necessary steps to remove them.
Looking ahead, I think it will be important for Facebook to take into consideration how "Photos Taken Here" affects a hotel's Facebook Mobile Page. I feel that it is far more important to have a section on the hotel's Facebook Mobile Page that displays professional pictures taken by the hotel rather than the "Photos Taken Here" section displaying so prominently. Should a potential guest be visiting the hotel's Facebook page from the Facebook Mobile App, it would be very helpful for them to see professional pictures of the hotel itself before looking at the section on "Photos Taken Here."
Until Facebook adds a section for photos taken by the hotel, as a hotelier, you will need to monitor these publicly tagged photos on a regular basis, or assign a professional like Blue Magnet Interactive to do so on behalf of the hotel. Once you choose someone to monitor tagged photos, they will need to check your hotel’s Facebook page on the mobile application under "Photos Taken Here," or do a Facebook Graph Search to find "Photos of [Insert Hotel Name]." When you see an inappropriate or irrelevant photo, you will need to report it or work with Facebook to either untag your hotel or get the photos taken down altogether. In many cases, you will have to connect with the person who originally posted and tagged your hotel in the photo (through Facebook messaging) and ask them to remove the photo or the tag.
Posted in Email Marketing on July 17, 2013 by Tim Dale
Email Marketing campaigns have been around for a while in the hotel industry. It may not be the newest or shiniest tool in your marketing mix utility belt, but it has been tried, tested, and proven to be beneficial. Older does not necessarily mean easier, though. There are many tips, tricks, and traps to be mindful of when planning and executing your hotel’s email marketing strategy, particularly in light of new and improved spam filters from popular email clients like Gmail and Outlook.com. Scroll through our Blue Magnet Interactive infographic to learn how to build strong, effective, and meaningful campaigns.
Click the infographic below to enlarge the image.
Posted in Online Travel Agencies on July 11, 2013 by Abby Heft
MapQuest recently announced a new partnership with Priceline, which will give users the ability to book hotels directly from MapQuest search results. Per their April press release, this update includes "the ability to search, compare and book published-price hotel rooms at thousands of quality chain and independent hotels around the world. MapQuest travelers will also have access to Priceline’s database of hotel specials, including instant discounts, free breakfast, free Internet access and more".
If you never thought MapQuest was a channel to pay attention to for your hotel, now is the time to change your tune.
MapQuest: Playing Favorites
It seems as though MapQuest has partnered with a number of hotel brands to specifically highlight as a user searches for hotels.
When you choose a specific brand above, it shows you the nearest hotels to your current location:
At this point, a user can get directions to the hotel, go directly to the hotel's website or book a room. These sponsored listings are pretty straight forward and take the user to the brand website to book.
What About the Other Hotel Brands on MapQuest?
If a guest is looking for a hotel outside of those sponsored brands, there is an option to search for all of the area hotels. This is more of a lion's den - and where the Priceline partnership and the optimization of your hotel's listing come into play.
Using Priceline's inventory, MapQuest shows price comparisons in search results for all area hotels:
A user can dive even deeper into a specific hotel by clicking on the hotel name to view its full MapQuest profile, which has photos, a description, Check-In/Check-Out information and more:
There are 2 ways to book from here - through the hotel website by clicking "Website" or through the Priceline network by clicking "Book Now".
In a perfect world, if a user was looking to book a hotel room from MapQuest, they would find their way to your hotel website and book directly with no cut of the revenue going to an OTA. However, the Book Now button is so much prettier! And it's telling me exactly what to do! By clicking the Book Now button, a user will be taken to the Priceline/Mapquest network at bookings.mapquest.com. The hotel information found on this network pulls directly from a hotel's listing on Priceline and Booking.com (a Priceline affiliate).
So, How Do I Make My Hotel Stand Out?
Great question! In order to be fully optimized on MapQuest, hoteliers need to do 3 things.
1. Claim & update your hotel listing on MapQuest
Once you've gone through the steps to claim your business, be sure all of your hotel information is correct and up to date. Take this opportunity to add a hotel description, photos and a YouTube video from your perfectly optimized YouTube channel.
2. Update your hotel information on Priceline
If you need to remove outdated photos, add new amenities or update any of your hotel information on Priceline, just drop them a line. There is no extranet to manage your Priceline listings, but the content team can make any neccessary updates. Shoot an email with your updated hotel details to firstname.lastname@example.org, and you'll be that much closer to full optimization!
3. Update your hotel information on Booking.com
Login to the Booking.com Extranet to update your hotel information. From here, you can submit new photos or remove outdated photos, add hotel amenities, update room descriptions and details or request updates to your hotel description. The description that displays on your hotel's bookings.mapquest.com listing pulls directly from Booking.com, so be sure all of the information is correct.
Now you're set! Your hotel is going to look great on MapQuest, and hopefully you'll get a boost on your Priceline and Booking.com listings as well. The more complete and up to date your hotel listings are across the web, the more appealing your hotel will be to potential guests during their online research and booking phases. The OTA and Local Search landscape is always changing, so hoteliers need to be aware of how their hotel looks on the different channels and keep its information up to date. No one wants to lose business to a competitor across the street for something as simple as an out-of-date MapQuest listing!
Happy Independence Day, fellow readers! As you celebrate our country's indepedence this July 4th with your friends, family, flags, fireworks, food and 'freshments, please remember what makes this country great: our freedom.
I was always raised to believe that the United States was the land of freedom--freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of speech. As a country, we choose the government leaders we want to lead us. We don't torture people. And our government certainly does not spy on its citizens or engage in unnecessary search and seizure. Other countries do that--countries with oppressive regimes and tyrannical dictators, who monitor their citizens in an effort to crush all opposition and torture dissenters to keep the public in line. Those were examples of how not to run a country...and certainly not the American way.
Sadly, with the recent unveiling of the NSA's massive survellience of the American public, the US government has placed our country's safety above our liberty. This mass spying effort is most certainly unconstitutional under the "unreasonable search and seizure" language of the 4th Amendment of the Constitution. The government has forced companies like Google, Verizon, Microsoft and other major internet and telecommunications companies to hand over private data about you (emails, phone records, etc) to the NSA, all in the name of fighting terrorism. As founding father Benjamin Franklin once said, "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Let's make sure we keep our essential liberties intact this July 4th and bring back the America that we all learned about in grade school. Keeping America safe shouldn't mean turning this country into a police state, nor should it involve sacrificing liberties granted to us by the constitution.
Please make your voices heard to your congressperson to let them know that these actions against the American public are unacceptable. Click the image below to send a message to congress now!
Posted in Hotel Online Marketing on June 28, 2013 by Kelsey Nupnau
Get ready hoteliers! Now more than ever, hotels will need to adjust their business model based on the influx of business coming in from Chinese travelers. In order to prepare for this excellent source of additional revenue, I'll give you some ideas of how your hotel can welcome Chinese travelers and all their precious revenue dollars...or should I say their precious revenue yuan.
Show me the money! ...and other numbers
According to the World Tourism Organization, the number of international travelers coming from China will increase from 10 million in 2000 to more than 100 million by 2020.
Reports are showing a positive trend in the number of Chinese visitors coming to the states and Chinese tourists are now the world's largest spenders. This April, CNN shared a United Nations World Tourism Organization report, stating that Chinese travelers spent $102 billion in 2012, an average of $1,230 per trip! More recently, the U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism Industries reported that Chinese tourists spend an average of $2,900 per trip when visiting California, which has become one of the fastest growing locations for Chinese tourism.
So why the United States? What attracts the Chinese traveler?
In the last 10 years, the earning power has increased for Chinese citizens and various policy changes have gone into effect, making it easier for the Chinese to travel to the U.S. and even obtain visas.
So other than increased travel budgets and the ability to travel easily, what are they interested in when they actually visit the U.S.?
Luxury Goods! According to Wolfgang Georg Arlt, director of the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute, “Luxury goods are 20% to 30% cheaper in other global cities. If you plan to spend $10,000 on shopping and only spend $1,000 on airfare, it’s much cheaper for Chinese tourists to fly abroad to shop.”
How do I market to the Chinese tourist?
There are a LOT of tactics you can put into action as a hotel to make sure you are reaching the Chinese traveler effectively and ultimately get them to book with you. Below is a list of recommendations:
So, what are you waiting for? Take a look at your revenue over the last two years - have you noticed an increase in revenue from China? Do you tend to see many Chinese guests come through your hotel? Is your competition already marketing to the Chinese travel market? These are all questions that your management team should sit down and discuss, and then proceed in developing a marketing plan to target this growing traveler segment!
Posted in Social Media on June 24, 2013 by Stephanie Hilger
One of the keys to tackling social media is staying ahead of the game. Are you paying attention to social media channels that are up and coming? Social networks that are seeing users multiply as fast as Blackhawks fans during playoff season? Most importantly, if you are in the travel industry, are you tackling those niche social media sites that cater to travel enthusiasts?
Enter Gogobot: Travel in the Know. The site launched in 2010 and has not slowed down since. We wrote about it back in 2011, but since then Gogobot has reported over 2 million registered users, a growth of 650% YOY, and they are currently gaining a new member every 15 seconds. In 2011,Time Magazine named Gogobot as one of its “50 Best Websites” and the Gogobot iPhone application was awarded Apple’s "Editor’s Choice" in 2012 in addition to being listed byThe Huffington Post as one of the “Top 12 Social Media Apps for Travel."
Gogobot is comparable to sites such as Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram – combined! You can connect with friends, add places to different categories within your profile, and create “postcards” within the mobile app. Being an avid traveler myself, I’d say Gogobot is a travel lover’s dream combination of a social network and an online travel agency – a place where they can both get and share recommendations from friends and experts AND find the best rates on hotels and airfare. Unlike sites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor which contain reviews from random users, Gogobot provides users with advice on where to stay, what attractions to see, places to eat, and everything in between from friends in their social networks (including Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare) as well as vetted travel experts.
Straight From the Source
I reached out to Connie Chang, Gogobot's Community Development Manager, to get the inside scoop. Here’s what she had to say:
Blue Magnet Interactive: What would you describe as Gogobot's main mission?
BMI: Any tips for users?
BMI: Any exciting upcoming changes? New features?
BMI: What is your personal favorite feature on Gogobot?
BMI: What are some of the Gogobot App highlights?
BMI: What do you want people to know about Gogobot?
BMI: What do you feel are the benefits of being a Gogobot user?
Why Gogobot is Your Hotel’s New Best Friend
Hotel social networkers take note! Creating your own profile is a great opportunity to become the “expert” in your area. Think of your account as an online concierge service. Recommend the best places to eat outside, must see landmarks, pet friendly places, best places to take your kids, summer hotspots, and more through “Gogobot Guides.” Guides can easily be shared with guests if your hotel has a custom website by creating a widget and adding it to the site. In addition to sharing a wealth of area-related information, pay attention to your business’s details on the actual property page. Is your website listed? Are the amenities correct? Do you have high quality photos to add? Right now, these issues can be fixed by emailing the Gogobot team; however, Gogobot has announced that admin tools and the ability to “claim” your business page are in the works! Once these launch, you will be able to make your own edits to your business listing. Users are able to check prices and availability right then and there on property pages, so ensure yours is optimized.
Furthermore, Gogobot Guides and postcards convert into great content for your other social media networks. Have you seen a great guide that mentions an attraction or restaurant nearby your hotel? Did you create a guide to Atlanta or earn any Gogobot badges? Tweet about it or share it on your Facebook page!
Trip Planning Made Easy
Once you’ve logged in, there are plenty of ways to get involved in Gogobot’s online travel community. Plan a trip directly on the site, write a review of somewhere you’ve been, explore destinations and the hot spots within them, or ask the Gogobot community a question (i.e. “I’m heading to Chicago and need advice on places to stay near Wrigley Field - any suggestions?”). As you come across different restaurants and hotels, you are able to add those places to your profile under categories such as “Been Here,” “Want to Go,” or “Add to My Trip.” Within the network, search for people or places at the top of every page, follow your friends, follow city experts, search for destinations & hot spots based on the type of traveler you are (luxury, foodies, families – you name it), and create custom guides & postcards.
There’s An App For That
Within the Gogobot iOS and Android app, users can access trip plans while on the go, create digital postcards, and search for and book hotels, restaurants, and activities in over 60,000 global travel destinations. Newer additions to the Android App grant mobile users the capacity to search & book a hotel on the fly - complete with filters for real time hotel pricing and availability, user rankings, and hotel class.
One of the online marketing challenges that hotels often face is staying ahead of the constantly changing social media scene, especially when working with limited budgets and resources. From Pinterest to Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and everything in between, how does your hotel decide which networks are priorities? According to ustravel.org, the internet is used by 90 million Americans to plan travel, making it the most widely-used information source to plan trips. A quarter of travelers use friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers as a travel planning source. Why is this information relevant? Gogobot is personalized such that reviews of particular places by the user's friends appear higher in search results. By encouraging guests to review your hotel on Gogobot, you better your hotel’s chances at automatically appearing in searches. In turn, recommendations from friends, who are typically a trusted source, are more likely to transfer into new business for your hotel.
While Facebook and Twitter remain the most popular social networks and should be a hotel’s primary focus, if your hotel has a dedicated online marketing team or additional room in the budget for social media marketing, Gogobot is a worthwhile investment. Their niche travel-focused audience gives hotels ample opportunity to stay at the front of the trip planner/ travel lover’s mind and provide a call-to-action to boost conversions.