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!

Tags
Digg!Reddit!Facebook!StumbleUpon! Twitter

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!

Tags
Digg!Reddit!Facebook!StumbleUpon! Twitter

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: 

public-post

Private/Friends only post icon:

private-post

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:

  1. How does your hotel appear in a Facebook Graph Search for the search query "Photos of [Insert your hotel here]"?
  2. When you visit your hotel's Facebook page through Facebook's mobile app (on your mobile device), what does the "Photos Taken Here" look like?

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:

  1. Login to Facebook (use your personal account - it is not rolled out for individual pages just yet)

  2. Click on the search bar
    facebook-graph-search
  3. Start typing in "Photos of [Insert Hotel Name Here]"
    photos-of-facebook-graph-search

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).

Facebook Tagged Photos

Moving down the results further, you see an inappropriate picture tagged at your hotel:

Facebook tagged photos

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:

hotel-facebook-remove-photo

To report a photo from your Hotel's Facebook Page follow these 5 steps:

  1. Login to your personal Facebook account and switch to "Use Facebook as your hotel"
  2. Click on the picture you want to report. You can also copy the link of the picture when you find it, switch to your hotel page and paste the picture link into your browser in order to view and report it.
  3. Click "Options"
  4. Click "Report"
  5. Follow the remaining steps to submit your request

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:

Facebook Photo Review Notification

When opening the report, you will see the following:

Facebook Photo Review Explanation

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:

personal-facebook-remove-photo

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:

  1. Login to your personal Facebook account
  2. Click on the picture you want to report.
  3. Click "Options"
  4. Click "Report"
    facebook-photo-reporting
  5. Facebook will then guide you through the remaining steps.

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.

As a hotel marketer, how do you feel about tagged photos of your hotel publicly displaying in Facebook Graph Search? Share your thoughts by tweeting to @Blue_Magnet or @KNupMktg

Tags , ,
Digg!Reddit!Facebook!StumbleUpon! Twitter

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. 

Download a larger version of the infographic (PDF).

Download a larger version of the Infographic (JPG).

Click the infographic below to enlarge the image.

bluemagnet-emailmarketinginfographic-large2

Digg!Reddit!Facebook!StumbleUpon! Twitter

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.

MapQuest Hotels

 

When you choose a specific brand above, it shows you the nearest hotels to your current location:

Holiday Inn Mapquest

 

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:

Mapquest prices

 

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:

Mapquest hotel listing

 

There are 2 ways to book from here - through the hotel website by clicking "Website" or through the Priceline network by clicking "Book Now".

hotel listing mapquest

 

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

Search for your hotel on MapQuest. If it hasn't been claimed already, you'll have the option to Claim this Business:

claim hotel 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 merchantupdates@priceline.com,  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!

Tags , , , ,
Digg!Reddit!Facebook!StumbleUpon! Twitter

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!

Happy 4th of July, NSA!

 

Digg!Reddit!Facebook!StumbleUpon! Twitter

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.

show-me-the-moneyReports 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:

  • Optimize Your OTA Listings: Is your hotel listed on Ctrip, one of the largest Chinese OTAs on the web? If not, make sure you add or update your listing right away. Plus, you can work with your OTA market manager and come up with a solution to market to these travelers through an advertisement campaign that will make sense for your hotel. When optimizing your listing, make sure you expand upon amenities available at your hotel and note any local shopping centers or attractions that would attract Chinese travelers. Hotels marketing to Chinese travelers should also verify that their hotel is listed and optimized on eLong (part of Expedia) which is the second most popular Chinese OTA.
  • Go Social: Consider testing and advertising on Weibo, a Chinese micro-blogging service that looks similar to Facebook and Twitter. This set of slides will teach you how to setup an account on Weibo and you can see how brands, like Pizza Hut, use it effectively here. Below is an example of China Daily's (Chinese newspaper) Weibo account:
    Weibo Profile
  • Make Them Comfortable: Promote various on-property amenities that will welcome Chinese tourists, such as Mandarin-speaking staff members, in-room tea kettles and slippers, and that you accept international payments. Another big amenity is Wi-Fi. Chinese travelers, like all modern travelers, use their mobile phones regularly, so providing access to the Internet is a must!
  • Extended Stay & Advanced Purchased Packages: Chinese travelers tend to book longer stays, well in advance. Do you have some sort of extended stay package or an advance purchase offer that rewards visitors for booking ahead of time and actualizing their stay?
  • Shopping Packages: Since many Chinese tourists may be coming to the U.S. to indulge in a shopping vacation, why not provide them a package that encourages them to visit the luxury mall near your hotel?
  • Create a Mandarin Version of your Website: One thing I've heard from various hotels, especially those without Mandarin-speaking staff, is that Chinese speaking travelers do not communicate with the hotel, primarily due to the language barrier. Why not make your guests feel more comfortable by directing them to a custom version of your website that provides answers to any questions they have during their stay with you, or even before booking? Not only will this encourage communication between you and your Chinese guests, but it will put you on the market as a hotel that welcomes the Chinese traveler!

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!

 

Tags ,
Digg!Reddit!Facebook!StumbleUpon! Twitter

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 Home Page

Gogo-what?

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?
Connie Chang:Our goal is to be the go-to travel site for trusted travel advice from trusted experts and friends. We want to be the site that will make people say when they use it, "How did I ever travel without this service?"

BMI: Any tips for users?
CC:We recently launched group trip planning, which makes it more easy and fun to create trip plans with the people you are traveling with.

BMI: Any exciting upcoming changes? New features?
CC:We just launched a way for users to tag their reviews [see image below] to help others see which traveler types (aka Tribes) they think places are good for. I've tagged Millenium Park as good for Arts & Culture, Family Travel, and Outdoors & Adventure. If you scan the reviews, you'll see that we also show the reviewer's expertise level in that destination (e.g. I'm an expert in Chicago)--a great signal to help travelers browsing our site for info.

Gogobot Review Tag

BMI: What is your personal favorite feature on Gogobot?
CC: "Ask a Question" is my favorite feature on the site. I've found great gems recommended by fellow travelers that I probably would not have found if just researching on my own.  

BMI: What are some of the Gogobot App highlights?
CC:Probably the most notable feature is our integration with Google Street View for Android, which uses the phone’s compass to turn your Android device into a virtual window, with 360-degree panoramic views of any location within our database. We also offer versions of our Android app in Japanese, Italian, German, Portuguese and Hebrew.

BMI: What do you want people to know about Gogobot?
CC: We are nearing the 1M review milestone!

BMI: What do you feel are the benefits of being a Gogobot user?
CC: Not only do Gogobot users receive the most personalized and trusted travel advice from experts and friends, they are recognized for their contribution on the site. Our most active users are acknowledged as our Gogobot Pros, and they receive exclusive invites to fun community events and cool swag.

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!

Gogobot Social Media Example

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.  

Now What?

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.

Tags , ,
Digg!Reddit!Facebook!StumbleUpon! Twitter

Last week, Google took another step in encouraging site owners to properly optimize their mobile websites. And by "encouraging" I mean "forcing site owners do so under penalty of mobile search obscurity." But Google's not one to penalize indiscriminately (ha, almost typed that with a straight face), and has offered to set us wayward webfolk on the right track with their guide to building mobile-optimized websites and their list of common mistakes in smartphone sites.  But it looks like this is just the beginning, as Google continues to impress upon the web world the importance of properly optimizing your mobile website.  And in true Google fashion, failure to heed their warnings can result in a dark void where your mobile traffic used to be.

Yes, yes, we get it: mobile is important

falling pianoLike many of you, my mobile phone is always with me. When I'm eating breakfast I'm scrolling through tech blogs; On my train commute to work I'm checking my emails; During the day it sits next to my laptop, alerting me to dinner plans via text messaging; and at night it's perched on the edge of my nightstand like a gargoyle, its cycloptic "charging light" eye casting a faint green glow across my pillow, watching me as I sleep.

I spend so much time with my smartphone that if the cell radiation FUD stories are true, someday my phone and I may literally be joined at the hip in some sort of biological mutant technomonstrosity.  And I know I'm not alone, because I see others out there that spend even more time on their smartphones than I do: texting while driving, walking while browsing, Facebooking while intoxicated, playing Angry Birds under a falling piano, and any number of potentially hilarious and deadly situations...well, funny if they were cartoon characters. 

Yes indeed, mobile optimized sites are important.  Especially for those businesses in the travel industry (I'm looking at you, hotels). After all, travelers tend to do what they do best: travel. And that means their on-the-go lifestyle goes hand-in-hand with mobile website accessibilty.

Website success 3 years ago ≠ Mobile site success this year

In the past your hotel might have been able to get by with a poor mobile presence. Maybe your standard website performed admirably in the search results, plus it was a few years back so mobile wasn't as ubiquitous as it is today. In those days--the good old days, you remind yourself--a mobile site for your hotel was just another bit of eye candy for the main attraction: your standard desktop site.

And let's face it, you just didn't have the budget this year to create a mobile-optimized site anyway. It happens. And in the good ol' days, you could always plead ignorance to the SEO gods and beg for forgiveness if your hotel's website performed poorly on smartphones and other mobile devices. You knew the search giants didn't really scrutinize mobile sites the way they do your normal desktop site, so you focused your energy on those standard webpages instead. Plus, maybe mobile traffic to your site was still in its infancy. Still, seeing this the SEO gods would shake their heads from on high and tsk-tsk your decision to remain mobile-averse, like a parent does their reckless teen.  "Foolish mortals," they'd mutter with arms crossed, all the while planning your site's impending doom with a swift and righteous algorithm change that would quickly smite your site's humble existence from the face of the internet.

The SEO gods are angry, my friends.  And only an offering of a well-optimized mobile site will quell their tempestuous rage!

Evaluating your website using common sense

Sure, none of your website's Flash videos play on iPhone or Android phones--replaced instead by an imposing white block smack dab in the middle of your homepage--but at least the text still shows up, you assure yourself. And despite the fact that your webpages take 5 minutes to load on a 4G smartphone, you shrug your shoulders and rationalize that patience truly is an underappreciated virtue, and your website is simply giving your visitors a chance to appreciate that virtue more than they ever have before. Use common sense--if those things drive you crazy on others' mobile sites, then why would you force the same horrible user experience on guests of your own site?  It's bad for business.

It's time to change your ways before it's too late. By now you should have some form of smartphone presence, but is it truly optimized for smaller screens and slower internet speeds? Fortunately, Google provides a roadmap of sorts to help you sort through your mobile site issues.  Let's have a look.

Explaining the common mistakes on smartphone websites

Check out Google's official developers portal for the full list of common mistakes you'll find in your smartphone website, but here's a quick breakdown with a few explanations and images:

  1. Flash videos and other unplayable videos - iPhones don't play Flash videos.  Neither do Android phones.  This means that if your beautiful desktop website has an amazing Flash slideshow at the top of your page, your mobile guests will see a big white void in its place.  It's annoying to mobile visitors. Plus, with HTML5 taking shape with specific tags for video, there's no reason you have to rely on Flash for slideshows or videos. Avoid providing crappy usability for your mobile guests.
    Adobe Flash fail on smartphone
  2. Redirecting mobile users to the wrong page - Your website can be set up to detect whether a user is arriving from a mobile browser or a desktop browser.  Depending on which is detected, your site can present a different page to guests (mobile vs desktop).  Are guests looking for your hotel's wedding page on their mobile devices? Set up the site so that it redirects those visitors to the mobile wedding page instead of sending them to the mobile homepage, like so:
    Correct mobile redirectsOn the other hand, let's say you only have a single mobile page.  And let's say your mobile guests try to access your dining, accommodations and wedding pages.  If you redirected all these visitors to your mobile homepage because you didn't have a mobile version of your dining, accommodations and wedding pages, then you are guilty of a faulty redirect and your site will likely be punished.  Don't do this:
    Incorrect mobile redirects
  3. "This page can't be found" errors - Commonly known in the biz as 404 errors, some sites have been improperly configured so that if a user visits your site on their smartphone it displays the dreaded "404 error: This page cannot be found" message. Your site visitors have reached a dead end and are now lost and confused. Looking for directions to the hotel? Well, I'll just click on this little map link and...404 error?! What the heck? How am I supposed to find what I'm looking for on the site if the pages won't even display properly? Fix these 404 errors and save your visitors the headache.

  4. Keep mobile users on the correct site - Google refers to this as "Irrelevant cross-linking."  It just means that if a user comes to your mobile site on their mobile device then all the links on that mobile webpage should point to other pages within the mobile version of your site.  You wouldn't want users on your mobile site to click the Accommodations link and suddenly end up on the desktop version of the site! Why would you do that? Most likely it's an accident, but it should be cleaned up. In fact, it's likely that the only place you'll really cross over from mobile site to desktop or vice versa is if you have a "view desktop site" on your mobile pages or a "view mobile site" link featured on your desktop site. 

  5. Page speed - I, like many of my mobile-equipped brethren, have no patience for slow loading sites.  This is true in the world of standard websites, but it's crucial in the smartphone world. If a page doesn't load on my smartphone within 10 seconds it's dead to me.  I have so many feeds and photos and games and apps on my smartphone that if I'm given 10 seconds of downtime my scrolling finger doesn't know what to do with itself and instantly seeks other areas of my phone to explore.  There are lots of ways to make your mobile site load faster: decrease image file sizes, use browser caching, minify your code and more. If you don't, you'll soon find faster loading competitor sites smacking your site down to lower search rankings.

Instant narcolepsy: slow loading mobile webpages

Fix your mobile problems now!

Make sure you or your hotel online marketing team take a good look at your hotel's mobile website and address any of the issues identified by Google as explained above.  Failure to do so will likely result in your site ranking lower in Google's mobile or smartphone search results. And while you may have shirked off mobile as a viable traffic source in the past, today, smartphones have become the computers we're connected to 24/7. We've seen mobile traffic compose about 20-30% of our hotel websites on average, and that number is steadily rising each year. Neglecting mobile is a good way to ignore about a third of your potential visitor base. And just keep in mind that it's much easier to fix mobile website issues now, rather than trying to recover from a massive Google penalty smackdown later. And while Google has announced these fixable items on their blog, you can bet the same smartphone policies apply to Bing's search results as well.  

The goal of the two search engine titans, Google and Bing, is the same: provide the most relevant, most authoritative search results to its user base. If your site loads slowly on smartphones it's no longer relevant because you haven't updated your site's structure to keep up with the on-the-go smartphone user.  And if your site is no longer relevant, it's no longer an authority in the online marketplace. Just be sure to take care of your mobile site and the search engines will take care of you.

Tags , , , , , ,
Digg!Reddit!Facebook!StumbleUpon! Twitter

Instagram has taken the social sharing world by storm and this visual platform is not about to slow down, so it’s time for you to determine how your hotel can get with the picture, literally, and start taking advantage of the benefits that this social media marketing channel has to offer.

Pictures are worth a thousand words

Before I get into what you should be doing, I think it’s important to know why you should be doing it. With all of the social media platforms placing such an emphasis on photo sharing it is no wonder Instagram grew in popularity so quickly -- it was the fastest social media network to hit 100 million monthly active users! With 8500 likes and 1000 comments a second, it is obvious that this social sharing network can be very influential. When Facebook purchased the photo sharing app in 2012, founder Mark Zuckerberg said, “Providing the best photo-sharing experience is one reason why so many people love Facebook, and we knew it would be worth bringing these two companies together.”

Let’s face it, we live in a visual world where judging a book by its cover is the norm. With Instagram, you have the ability to control how your “book” is judged. Therefore, Instagram should be incorporated as a part of a hotel’s marketing strategy, working in unison with all channels and presenting a brand image that is appealing to your market. Yet, just like any hotel marketing campaign, Instagram requires a thoughtful strategy to ensure that it is used effectively.

Follow these 6 tips to ensure that your hotel effectively utilizes Instagram to capture and engage with your target audience.

Snap Your Way to Social Media Success

Where to begin? Start looking at relevant content that is already on "the gram," which can help you generate your own unique ideas. Take a look at what your competitors are doing. What photos are they posting and what kind of engagement are they getting? Additionally, search your hotel name using a hashtag to see if anyone has already tagged your hotel in a photo on Instagram. For example, although The Emily Morgan Hotel - a DoubleTree by Hilton does not have its own Instagram account, several guests have documented their stay at the hotel and ensured that it was searchable by using the hashtag #emilymorganhotel in the caption.

Emily Morgan Hotel Exterior

Photos of the Hotel

Emily Morgan Hotel and Alamo

Area Attractions

 

The Oro Restaurant at The Emily Morgan Hotel

Hotel Restaurant

 

The Oro Restaurant at The Emily Morgan Hotel

Local Flavor

It is important to keep in mind that the photos that your hotel shares should be completely unique and true to your property's personality. If your hotel is in the middle of downtown Chicago your content is going to be completely different than a hotel that is in the midst of a mountain range. As with all social media outlets, Instagram allows the hotel an opportunity to put a face to the hotel. Based on the content that you are sharing you can enhance your hip and trendy image or confirm your hotel as a peaceful, quiet retreat.

  1. Extend your photo gallery - Consider Instagram another outlet for a hotel photo gallery. Highlight your amenities, but make sure to keep content entertaining and constantly changing to show the dynamic life at the hotel!
  2. Thompsons Hotel

    Stay trendy - Instagramming your hotel's restaurant is another great way to stimulate connections. Not only will you be able to show off another aspect of your hotel, but taking pictures of food is all the rage! Stay on top of the trend by showing off the exceptional food art that your chef's create.

    Morgans Hotel Dining Room

    Morgans Hotel Restaurant Food

    Morgans Hotel Group highlights their restaurant by snapping beautiful foodie photos

  3. Go behind the scenes - Giving your followers a behind-the-scenes look at your hotel will not only provide for interesting content, but will also humanize your hotel. It shows the hardworking people and dedicated staff that help make a guest’s stay as seamless as possible.
  4. Bakers at The Morgans Hotel

    Share a behind-the-scenes look at your chef preparing a meal

  5. Highlight your local area - Engagement through area attractions is another excellent way to increase interest in your hotel and its surroundings. Pictures from around the town, exciting area attractions, and local hidden gems will highlight what your town has to offer and will provide an interesting visual area guide for followers. By showcasing things to do in your city, people may be more inclined to plan their next trip to visit you.
  6. Hollywood Sign outside the Thompson Hotel

    An iconic tourist attraction in Los Angeles

  7. Use the users - Stay current with user-generated content. Your guests can be an excellent photo resource for you to tap into, as we saw above for The Emily Morgan Hotel – a DoubleTree by Hilton. For instance, the image below was taken by a guest staying at Matakauri Lodge in New Zealand. Although this Instagram may not immediately lead to someone staying at the hotel, this picture is so inviting that it will stay in peoples’ minds and provide a likely lead for the future.
  8. Matakauri Lodge New Zealand

  9. Interact with customers - Use Instagram to engage with customers by hosting an Instagram contest or asking users to vote on their favorite Instagram photo. W New York – Times Square recently took Instagramming to a new level by organizing an exhibit in their lobby with only Instagram pictures! Check out their great collection of photos.

As with any marketing strategy, staying active on Instagram is key! Instagram should be included as a regular update for social media and requires a proactive strategy as well as daily management. Also, the hashtag is your friend! It will make your content searchable, creating a viral effect that will extend your reach among Instagram users.

The Instagram Effect

Social media is a great way to reach your clients on a personal level, so it is important for hotels to stay current with the new social media trends. Although you may not see an immediate increase in revenue, Instagram provides an outlet to enhance the brands personality and a way to better relate to and connect with guests. Instagram should be factored into a hotels overall marketing campaign and with regular attention, interesting content, and a creative mindset, the marketing benefit will be seen in the long run.

Tags , , ,
Digg!Reddit!Facebook!StumbleUpon! Twitter
Home Blog