Posted in Social Media on February 20, 2014 by Kelsey Nupnau
*Update (Feb 21, 2014 at 10:00am): You can now go back into your hotel's Facebook page subcategories and add 'Hotel' without it changing to 'Hotel Mooshaus.'
Did you wake up this morning, log on to Facebook, and realize that your hotel decided to change its name to Hotel Mooshaus? Well you're not alone! All hotel Facebook pages have been edited to include a bizarre update on their hotel’s information - the subcategory 'Hotel' has mysteriously changed to 'Hotel Mooshaus'.
What exactly is Hotel Mooshaus?
We're still trying to figure that out. As of now, if you click on the Hotel Mooshaus subcategory it will take you to a mysterious Topic page. At time of writing, 13,019 people like Hotel Mooshaus on Facebook:
Don't have moose at your hotel? How can you fix your hotel’s Facebook page?
Right now, Blue Magnet has a support ticket open with Facebook to fix this issue on our clients’ Facebook pages. Plus, with Mooshaus trending on Twitter, it's bound to get picked up by Facebook's support staff pretty quickly.
In the meantime, you can temporarily fix your hotel’s page on your own by removing the 'Hotel Mooshaus' subcategory from the Facebook page categories until their support staff fixes the issue.
You don't have to edit your main category - it should still be listed as 'Local Business: Hotel':
Will this happen again?
It's possible. Facebook pages within the 'hotel' subcategory have been hacked before, which is why it's always a great idea to check your Facebook page’s 'About' section from time to time. The most recent Facebook hack that affected hotels specifically was a mysterious 'APPhotel.com' subcategory, which has since been removed.
When can you go back and add 'Hotel' as a subcategory again?
We'll keep you updated on our conversations with Facebook and let you know when the issue has been corrected. But, for now, we definitely recommend removing 'Hotel Mooshaus' as a subcategory to avoid any confusion!
Posted in Social Media on February 10, 2014 by Amanda Diamond
As social media becomes a larger and more powerful marketing tool for hotels, consumers are getting more particular about which brand and business pages they communicate with. Online communities interacting with your hotel are becoming more focused and detail-oriented, so hotels must provide relevant and community-oriented posts to keep their audience engaged. Managing an active social media presence is not easy. Time is precious, and staying in-the-loop with community events and happenings can become overwhelming. Luckily, there are many informative resources available to all social media managers to ease the stress of managing a social media presence for your hotel. Whether you are managing your hotel's social media in-house or you are providing social media marketing services from off-property, you can ensure that you're always establishing the hotel as a local expert on social media with the tips below.
Pro Tip #1: The best local resources can be easily found...locally!
The lobby of your hotel can sometimes seem like its own community, but it's important to stay abreast of local events happening in your neighborhood, town, and city. Bookmark local news sites and sign up for area newsletters to filter nearby events and happenings directly to your inbox. Not only will this save you time scouring the web for relevant content, but it will also save your guests time! By spoon-feeding useful and relevant local event resources to your guests on social media, you are eliminating their need to proactively search for nearby activities which ultimately enhances their hotel experience. The following resources will provide you with great information about local community events, news and happenings, which you can then share on your hotel's social networks.
Neighborhood Patch website
Many neighborhoods or communities are covered by an online Neighborhood Patch. These hyper-local online resources are backed by AOL, and they focus on news, events, local businesses and more. They are often managed by a single editor who is also very active on social media. As you scan see in the screenshot below, I used the the Walnut Creek Patch to alert the hotel's Facebook fans to free yoga sessions nearby!
Convention and Visitors Bureau newsletters
Your local CVB is often an ideal resource for community events, dining guides, and attractions. Their job is to promote various goings-on in your area, which in turn makes it much easier for you to learn about local events and attractions. They are also great resources for more unique local attractions, such as outdoor hiking trails! In the example below, I found unique content on the local Asheville CVB's website to promote the town as a "Hunger Games" fan tourist destination on the hotel's Facebook page.
Local magazines and publications
Have you ever walked by a newspaper stand featuring free local newspapers? Be sure to pick one up and take a look, you may be surprised at what you can find! Local publications are often ideal resources for learning more about your local dining, music, sports and entertainment options. From 'best of' dining lists to weekend previews, be sure to check out your local online or published newspapers or magazines for some great social media content. Plus, many national publications such as 'Eater' & 'Serious Eats' manage their national accounts alongside local-focused sites. These lists are very helpful resources for visitors and locals alike so don't be shy about sharing this content from your hotel's social media sites. I like utilizing community-based publications, such as 'Diablo Magazine', to share 'Top 10' type lists on Facebook or Twitter that our guests can explore during their next visit.
Atlas Obscura and Roadside America
Would you like to provide your social media fans and guests with something to do in the area that is a little different than the typical tourist attraction? Then look no further than Atlas Obscura and Roadside America, two websites that will guide you to the most unique and offbeat locations in your area. From haunted bars to wacky museums, you'll find it all on these unusual sites. By promoting unique attractions on your hotel's Facebook page, you showcase a distinct personality that sets your hotel apart from its competitors. Below, Embassy Suites San Luis Obispo thinks outside of the box by highlighting a hidden gem in the area with the hotel's Facebook fans, courtesy of Atlas Obscura.
Pro Tip #2: Actively monitor to avoid actively searching.
You may not consider Twitter and Facebook to be search engines, but the search functionality on these resources can actually prove to be a more efficient use of time for a social media manager than searching for content on Google or Bing. In addition, Google offers a great resource through its Google Alerts that allows users to save time and energy by eliminating the need to dig through pages of search engine results.
Monitoring mentions and keywords on Twitter/Facebook
The simplest way to stay in the loop online is by monitoring hashtags about your city! Both Twitter and Facebook organize topics by hashtags, enabling you to easily monitor community-related topics, events, and news. In the screenshot below, I am searching for tweets that contain #asheville to see what is currently going on in the city. The snowy weather seemed to be a common theme in #asheville on this particular day, so I used that information to guide the hotel's tweets for the day.
It's also beneficial to use a social media monitoring tool to help you easily filter through Twitter conversations and engage in valuable interactions. At Blue Magnet, we prefer to use Sprout Social to help monitor conversations on various social channels. Their 'Smart Search' feature lets us follow hashtags and key phrases so they appear in our inbox, whether the person included our Twitter handle in their message or not. For example, in the screenshot below you can see how this hotel's social media manager utilized 'Smart Search' to monitor tweets containing keywords "hotel in San Diego" and proactively extended an invitation to a potential new guest!
Filtering articles to your inbox through Google Alerts
Google Alerts allows you to save time actively searching for content to share on social media by filtering recently published articles right to your inbox. You can easily customize the types of results you want to see and how often you receive them. You can filter your results by news, blogs, and even video. For example, if you are managing social media for a hotel in Chicago, you may want to set up a Google alert focusing on "events in downtown Chicago". This way, you will be the first to know when an event reaches news-worthy status as it will arrive straight to your inbox! Your social media followers will appreciate the time-sensitive information and events so they can join in on the festivities.
Pro Tip #3: Always check the facts because, truth be told, it's not always sunny in Philadelphia.
If your hotel utilizes off-property social media management, it's very important that they stay well aware of details about the local area. This may seem trivial and, yes, it should be common sense, but you don't want to learn the hard way by posting about the beautiful sunshine in your hotel's town when, unbeknownst to you, it's actually pouring rain! Use these simple resources below to ensure that your social media team is on its A-game at all times.
Weather.com - for all your Polar Vortex alerts!
The weather is often a hot topic of conversation, especially during something as crazy as the recent 'Polar Vortex'! Staying on top of temperatures and weather is an important way to connect with the local community. While I am personally guilty of using the weather as an ice-breaker on conference calls, I also know that crazy weather provides plenty of great social media fodder. It is a common subject that can evoke emotion in just about everyone! From safe driving tips in snowy temps to sharing icicle pictures at your hotel, there are plenty of ways to stay involved during weather phenomena. Remember, if you do utilize off-property management, it's important that they are well aware of localized weather so as to avoid any sunshine-focused posts in the middle of a snowstorm! In the screenshots below, you can see good examples of hotels enlightening guests with weather-related updates.
CNN.com or a similar breaking news source
When managing your hotel's social media campaign, it is very important to stay aware of both breaking local and national news to avoid any uncomfortable situations. It is never okay to take advantage of a national tragedy to market your own interests, a la Epicurious.com's Boston Marathon debacle. It is also important to always monitor any pre-scheduled posts or tweets. You want to avoid offending others by unintentionally posting during a difficult event. For example, Seamless had scheduled a post on Sept 16, 2013 proclaiming that 'Today is national GUACAMOLE day. Nothing else matters'. Later that day, a gunman fatally shot 12 soldiers at the Washington Navy Yard. This 'harmless' pre-scheduled post turned into a PR nightmare, as it was seen as extremely insensitive in light of current events. Seamless has since deleted and apologized for the post, but it's a big lesson in staying aware of breaking news and keeping track of your scheduled posts. Be especially mindful if you have multiple social media mangers sharing responsibilities on one account, as you should always be in-the-know on what posts are on deck to prevent miscommunications!
Our friends at Sprout Social are well aware of this possibility. During the aftermath of the Boston Marathon crises, they actually posted a warning on their website encouraging social media managers to check their pre-scheduled posts and tweets for anything offensive. Thanks for looking out for us, Sprout Social!
'Hey Google! What time is it in...?"
It is pertinent to stay aware of time differences when posting on behalf of your hotel. While this applies to all social media managers, it is particularly important for those managing social media off-property, Your Facebook post about your hotel's weekend brunch buffet would be perfect to post on Saturday at a 9AM, but if you neglect to factor in the time change and schedule it for 1PM then the effect is greatly diminished. Also, be sure to double-check your AM vs PM scheduled posts. You want to avoid waking up to find that your lunchtime special was posted at midnight! Google is your friend - simply type into Google 'What time is it in..." to verify your time zones before scheduling a time-sensitive post!
Pro Tip #4: Locals know best - and by locals we mean your staff!
Have you ever been asked by a guest, 'where do the locals go?' An often overlooked resource in the social media game for hotels is the staff and guests themselves! Staff members have a unique view of both the local communities' favorite spots, as well as opinions of visiting guests. For guests looking for the BEST french fries in town, or a unique romantic date spot, your staff can often provide personalized, authentic recommendations! Its special touches like these that keep guests returning again and again.
Staff scavenger hunt
Your hotel staff is a fantastic resource for local happenings and providing an insider view of the hotel happenings. I recommend creating a social media scavenger hunt that lists out various locations and amenities of the hotel and having the team partake in a friendly competition to capture as many items as possible with a camera. Smart phone pictures will suffice, so no excuses! Have the staff submit photos of seasonal decorations or a delicious breakfast spread and use them on social media to show your fans what's happening "behind-the-scenes" at the hotel. Behind-the-scenes photos at the hotel tend to receive high engagement with your social media fans because your guests enjoy seeing the great team that makes their hotel experience so fantastic!
Here are some ideas to get your hotel's photo scavenger hunt started:
Staff and Guest Picks
The staff and loyal guests can also provide great recommendations of their favorite local restaurants and entertainment options. Create a brief questionnaire to compile some of the teams or guests favorite spots in the city so that you can feature their recommendations on social media. For example, when guests check out, ask if they would be willing to provide future guests with some recommendations for exploring the surrounding area. If they say yes, hand them a card and ask them to fill-in-the-blank: "Don't leave San Francisco without…." Then feature these authentic spots that the locals love on social media so your guests can check them out when staying at your hotel! Plus, it will save your social media manager time when they are hunting for the best chicken wings in town. I recommend keeping the guest questionnaire short, sweet, and somewhat vague. You never know what kind of gems your guests may discover during their stay!
Key Takeaways for Providing a Kick-Ass Social Media Strategy
Whether you are personally managing a social media page or utilizing outside assistance, it is important to provide the best information possible for your guests. Keep in mind:
Posted in Hotel Online Marketing on February 07, 2014 by Chris Jones
We are now just over a month into 2014, which means it’s time to sit down, get inspired, and reaffirm that you made the right New Year’s Resolutions for 2014. If you’re anything like me, you’ll likely edit the resolutions that you wrote last year and vow to really take them seriously this year. Yes, this is the year that you are going to eat healthy! In 2014, I challenge you to think outside of the box and make some promises that are going to better your hotel’s internet visibility! So, raise your right hand and read the Internet Marketing Resolutions for 2014 out loud.
I hope these hotel marketing resolutions empower you to set forth in 2014 with a fresh perspective and ultimately lead to increased internet performance for your hotel!
Maddy Slaughters The Competition At The October 2013 Blue Magneteer Awards; Police Still Seek Motive For Halloween Eve Massacre
Posted in Blue Magnet News on February 05, 2014 by Matt Bitzer
Sadly, the story always starts out the same: She was a quiet girl--kept mostly to herself. Always smiling, ever so friendly and incredibly skilled in social media marketing. What a shame it had to come to this…And she had such a promising career in hospitality online marketing too.
Who would have ever suspected it would lead to a Halloween Eve massacre?
Yes, a massacre. On the dark and dreary afternoon of October 30, 2013, Maddy Fuller entered the Blue Magnet Lunch n' Learn event just as she had done every Wednesday; The only difference this time was that she was the only one to walk back out at the end. Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, behind those smiling Irish eyes lurks an online marketing behemoth. Indeed, Maddy Fuller had brutally slayed the competition that day, wresting the October 2013 Blue Magneteer Award from the cold grip of her defeated colleagues.
Kim Armour, Director of Client Services at Blue Magnet Interactive and eye witness to the brutal slaying, had this to say about the grisly scene:
"It was awful, but I blame myself. I should have seen it coming. It all started back with a website for this hotel client in central Florida, for which we provide online marketing services. Sure their online revenue growth was slow at the start, but at least no one got hurt. But that's when Maddy stepped in, flaunting her big ideas and marketing prowess, showing a brazen disregard for traditional marketing. She completely gutted that poor website…Rich, quality page content? Re-optimizing local listings? Verifying the hotel's business listing? The girl just didn't know when to stop!
And that's when she took it too far. Schema markups?! You should have seen the revenue graph for this hotel client after that! It was disgusting. Just a few short months and Maddy had shot the hotel's revenue through the roof! Police estimated it was an increase of over 141% in revenue month over month as a result of Maddy's cutthroat tactics! The hotel's competition never stood a chance! And sadly, neither did the other Blue Magnetizens in the room that day."
Maddy Fuller is still at large and considered armed with SEO knowledge and dangerous behind a computer. For any information regarding her whereabouts please contact Blue Magnet Interactive at 877-361-1177.
Posted in Online Marketing on February 04, 2014 by Stephanie Hilger
At Blue Magnet Interactive, we love Facebook. Without the social giant and its enormous marketing potential, we might be out of a job! Okay, maybe not - but we felt it was only appropriate to commemorate Facebook on its 10th birthday with a classic Top 10 list.
Our talented Account Manager’s compiled their top 10 tips for hotels to effectively utilize Facebook’s prowess and stand out from their competitors!
1. Respond to all wall posts and comments, whether they are positive or negative. Hoteliers should have a similar response system in place on Facebook as they do on TripAdvisor. When a fan leaves positive feedback on your Facebook wall, “like” the post or leave a sincere comment on behalf of the hotel to acknowledge that it was received. When a fan leaves a nasty comment, respond publicly so that your other fans know that the hotel takes these issues seriously and try to take the conversation offline as seamlessly as possible.
~ Andrea Mann, Senior Brand Strategist
2. Don’t post just to post. Content that you share with your followers should be relevant to your property. Think about the pages you “like” on Facebook, why you like them, and the content you're likely to share and engage with on those pages. Your fans are invested in your page to hear about your special offers and promotions, learn about the area, and hear about other applicable hotel news and events. Just because a certain topic or hashtag is trending doesn’t mean that yoru hotel needs to comment on the subject. If you can’t twist “Justin Bieber’s mug shot” to relate to your brand, it’s pointless chatter (and we’re not sure you’d want to anyways).
~ Stephanie Hilger, Account Manager
3. Humanize your brand. Customer service is often one of the strongest assets of a property, and you can’t give great customer service without an incredible staff. Small features that show your customers how much the hotel management values its staff will go a long way. “Staff picks” for favorite area restaurants or bars, “happy anniversary” posts for team members that have loyally been employed at your hotel for a long period of time, etc. They call this “social” media for a reason. Don’t ever hesitate to put a face to your brand!
~ Michelle Laing, Account Manager
4. Do your guests know that you are on Facebook? Utilize on-property flyers and place them at the front desk, at your on-site restaurant, on tables in the breakfast area and create key-card packet inserts. Encourage guests to like and review your hotel on Facebook, especially since Facebook reviews are beginning to play an integral part of your Facebook page’s experience!
~ Kelsey Nupnau, Account Manager
5. Take advantage of the Facebook Insights. This useful tool is free for your hotel's business page, and it will help you discover things like the best time to post, the most popular content, and audience demographics. With this added information, you can craft better posts tailored to your specific audience and boost your page’s engagement.
~ Tim Dale, Account Manager
6. Keep it short and sweet. Increasingly, people are accessing Facebook through their mobile devices. While scrolling through their Newsfeeds waiting at the bus stop or in line at Starbucks, they may not want to take the time to read a wordy paragraph. Writing your hotel's Facebook posts with Twitter’s length (140 characters or less) in mind can help encourage fans to read your posts.
~ Caroline Scanlon, Associate Account Manager
7. Use your camera! If there is something going on at the hotel - a staff fundraiser, a special event in the bar or just a beautiful day outside, TAKE A PICTURE! Your Facebook fans are following your page because they enjoyed their time at your hotel or are planning to visit your hotel. Give them a snapshot of what’s going on both on property and in the area. Photos that are unique to a hotel tend to outperform generic posts on Facebook pages. A generic post with clip art hearts that says “Happy Valentine’s Day” is not going to give your hotel personality like a photo of your front desk staff smiling with a box of chocolates in hand!
~ Abby Heft, Senior Account Manager
8. Stay local. Utilize local-area publications, community-focused websites, CVB’s and more to find the most relevant, local content for your followers. From free yoga classes to the top 10 places to enjoy fried chicken in your town, fans will appreciate these localized tidbits. Guests are often asking your front desk staff ‘where do the locals go?’ - so take that question and run with it on Facebook! There are lots of great resources at your fingertips to help answer that question.
~ Amanda Diamond, Account Manager
9. Treat your fans like the special fans they are! As you grow your network of fans on Facebook, instill loyalty by offering exclusive deals and insider information. Announce special events to fans first, provide a special coupon for fans to redeem on property, or promote a unique fan rate discount only available through your Facebook page. By giving fans exclusive information and deals, you build loyalty and actively engage users who continue to listen to what your hotel has to say. Plus, these Facebook strategies are also a great way for your hotel to bring in incremental revenue and sell rooms for last minute need-dates.
~ Kim Armour, Director of Client Services
10. Just because Facebook is a great marketing tool, doesn't mean every post should be a commercial for your hotel. Yes, guests want to know when you have an awesome new special or that you just renovated all of your suites, but they don't want to see the same posts about how you have "the best amenities around" over and over. Your page will never see a lot of likes or engagement if you're consistently posting "salesy" content in the hopes of driving bookings. Doing so will most likely have the opposite effect and end up turning fans away.
~ Chris Dean, Account Manager
Posted in Social Media on January 31, 2014 by Chris Dean
In mid-December, Twitter began rolling out an experimental new feature called "Nearby" that places an emphasis on user location when tweeting. Twitter has been hesitant to divulge much information about Nearby and its future, simply stating that they are constantly testing new features. However, as Twitter continues to roll out Nearby to more users, we are getting a clearer picture of what this new feature is and how hoteliers can use it to their advantage.
What do we know about Nearby?
Nearby is an alternative timeline to Twitter's "Home," "Discover," and "Activity" timelines for viewing tweets. The Home timeline, the most commonly used, is the standard timeline for viewing chronologically sorted tweets of people you follow. The Discover timeline features relevant and trending tweets that Twitter thinks you'll be interested in, even though you may not follow those people yet. The Activity timeline, which can be found within the Discover tab, shows you what actions your followers are performing on Twitter, such as favoriting tweets or following new people. All of the three current timelines present tweets and activities as a list.
Nearby works only with tweets that have been geotagged, meaning users have allowed their location to be tied to their tweets. What makes Nearby so unique in comparison to the other timelines is that rather than using the standard list format, tweets are presented as markers on a map, with the location of the marker being the location of the user when that tweet was sent out. In the screenshots below, you can see the Nearby map. Each tweet can be viewed by tapping on the marker.
75 percent of Twitter users are accessing the social media channel via mobile or tablet, which is probably why the Nearby timeline is currently only viewable on the Twitter mobile and tablet apps. That does not mean that the tweets presented on the Nearby map are only from mobile and tablet users. As long as your phone, tablet, or desktop is allowing your tweets to be geotagged, they will appear on the map regardless of the device they were tweeted from. Directions for enabling geotagging on desktop and mobile devices can be found in Twitter's Help Center.
Because Nearby is still in its infancy, being tested, and being introduced to users gradually, there is no guarantee of when it will appear for you or if Twitter will keep the feature permanently. Only users who have enabled geotagging have been given access to Nearby so far, meaning that the sooner you enable it, the better your chances are of getting Nearby and exploring the new feature yourself!
How can hotel marketers use Nearby to benefit their hotel marketing strategy?
Nearby has some excellent benefits for hotels, but it does have some possible drawbacks.
The jury is out on Nearby's long-term potential for success, but as long as Nearby is used correctly, it can be one of the many fantastic tools you can utilize as part of a successful Twitter strategy. So, hotelier, be an early adopter and, when given the option, add Nearby to your already formidable arsenal of social media weapons!
Posted in Online Marketing on January 29, 2014 by Tim Dale
Hoteliers know that the online marketing world is fast-moving and ever-changing. To be successful, one needs to look at where the road has led up to this point and anticipate where we are heading next. 2013 definitely threw some curve balls at us with new Google algorithms, social media sites trying to emulate search engines, and campaign-changing PPC updates. Now it’s time to take what we have learned, catch the wave early, and form our hotel’s online marketing strategy around emerging trends and tools. In this article, I discuss 3 impending changes that I anticipate happening in the not-so-distant hotel eMarketing forecast for 2014.
Tim’s Prediction #1: In 2014, social media will have a direct impact on SEO and require a few more bucks to be effective across all platforms.
We saw social media grow up in 2013. Initially cast as a beneficial marketing channel for brands to reach their target market on a personal level, social media proved it is destined to be so much more than a brand awareness tool in the coming years.
Google+ will actually impact SEO
This past September, Google released its completely new Hummingbird algorithm. We can now safely say that if your hotel does not optimize and regularly post on Google+, you are missing out on an SEO juggernaut. We’ve been hearing rumors for months about the implications of Google+ for SEO, but in 2014, I predict that Google will openly declare Google+ a necessary element to your SEO strategy. Posting on Google+ allows Google to index new pages on your website almost immediately. The +1s also give an advantage in personalized search. If someone who has +1ed your hotel’s post or someone who follows someone who has +1ed your hotel’s post performs a Google search for hotels, they will be more likely to see your content. This means that building a strong audience on your hotel’s Google+ page can directly correlate with more visits to your site.
Pay your way into all social media timelines
Late last year, Facebook announced that business profiles will begin to notice a sharp decrease in organic reach. It was described as a result of increased competition for limited space in the timeline, but implied that marketers will now have to pay for reach. Because Facebook is a trend setter in the social media world, I can easily foresee other major channels, such as Twitter, Google+, etc. begin to curb reach in the same manner. Especially since Google+ will be an SEO necessity in 2014, I could see how Google could make a pretty penny with the ad revenue from promoted posts. In 2014, I would recommend allocating some of your marketing budget towards social media spend to give your social media campaigns an extra boost. Otherwise, you will probably realize in the coming months that your social media posts are no longer reaching your intended audience.
Tim’s Prediction #2: In 2014, metasearch engines and enhanced ad features will give some power back to the hotels by providing more opportunities for direct bookings.
Hotels have always had mixed feelings towards OTAs. Because OTAs tend to dominate all hotel-related searches, hotels have had no choice but to bear the burden and pay large commissions. However, new search engine tools and advanced ad features are making online marketing look hopeful once again for hotels.
TripConnect – The One
OTAs are computers, hotels are people, and TripAdvisor’s TripConnect is Neo. Maybe the Matrix analogy is a bit dramatic, but TripAdvisor’s new bidding feature gives hoteliers a way to compete with more powerful entities (read: OTAs) for placement in TripAdvisor’s price comparison search. In the past, only OTAs and large hotel brands could bid for that placement in the pricing search results, but now, independent hotels that are paying for a TripAdvisor Business Listing can also participate in the pay-per-click program. This is much more appealing than expensive Google AdWords campaigns because it gives a better opportunity to the small, independent hotel. Hotels will not have to face the Adword budgets of the major OTAs, and they will not have to pay the CPC + commission per booking on Expedia TravelAds. As TripConnect gains more momentum and pitches the new product on a property-level, independent hotels will begin to move their ad budget away from platforms such as Google Adwords and Expedia TravelAds and designate their money to a more opportunistic TripAdvisor.
Metasearch Engines become a more dominant booking channel
Though metasearch engines are a relatively recent development in the travel industry, the concept to aggregate results from various sources into a single list has been around for some time. Metasearch allows guests to use additional search parameters to find your hotel and pulls the information from a variety of sources to compile a comprehensive result page. TripAdvisor is a great example of a metasearch engine where users are able to search for hotels by name, location, price, and chain. Though an OTA provides a similar shopping experience, the difference is in the customer conversion. Metasearch engines send users directly to the hotel’s reservation system for a direct booking, while on OTAs, users book a room within the OTA’s reservation platform, which charges the hotel a booking commission. In 2014, look for metasearch engines such as TripAdvisor and Kayak to take some market share away from OTAs because they will provide users with more relevant information and a better user-experience. More and more, travelers will begin to use OTAs as research tools and metasearch engines as booking tools.
AdWords Image Extensions help hotels compete with OTAs
Still in its beta stage, Google’s Adword Image Extension presents a more appealing aesthetic alternative to the plain text PPC ads. Currently, OTAs have much larger Adword budgets than individual hotels, which diminish the hotel’s power to rank for highly-competitive key words. Since OTAs can’t use property photos in their PPC ads, the hotels will have a new advantage in an otherwise skewed system. In 2014, hotels that take advantage of Google Adword extensions will perform better than the OTAs.
Tim’s Prediction #3: In 2014, Google will integrate Google Maps with Google Hotel Finder, and hotels will suffer the consequences.
Google’s entrance into the travel industry has been a long, drawn-out process. The past few years, TripAdvisor, Expedia, and Priceline have surprisingly outpaced Google in the travel shopping. The world’s most popular search engine has shown in the past that it can enter into almost any online market it pleases, sometimes to the benefit of the industry, other times not so much.
Google Maps + Google Hotel Finder = Google Travel Dominance
Google Maps will be the driving force behind Google’s travel related searches. Recently, Google has revealed its new “Hotel View.” According to the Associated Press, Google is photographing hotel interiors in order to enhance its travel content. They are slowly rolling out the content but already have a large number of properties undergoing the process. Currently, Google Maps already shows PPC ads. Is it too much of a stretch to believe that eventually Google will want to integrate the often hidden Google Hotel Finder listings?
Launched way back in 2011, Google Hotel Finder is another metasearch engine that aims to provide users an easy way to find accommodations in various cities. In recent months, Google Hotel finder has made new updates to improve its functionality including the ability to access it from your mobile phone. Currently, the Google Hotel Finder’s pricing menu is dominated by the OTAs. The more popular Google Hotel Finder gets, the more opportunities OTAs will have to advertise to potential guests and the more commission independent hotels will have to pay to the OTAs. In 2014, I predict that Google Hotel Finder will integrate with Google Maps which would create another challenge for hotels.
Because of this, hotels need to take full advantage of their direct booking channels in 2014. Optimize your hotel’s TripAdvisor listing, build a user-friendly standalone site, audit and refresh your hotel’s SEO strategy, and outrank the OTAs!
That’s all for my hotel eMarketing forecast for 2014. Keep taking advantage of all the latest online marketing tips and tools to ensure your hotel’s online presence continues to improve in 2014!
Posted in Social Media on January 14, 2014 by Caroline Scanlon
These days, it seems like just about everyone is on Facebook - curious parents, tech-savvy and not-so-tech-savvy grandparents, and kids who probably weren't even walking on their own two feet when Facebook was invented. I even know a couple of dogs and a cat with Facebook profiles, although I'm not convinced that they set up their profiles themselves. Facebook has now reached 1.19 billion monthly active users! Add in the 15 million+ brand pages and you can see why it's easy for your hotel's Facebook posts to get lost in the frenzy of likes, shares, and posts that are endlessly pouring into users' Newsfeeds. So, how do you get Facebook users to notice your hotel's Facebook posts and engage with them? There are a number of ways to make your hotel's Facebook posts stand out amidst the competition. Adding compelling visuals, shortening your posts, and targeting select times of day to publish your posts are some of the simplest ways to encourage your fans to engage with your hotel's page.
1. Use A Powerful Photo
As a hotelier, you have the opportunity to evoke your fan's emotions with photos taken on property. A number of travel inspiring photo opportunities can be found on your hotel property. For example, a fabulous view from a room or a delicious looking dish from your hotel's restaurant. Photos of your hotel's staff appreciation party or a sales team member of the month can also spark high engagement on Facebook because they allow Facebook fans to see the human side of your hotel and forge an emotional connection. As Meghan Biro says in her Forbes article "5 Warnings for Leaders: Brand Humanization is Not a Social Media Fad", "These stories make your business interesting and compelling to consumers, employees, and investors...If you let people bring their humanity to your brand, they'll also bring your brand into their networks. That's a form of reach money can't buy." This screenshot below tells a beauitful story about the incredible team working at the lodge, which guests may not have been aware of otherwise.
2. Keep It Short & Sweet
One easy way to cut down on your character count without losing important content is to use a link shortener like goo.gl or bit.ly. These programs take long URLs and shorten them. They are also customizable, so your link can act as a descriptor of the page it will direct to.
But when put into bit.ly and customized accordingly, the link can be shortened down to this:
The link is still informative, but it is now much shorter, saving you precious characters in your Facebook posts. As an added bonus, these link shortening tools will track how many people actually clicked your link as well as what day and time they clicked it.
While it is important to keep your hotel's posts short to maximize your engagement, it's also important to make sure that the posts have substance to them. A Facebook page that posts nothing but fluff can end up looking spammy and cause fans to unfollow the page. With your hotel's page, you have the opportunity to provide its Facebook fans with an insider's look at your local area by posting informative content or sharing upcoming events. As many of your hotel's fans are likely from out of town, they probably aren't aware that the restaurant down the street has the best pizza in town, that the annual Pumpkin Festival is happening this weekend, or that the local aquarium is free every Tuesday. Try to think of your hotel's Facebook page as a local guide for hotel guests - sharing valuable knowledge and expertise that will resonate with its fans.
3. Timing Is Everything
The above screenshot was taken from Facebook Insights and shows what times of day a particular hotel's fans are using Facebook. Obviously, posting between 2 and 6 AM would not be a good choice for this hotel, but posting somewhere from 7 to 11 PM would be smart to ensure the post receives a high reach. There are two notable spikes around 7PM and 10PM that demonstrate the absolute best times to post for this particular hotel. Oftentimes, it takes several minutes for a post to filter its way into someone's Newsfeed, so it may prove beneficial to post slightly (15-20 minutes) before the peak times.
4. Pin It To The Top Of Your Timeline
Facebook's pinning feature is helpful for short-term specials or anything else you want to be sure your hotel's fans see. Instead of having the post get pushed down with every subsequent post, a pinned post remains consistently at the top of your hotel's timeline, giving the post a longer shelf-life. Fans will understand that the content is still relevant, even though it might be a few days old. Say you launch a new special offer on your hotel's standalone website, and you want to start driving traffic to it. You can create a post announcing the promotion and pin it to the top of your hotel's Facebook page. This way, even if someone visits the page days later, the first thing they will see is the post announcing the new special offer, which will bring it to their attention and maybe even encourage them to click for more information.
Pinning is simple -- click the downward pointing arrow in the top right-hand corner of the post and select "Pin to Top," the first option listed in the drop-down menu (see screenshot below). Pinning is especially helpful for special promotions running for a set length of time. Just be sure to remember to unpin the post when you no longer want it at the top, otherwise it will stay there for a full week.
How Will These 4 Facebook Tips Benefit Your Hotel?
While it may be a challenge to track your hotel's ROI from Facebook, it is still very important for your hotel's online visibility to have an active and engaging Facebook page. Facebook allows you to promote your hotel and your area to potential guests on a channel where they are already spending their time. Following these four techniques will help extend the reach and improve the engagement on your Facebook posts. With a powerful photo and small amounts of text, you increase the chances that a Facebook user will stop to read (and like, comment, or share) your hotel's post, further building their relationship with your hotel. Facebook posts with high levels of engagement also linger in users' Newsfeeds longer than unpopular posts, thanks to Facebook's story bumping. It is important to post relevant and interesting information because it leads to high engagement, which, in turn, ensures that your hotel is reaching as many of its fans as possible. Facebook is a great tool for hotels to use to maintain their relationships with guests, even when they are not visiting. That strengthened connection will help your hotel to remain top-of-mind, so when your fan does decide to take a trip down the road, they'll remember to stay at your hotel.
Posted in Blue Magnet News on December 31, 2013 by Stephanie Hilger
Before we dive into 2014, it's only fitting to take a moment and reflect on this past year at Blue Magnet! 2013 was a year for the books (and we're not just talking Facebook). Our office grew immensely (by both people and square feet), we hit every curve ball thrown our way (Google Hummingbird? Nice try Matt Cutts), and launched several responsive websites! It takes genuine talent to stay on top of the latest eMarketing trends, adapt to three screen marketing, and survive the #hashtag takeover. Blue Magnet proved that a company formed on industry passion, continued education, and work-life balance can tackle any challenges that the constantly evolving Internet throws our way.
In January, Blue Magnet welcomed Tim Dale to the team as Blue Magnet's newest Associate Account Manager. Since then, Tim has given the rest of the team (and the rest of the world) a run for their money when it comes to writing creative copy.
Our very own Andrea Mann visited the Emily Morgan Hotel in San Antonio, Texas to provide live social media coverage of the hotel’s elaborate grand reopening party as they joined the DoubleTree by Hilton family!
Patrick McCarthy headed south to the Hampton Inn & Nashville Downtown to learn more about the Nashville market and to work with the hotel team to create synergy between BMI, the hotel's off-site Revenue Manager, and the on-site hotel staff. The trip was declared a rousing success by all.
Blue Magnet added another Associate Account Manager to the team (enter: Stephanie Hilger). Stephanie’s extensive social media marketing experiences and incredible attention to detail brought a fresh perspective to Blue Magnet’s social strategy.
Brittany Aller and Andrea Mann co-hosted BMI's first webinar with Revinate, "Social Media Campaigns - Strategies & Metrics," to enlighten fellow hoteliers on how to implement and benchmark successful social media campaigns.
Maddy Fuller came on board as an Associate Account Manager. From increasing site visits to executing clever promotions, like Marry Me at Doubletree, Maddy quickly proved that she was a perfect fit for the Blue Magnet Team.
As Blue Magnet's veterans, Abby Heft, Andrea Mann, Kathryn Vera, and Patrick McCarthy approached their two-year BMIversary, a welcoming announcement was made that these four BMI All-Stars would take on the new roles of Senior Account Managers, each with a specialized focus.
BMI celebrated Cinco de Mayo in true Chicago style: a trip to Big Star. Margaritas, fish tacos, and a beautiful spring day? Sounds like the perfect recipe for Blue Magnet team bonding!
Blue Magnet lost Senior Account Manager Katharyn Molinaro, but only to gain Katharyn Vera! In June, Katharyn made the trip down the aisle and married the man of her dreams (looking stunning, per usual). Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Vera!
Abby journeyed west to visit some of her beloved clients, The Oakland Marriott City Center and the Courtyard Marriott Downtown Oakland.
We also made the extremely bold decision to sign up for a recreational beach volleyball league at North Avenue Beach. The "Proxy Servers" had an impressive season, even making the play-offs... but we won't be quitting our day jobs anytime soon. We’ll stick to winning the Internet, not the volleyball net.
Our hard-working team enjoyed an afternoon away from the computer screens to catch a Cubs game at Wrigleyville Rooftops! Did we win or lose? No one can be sure.
Kim Armour reinvented the wheel in July as she introduced the Blue Magneteer Award to recognize a team member’s excellent achievement each month! Thanks to hard work and "mucho" dedication to a client in the Southwest, Account Manager Brittany Aller was the first to claim the much sought after title!
Drumroll please... in August Blue Magnet launched the first of many custom responsive sites that seamlessly breaks down to fit the user’s screen size: Crowne Plaza Wilmington North!
In other exciting news, Tim Dale was promoted to Account Manager and we welcomed two more Associate Account Managers to the Blue Magnet family. Happy to have you on board, Jourdan Dunn and Caroline Scanlon!
Blue Magnet took Chicago Social Media Week by storm in September. Team members attended a numerous educational sessions that discussed topics such as Google +, Social Media's correlation with SEO, and content marketing.
Amanda Diamond joined the Blue Magnet team to share her marketing expertise!
Yet another exciting responsive site launched: DoubleTree by Hilton Raleigh Brownstone - University
Andrea Mann spearheaded our second webinar alongside Revinate, "5 Ways Hoteliers Can Benefit From User-Generated Social Media Content."
We were also excited to welcome Chris Dean as our newest Associate Account Manager!
VFM Leonardo featured our very own Katharyn Vera in the "Ask an Expert" section of their 2014 Digital Marketing Strategies eBook. She provided valuable insight on questions such as, "How should hotels deal with '3 Screen' Marketing?" and "What hotel trends surprised you in a good or bad way in 2013?"
Andrea Mann offered Blue Magnet’s tricks of the trade as she spoke on a Social Media 3.0 panel at the North America Hotel Investment Conference hosted at the Hyatt Chicago.
Kelsey took a trip to the Pacific Northwest to visit Embassy Suites Seattle - Bellevue and Embassy Suites Portland-Washington Square. This site visit was extra special since it allowed Kelsey to see one of her Facebook giveaways come full circle! Over the summer, Kelsey created, organized, and executed the "Love Wins Pride Package Giveaway" for Embassy Suites Seattle-Bellevue. LGBT couples shared their photos and stories for the chance to win a wedding ceremony! Kelsey was fortune enough to attend the winning couple’s wedding ceremony at the hotel!
If 2013 was any indication of what’s to come in 2014… well, then here at Blue Magnet Interactive, we are excited to take on another whirlwind of site launches, team members, and innovative marketing strategies as we enter our 8th year of business in the hotel online marketing world!
Here's to a successful 2014!
I’m an Independent Hotelier – Should I Upgrade to a TripAdvisor Business Listing to Take Advantage of the New TripAdvisor Connect?
Posted in Hotel Online Marketing on December 06, 2013 by Brittany Aller
As the world’s largest travel site, TripAdvisor is the go-to source for people planning their travel arrangements. With this in mind, it is clear that the glorious moment all independent hoteliers have been hoping for is finally here – the ability to bid against OTAs for placement in TripAdvisor hotel price comparison search through the new TripAdvisor Connect A.K.A. “TripConnect”. Previously, this opportunity was only available to OTAs and large hotel brands. So, is TripConnect worth the investment? And with the constraints of a limited budget, is there any way for independent hotels to actually beat out OTAs which typically have much larger budgets to allocate to paid-advertising initiatives like TripConnect? In this article, I will explain the requirements for participating in TripConnect and weigh the pros and cons for independent hoteliers bidding on placement.
I need a TripAdvisor Business Listing to participate in TripConnect – What is this?
As an independent hotelier interested in TripConnect, your first step is to verify that you currently have a TripAdvisor Business Listing, a prerequisite for participation in the TripConnect self-service bidding platform. TripAdvisor Business Listings launched in 2010 and allow businesses to add key property information to standard listings. With a Business Listing, hotels can optimize their property listing with unique special offers and contact information. With such a monumental shift to mobile in recent years, TripAdvisor has also been encouraging hoteliers to opt into “Business Listings + Mobile”, which allows hoteliers to include a mobile-only special offer on their hotel’s listing.
The pros for independent hoteliers
The features included in Business Listings allow independent properties to standout and compete against branded hotels, most of which have Business Listings. These listings include a link to your hotel website, contact information including phone number, special offers link, a special offers tag, photo slideshow, and an announcement. A link and phone number on your listing may not sound significant, but this is a simple way to drive relevant and interested traffic to your website or reservations center to increase non-commissioned bookings.
The cons for independent hoteliers
Most major hotel brands pay for Business Listings for all of the properties within the brand family as a means to increase traffic and open up new marketing opportunities. (The brands typically return on this investment by charging each hotel a commission for all bookings made on TripAdvisor.) However, TripAdvisor Business Listings can be extremely expensive for independent hotels that are not backed by a brand and are already investing their marketing dollars on other online channels. Pricing is tiered according to the location and number of rooms at the property. I ran a search for similar-sized properties in different markets and received the quotes below.
There is a vast difference in cost for a hotel in El Paso, TX and a hotel in downtown Chicago. You can find the price to upgrade your hotel’s profile to a Business Listing online here.
What is TripAdvisor’s TripConnect?
Still in its initial phases, TripConnect rolled out in October 2013 and allows independent hotels to compete for placement in the TripAdvisor price comparison search. In the past, only OTAs and large hotel brands were able to bid for placement in the pricing search results that appear on individual property listings, city hotel search results, and on the mobile app. Now, independent hotels that use a certified internet booking engine and are paying for a TripAdvisor Business Listing can also participate in this pay-per-click program. This bidding model allows the hotel marketer to control the ad spend. There is no additional commission to TripAdvisor, rather you are paying each time the ad is clicked and the annual fee for the Business Listing. This is important to keep in mind as you compare ROI with other paid-search advertising outlets that are both pay-per-click and commission-based, like Expedia TravelAds.
How does the bidding process work?
As an independent hotelier, you are able to completely control bids and budget on the TripConnect platform, including the ability to adjust bids for mobile and desktop searches. You are also able to view a forecasted number of clicks and click-through rates based on the market, position, and other circumstances. Your branded competitors do not have this control on a hotel-level as brands generally bid on behalf of hotels and charge commission for bookings.
Here's what the results look like for an independent hotel bidding for desktop and ranking 2nd for designated date in the TripAdvior price comparison search.
Because TripConnect is still new, it is difficult to gauge the ROI for independent properties and determine how they will be able to compete against OTAs. I ran some test searches on TripAdvisor to see how independent hotels, branded hotels, and OTAs were ranking comparatively in the hotel price comparison results. First, I chose four markets to run my experiment - Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, and New Orleans. Then, for the top ten hotels in each market, I ran a search for the exact same date to determine which independent and branded hotels had Business Listings, which hotels were bidding on those dates, and how the hotel’s ad placement was ranking compared to those of OTAs. My findings were as follows:
Side Note: TripAdvisor’s Jetsetter (members-only private sale site for hotel bookings) also bids on placement within the search results, but I did not notice any preferential treatment.
It will certainly take some time to assess the value of TripConnect for independent hoteliers and their ability to bid against OTAs. From my casual experiment, it appears that at the time being OTAs are still monopolizing the top 3 results on the booking search results page for desktop and mobile, consistently ranking above branded or independent hotels. It also appears that a majority of independent hoteliers have not opted in to TripConnect and if they have, they do not have someone actively managing their bidding strategies as OTAs and brands do. It is also possible that the brands are adjusting their strategy by running select experiments in various markets rather than for all properties, thus not ranking against OTAs for the cities tested above.
Considering investing in a Business Listing and bidding with TripConnect?
Let’s Recap Pros and Cons
Key factors to consider before investing in TripConnect
I'm a TripAdvisor user searching for hotels nearby...
See what level of partnership with TripConnect, if any, your reservation system has agreed to here.
Next Steps for Independent Hoteliers
Now that you are more familiar with TripAdvisor Business Listings and the new TripConnect program available to independent hoteliers, I suggest first assessing your ability to make a monetary investment and time commitment to the program. There unfortunately isn’t enough data yet to determine the ability to surpass OTAs’ price listings, but if you’re able to take risks and try something new in your online marketing strategy, it is an interesting new opportunity for independent hoteliers to explore. If you do not yet have a Business Listing, you will want to consider your hotel’s TripAdvisor ranking, your booking engine’s partnership with TripConnect, and the number of OTAs currently bidding on your property. Find more information, check out the TripAdvisor Business Listing website, or reach out to your hotel’s online marketing expert for their insight on your website traffic trends and booking engine details.