We pay Senior Account Manager Abby Heft in melted nacho cheese.

It's possible that she concocted the idea upon hearing that circus elephants are sometimes compensated with peanuts…in cartoons. In fact, within her original employment agreement at Blue Magnet she crossed out the proposed salary and wrote in "nacho cheese," then approved the revision with the initials AH (and cheesy fingerprint smudges) to lock it in.

But while you, sane reader, may question her logic, you simply can't argue with Abby Heft's performance, as our first Blue Magneteer Award winner of 2014! Fueled by a steady income of liquid gold, Abby bounds over hotel eMarketing hurdles like Superman leaps tall buildings…if he were on a raging cheese high.

BlueMagneteerAward-AbbyHeft

Dizzying Highs & Terrifying Lows

But with every dizzying cheese high comes the inevitable, terrifying lactose low. It turns out Abby felt like she was hitting a wall with one of her favorite Pacific Northwest hotels. Site performance was starting to plateau, local competition in the market was heating up, and general site growth was beginning to taper off. But Abby loves her hotel client in Bellevue, WA. So much so, in fact, that it prompted one team member to question that if she loves it so much why doesn't she marry it. So, as with any committed relationship, Abby wasn't about to toss in the towel without a fight.

Abby To The Rescue

After analyzing the situation, Abby's first goal was to generate more web traffic by optimizing the site for "Bellevue hotels" related keywords, a competitive term with high search volume with which the hotel had always struggled. Taking action, Abby re-optimized every page and scrubbed away hundreds of spammy links pointing to the site. It wasn't long before the keyword "Bellevue hotels" rocketed to the top of the charts for search query volume in Google Analytics' Search Optimization charts.

In addition to SEO, Abby also revised the hotel's on-page user experience by including more enticing special offers and prominent calls-to-action in key positions throughout the site. As a result, the number of guests who checked room availability on the site jumped 76% for the fourth quarter of 2013 YOY. Most importantly, that increase in clicks yielded a cheese-melting 18% surge in standalone site revenue this quarter over the same period last year!

With performance like this, it's no wonder Abby claimed the January 2014 Blue Magneteer Award. Said Abby upon claiming her award: "Thank you, Blue Magnet! I'm going to keep kicking ass in the name of hotel emarketing everywhere. Just make sure you keep delivering those buckets of nacho cheese to my door."

Not to worry, Abby--as long as you keep working your magic, Blue Magnet promises not to cut the cheese.

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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!

diamondblog patch

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.

diamondblog cvb

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.

diamondblog localpublications

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.

 diamondblog atlasobscura

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.

diamondblog keywordmonitoring

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!

diamondblog sproutmonitoring

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.

diamondblog googlealert

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.

diamondblog weather

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!

diamondblog seamless

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!

diamondblog timezone

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 recognition and awards
    • Involvement in community: hotel events, brand events, community service
    • Team spotlights or bios: Chef, GM, Front Desk Manager, Housekeeping Manager, etc. 
    • Seasonal decorations around the hotel
    • Chef specials at the restaurant or bar
    • Action photos of F&B team preparing dinner, staff setting dining table
    • Centerpieces for wedding or special event

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:

  1. Great local information can be found at your fingertips.
  2. Actively monitor keywords to save time digging through search engine clutter.
  3. Fact checking is key, especially concerning breaking news and local weather.
  4. On-site staff and satisfied guests can be great resources for authentic local recommendations and social media content.
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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.

January

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!

BMI January 2013 

February

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.

BMI February 2013

March

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.

April

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.

May

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!

BMI May 2013

June

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.

BMI June 2013

July

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!

BMI July 2013

August

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!

September

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

October

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!

November

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.

Our project management team continues to launch beautifully designed responsive sites:  DoubleTree by Hilton Chicago - Oak Brook and Jimmy's On First

BMI November 2013 - VFM Ask the Expert

December

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!

BMI December 2013

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!

Stay connected to the Blue Magnet team on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

Here's to a successful 2014!

BMI Holiday gif

 

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From the look on her face, you might think that Associate Account Manager Stephanie Hilger's grin is a result of her recently having claimed the September Blue Magneteer Award! And you would be wrong. If you look closely at the photo below you will see that she is actually staring past the Prize Wheel of Destiny and is, in fact, focusing her attention on the map of the United States. Like Alexander the Great surveying his expanding empire, Stephanie is plotting her next move, eyes gleaming with the possibility of more. Having already conquered the online world, she now hungers for the real one.

BlueMagneteerAward-StephanieHilger

That's right. Stephanie has single-handedly conquered the online world. Facebook? Twitter? Google+? She practically invented them.  In fact, Mark Zuckerberg actually calls Stephanie when he has trouble changing his Facebook privacy settings. Foursquare even has a "Stephanie Hilger badge," which you earn by just being as awesome as Stephanie at online marketing--you don't even have to check in anywhere! Legend has it, Stephanie was also the one who convinced Twitter to use the number sign instead of the ampersand for trending Twitter topics. And, as far as I can tell, it was Stephanie who was chic enough to then start referring to the "number sign" as the "hashtag." Until she came around to class it up, Twitter was still referring to it as the number sign and was #totallylost...or as they would have called it: number sign totallylost.

Besides rewriting online history as though it were nothing more than a Wikipedia page, what lead Stephanie down this path to glory and the cherished Blue Magneteer Award? Well, it all started with a client's social media campaign. The goal was to generate consumer interest in a portfolio of hotels by encouraging the social community to vote on their favorite hotel in various categories. Her social media wizardry generated the following impressive stats for the 6 week promotion:

  • Over 1,400 "votes" for the participating hotels
  • 44 new Twitter followers
  • 1,100 new Facebook fans
  • 469% YOY increase in people talking about the campaign

Not only did Stephanie bring new ideas to the table this year, but she was very proactive in setting up the campaign and also very organized in managing the reporting throughout. In addition, once the campaign was over she put together an incredibly thorough report that truly shows how much analysis and thought she puts into every campaign that she manages.

Congratulations to Stephanie Hilger, champion of the September 2013 Blue Magneteer Award! Thank you, Stephanie, for all your hard work and for your drive and determination to conquer any online challenge that crosses your path! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vine is the newest application to sprout from the Twitter family and into the social media scene. The free mobile app is to video what Twitter is to text: a platform built around a content constraint that promotes creativity and viral sharing. Vine’s six seconds of video (and sound! Take that animated gifs!) creates a plethora of possibilities for rapid reach, engagement and influence. High profile Vines include everything from comedy...

to sports...

 and even the White House!

Why Vine?

Blue Magnet has previously covered strategies and tactics for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Foursquare. With a robust market of social media apps, why should hotels consider adding Vine to their social media marketing mix? Social applications are developing into increasingly influential factors of consumers’ brand affinity and purchasing decisions as digital and mobile technology become more pervasive in our daily lives. A 2012 Nielson study of 28,000 global consumers found that the top two most trusted forms of media are earned media (word-of-mouth, recommendations from friends, etc.) and online consumer reviews. These two sources garnered a 92% and 70% trust rating respectively compared to approximately a 45% trust rating for traditional media such as television, magazines and newspapers. Consumers are listening to their friends and family and their friends and family are highly engaged in social media. Digital Marketing Ramblings has a post regarding recent (May 2013) social media usage stats. The numbers may shock you (hello 1.11 BILLION Facebook users)!

With this in mind, marketers need to focus on tactics and platforms which best reach their audience. Regardless of the target, video is the clear cut king when it comes to influence across social networks. A new study from Adobe reports social video engagement has risen to 70% from 42% the previous year. Video content accounts for 77% of all viral reach. Hubspot has posted an excellent infograph which shows that videos on Facebook are shared twelve times more than all text and link posts combined. As the Adobe report points out, offering more video should be the prime objective to fully realize social media potential.

Size It Up: The Good & The Bad of Vine

PROS 

  •  Easy to use!
  •  Consumers love video
  •  Easily shared on Facebook and Twitter
  •  Guests generate buzz about your hotel
  •  Engaging content

CONS

  •  Challenging to consistently create good content
  •  Cannot edit what guests are saying
  •  Another channel to monitor and manage

Let’s Get It Started!

Download the app and start creating video content right away! When setting up a Vine account, a user can link their Twitter and/or Facebook account. Once registered, on the home screen, select the camera icon to begin. When the viewfinder opens, simply tap and hold the screen to begin recording. Release the screen to stop. After capturing six seconds of video, checkboxes allow you to easily integrate your snippet of video with your Twitter or Facebook profiles.

Vine post screen shot

For a more in-depth look at setting up a Vine account see the CNet video tutorial below or here if you can't view the video:

 

One Hotel’s Vine Success Story

The hospitality industry has already made its mark on the Vine scene. The Cavendish London Hotel’s #ValentineVine contest has been recognized as the first ever Vine contest:

valentinevine competition

The contest asked for romantic submissions via Twitter to @Cavendish_Hotel tagged with #ValentineVine. The winning Vine received an overnight stay at the London hotel along with cocktails, dinner, and breakfast. This contest was a great way to engage potential customers. It created a call to action, engaged consumers’ creativity, incorporated a popular holiday, and highlighted the property. In addition, it also generated a significant amount of international press, inherently creating powerful backlinks (from blogs like this one!) to the hotel’s website. 

Wow! Neato! But How Can I Use Vine For My Hotel?

Vine’s fledgling landscape is still untapped. Your hotel marketing team can utilize this opportunity to showcase their imagination, the uniqueness of the property and become a pioneering leader of this social media channel. There are several additional ways in which hotels can differentiate themselves and exercise their creativity by maximizing Vine’s video platform:

  • Renovations - Has your property recently undergone renovations? Provide a mini-tour or sneak peeks and build excitement for the new additions.
  • In-House Restaurants - Do you have a restaurant you would like to highlight? Use Vine to showcase new dishes, weekly specials, Chef profiles, catering, or events recently hosted at the restaurant.
  • Welcome Guests & Groups - Filming a “welcome” Vine for visiting conferences, business meetings, wedding receptions, or family reunions is a great way to show your hospitality, engage attendees, and hopefully receive shares in their social circles.
  • Unique Selling Features - On a cold, snowy day, maybe your Denver hotel shows off the crackling fire in the lobby to warm guests up, on a hot day, maybe your resort would do a video of kids splashing in the pool – how else can your hotel show off their best assets and evoke envy on people who are not at the hotel?
  • Live Events - Showcase live events at your hotel or bar to use for promotional material. Do you have a live band playing weekly? A themed happy hour during certain holidays like Cinco De Mayo or Halloween?
  • Pet Policies - Are pets allowed at the hotel? Show this off with a video of pets checking in!

Be sure to include hastags on every Vine post! People can search for your posts (using tags such as #HotelName) directly on Vine as well as Twitter.

The Future of Vine

Although Vine was only launched in late January 2013, it has enjoyed a more rapid and sustained growth in its first four months than other less robust competitors. According to Onavo Insights, April alone saw Vine take nearly an 8% market share and a 96% active user increase from March! Similar offerings from Gifboom and Cinemagram have seen their user base steadily decline during this same period.

2013 US iphone market share

Active Vine users will stay on the rise if developers remain responsive and continue making improvements based on feedback from the community. For example, an April 29 update included user mentions and the much clamored for support of the iPhone’s front facing camera. At the writing of this post, Vine is the #3 free app on iTunes. 

Vine is the next step in social media. The statistics support this--users crave and share videos! Many major hotel brands currently have Vine accounts, but beyond a couple initial posts, few are active. Local properties, such as Cavendish London Hotel, which utilize Vine in its infancy, will likely garner extra buzz and credibility for being early adaptors. This novel new app, with the muscle of Twitter behind it, has the potential to be the next ubiquitous piece of the social media landscape.

Bringing It All Back Home

Consumers have always trusted friends and family when it comes to purchase recommendations, but with the increased reach of social media this source is becoming even more influential. Video is the most significant medium on social media when it comes to viral marketing. Users are drawn to brief, easily shared video clips. Vine is all of the above, essentially everything today’s social media users are looking for. Hotels can use the platform to highlight amenities, renovations, restaurant offerings, special events, and engage customers in contests, promotions, or reviews. Vine, with an appealing and engaging content offering, can raise the profile of your hotel, build a stronger reputation, start earning recommendations from travelers and, over time, drive more bookings!

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As a hotelier, it's difficult to know where to place your digital marketing budget for the best ROI. There are plenty of options, but none have the instant results quite like pay-per-click advertising (PPC).  Maybe you have heard that your hotel brand particpates in pay-per-click advertising, but you may not be certain of what PPC advertising means for your specific hotel. Here's a crash course on PPC advertising for hotels, why it is different than organic SEO efforts, and why your property should be investing in this channel.

Pretend for a moment that you are grocery shopping. You walk up and down the aisles, trying to find the perfect product for your dinner/meal/snack/weird late-night food cravings, "searching" through all the products, picking up packages and reading their descriptions, until you find the one that you feel is best for you. Purchase made.

Let's identify the steps here:

  1. You have a need.
  2. You, the shopper, the guest, the user, "search" for something to fill that need.
  3. The store lines its shelves with things that might possibly fulfill your need, and...
  4. You pick the most relevant "answer" to best fulfill this need. If you picked one brand, for example Special K cereal, from 100 choices on the shelves, this would represent an organic search.

Now let's say the Kellogg's brand paid for better placement of their Special K cereal in order to make their product stand out from their competitors. Maybe instead of the cereal appearing on the bottom shelf, Kellogg's pays to have their Special K cereal placed at eye-level in the high-traffic half of the cereal aisle. This would represent a paid search effort. Paid search efforts are a way to ensure that you are more visible than your competitors to shoppers.

What is PPC?

  • Pay-per-click advertising is exactly what it sounds like; you only pay for the clicks your ads receive. No clicks = No spend.
  • Cost-Per-Click (CPC): this is the cost incurred per click. CPC is a basic metric that is often used to set budgets and expectations for a particular account. 
    For Example: If your average CPC is $2, and you budget $1,000 a month, you can expect (roughly) 500 clicks a month from the ads.
  • PPC ads show up on the top and the right side of a search engine results page (in green in photo below) after a user has entered the query into the search engine. The ad will enter an auction for the position, and the winning ad will be shown.

SERP Example

As this photo shows, the sponsored placements (green) will always be visible on the results page, while the organic placements (blue) and the local placements (red) depend on ranking factors. This is where SEO comes in. 

Why Do Advertisers Need PPC?

  • The purpose of paid search is to capture traffic that might have otherwise been directed to the highest ranking site on the organic results page. It is one of the quickest and easiest ways to put your business on the top of the search engine results page, which can be especially beneficial for a site that does not rank well organically for certain keywords or search queries.
  • PPC enhances all other marketing tactics: social media, email marketing, SEO, local results.
  • PPC is easily customized to very specific products, promotions, or offerings.
  • PPC can send traffic to the most relevant page on the site, eliminating the user’s need for navigation (and eliminating chances to drop-off!). 
    For Example: if you want to drive more traffic for summer weddings in Sacramento, your ads can send the user directly to your weddings page that showcases pictures, floor plans, catering, etc.
  • Out of budget? **Click** Now your PPC advertising and spending is turned off until you turn it back on. Instantaneous.

Why Do Hotels Need PPC?

Nearly every business can benefit from PPC Advertising, whether in building brand awareness, selling a specific product, or even getting folks into a brick-and-mortar location. Every business should be utilizing this channel in their online marketing strategy, and hotels specifically can greatly benefit from PPC in a number of ways:

  • Hotels are constantly battling dependency on OTAs, like Expedia and Travelocity, which collect a hefty margin for each booking. PPC efforts allow hotels to capture some of the market that would have gone straight to an OTA, and encourages guests to book accommodations on their most profitable channel: their website.
  • Hotels can direct traffic to their specific property. This ensures that the conversion (and revenue!) stays with your property, not on a different property in the same area.
    For Example: if a search is done for "hotels in Oakland", there will be landing pages devoted to all of a brand's properties in Oakland. A hotel will face competition from its own sister properties. The goal of these pages is to elevate the brand as a whole, not the specific hotel.
  • SEO + PPC = page dominance. Hopefully, your SEO tactics have put you at the top for both organic and local results. Pair those efforts with PPC’s ability to show your ad at the top or right of the page, and you have now given your audience THREE different opportunities to come to your site and not your competitors’.
  • Special offers, events, wedding or restaurant pages: Brand.com will run ads for “Hotels in [insert big city here]”. While this does drive traffic to your property's home page, broad searches such as these indicate the user is likely just beginning their search and not ready to book. By running property-specific PPC, you can now send those seeking wedding venues, on-site restaurants, business meeting space, and anything else your property offers to a specific landing page.

What's The Catch?

A/B Testing to always be optimizing! While few and far between, there are some 'cons' of PPC advertising. With all the dynamic ads and automatic bidding that Google and Bing offer, it’s fairly easy to pick your keywords, set your budgets, and launch your PPC campaign. Here’s the part that’s not so easy: optimizing. Optimizing PPC campaigns, strategies, and budgets is literally a full-time job (thank goodness!). Optimizing and testing is not critical to running PPC ads, but it is absolutely critical to the success of these efforts. The most rewarding (and fun, if you’re as big of online marketing nerds as we are at Blue Magnet) aspect of PPC advertising is its ability to always be one-upping itself.

For Example: run ads A and B at the same time. If ad B gets more clicks/conversions/whatever-your-goal-metric-is than ad A, stop running A, and now try to beat B.

Finding the sweet spot for your bids and ad rank takes a lot of knowledge, skills, and many, many tests.

Catch #2: Without proper access to the HTML code that makes up your site, Conversion Tracking is pretty much impossible. Hotels that have standalone sites in addition to their brand site can track the shopper’s journey from PPC ad to hotel site to reservation page. Without a standalone site, you can only track the shopper coming to the hotel's site. Without this valuable data, it can be difficult to see the exact ROI of your PPC efforts.

With thant in mind, you may be thinking: “So, if I don’t have an independent site, I shouldn’t do PPC advertising?”  Wrong.

A traveler would not be searching for "hotels in ______" unless they were looking to book a hotel in the area they have designated. By simply showing up to the Search Engine Results Page party for your keywords, your specific property will be capturing valuable, relevant traffic that might have gone elsewhere. Miss out on this party/opportunity, and your competitors (or OTAs) may capture what you didn't. It’s not ideal from a tracking (and optimizing!) perspective, but it is still valuable traffic that you have taken away from your competitors.

In short, PPC is a valuable, extremely customizable marketing channel that allows hoteliers to compete with OTAs and their local competitors, even those under the same brand. You can run ads on any budget, on any schedule, and as often as you like.

PPC is a beautiful thing. 

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One of the truisms regarding Twitter is: even if you aren't talking about your brand on Twitter, your customers are. Here at Blue Magnet, we come across a lot of nonsense and dubious claims regarding social media and how people use it; however, in this case, we have direct experience with the truth of the above truism. Due to the ephemeral and informal nature of Twitter, many users will tweet about anything and everything that they are doing, and when I say everything, I mean absolutely everything. If I wasn't a skeptic, I would give you my guarantee that your hotel has been mentioned on Twitter at least once at one time or another. As such, I will offer you my nearly unqualified assurance that that is indeed the case: People have/will/are talking about your hotel on Twitter.

Tweeting Behind Your Back

Another oft-repeated truism is that people say things behind your back that they would never say to your face. If this is true, just imagine what people are saying behind your back on the internet, where the discourse can quickly turn to extreme virulence and spitefulness. If this thought worries you, don't panic, just follow these easy steps to tune in to the Twitter conversation. It will take you an hour at most to get everything set up, and then, you will be able to sleep easy knowing that you know exactly what people are saying about your hotel.

Step 1: Create a Twitter account for your hotel (5-10 Min)

Twitter is one of the easiest social media networks to sign up for because unlike Facebook and Youtube, you can get away with a bare minimum of content. Here's how to quickly set-up your account:

  • Go to www.twitter.com.
  • In the "New to Twitter?" Section, simply enter in your hotel name, an e-mail address, and a new password.



  • On the next page, you will be able to choose your Twitter handle (username). Try to make your handle as descriptive and concise as possible. 
    • e.g. Brand Name + Location = MarriottChicago
    • If EmbassySuitesNewYork is taken or too long, try ESNewYork
  • Once you have chosen your handle, Twitter will try to guide you through some introductory steps. Ignore them and press the "Skip this step" link until you are prompted to upload a picture. Upload a picture and that first step is done!

Step 2: Install and Sign-Up for TweetDeck (10 - 15 Min)

TweetDeck is a Twitter monitoring software that went through some growing pains when it transitioned from a third party offering to a Twitter-owned proprietary management solution; however, all of the issues have been fixed and TweetDeck is now one of the best Twitter managers on the market, and most importantly it is completely free! To get TweetDeck:



  • Once the program file finishes downloading, open the file.
  • Follow the steps to install the program and then open the program.
  • Click on the Create Account button on the main screen of the program.


  • Enter in your email address and create a password


  • Click the Add Twitter Account button


  • A window will open prompting you to authorize TweetDeck to use your Twitter account. To do this, just enter in your Twitter username and password to complete the signup process.

Step 3: Set-Up TweetDeck Columns (10 – 30 Minutes)

TweetDeck allows you to set up a number of different of different “Columns,” which are lists of Tweets that are grouped based on various parameters that you can set. There are two important columns that you definitely want to set up:

  • Required Column 1: Interactions
    • This Column will display any interaction that users have with your Twitter profile. It includes Mentions (when users include your handle in a tweet using the “@” sign), Retweets, and New Followers. Even if you never intend to Tweet from your account, some people will search it out and interact anyways, so you should monitor this activity.
    • This Column will automatically populate in Tweet Deck.
  • Required Column 2: Hotel Name Search
    • This Column will search Twitter for mentions of your hotel name and display all of those mentions. If you just want to monitor what people are saying on Twitter, this will be your most important Column.
    • To set this up, click the “Add Columns” button in the upper left corner.


    • Click the search button.


    • Enter your hotel name.
    • If your hotel has name variations, create a search column for each variation.

With these two Columns, you will be able to see exactly what people are saying about your hotel on Twitter.

Say Goodbye to Static

At this point, you can sit back and let the tweets roll in; however, I bet that once you see all of the Tweets mentioning your hotel, you are going to want to jump in and start responding and tweeting yourself. So start playing around with Twitter and TweetDeck. There are a number of other Columns you can create in TweetDeck and things you can do to optimize your profile in Twitter. If you’re not sure where to go from here, never fear. I will tell you exactly how to start interacting on Twitter, but you have to be patient, for that, as they say, is a blog post for another day.

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Many people believe that marriage is a sacred bond that unites two souls in eternal bliss and harmony. On the other hand, other people think marriage is punishment for shoplifting in some countries. Here at BMI, we take no sides in the marriage debate; instead, we encourage each and every employee to pursue their own individual happiness, and we respect and cherish each form of happiness no matter its size, shape, or color. For instance, one of our employees’ happiness looks like a bright red cactus, and we love that happiness with every ounce of our bodies and minds; however, we are not here to talk about the bright red cactus-shaped happiness. We are here to talk about the happiness of our beloved team member Ms. Kim Leveque.

Her happiness is not shaped like a bright red cactus, and it is not shaped like an oil portrait of my Aunt Esther. To our eyes, Kim’s happiness is shaped like a lustrous engagement ring and a loving fiancée.

The Proposal

On Wednesday October 5th, Mr. Richard Armour asked Ms. Kimberly Leveque if she would like to join him for a stroll through Millennium Park, one of Chicago’s most beautiful locales. Merely assuming that he was being his normal, thoughtful self; Kim suspected nothing and set out to simply enjoy a promenade with her paramour.  The walk started innocent enough. The young love birds chatted about work and the beautiful weather as the unseasonably warm yet still refreshing breeze blew past their bright, hopeful eyes. All of a sudden, Richard kneeled down in front of Kim, as her fiery red hair shone in the dying sunlight, and asked her the question that dwarfs all questions – Would she marry him? Although she was initially taken aback by the shock of his unexpected proposal, she quickly recovered her trademark composure and simply and firmly responded, “Yes.”

Congratulations From Your Friends at Blue Magnet

We, at BMI, are so incredibly happy for Kim and Richard that mere, common words cannot describe the welling of joy in our collective souls. The fusion of two individuals into one beautiful and sublime soul is truly one most the most noble and meaningful of all human occurrences. We wish Kim and Richard the best of luck, but we know they won’t need it. We give them all of our love, but we know they already possess an overabundance of love amongst themselves. So in the end, we simply offer them our sincerest congratulations and our deep hope that their happiness stays as strong and resplendent as it appears to us right now.

Congratulations Kim and Richard from everyone at BMI!

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