Yesterday, Matt Cutts announced that Google was introducing a new algorithm update called Panda 4.0. As indicated by the name, this is not the first Panda update that Google has implemented (in fact, Search Engine Land has confirmed 24 previous Panda updates), so although we do not yet know the specifics of Panda 4.0, we can make some informed predictions based on past updates.

What is Panda?

Panda is an update to Google’s search algorithm that first launched in 2011 and targets low-quality sites and sites with “thin” content. Before Panda, it was possible for sites to rank high in the SERPs for specific keywords by creating pages with keyword heavy but valueless content. Panda was designed to push these kinds of sites and pages out of the top rankings and reward high-quality sites by moving them up in the rankings.

What is Panda 4.0?

As with past Panda releases, Panda 4.0 is a refinement of the Panda algorithm, designed to continue the process of improving the quality of Google’s search results. It is likely intended to identify and penalize low-quality sites that previous updates missed. There is also some evidence that the update may boost the visibility of high-quality sites (although this could be the result of low-quality competitor sites losing visibility rather than Google directly rewarding high-quality sites).

Should my hotel be worried about Panda 4.0?

Search Engine Land has indicated that approximately 7.5% of English language queries will be affected by this update, which makes it a relatively major update (the majority of the 24 updates mentioned above affected around 1% of English queries) and means that it could potentially affect sites in your market; however, if you have been following the SEO content best practices that we have outlined on this blog though the years and have a hotel website full of high-quality, valuable content, you not only do not need to worry but you might have reason to celebrate. At Blue Magnet Interactive, we took a random sampling of the websites that we work with and found that none of them have seen any drops in traffic or visibility from Panda 4.0. In fact, all but one of the sites we sampled actually saw a significant increase in organic traffic starting on May 19th, when MozCast first registered large changes in rankings likely due to Panda 4.0.

On the other hand, if you have a hotel website that is full of pages that were created only for SEO and contain little to no unique content or keyword-stuffed content, your site is likely at risk of being negatively affected by Panda 4.0; and even if you do not see immediate declines from this update, you will almost certainly be affected by a future Panda update and should take this as a spur to start updating your website, rewriting your current content, and creating new unique content.

Check back for the latest news or follow us on Twitter for Panda 4.0 updates.

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Wouldn’t it be nice if business was thriving year-round? Unfortunately, with seasonality and market conditions, most businesses witness an inevitable slow period. For hotels, the dreaded slow period is evident when there are many more room vacancies than occupancies. Although the slow period will differ from hotel to hotel and reasons may vary, nearly every hotel is affected by it at some point. If you review your hotel’s forecast for the year and identify times that occupancy is consistently low, you can carve out strategies to boost revenue and increase occupancy throughout that time of the year. In this blog, I will provide several targeted strategies for increasing occupancy during your hotel’s recurring need dates.

Create Targeted Hotel Need Date Strategies in Advance

The first step to success is advanced planning. When you anticipate need dates in advance, there is more time to develop effective strategies to drive room bookings during your need date periods. Whether you have been at the hotel for several years and are familiar with the hotel’s ebbs and flows of occupancy, or you have analyzed your hotel’s annual forecasting reports, you should be familiar with which weeks, weekends or even months your hotel tends to be slow each year. Now, look at some of the obvious need periods that are at least 60-90+ days out and bring your marketing team into the conversation to begin some market research! Below are some questions to consider as you begin researching the local area and market:

  • Are there any local events happening during this need date period? Look on your local CVB’s website for an annual event calendar and search on Google for upcoming music festivals, state fairs, restaurant weeks, and parades. Compile a list of key events that cater to your hotel’s target demographic and determine which of those events fall within your need date period. How can your hotel leverage these events? Perhaps the hotel can offer a special deal specific to event-goers, such as a discounted rate. Simply have guests show their ticket stub or receipt from your chosen local event to receive the discounted rate. Since your guests most likely booked online in advance prior to attending the event, you can offer them a credit on the room upon checkout. Chances are your guests are visiting your city to explore local events, so encourage them to choose your hotel by offering an amazing deal. A local event partnership will not only encourage visitors to choose your hotel over your competitors, but it will also fill need date vacancies.
  • Are there any popular attractions celebrating anniversaries or offering special exhibitions during this need date period? As you are compiling the above list of local events, note any special occasions or happenings that may offer unique marketing opportunities. For example, is the zoo is celebrating their 50th anniversary or is the museum bringing in a special Egyptian exhibit? If so, you can reach out to the attraction and inquire about becoming the “official hotel” of the attraction’s celebration. You will most likely have to pay for this type of sponsorship, but partnering with a popular attraction during a big celebration will get you a link on the attraction’s website as their “preferred hotel” or “official hotel”. As the “official hotel” of the special event, your hotel will also receive additional advertising exposure through collateral used to promote the celebration. While the website link and advertising exposure will be valuable, it is important to take it one step further and create something that will really drive potential guests to your hotel. For example, your hotel could offer free roundtrip transportation to the attraction or discounted tickets available for purchase at the hotel. Be sure to get ahead of the game and research these key anniversaries in advance, before competitors swoop in and grab the “official hotel” title.
  • Do you have a lot of repeat or loyal guests? If so, create a “Refer a Friend” special offer during this need date period. Whether it is due to the excellent customer service and amenities at your hotel or your hotel’s proximity to a local attraction, your guests who visit multiple times are coming back for a reason. Develop a promotion that will encourage guests and their friends to want to stay with your hotel during a specific time period. Create a “Refer a Friend” promotion where previous guests can refer a new guest and receive a discounted rate on their next visit for doing so. The new guest will also receive a discounted rate during the specified period. Make sure to specify that blackout dates may apply, giving your hotel the flexibility to only offer the discounted rate during need periods. Creating a “Refer a Friend” need date strategy will encourage repeat guests and word-of-mouth referrals, which will ultimately fill rooms during your need date period. 

Through first-hand experience, established connections within the area, and market research, your hotel will be able to maximize revenue by taking advantage of special local events, new exhibits, or important anniversaries and celebrations. Keep in mind that it is essential to plan ahead and give your entire team enough time to develop targeted strategies specific to the market and local area.

Effectively Market Your Hotel’s Need Date Strategies

Now that you’ve developed a targeted need date strategy to drive business during your slow period, it’s time to effectively market your hotel’s strategy to your intended audience. It’s important to utilize multiple online marketing channels, including: your hotel’s vanity website, PPC, social media, and email marketing to get as much visibility as possible.

  • Use the real estate on your hotel’s vanity site. While brand sites have the same standard pages for all hotels within that brand family (dining, rooms & suites, amenities, etc.), vanity sites provide more flexibility for hotels to create landing pages with unique content. A landing page offers more opportunity for your hotel to target a niche audience by focusing on a certain topic specific to your hotel or local area. For example, if your hotel is pet-friendly and you receive a lot of questions on the topic, you may find it valuable to create a pet-friendly landing page on your vanity site that hosts all of the pertinent information, including: size restriction, fees, available amenities, and nearby parks. This pet-friendly landing page would ideally target a niche community - guests that bring their pets on vacation and actively search for pet-friendly accommodations. When a guest lands on the niche page that highlights the hotel as a pet-friendly property and serves as a one-stop shop for pet lovers, it will likely have a high-conversion rate. This same logic can be applied to your need date strategy. Create a unique landing page to market the hotel’s attractive offering, whether it’s the official hotel partnership or your new “Refer a Friend” program. Be sure to promote your new landing page on your website with a compelling banner on the homepage to increase visibility and reach more potential guests. The screenshot below shows a hotel using their vanity site’s prime real estate to maximize exposure for the unique gas card promotion. The large banner ad on the homepage points to a page containing more information, drawing the user further into the vanity site.

Need Date Strategy

  • Invest in a targeted pay-per-click (PPC) campaign, which will drive quality traffic to your new landing page, and will ultimately lead to bookings. A PPC campaign allows you to get in front of online shoppers that are searching relevant queries and direct them to any destination on your website. You select the relevant keywords to target, and you can also narrow down the ad’s reach by factors, such as type of device (mobile, tablet, PC) or location (zip code, state, country). Since you only pay for the ads people click on, PPC is a very cost-effective yet targeted way to reach the right audience. It can take time for Google to index your new landing page and rank it high in the SERPs organically, but PPC ads will allow your new landing page to appear in top placement in Google’s results right away. Therefore, it’s highly beneficial to launch a targeted PPC campaign solely focused on the hotel’s new special deal for a need date period to drive quality traffic to the landing page immediately!
  • Promote your need date strategy to your loyal following on social media. By posting on your hotel’s Facebook and Twitter pages you will be able to quickly reach your hotel’s followers, with the potential to reach many more people through likes, comments, and shares. The social media posts can announce your new local partnership or “Refer a Friend” program, or share important information on the specific need date strategy. The screenshot below displays a hotel utilizing social media to market a special package in order to direct interested followers to the hotel’s website to book their stay. Without spending any money to boost the post’s reach, this post organically reached 785 people that may not have known about the package otherwise.
  • Social Media Strategy

If your hotel is looking to reach a larger audience, consider putting money towards boosting a specific post or creating Facebook ads. Facebook ads provide incredible targeting capabilities, allowing you to stretch your hotel’s budget and only reach your hotel’s desired audience. Through Facebook ads you are able to target people who live in a certain area or who have certain interests. So, if your hotel was a sponsor for the city’s Gay Pride festival, you could create Facebook ads proclaiming your hotel’s Pride partnership and target the ad to reach the LGBT community within 25 miles of your hotel. By utilizing Facebook posts, boosted posts, and advertising you will be able to market your need date strategy to a targeted audience that is more likely to convert.

  • Increase exposure within a targeted audience through email marketing campaigns. For example, if your hotel is looking to promote your new “Refer a Friend” program you could create a visually captivating design with thorough copy describing the “Refer a Friend” incentive. Since the point of this need date strategy is to have returning guests refer their friends to stay at your hotel, consider using hotel pictures and guest testimonials to enhance your campagn. After you have created a visually appealing and informational email campaign, send it to your hotel’s email list. Since they have opted-in to your hotel’s emails, they should be eager to learn about deals and discounts. Make sure your email has a clear call-to-action, such as a “book this weekday rate by May 5” or “enter promo code X for 20% discount” so that recipients understand what you want them to do upon reading it. Email campaigns are the perfect way to get your new need date package directly in front of your loyal guests.
  • We know that slow periods are exhausting and often inevitable, but it’s important to look at your new need date period as an opportunity to get creative and explore new possibilities, local partnerships, and marketing strategies. If you are able to provide your hotel’s sales, marketing, and revenue teams with enough advanced notice about looming need periods, you will be able to research, develop, and implement effective and targeted strategies to increase occupancy during slow periods.

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In case you missed our hotel mobile strategy workshop at the Online Revealed Canada Conference this year, we're sharing our deck so you can ensure your hotel is properly optimized on mobile!

ORC2014 Mobile Strategy Session Description:

With so many people using their smartphones and tablets on-the-go, it’s vital for hoteliers to be targeting a mobile audience in each stage of travel – from planning to booking to experiencing. Does your hotel have a mobile-friendly website and is it providing an optimal user-experience? Is your hotel effectively capturing nearby searchers looking for a last minute room? Is your hotel team proactively encouraging your guests to share their positive experiences on Facebook? If your hotel does not have a mobile-strategy in place, than you may be losing potential guests to your mobile-savvy competitors. In this session, Blue Magnet Interactive will walk you through the necessary mobile channels that your hotel needs to be optimizing to increase bookings and drive more revenue in 2014!

 

 

Want to Get Started?

Be sure to download Blue Magnet Intearctive's Mobile Strategy Checklist to kickstart your hotel's mobile strategy!

If you have any questions (and can ask it in 140 characters or less), tweet us at @Blue_Magnet. For those of you that struggle with the art of brevity, you can contact us here.

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You have been hearing about the benefits of a vanity site for your branded hotel for years, and this year you have finally allocated some of your hotel’s marketing budget to this important initiative! Now that your new hotel vanity site is live, you are excited and anxiously anticipating improved results and online revenue increases. But what type of results should you be expecting in the first year? This is a question that clients from branded hotels often ask us at Blue Magnet when we are launching a new hotel website, and although it may be easier said than done, we always encourage hoteliers to set realistic expectations and measurable goals for all online marketing initiatives on day one!

Why Should Your Hotel Invest in a Vanity Website?

The benefits of a vanity website are undeniable. While you need to budget appropriately for a new website (and may have sticker shock at first), it is important to remember that a vanity website is a long term investment for your hotel. Blue Magnet often recommends new vanity websites to our clients for reasons including:

  • Ability to differentiate your hotel from the brand by showcasing its unique personality
  • Better visuals and opportunity to display hotel photography and video
  • More flexibility for content development
  • Ability to target niche keywords and expand presence in search engines
  • Improved user experience designed for improved conversion rate
  • Social media integration
  • Efficient website updates with quick turnaround time
  • Enhanced reporting

As the screenshots below depict, a Crowne Plaza hotel found it challenging to accurately portray the unique charm of their property on the brand site (left). So, Blue Magnet designed and developed a custom vanity site for the hotel to highlight its features and set it apart from the standard Crowne Plaza hotel (right). The hotel took advantage of all benefits listed above in designing and launching the vanity website that clearly captures visitors visually with strong photography and better user experience.

Crowne Plaza Brand SiteVS   Crowne Plaza Vanity Site

Defining Expectations for Vanity Website Performance

Assuming your hotel already has a vanity site, then many, if not ALL of the reasons listed above, must have convinced you to take your hotel’s online marketing to the next level. From Blue Magnet’s extensive experience and expertise in vanity site management, we have proven that all of these benefits work together to produce impressive results. While each hotel website has its own rate of improvement and unique goals, there are common trends with each site that can be used to best set your expectations for the performance in the first year of the site going live. It is also important to note several different factors that can influence each hotel’s online performance, including:

  • Property – the size of hotel, service level, target market (business, leisure, group), and other property-specific assets all play a role in varying results.
  • Market – where the property is located, from a leisure destination to a large city center or small suburb influences results.
  • Photographystrong photography can have a positive impact on website performance, and likewise, poor photography can hinder user experience and negatively impact conversions.
  • Seasonality – annual hotel forecast and local or on-property events can affect results.

In the first year that your hotel’s site is live, you should expect an upward trend in visits and revenue referred from the vanity site when managed effectively. At Blue Magnet, we have seen a wide range in positive ROI for all vanity websites. In most cases, it is important to note that year one’s ROI takes into account the up-front cost of development of the site. Moving forward, in year two, year three, and so forth, as the site establishes its credibility in search engines and without the one-time cost of the site build, ROIs trend upward YOY. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Before we can calculate ROI, we need to ensure your hotel’s new vanity site gains visibility in search engines.

Ranking in Search Engine Results Pages

What to Expect?

Comprehensive SEO strategies take timeWhen will my site start to appear in the search engines? When will it rank #1 on Google? When can we expect it to rank organically at the top of the SERPs for a specific keyword, like San Diego hotel? Will it show up on Google’s carousel immediately? These are the types of questions we frequently get from clients with new vanity websites. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: a comprehensive and effective SEO strategy takes time. While some vanity sites immediately appear in search engines, others take a couple months’ time to get indexed and begin ranking high for competitive search terms, and it will take even more time to improve rankings for ALL websites. At Blue Magnet, we never promise exact placement in search engines, and we will not promise it now. Never trust an online marketing company that promises you first page or first place ranking on Google. There are no guarantees in SEO. But if your hotel invests in SEO before the site even goes live (and ensures the hotel’s SEO strategy is following all best practices), then your hotel’s site has a better chance for ranking high in the SERPs for relevant key themes quickly.

What Needs to Be Done?
Your hotel’s marketing manager’s first task for the new site will be conducting keyword research to optimize all meta content and on-page copy. It is also very important to submit your sitemap to Google so the search engine can efficiently crawl and index the pages on your site. After you have completed all on-page optimizations, it is just as important to optimize off-site elements. Consistent local listings and third party citations play a critical role in helping your site rank better in SERPs. Previously, your listings most likely all connected and pointed to the brand site, or a variation of the brand URL, or did not list a URL at all. A thorough audit and update of 100+ local listing sites is in order to ensure these are factually correct and pointing to the vanity site URL. You will also need to place an emphasis on link building for your hotel’s new site. You do not want just any old link to point to your new site though, so your SEO specialist will create an aggressive link building strategy to obtain links from relevant websites with respectable domain authorities. All of these organic SEO initiatives are imperative in order for Google and Bing to recognize your hotel’s new site and begin placing it on search engine results pages. And all of these efforts are on-going; some might say SEO is like mowing the lawn, in that it requires continual maintenance to be effective. So can you realistically expect your hotel’s website to rank #1 for your desired keyword immediately? No, but with proper SEO strategies in place (and patience), the chances will greatly improve.

Visitor Traffic

What to Expect?
How many people will visit my site each month? Is 5,000 visits a good amount of traffic for a new site? Is 77% unique visitors in line with what other hotels see? We often hear these types of questions from our clients immediately following a site launch. There is no single answer to satisfy each hotelier’s curiosity – so I have to refer back to the qualifications mentioned earlier and reiterate that every hotel and market is different. What I can say is: Blue Magnet implements Google Analytics tracking on all of our hotel’s vanity sites to ensure that we are constantly monitoring site traffic and striving to improve the numbers over time. You should expect an upward trend in traffic month over month in the first year, with exceptions due to seasonality or special promotions that may skew MOM reports. For example, if your hotel aggressively promotes its New Year’s Eve “Take the Elevator Home” party and room package, you should not be disheartened to see a dip in MOM site traffic towards the end of the month in February’s reporting.

Reporting from Google Analytics can provide excellent insights to the website’s performance. In the screenshot below, you can see at a glance the site’s performance in growing traffic after first launching the site and improving MOM with occasional drops that may be due to seasonality.  Again, it's important to note, that although there are occasional dips in traffic, the overall trend is positive over the life of the campaign.
New vanity site traffic growth

What Needs to Be Done?
The same SEO tactics that we reviewed in the previous section, which are necessary to implement for your site to rank well in search engines, will directly impact your hotel’s growth in site visits. Your marketing manager will also focus on growing your referral traffic by acquiring new links to point to the new vanity website. Using the former URL (probably brand site URL), you can pull a link profile to identify sites already referring traffic to your hotel. From this list you can reach out to sites to update the link to direct traffic to the vanity website. This not only impacts the new site’s link juice to rank better in SERPs, it also directs traffic to the new site that has been better optimized for a great user experience and higher conversion rate. Your marketing manager should be continuously analyzing the data in Google Analytics to determine quality visitors – visitors who are most likely to convert. Keep in mind that quality is not the same thing as quantity. It is more important to have a quality visitor that is interested in your hotel’s content than a lot of visits from irrelevant or low-quality users. How can you determine a high-quality visitor? By implementing goal tracking in your Google Analytics, you will be able to segment your traffic and clearly benchmark behavior – look for visitors that click through to multiple pages, submit RFPs, fill out the contact us form, click for more information on your packages, or check availability using your hotel’s booking widget. Your online strategies should be focused on driving relevant high-quality traffic to the site, so that these visitors are more likely to convert to a guest at your hotel.

Site Revenue and ROI

What to Expect?
I know, your ultimate question is: how much revenue is the hotel’s vanity site going to produce in a month, a quarter, a year? Is this incremental revenue that the hotel would not have booked if it did not have a vanity site? As I have consistently explained with previous answers; there is a wide range of revenue we have seen sites produce in the first year. Each property and market will have different factors contributing to differences in expected and actual revenue. The trend is certainly upward MOM in the first year with Vanity site revenue growth YOYvariances due to seasonality and availability. As the site performs better in the search engines and drives considerable high-quality traffic, you can expect revenue to grow as well.


An interesting finding we have identified is that average daily rate is often higher when booked through the vanity site than on other online channels. On the vanity site, you are able to attract more leisure travelers who book without brand loyalty discounts and are more interested in value-add packages which help drive room rate. Your marketing manager should continually optimize the website with fresh content and offers to improve conversions and drive revenue through the site. As for ROI expectations in year one, expect a positive return; we have seen ranges vary between 16:1 to 60:1 in the first year, and continue to grow in year two and beyond. As seen in the graph, with time, strategy, and continued site improvement, revenue grows dramatically year over year resulting in brag-worthy ROIs.

What Needs to Be Done?
Your eMarketing strategy is never complete. There are always opportunities to improve the site by refreshing SEO or updating your content marketing strategy based on findings in Analytics. As it is difficult to track conversions for hotels that must funnel reservations through brand sites, it is a best practice to set up a ‘Thank You’ page to track visitors that click an offer or use the booking widget to check availability. This page is only visible after a user checks availability to make a reservation. If your site is performing well, meaning it does a good job of prompting curious visitors to check rate, the ‘Thank You’ page should be among your pages with the highest page views. As this is the main goal of the site, we read into Analytics to determine pages that need updating and what rooms, packages, or events your guests seem to be most interested in. We ask questions such as: Are visitors finding what they are looking for? Are they bouncing off certain pages? Are they staying on the site long enough? Are they clicking through to other pages? Which room types are people most interested in? What special offer garners the most attention and clicks for more information? By finding answers to these questions we can identify which pages need copy refresh for better user experience and what primary selling points should be more visible on the site to improve the conversion rate.

Beyond the Numbers

With any vanity site, hoteliers should always look for more marketing opportunities with the site. Although it’s difficult, I advise you to not to get too caught up in the numbers when your site launches; rather, think about the core components of the site that can ultimately help your hotel achieve new traffic and revenue records. With your vanity website you now have a new marketing channel with enhanced capabilities apart from the brand site, and listed below are important site elements that you should utilize to help your hotel reach its goals!

  • Landing Pages – expand the site’s content with unique landing pages geared towards topics with search volume and that contain valuable information for your site guests.
  • Hotel Marketing – get creative with opportunities on your website to market special offers, events, amenities, and more with updated masthead images, banner ads, announcements, and prime placement of calls-to-action.
  • Analytics – dig into Google Analytics to identify more ways to improve your site; from updating pages with high bounce rates to switching out banner ads to produce more clicks, there’s always more opportunity to produce better results.
  • Mobile Optimization – Is the site mobile friendly? Is it responsive? To convert last minute searchers into guests at your hotel, ensure mobile users are able to quickly and easily find the information they are looking for.

Best of luck with your new vanity website! Set your expectations before the launch of the new vanity site and outline a multi-faceted marketing strategy to help you achieve your hotel’s goals. By understanding the critical areas to optimize your vanity website, you can expect to see all performance metrics rise throughout the year and continue to improve year over year. While vanity sites should be designed to provide the best user experience from the get-go and SEO’d before launch, active site management and strategizing are necessary for the site to continuously perform up to or better than your expectations.

Related Articles:

  • Hotel Website FAQ# 1: Should our hotel website be built on a proprietary CMS or an open source CMS?
  • Hotel Website FAQ# 3: What is the Difference Between Responsively Designed Websites and Separate Mobile Sites?
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If you're anything like me, you may occasionally find yourself Googling acronyms you overhear colleagues, clients, friends, or even your little nephew say in order to decode their seemingly cryptic code. In the fast paced digital world we're all living in, shortened phrases can save us time… when we know what they mean. Unfortunately, we don't always know what they mean and oftentimes they vary across industries and professions. In the hotel marketing world, it's not uncommon to overhear some conversation along the lines of: "Will you log out of the CMS then check the CTRs of our latest PPC campaign and update the KPI report by EOD? Please, and thanks!" You stand there for a second, puzzled. She wants her to do what?!

In this post, we'll uncover the mystery behind some of the most commonly used digital marketing acronyms to help hoteliers make sense of our hotel online marketing jargon.

Website Terms

CMS: Content Management System
Hotel Marketer Context: "Can you provide us with the login to your hotel website's CMS?"

Content Management Systems are web-based tools that allow you, as a website administrator, to easily update your site's content without needing to be intimately familiar with HTML coding. A CMS helps you arrange how your website will look, determine what it will say, and point to where your links will lead. The beauty of a CMS is that it takes care of much of the "behind the scenes" work that non-technical website admins might otherwise spend hours attempting to figure out. At Blue Magnet Interactive, we build our clients' websites on open source CMSs like Joomla or Wordpress, which provide user-friendly interfaces and allow clients to have more control over their hotel's website in the long run.

UX: User Experience
Hotel Marketer Context: "We're designing your hotel's new standalone site to have a cleaner layout and overall improved UX."

Remember the last time you visited a website that took so long to load that you gave up on your search? Or when you landed on a homepage that was so cluttered with text and flashing images that your eyes didn't know where to look first? Or, my favorite, when the website's text is in such a searingly bright color that you can barely make out the words on the page? These are all examples of poor user experience. Since websites are meant to be marketing tools that help generate sales, your hotel's website should be designed in the most user friendly way possible.

Wondering what makes a website user friendly? In two simple words: site architecture. A site with a good UX usually has a fast page load time, logical link structure, clean layout, and no 404 errors. To put it bluntly, if your guests aren't thinking about how impossible it is to book a room on your website, your site is probably providing a good user experience!

Advertising Terms

CTR: Click-Through Rate
Hotel Marketer Context: "Your hotel's latest e-newsletter had a 14% CTR when we featured the holiday package. That's the highest rate we've seen so far!"

ctr meme

In layman's terms: CTR = total people who clicked your content / total people who saw your content

In advertising terms: CTR = total clicks / total reach

Example: 750 people clicked your Facebook ad / 25,000 people saw your Facebook ad = 3% CTR

Click-through rates ultimately indicate how compelling your content is. Was it compelling enough to get a visitor to click the button, link, or ad? As a hotelier, you may have heard your marketing specialist refer to CTR when reviewing your hotel's email marketing campaign (what was the CTR of the link to your website?), assessing your hotel's Expedia TravelAd reports (what was the CTR of shoppers actually clicking the ad they were exposed to?), or when reporting how well your hotel's Facebook ad performed (what was the CTR of Facebook users who saw the ad and actually clicked the link to "like" your page?). The more relevant and interesting your content is to your audience, the higher the click-through rate will be.

Strategic marketers have gotten very creative with ways to increase their campaigns' CTRs. In reference to website links, one of the smartest marketers I know once said, "Where there's traffic, there's hope." The higher the CTR, the more website traffic, the better and the chances you'll sell your hotel rooms! See where I'm going with this?

PPC: Pay Per Click
Hotel Marketer Context: "If April is a high need period for your hotel, we can set up a PPC campaign targeting mobile searches to bring in more website traffic."

Pay Per Click is an advertising model that we talk about mainly when referring to online ads. These types of ads show up as "sponsored" results on search engine result pages. We use PPC advertising to capture the attention of customers who would likely otherwise click on the first organic search result they see. The beauty of PPC is that advertisers only pay for desired actions taken by their audience rather than paying for an advertisement's total exposure.

*BONUS acronym* "CPC" stands for "cost per click" and is an advertising metric often referenced in conjunction with PPC campaigns. For example, while running a PPC ad campaign, you may find that your average CPC is $0.35. In other words, you are paying $0.35 each time someone clicks your ad. PPC advertisements should be highly targeted using keywords and demographic metrics. More on PPC tips for your hotel here.

Search Engines Terms

SEM: Search Engine Marketing
Hotel Marketer Context: "This month we're focusing on our SEM efforts by identifying more link building opportunities for your property."

Here's a topic all of us at BMI could go on and on (and on and on) about, but instead, I'll kindly give you the short summary. Search Engine Marketing refers to a whole slew of online tactics we use to improve a website's overall ranking in search results. Specifically with hotel marketing, our SEM efforts combine search engine optimization (and all that SEO entails), local listings, social media, link building, and PPC advertising (aren't you glad you already understand that acronym?!).

SERP: Search Engine Results Page
Hotel Marketer Context: "After updating the meta content for your hotel's website, the site is now ranking 3 positions higher on Google's SERP!"

(Pronounced like "Slurp" but without the "L". Try it. It's kind of fun to say.) I'm willing to bet that you already know more about SERPs than you think. Any time you enter a search term or phrase into Google, Bing, Yahoo, or any other search engine, the information and links to related websites that the search engine returns on your screen make up SERPs. Some of the key components you'll see on SERPs include organic search results, sponsored search results, social search results, rich snippets of information that Google thinks you'll be interested in, and Google's "carousel" of location based results.

Local Search Terms

NAP: Name, Address, Phone
Hotel Marketer Context: "We're auditing all of your hotel's local listings to make sure your hotel's NAP is consistent throughout the internet."

NAP (also sometimes called NAP-W or NAP-U ["W" stands for "Website", or "U" for "URL"]) refers to your hotel's online identity. In the messy, unpredictable world of local listings, the more consistently your hotel's NAP appears across listings, the more trusted your hotel will be in the eyes of search engines (and guests). So, for example, you don't want use your hotel's 1-800 number in one listing while using its local number in another. Also, be careful not to abbreviate addresses in some listings (St. vs. Street) while fully spelling them out in others. While Google is pretty darn smart, it can be easily confused by conflicting NAPs. Bottom line: to ensure your hotel avoids an identity crisis and establishes authority in search results, NAP consistency is key!

Social Media Terms

RT: Re-tweet
Hotel Marketer Context: "Last month your hotel's Twitter account had 15 RTs which led to an overall increase in website referral traffic from Twitter."

Re-tweets are one of the most important Twitter metrics for measuring successful patterns of audience engagement. RTs are essentially social re-shares of your message to a new audience that was otherwise out of your reach. For example, let's say your hotel wants to drive room sales so you tweet a special discount code. Your followers will see your discount code, and, if the deal is juicy enough, one of your followers may RT your message to his network of followers. This ripple effect will allow your message to be seen by not only your followers, but also by the followers of anyone who RT-ed your message. The more RTs your tweets get, the wider the reach and exposure your message will receive. Ensure your tweets are informative, compelling, or humorous to increase your chances of getting a RT.

AWDLY: Are We Done Learning Yet?

There are hundreds of other digital marketing related acronyms out there, but by understanding some of these more commonly used terms, you'll be able to better understand your hotel marketer's reports and recommendations.

If you're ever unsure of what a digital marketing acronym stands for, tweet us at @blue_magnet and we'll do our best to explain it to you in 140 characters or less!

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OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) – hoteliers love to hate them. Unfortunately, they’re an important part of your hotel’s eMarketing strategy. Joe Schmo down the road doesn’t know anything about rate parity or the exorbitant margins your hotel has to pay when guests book a room on an OTA; however Joe Schmo does know that the Travelocity gnome is adorable and that those William Shatner Priceline commercials are hilarious. So, when he’s looking for a hotel in city X, Joe turns to his favorite OTA to begin shopping.

Although many hotels typically offer a best price guarantee to counter OTAs and encourage guests to book directly with the hotel, it’s seemingly difficult to get their message out to everyone. So if they have rooms to fill, it’s often best practice for hotels to just play along and fight the OTA battle.

Expedia is the giant in the OTA landscape. If your hotel is playing nice with OTAs and you need to sell rooms quickly or have specific need dates, then Expedia’s TravelAd solution is a great advertising opportunity. Many hotels enroll in the Expedia Travel Ads program at some point or another– but are they using the ads strategically to get the most bang for their buck? Probably not.

Here are 5 tips for hotels to increase their ROI from Expedia TravelAds:

1. Be sure your your hotel’s Expedia listing is optimized. The first thing to check is your hotel’s thumbnail photo – is it the best representation of your property? If you don’t have a great exterior shot of the hotel, it doesn’t hurt to use a pool image or a beautiful room or lobby photo. This is your hotel’s first interaction with a potential guest – showcase your hotel’s best assets! You can also add up to 4 photos for each room type. Make sure each room type has at least has 1 photo, but try adding 4 if possible so you can create a visual experience for your shoppers. This can be the view from the room, an amenity photo, a bathroom photo – anything that will help sell your room. Lastly, check your descriptions and available amenities. Are you highlighting everything a guest will love about your hotel? Is all of the information completely accurate? Guests will not appreciate false promises – and you can be sure incorrect information will come back to bite you in the reviews later on.

2. Read a few of your hotel’s best Expedia reviews to determine what to highlight in ad copy. Maybe all of your guests are raving about an outdoor fire pit during winter – might be worthwhile to try out an ad highlighting that inviting amenity in your copy. This is actually a good place to get ideas not only for TravelAd copy, but also for hotel descriptions and your website copy. Keep in mind, TravelAds don’t need to be written for SEO – your goal is to grab users’ attention so they click for more information. Write compelling travel ad copy that will resonate with your potential guests!

3. Don’t set Search/Booking dates if your hotel has ads targeting Travel Dates within the next couple of months. For example, if you have an ad targeting travel dates during the first week of March, it’s pretty likely that folks are booking right now in early February. You don’t want to miss out on those potential guests traveling in March if you have your ad scheduled to appear only for guests searching towards the end of February. The Travel Dates are important – Search/Booking dates, not so much.

ROI-travelads

 

4. Be sure you cap your hotel’s spend by setting a daily/weekly/monthly budget. Otherwise, you could spend your entire ad balance in the blink of an eye. If you are continuously maxing out your budget early in the day, either look at possibly increasing the budget or set a reminder for yourself to turn your ads on in the afternoon and have them paused at the beginning of the day. Manually turning your ads on later in the day will ensure that your ad only appears for a shopper searching in the afternoon and evening, and it is likely that your competitors have already run out of their budget by then and are not showing at all.

5. Make friends with your hotel’s Expedia Market Manager and Travel Ads Account Manager. These guys can be a wealth of information and can be really helpful in planning your Expedia TravelAd strategy. If you notice that all of a sudden your hotel is not getting any bookings or if the “recent market price” for your TravelAds skyrockets, a quick phone call with your Market Manager can usually provide you with insight and new strategies. Also, Expedia’s Market Managers are generally cool folks! At Blue Magnet, we look forward to chatting with our Expedia Market Manager contacts any chance we get… that’s how we’ve uncovered some of these fantastic strategies for our own clients’ ads!

By following the 5 tips above, hoteliers can start working towards improving their Expedia TravelAds ROI and increasing occupancy during need periods. With so much competition on OTAs, it’s tricky for hotels to get in front of potential guests and convert them into actual guests. Expedia TravelAds can help maximize your hotel’s exposure to a plethora of innocent shoppers, but it’s the hotelier’s job to make sure that first impressions turn into sales!

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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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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.

  1. I promise to ensure that my annual marketing plan is customized to fit the unique goals of my hotel. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all internet marketing strategy.
  2. I vow to evaluate my internet partner by answering the questions below, because internet marketing partners are not created equal.
    1. Are the services apples-to-apples when I’m evaluating two different potential partners?
    2. Do they build websites on a proprietary content management system or an open-source CMS?
    3. How is account management structured? Are there different levels of support for my hotel?
    4. Is your hotel’s go-to account manager just the face of the account or do they also execute your marketing initiatives such as SEO, rather than passing the work off to a separate SEO team?
  3. I promise that I will decrease my traditional marketing budget because traditional marketing is dying. I will increase my internet marketing budget from .05% to at least 3-20% of my internet revenue.
  4. I promise to adhere to a holistic, multi-channel internet marketing strategy rather than a single channel approach (i.e. just SEO) because multiple channels produce more effective results when working in tandem with one another.
  5. I vow to be patient with my internet marketing results. True high-performing multi-channel strategies cannot be executed at a push of a button by an automated system; rather they require attention-to-detail and continual maintenance.
  6. I vow that if I choose to seek outside assistance for my internet marketing needs, I will ensure that my internet partner functions as an extension of my hotel team in order to achieve the best results. It will be a true partnership, where both the hotel and internet marketing partner are active participants in the success of their campaign.
  7. I promise to commit to on-going hotel internet marketing efforts in order to be successful; my campaign will be regularly maintained due to the changing nature of internet marketing channels and competitors hungry for top visibility.
  8. I promise to make user experience the primary focus when building my new hotel website and ensure that booking a room is an easy and intuitive process. Bells and whistles can come later.
  9. I promise not to give up my internet marketing efforts if I recently invested in internet marketing services and feel I didn’t see a return. I will remind myself that this doesn’t mean that successful internet marketing partners don’t exist; it just means that I haven’t found the right one yet. .
  10. I promise to invest in a user-friendly, functional mobile-site which may be a hefty investment today, but will undoubtedly be a valuable long term solution for increasing bookings.

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!

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Facebook Tenth Birthday

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

FB-Birthday Humanize

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

FB-Birthday ShortSweet

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

FB-Birthday Fans

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

Cheers, Facebook! Here's to many more years of liking, commenting, and sharing!

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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.

twitter-nearby-map                    twitter-nearby-tweet

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 is one of the very few ways, besides buying ads and being retweeted, to increase the reach of your tweets to users who do not follow you. The tweets that appear on the Nearby map are not only from the accounts you follow; Rather, any geotagged tweet in your general vicinity will appear on the map. So if you tweet from the hotel's account and the tweet appears on the Nearby map, users who may have never known your hotel existed, let alone had a twitter account, will see your tweet and be exposed to your hotel. This means your hotel has the opportunity to acquire new potential guests and referrers!

 

  • Nearby offers a better way to tap into your hotel's local market than was ever possible with Twitter before. With Nearby, you can see what the locals are tweeting about in your immediate area - what's most popular with users and what's catching their attention. Insight like this is invaluable to your hotel. Knowing what users are interested in and using that knowledge to create great social media content is crucial. The more you know about your users' interests, the easier it will be to tailor your social media content and ensure it's relevant to your audience!

 

  • A very cool opportunity that becomes available with Nearby is the ability to read your guests' tweets regardless of if the tweet mentions your hotel at all. To this point, the only way to know for sure if someone was tweeting about your hotel would be if they mentioned it by name or mentioned your Twitter handle in their tweet. With Nearby, you'll be able to see all of the tweets originating from your hotel's location on the Nearby map. These tweets will undoubtedly be a good source of customer feedback you may not have received otherwise as well as a way to encourage happy customers and defuse unsatisfied ones.

 

  • No announcement has been made regarding paid advertising integrating with Nearby, but we can only assume that it is certainly an avenue that Twitter is exploring. Twitter has struggled to win the favor of small business marketers due in part to the limited options for geographic targeting of ads. Nearby can open up new ways to for paid tweets to target locals that have not been available with Twitter before.

Nearby has some excellent benefits for hotels, but it does have some possible drawbacks.

  • Quite obviously, a hotel's interest in its local market is limited. Local customers are the target for booking events and meetings, but not usually for selling rooms, so investing in paid tweets on Nearby (if and when that option becomes available) may not the best use of your money. However, depending on your hotel's objective, you may be able to find a creative way to make Nearby ads work for you. For example, you might be able to increase foot traffic for the hotel's weekday lunch special at the restaurant.

 

  • Nearby is also limited by the lack of users who geotag tweets. Twitter has not been used as a location-based social media outlet as much as Foursquare or even Facebook, so Twitter will need to build awareness for Nearby and encourage more users to start geotagging. If Twitter cannot achieve this, Nearby may very well be discontinued.

 

  • Nearby is sure to have its fair share of detractors due to users being forced to see Tweets from anyone, not just users they follow, on the Nearby map. Social media users are very averse to unwelcomed messages being pushed in front of them without invitation. That's why it is so crucial to have excellent content that will engage users who may not have originally wanted or expected to see your message. Otherwise, you may just end up turning them off.

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!

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