Posted in Social Media on July 29, 2013 by Kelsey Nupnau
Facebook is an extremely open platform, meaning that everyone is allowed to share their photos and tag the hotel they are staying at on Facebook. So for instance, someone can check into a hotel, upload a picture and post the update on their personal Facebook profile. With that in mind, how can hoteliers benefit from these tagged photos?
With the introduction of Facebook Graph Search, hoteliers are able to see the public photos in which their hotel is tagged and can use those photos (share them) on their hotel's Facebook page as valuable content! This gives hotels the ability to see which features of their hotel attract guests most based on their photos of the hotel, in addition to any feedback or review that gets posted with that picture. Sharing tagged photos on the hotel’s Facebook page can also provide an authentic glimpse of the hotel experience for future guests, as captured by a previous guest.
Public Posts vs. Private Posts
When a guest posts a photo and tags the hotel in that photo, it does not mean the picture will be added to the hotel's business Facebook page. The photo will be added to the guest's personal Facebook profile (timeline). If the person does not have strict privacy settings on Facebook and allows their posts to be made public, any photo they tag of a hotel will appear in a Facebook Graph Search, as well as in "Photos Taken Here" on that hotel's Facebook page in Facebook's Mobile App.
If a person does have strict privacy settings on Facebook and uploads and tags the hotel in a private post, others will not be able to see the photo through Facebook Graph Search unless they are Facebook friends with that person. Also, these private posts will not appear in the "Photos Taken Here" section on the hotel's Facebook page in Facebook's Mobile App.
You can tell if a post is public or private by looking at the icons on the post or picture:
Public post icon:
Private/Friends only post icon:
Facebook Graph Search and the Facebook Mobile App affect the way potential guests see your hotel and allow you as a hotelier to share and monitor the type of public content your hotel gets tagged in. Here are a couple of things you need to take note of:
By discovering how people are tagging your hotel in public photos, you will gain insight into the type of content your guests share, allowing you to re-share that fresh and interesting content on your hotel's Facebook page. Also, by monitoring these tagged images, you can request removal of any inappropriate or incorrectly tagged photos.
First things first, you need to understand the difference between doing a Facebook Graph Search and using Facebook's Mobile App to view your hotel's Facebook page.
What is Facebook Graph Search?
Need a quick recap of what Facebook Graph Search is? Click here for an overview on how Facebook's newest search function affects you as a hotel. Follow these three steps to conduct a Facebook Graph Search and see what public photos your hotel is tagged in:
Once you've entered your Facebook Graph Search query, you will see results similar to the screenshot below. You can see that someone has tagged your hotel in a photo with swans and you know for a fact that there are no swans at your hotel. This could have been a result of someone not taking into account what he or she tagged when posting the photo (they may have tagged the wrong hotel).
Moving down the results further, you see an inappropriate picture tagged at your hotel:
Now, do not panic. If you are an admin of your hotel's Facebook page, you can request that incorrectly tagged or inappropriate photos are removed from Facebook. Before we dive into how to get these removed, let's understand how these same photos are viewed on a mobile device.
How does "Photos Taken Here" affect my hotel's Facebook page on the Facebook Mobile App?
The "Photos Taken Here" section pulls in public photos that people tagged of your hotel on Facebook and places them after the "Recommendations" section on your Hotel's Facebook Page in Facebook's Mobile App.
So, if someone goes on vacation and posts a public photo on Facebook and tags your hotel, that photo will show in the "Photos Taken Here" section. Here is how it looks:
First, you will see the details of where your hotel is located along with the ability to like, check in, and call the hotel.
As you scroll down, you will see recommendations in addition to an area for someone to recommend the hotel. Next you will see "Photos Taken Here." In the example above, you can see that the inappropriate photo tagged at our hotel is included in the "photos taken here" section.
So, how do you untag these photos?
Removal requests from your company's Facebook Page
If you want to report a photo from your Hotel's Facebook Page it needs to meet one of the following requirements:
To report a photo from your Hotel's Facebook Page follow these 5 steps:
What happens if Facebook does not accept my removal request?
Your personal Facebook account will get a notification regarding the removal request you submitted through your Company's page:
When opening the report, you will see the following:
At this point, I recommend asking the person to remove the photo. You will now need to do this from your personal Facebook account. Or, create a personal Facebook account as the Director of Sales or Revenue Management that you use specifically for handling these types of requests. You can report it right away by clicking the "Ask [Person's Name] to remove this photo."
Removal Requests from your Personal Facebook Account
If you want to report a photo from your personal Facebook account it needs to meet one of the following:
In the case of the picture above--which is not a picture of your hotel--I recommend reporting it from your Personal Facebook account so that you can be specific in your message on why you don't like the photo (ie, because it is not a picture at your hotel).
Follow these 5 steps to remove tagged photos using your personal Facebook account:
What does this mean for hotel marketers?
As a hotelier, one of the best marketing tools at your disposal is a review from a guest. With the introduction of Facebook Graph Search and the ability of Facebook users to share their stories and publicly tag your hotel in photos, you can get a visual review instantly from your guests just by searching for publicly tagged photos of your hotel. These posts of public photos makes your life easier as a hotelier because you can share these photos as content on your hotel's Facebook page!
Of course, there will be instances where Facebook users tag your hotel by accident (when it should have been a different hotel or business) or share inappropriate photos. Luckily, you are able to find these tagged public photos through Facebook Graph Search and can take the necessary steps to remove them.
Looking ahead, I think it will be important for Facebook to take into consideration how "Photos Taken Here" affects a hotel's Facebook Mobile Page. I feel that it is far more important to have a section on the hotel's Facebook Mobile Page that displays professional pictures taken by the hotel rather than the "Photos Taken Here" section displaying so prominently. Should a potential guest be visiting the hotel's Facebook page from the Facebook Mobile App, it would be very helpful for them to see professional pictures of the hotel itself before looking at the section on "Photos Taken Here."
Until Facebook adds a section for photos taken by the hotel, as a hotelier, you will need to monitor these publicly tagged photos on a regular basis, or assign a professional like Blue Magnet Interactive to do so on behalf of the hotel. Once you choose someone to monitor tagged photos, they will need to check your hotel’s Facebook page on the mobile application under "Photos Taken Here," or do a Facebook Graph Search to find "Photos of [Insert Hotel Name]." When you see an inappropriate or irrelevant photo, you will need to report it or work with Facebook to either untag your hotel or get the photos taken down altogether. In many cases, you will have to connect with the person who originally posted and tagged your hotel in the photo (through Facebook messaging) and ask them to remove the photo or the tag.
Posted in Online Travel Agencies on July 11, 2013 by Abby Heft
MapQuest recently announced a new partnership with Priceline, which will give users the ability to book hotels directly from MapQuest search results. Per their April press release, this update includes "the ability to search, compare and book published-price hotel rooms at thousands of quality chain and independent hotels around the world. MapQuest travelers will also have access to Priceline’s database of hotel specials, including instant discounts, free breakfast, free Internet access and more".
If you never thought MapQuest was a channel to pay attention to for your hotel, now is the time to change your tune.
MapQuest: Playing Favorites
It seems as though MapQuest has partnered with a number of hotel brands to specifically highlight as a user searches for hotels.
When you choose a specific brand above, it shows you the nearest hotels to your current location:
At this point, a user can get directions to the hotel, go directly to the hotel's website or book a room. These sponsored listings are pretty straight forward and take the user to the brand website to book.
What About the Other Hotel Brands on MapQuest?
If a guest is looking for a hotel outside of those sponsored brands, there is an option to search for all of the area hotels. This is more of a lion's den - and where the Priceline partnership and the optimization of your hotel's listing come into play.
Using Priceline's inventory, MapQuest shows price comparisons in search results for all area hotels:
A user can dive even deeper into a specific hotel by clicking on the hotel name to view its full MapQuest profile, which has photos, a description, Check-In/Check-Out information and more:
There are 2 ways to book from here - through the hotel website by clicking "Website" or through the Priceline network by clicking "Book Now".
In a perfect world, if a user was looking to book a hotel room from MapQuest, they would find their way to your hotel website and book directly with no cut of the revenue going to an OTA. However, the Book Now button is so much prettier! And it's telling me exactly what to do! By clicking the Book Now button, a user will be taken to the Priceline/Mapquest network at bookings.mapquest.com. The hotel information found on this network pulls directly from a hotel's listing on Priceline and Booking.com (a Priceline affiliate).
So, How Do I Make My Hotel Stand Out?
Great question! In order to be fully optimized on MapQuest, hoteliers need to do 3 things.
1. Claim & update your hotel listing on MapQuest
Once you've gone through the steps to claim your business, be sure all of your hotel information is correct and up to date. Take this opportunity to add a hotel description, photos and a YouTube video from your perfectly optimized YouTube channel.
2. Update your hotel information on Priceline
If you need to remove outdated photos, add new amenities or update any of your hotel information on Priceline, just drop them a line. There is no extranet to manage your Priceline listings, but the content team can make any neccessary updates. Shoot an email with your updated hotel details to email@example.com, and you'll be that much closer to full optimization!
3. Update your hotel information on Booking.com
Login to the Booking.com Extranet to update your hotel information. From here, you can submit new photos or remove outdated photos, add hotel amenities, update room descriptions and details or request updates to your hotel description. The description that displays on your hotel's bookings.mapquest.com listing pulls directly from Booking.com, so be sure all of the information is correct.
Now you're set! Your hotel is going to look great on MapQuest, and hopefully you'll get a boost on your Priceline and Booking.com listings as well. The more complete and up to date your hotel listings are across the web, the more appealing your hotel will be to potential guests during their online research and booking phases. The OTA and Local Search landscape is always changing, so hoteliers need to be aware of how their hotel looks on the different channels and keep its information up to date. No one wants to lose business to a competitor across the street for something as simple as an out-of-date MapQuest listing!
Posted in Hotel Online Marketing on June 28, 2013 by Kelsey Nupnau
Get ready hoteliers! Now more than ever, hotels will need to adjust their business model based on the influx of business coming in from Chinese travelers. In order to prepare for this excellent source of additional revenue, I'll give you some ideas of how your hotel can welcome Chinese travelers and all their precious revenue dollars...or should I say their precious revenue yuan.
Show me the money! ...and other numbers
According to the World Tourism Organization, the number of international travelers coming from China will increase from 10 million in 2000 to more than 100 million by 2020.
Reports are showing a positive trend in the number of Chinese visitors coming to the states and Chinese tourists are now the world's largest spenders. This April, CNN shared a United Nations World Tourism Organization report, stating that Chinese travelers spent $102 billion in 2012, an average of $1,230 per trip! More recently, the U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism Industries reported that Chinese tourists spend an average of $2,900 per trip when visiting California, which has become one of the fastest growing locations for Chinese tourism.
So why the United States? What attracts the Chinese traveler?
In the last 10 years, the earning power has increased for Chinese citizens and various policy changes have gone into effect, making it easier for the Chinese to travel to the U.S. and even obtain visas.
So other than increased travel budgets and the ability to travel easily, what are they interested in when they actually visit the U.S.?
Luxury Goods! According to Wolfgang Georg Arlt, director of the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute, “Luxury goods are 20% to 30% cheaper in other global cities. If you plan to spend $10,000 on shopping and only spend $1,000 on airfare, it’s much cheaper for Chinese tourists to fly abroad to shop.”
How do I market to the Chinese tourist?
There are a LOT of tactics you can put into action as a hotel to make sure you are reaching the Chinese traveler effectively and ultimately get them to book with you. Below is a list of recommendations:
So, what are you waiting for? Take a look at your revenue over the last two years - have you noticed an increase in revenue from China? Do you tend to see many Chinese guests come through your hotel? Is your competition already marketing to the Chinese travel market? These are all questions that your management team should sit down and discuss, and then proceed in developing a marketing plan to target this growing traveler segment!
Posted in Social Media on June 24, 2013 by Stephanie Hilger
One of the keys to tackling social media is staying ahead of the game. Are you paying attention to social media channels that are up and coming? Social networks that are seeing users multiply as fast as Blackhawks fans during playoff season? Most importantly, if you are in the travel industry, are you tackling those niche social media sites that cater to travel enthusiasts?
Enter Gogobot: Travel in the Know. The site launched in 2010 and has not slowed down since. We wrote about it back in 2011, but since then Gogobot has reported over 2 million registered users, a growth of 650% YOY, and they are currently gaining a new member every 15 seconds. In 2011,Time Magazine named Gogobot as one of its “50 Best Websites” and the Gogobot iPhone application was awarded Apple’s "Editor’s Choice" in 2012 in addition to being listed byThe Huffington Post as one of the “Top 12 Social Media Apps for Travel."
Gogobot is comparable to sites such as Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram – combined! You can connect with friends, add places to different categories within your profile, and create “postcards” within the mobile app. Being an avid traveler myself, I’d say Gogobot is a travel lover’s dream combination of a social network and an online travel agency – a place where they can both get and share recommendations from friends and experts AND find the best rates on hotels and airfare. Unlike sites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor which contain reviews from random users, Gogobot provides users with advice on where to stay, what attractions to see, places to eat, and everything in between from friends in their social networks (including Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare) as well as vetted travel experts.
Straight From the Source
I reached out to Connie Chang, Gogobot's Community Development Manager, to get the inside scoop. Here’s what she had to say:
Blue Magnet Interactive: What would you describe as Gogobot's main mission?
BMI: Any tips for users?
BMI: Any exciting upcoming changes? New features?
BMI: What is your personal favorite feature on Gogobot?
BMI: What are some of the Gogobot App highlights?
BMI: What do you want people to know about Gogobot?
BMI: What do you feel are the benefits of being a Gogobot user?
Why Gogobot is Your Hotel’s New Best Friend
Hotel social networkers take note! Creating your own profile is a great opportunity to become the “expert” in your area. Think of your account as an online concierge service. Recommend the best places to eat outside, must see landmarks, pet friendly places, best places to take your kids, summer hotspots, and more through “Gogobot Guides.” Guides can easily be shared with guests if your hotel has a custom website by creating a widget and adding it to the site. In addition to sharing a wealth of area-related information, pay attention to your business’s details on the actual property page. Is your website listed? Are the amenities correct? Do you have high quality photos to add? Right now, these issues can be fixed by emailing the Gogobot team; however, Gogobot has announced that admin tools and the ability to “claim” your business page are in the works! Once these launch, you will be able to make your own edits to your business listing. Users are able to check prices and availability right then and there on property pages, so ensure yours is optimized.
Furthermore, Gogobot Guides and postcards convert into great content for your other social media networks. Have you seen a great guide that mentions an attraction or restaurant nearby your hotel? Did you create a guide to Atlanta or earn any Gogobot badges? Tweet about it or share it on your Facebook page!
Trip Planning Made Easy
Once you’ve logged in, there are plenty of ways to get involved in Gogobot’s online travel community. Plan a trip directly on the site, write a review of somewhere you’ve been, explore destinations and the hot spots within them, or ask the Gogobot community a question (i.e. “I’m heading to Chicago and need advice on places to stay near Wrigley Field - any suggestions?”). As you come across different restaurants and hotels, you are able to add those places to your profile under categories such as “Been Here,” “Want to Go,” or “Add to My Trip.” Within the network, search for people or places at the top of every page, follow your friends, follow city experts, search for destinations & hot spots based on the type of traveler you are (luxury, foodies, families – you name it), and create custom guides & postcards.
There’s An App For That
Within the Gogobot iOS and Android app, users can access trip plans while on the go, create digital postcards, and search for and book hotels, restaurants, and activities in over 60,000 global travel destinations. Newer additions to the Android App grant mobile users the capacity to search & book a hotel on the fly - complete with filters for real time hotel pricing and availability, user rankings, and hotel class.
One of the online marketing challenges that hotels often face is staying ahead of the constantly changing social media scene, especially when working with limited budgets and resources. From Pinterest to Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and everything in between, how does your hotel decide which networks are priorities? According to ustravel.org, the internet is used by 90 million Americans to plan travel, making it the most widely-used information source to plan trips. A quarter of travelers use friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers as a travel planning source. Why is this information relevant? Gogobot is personalized such that reviews of particular places by the user's friends appear higher in search results. By encouraging guests to review your hotel on Gogobot, you better your hotel’s chances at automatically appearing in searches. In turn, recommendations from friends, who are typically a trusted source, are more likely to transfer into new business for your hotel.
While Facebook and Twitter remain the most popular social networks and should be a hotel’s primary focus, if your hotel has a dedicated online marketing team or additional room in the budget for social media marketing, Gogobot is a worthwhile investment. Their niche travel-focused audience gives hotels ample opportunity to stay at the front of the trip planner/ travel lover’s mind and provide a call-to-action to boost conversions.
Posted in Mobile Web on June 19, 2013 by Matt Bitzer
Last week, Google took another step in encouraging site owners to properly optimize their mobile websites. And by "encouraging" I mean "forcing site owners do so under penalty of mobile search obscurity." But Google's not one to penalize indiscriminately (ha, almost typed that with a straight face), and has offered to set us wayward webfolk on the right track with their guide to building mobile-optimized websites and their list of common mistakes in smartphone sites. But it looks like this is just the beginning, as Google continues to impress upon the web world the importance of properly optimizing your mobile website. And in true Google fashion, failure to heed their warnings can result in a dark void where your mobile traffic used to be.
Yes, yes, we get it: mobile is important
Like many of you, my mobile phone is always with me. When I'm eating breakfast I'm scrolling through tech blogs; On my train commute to work I'm checking my emails; During the day it sits next to my laptop, alerting me to dinner plans via text messaging; and at night it's perched on the edge of my nightstand like a gargoyle, its cycloptic "charging light" eye casting a faint green glow across my pillow, watching me as I sleep.
I spend so much time with my smartphone that if the cell radiation FUD stories are true, someday my phone and I may literally be joined at the hip in some sort of biological mutant technomonstrosity. And I know I'm not alone, because I see others out there that spend even more time on their smartphones than I do: texting while driving, walking while browsing, Facebooking while intoxicated, playing Angry Birds under a falling piano, and any number of potentially hilarious and deadly situations...well, funny if they were cartoon characters.
Yes indeed, mobile optimized sites are important. Especially for those businesses in the travel industry (I'm looking at you, hotels). After all, travelers tend to do what they do best: travel. And that means their on-the-go lifestyle goes hand-in-hand with mobile website accessibilty.
Website success 3 years ago ≠ Mobile site success this year
In the past your hotel might have been able to get by with a poor mobile presence. Maybe your standard website performed admirably in the search results, plus it was a few years back so mobile wasn't as ubiquitous as it is today. In those days--the good old days, you remind yourself--a mobile site for your hotel was just another bit of eye candy for the main attraction: your standard desktop site.
And let's face it, you just didn't have the budget this year to create a mobile-optimized site anyway. It happens. And in the good ol' days, you could always plead ignorance to the SEO gods and beg for forgiveness if your hotel's website performed poorly on smartphones and other mobile devices. You knew the search giants didn't really scrutinize mobile sites the way they do your normal desktop site, so you focused your energy on those standard webpages instead. Plus, maybe mobile traffic to your site was still in its infancy. Still, seeing this the SEO gods would shake their heads from on high and tsk-tsk your decision to remain mobile-averse, like a parent does their reckless teen. "Foolish mortals," they'd mutter with arms crossed, all the while planning your site's impending doom with a swift and righteous algorithm change that would quickly smite your site's humble existence from the face of the internet.
The SEO gods are angry, my friends. And only an offering of a well-optimized mobile site will quell their tempestuous rage!
Evaluating your website using common sense
Sure, none of your website's Flash videos play on iPhone or Android phones--replaced instead by an imposing white block smack dab in the middle of your homepage--but at least the text still shows up, you assure yourself. And despite the fact that your webpages take 5 minutes to load on a 4G smartphone, you shrug your shoulders and rationalize that patience truly is an underappreciated virtue, and your website is simply giving your visitors a chance to appreciate that virtue more than they ever have before. Use common sense--if those things drive you crazy on others' mobile sites, then why would you force the same horrible user experience on guests of your own site? It's bad for business.
It's time to change your ways before it's too late. By now you should have some form of smartphone presence, but is it truly optimized for smaller screens and slower internet speeds? Fortunately, Google provides a roadmap of sorts to help you sort through your mobile site issues. Let's have a look.
Explaining the common mistakes on smartphone websites
Check out Google's official developers portal for the full list of common mistakes you'll find in your smartphone website, but here's a quick breakdown with a few explanations and images:
Fix your mobile problems now!
Make sure you or your hotel online marketing team take a good look at your hotel's mobile website and address any of the issues identified by Google as explained above. Failure to do so will likely result in your site ranking lower in Google's mobile or smartphone search results. And while you may have shirked off mobile as a viable traffic source in the past, today, smartphones have become the computers we're connected to 24/7. We've seen mobile traffic compose about 20-30% of our hotel websites on average, and that number is steadily rising each year. Neglecting mobile is a good way to ignore about a third of your potential visitor base. And just keep in mind that it's much easier to fix mobile website issues now, rather than trying to recover from a massive Google penalty smackdown later. And while Google has announced these fixable items on their blog, you can bet the same smartphone policies apply to Bing's search results as well.
The goal of the two search engine titans, Google and Bing, is the same: provide the most relevant, most authoritative search results to its user base. If your site loads slowly on smartphones it's no longer relevant because you haven't updated your site's structure to keep up with the on-the-go smartphone user. And if your site is no longer relevant, it's no longer an authority in the online marketplace. Just be sure to take care of your mobile site and the search engines will take care of you.
Posted in Social Media on June 10, 2013 by Dave McGovern
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...
and even the White House!
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
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.
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 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:
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.
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!
When the slogan, "There's an app for that" debuted in 2008, its intent was to suggest mobile devices were capable of catering to our every need. Apps, short for applications, are various software programs that users can download to their smart phone or tablets and appear on their device's home page (very similarly to that of a desktop computer). In recent years, the slogan has become far more literal. With apps that simulate bubble wrap, ensure weight loss by vibrating the pounds away, and more, the slogan has transformed to "There's an app for THAT?!"
The influx of apps lead many, including those in the hospitality industry, to contemplate the need for a personalized app for their individual properties. At this point, I'd like to enlist the phrase my mother and many others have used throughout the centuries to discourage hopeful, yet misguided souls: "If so-and-so jumped off a bridge, would you do it?" The same applies to apps - not all industries should take the leap. In most instances, individual hotels simply do not and should not need to create a mobile app.
Basic Breakdown: Hotel Seekers are Searching, Not Downloading
According to Business Insider, mobile usage is expected to surpass desktops by 2014. Capturing those mobile users that are looking for a, "hotel in your City, State" doesn't necessarily translate into a need for your own app. It is more accurate to say that it is an indication as to how best to tailor your overall mobile strategy.
Oftentimes, the desire for mobile apps stems from a misunderstanding of the difference between the apps and a mobile-friendly site. A mobile-friendly site is an extension of your current webpage that is not only accessible via a mobile phone's browser, but it is easy to navigate and a good experience for the end user. A mobile app, on the other hand, stands alone and must be downloaded and accessed as its own entity. Once downloaded, it will appear as an icon on a mobile phone desktop. Let's take a look at some helpful statistics that give us insight on how the general public uses their smart phones and how that applies to you as a hotel marketer:
73% of Smartphone users said they used the mobile web to shop rather than an app (Source: Yahoo)
The term a traveler would use in a search engine is far different than what one would use in the app store. Apps are tools used to find information, much like a search engine - finding an app is a different conquest in itself. For example, a traveler wouldn't go to the app store and search for "Hotel near Wrigley Field". Instead, they would search for general hotel finders like Expedia or TripAdvisor, or brand specific hotel finders like Hilton or Marriott apps. In the process, they will likely bypass your hotel's individual app. Optimizing a website that all mobile users, Android, iPhone or otherwise can find, rather than an app they may or may not find, let alone invest the data to download, is a better investment of time and resources.
68% of users only use five or fewer apps at least once a week (Source: USA Today | Money)
Just because there is an app for that doesn't mean we need it. The novelty of a new app wears off quickly when its daily value dissipates. There is a small niche of professions that require regular hotel usage, so when the time comes for the leisure traveler to book again, they may forget they even have the app or deleted it from lack of use or memory space.
The Truth: You Already HAVE an App
Many major hotel brands, like Hilton or Marriott, have their own mobile app for guests. Your investment is better spent capturing the business that you normally wouldn't get rather than people who are loyal to your brand. The brand app provides an enhanced user-experience to easily select dates and book guest rooms, and therefore already has your brand loyal guests hooked. It's the users that are searching for more general key phrases, such as "Hotels in your City, State" that you want to target.
Oftentimes, if someone is running this search on their mobile rather than their desktop, they are a business traveler or someone on the go looking to book that night. If the person isn’t a loyal brand follower (or said brand isn’t in that particular market) and they run that search on mobile phone, it’s incredibly important that the hotel has a website visible and easy for a shopper to connect with, book immediately, and locate the hotel to physically check-in. Individual apps do not have the reach needed for these sorts of last-minute bookers, but a mobile-friendly website will provide more opportunities.
Brand apps aside, hotels also have one other travel titan in their corner: TripAdvisor. Second in "travel apps" only to Google Maps, TripAdvisor reigns in all the rogue searchers and allows them to find hotels and reviews. So, even if a potential guest is not a brand loyalist but prefers apps over a browser search, they are still more likely to use the TripAdvisor app than commit to a mobile app assigned solely to one hotel.
APPly Your Marketing Strategy into Mobile-Friendly: Your Next Steps
While apps can be helpful tools in the booking process, they don't translate into getting heads in beds the way that a mobile-friendly hotel website will. There are many aspects to making your site as mobile-friendly as you can. Here is a list of things you can do to make sure your page is optimized for mobile users and gives your potential guests the best experience on your page.
Responsive sites and mobile friendly sites benefit travelers, and as a result, benefit your hotel. Responsive sites, or sites that recognize tablets and mobiles and reconfigure to those screen layouts, give you the flexibility to update your site as frequently as you'd like. Hotels can include upcoming specials, renovation updates, and any other relevant information at the drop of a hat on their individual mobile site.
Make sure that the ability to book from your mobile site is as simple as possible. The first thing listed on your page should be all of your contact info and/or the ability to check availability right away. The potential guest may have been researching with other apps like TripAdvisor and may be ready to book by the time they arrive at your site. Remeber: most people looking to book with their mobile phones are most likely already in our city and are looking for a quick solution. Give them that solution with your mobile-friendly, easy to use website.
When potential guests use search engines to find your hotel, you want to ensure that the correct information is displayed for your local listing. Make sure that the address and phone number are correct so that there are no errors in navigation or in an attempt to call the hotel to book. Make sure that the lisitng points back to your mobile-friendly page as well.
The influence of mobile phones is growing and shows no signs of slowing down. Make sure you can capture those potential guests by creating a great mobile experience on your website, rather than spending considerably more on a standalone mobile app.
Posted in Hotel Online Marketing on May 27, 2013 by Kim Armour
As a hotelier, you do not need to go undercover at your competitors’ properties to discover their online marketing secrets. With the online investigation skills I'm about to share with you, you will be able to uncover your competitor’s online marketing and selling strategies without resorting to cloak and dagger tactics. It’s not only incredibly important to continually monitor your hotel’s online performance and marketing strategies, but it’s just as crucial that you keep a watchful eye on your competitors. Learn to keenly observe the competition so that your hotel is ahead of the game and constantly seeking out additional opportunities to maintain a competitive edge over other hotels in your market.
9 Professional Investigation Skills to Master
Let’s start easy. Instead of manually searching for all the information about your competitors, have that information automatically sent to you directly. Watching your competitors is as easy as checking your inbox.
#1 Set up Google Alerts.
#2 Sign up for eNewsletters from your competitors.
Now that we are intercepting the competition’s messages, let’s cross the border and visit their web pages to investigate further.
#3 Regularly review hotels’ brand or independent websites.
#4 Run a mobile search for the competition.
#5 Get social with your comp set.
#6 Monitor rankings on TripAdvisor.
Pull your cap down and push your collar up as we dive into a closer look at the competitor’s online performance; and we begin at Google.
#7 Run regular searches on Google.
#8 Use Bing Link Explorer to take a good look at the competition’s link profiles.
#9 Visit physical comp set hotel properties.
Congratulations on completing your online marketing spy course!
Now, put your online investigating skills to action and start enhancing your internet marketing strategies to go above and beyond your competitors.
Posted in Content on May 19, 2013 by Andrea Mann
What is user-generated content?
What do Wikipedia, YouTube, and Tripadvisor all have in common? They are all websites that rely heavily on user-generated content. I use the term "content" loosely, as it can vary from credible facts and creative media to opinion-based reviews and personal stories... you get the picture.
User-generated content can be advantageous for gathering information about a hotel's amenities and services or learning about a travel experience from a previous guest's point-of-view, but it can also be controversial because this information is provided by the public and is often uncensored. Does that mean that user-generated content is not credible? No, that is not what it means. It means that a reader or viewer should consider the source when determining whether or not to trust the recommendation or story. For instance, you may trust the Wall Street Journal with world news more than your friend. However, if you're seeking hotel recommendations in New York, you may be more likely to take your friend's opinion over that of Frommer's, even though that travel guide tends to be a very trusted source. Your inclination to trust a source will likely depend on the type of information you are seeking. Also, keep in mind that most UGC is regulated or edited to some extent to ensure that the content meets the site's standards, even massive sites like Wikipedia. Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia, has created and successfully implemented a voluntary governing force of editors for the user-generated content site to combat those "party of jerks" that every so often intervene with the "party of thoughtful."
A penny for your thoughts?
…not so much in the world of user-generated content. No one is actually paying for the content; rather people voluntarily share it as a means of collaboration. There might be an explicit, tangible incentive, such as producing content for the chance to win a prize, but more often than not, people are actually providing their content for the greater good. Yes, those people still exist.
What motivates people to voluntarily provide this content for free? The internet is an open platform for people to share their personal thoughts and experiences with the public, and many people simply want their voice to be heard. In a world where ever-expanding social networks are the norm, people enjoy cultivating a sense of community online; connecting with others over a mutual interest (staying at the same hotel), sharing their wisdom to show themselves as the "expert", or receiving some sort of acknowledged "status" based on level of involvement, like Tripadvisor badges for active reviewers.
How can hoteliers benefit from user-generated content?
Hoteliers can reap huge benefits from integrating user-generated content into their social media strategy! We are all well aware that people these days are more connected to their social networks than ever before, especially with the ease of use and accessibility provided by mobile phones. Think about guests that pass through the lobby each and every day. How often are they jabbing away on their smartphones, swiping through their Twitter feeds and "muploading" (mobile-uploading) pictures to Facebook? According to an IDC Research Report, Facebook is the third most popular activity on iPhones and Android phones behind email and web browsing.
So, whether or not you ask your guests to share their photos on Facebook and Twitter, I guarantee that they are already doing it. When describing the 5 Stages of Travel, Google states that at least 53% of leisure travelers say they share pictures of their vacations online, so it's up to the hotel marketing team to strategically integrate, encourage, and help guide these positive guest experiences into their own social media marketing campaigns.
Guests are among the most powerful social influencers because people tend to trust and pay more attention to their own peers' advice and recommendations than they would to an advertisement, commercial, or even a credible tour book. Imagine a guest shares a stunning photo of the scenic surroundings at their hotel, tagging the hotel's Facebook page in the picture and adding a heartfelt comment such as, "WOW! The Team @MatakauriLodge took such wonderful care of us!" That is free PR! Plus, it's coming directly from the mouth of a previous guest rather than the hotel's own advertising campaign, which adds an element of credibility. The guest was not paid to stroke the hotel's ego, so the positive review came from an unbiased source.
For the most part, you will find that your guests are more than happy to share their experience on Facebook or Twitter, usually enhanced with visual documentation, for the pure satisfaction of "bragging rights" (and to evoke envy on all of his or her Facebook friends stuck in rainy Chicago).
Ultimately, the hotel marketing team can create a dynamic strategy that encourages guests to share their own experiences, which will then become a promotional goldmine. Use these five helpful tips to make the most of user-generated content in your social media strategy.
1. Increase on-property visibility
Firstly, make sure that your social channels are all visible on property. Do you have your Facebook URL and Twitter handle on business cards, keycard packets, welcoming letters, lobby reader boards, or any other marketing collateral? Showing your guests that you are social savvy will remind them to engage with you online, whether it's tagging your hotel in a photo, checking in on foursquare, or tweeting about the smooth sailing you experienced at check-in.
2. Enhance on-property engagement
You can take your social visibility a step further by creating an interactive on-property element that directly asks guests to engage, usually with an incentive to do so. For example, you can mark an X next to your pool and ask guests to upload photos of them standing in that spot to the hotel's Facebook page to receive a free cocktail. Or you can create a scavenger hunt to pass out at the front desk, asking guests to tweet photos from various spots within your hotel. Exercise your creativity and ensure that your guests have fun with it! Make sure you choose your hotel's best assets to show off so that your guests' photos ultimately influence their Facebook friends to book!
3. Monitoring social media mentions
Along those same lines, make sure that you are actively monitoring all social mentions of your hotel and any other keywords that might be relevant. It might be helpful to use a social media monitoring tool (such as Revinate or Sprout Social), which will funnel in mentions across all social platforms. You will see several photos being posted on Twitter or Instagram that mention your hotel but the user might not have correctly tagged your hotel; therefore you wouldn't have been notified of this mention without proactively searching or monitoring. Retweet these photos on Twitter or take a screenshot and upload them to your own Facebook page with a catchy one-liner that sums up the photo. These photos are on the Internet for anyone to see or use (otherwise these people would have their privacy settings higher), but if you want to ensure you are giving credit where credit is due, you can always mention the user's Twitter handle or provide the Instagram URL.
If you're still a bit wary about using user-generated photos without an official consent, you can take a much more direct approach. If you have established a good fan base already, simply post a message to all of your Facebook fans or Twitter followers asking them to submit #FanPhotos to a specific email address or tweet them using a designated hashtag that you are actively monitoring. The photos will be collected and shared on the hotel's Facebook page. A lot of people will be excited to share their own memories, but if you want to add an incentive you can offer to highlight a select few each week in a Facebook cover photo collage.
5. Host an interactive contest
If you have the budget, one of the best opportunities to create user-generated content is to host a contest on social media where guests submit photos, videos, memories, or goals to the marketing team and the randomly selected winner receives a free 2 night stay at the hotel. Of course, this comes with stipulations! The winner must serve as your "brand ambassador" in exchange for the free trip, providing live Facebook and Twitter updates throughout their stay on behalf of the hotel, which the hotel marketing team can then share and retweet. You might learn a thing or two from Fast Company's recap of the amazing Tourism Queensland contest, which went viral for receiving such an overwhelmingly positive response. Of course, their contest was a bit of an exaggerated example and we don't expect most hotels to have such accommodating budgets... but you get the picture.
Hotel guests are already actively sharing their travel experiences online with their social networks, so hotels need to amplify their own marketing strategies by taking advantage of an effective, user-generated content strategy that highlights positive guest feedback and experiences!
Posted in Social Media on May 01, 2013 by Stephanie Hilger
Recently, Pinterest gave business-orientated users the long awaited insights they’ve been looking for by rolling out “Pinterest Web Analytics.” The Pinterest facelift (which is still slowly revealing itself to users – Mark Zuckerberg style) was generated with users in mind and to differentiate businesses from individuals. Pinterest first introduced business accounts at the end of last year, along with tools to help expand their pinning presence outside of Pinterest (i.e. the “Pin It” button). The most notable changes in the “new look” are the larger pins and the greater accessibility to older pins. Pinterest already generates a large amount of traffic (see “Fast Facts” below), there is substantial room for growth, and the referral ratio is any advertiser’s dream.
Fast Facts: According to Pinterest Insider, as of April 2013, Pinterest has a total of 48.7 million users. In addition, Pinterest hit an independent site milestone, reaching 10 million unique monthly visitors in record time.
Pinterest Web Analytics to the Rescue
It’s clear that companies have long felt the need to be on this particular social media network, but never knew precisely why it was beneficial. Many questions remained unanswered: How do we measure the performance? How does this help my business? What’s the ROI? While there are already some third party sites and tools available to help facilitate insight, the recent launch of Pinterest’s reporting tool was highly anticipated (and is free for users). Google Analytics can provide insight in regards to referral traffic from the channel, but couldn’t offer any details as to how people were interacting on the social channel itself. Pinterest Web Analytics yields a better understanding on how the users, aka pinners, are interacting with the pins that originated on your website. Not only will you have a clearer understanding of the amount of traffic being driven to to your site, you will know what pins on Pinterest are driving the most traffic. This new tool is an eye opener to companies, helping them to comprehend the type of content that is generating the most interaction and showing how many times a photo was clicked.
Not Just Numbers
Your results aren’t displayed in spreadsheets or tables; Pinterest, of course, ensured that their data was as visually fascinating as your “Places I’d Love to Travel to Board,” by providing engaging graphics pertaining to your content. If you are more interested in the numbers themselves and less in the flashy graphs, Pinterest’s new tool gives you the option to export the data into a CSV file.
The Freeway to Pinterest Web Analytics: Verification Lane
In order to take advantage of the renovations, you must (a) have Pinterest’s “new look,” and (b) a verified business account. In order to be considered a business on Pinterest, you must verify your website. Once your site has been verified, you’ll notice a white check mark in a red circle on your account (next to your URL). After you’ve verified your account, you can find the analytics tool in the menu on the top right of your account, or by visiting pinterest.com/source/yourwebsite.com. If you’d like users to be able to pin items directly from your site, be sure to add the “Pin It” button to applicable areas onto your website itself. Before diving head first into analytics, it’s a good idea to make sure your profile is optimized as well.
One Small Step For Pinterest, One Giant Leap for Marketers Everywhere
Analytics is a big step for Pinterest and adds additional value to your presence on the network. Still questioning why this matters to you? Instead of just pinning for the sake of pinning and appearing “active,” you can now pin according to what your target market interacts with the most. Get inside the heads of pinners who are likely to stay at your hotel! Which of your pins was repinned the most? Which pins are being clicked on? Was it the picture of the wedding you hosted last weekend? The beach located next to your hotel? That picture of the beautifully decorated tuna appetizer? Plan your Pinterest strategy appropriately. Web analytics allows you to choose timeframes you want to see too. If pictures of the sunny hotel pool are re-pinned more in the winter when people are day-dreaming of warmer weather, then you can tailor your content during that time accordingly. If you have the opportunity to tailor the content of your boards to what pinners love most – you should take the opportunity and run with it!
“But I don’t have a business account…”
No problem. Here's how to set up your Pinterest business account today:
Now that Pinterest has given us the tools to answer many of our questions users, we can’t help but ask ourselves, “What’s next?” Will Pinterest come up with ways for the site to create more revenue-generated opportunities? Paid advertisements? Sponsored pins? Stay tuned!
Latest and Popular
- I’m an Independent Hotelier – Should I Upgrade to a TripAdvisor Business Listing to Take Advantage of the New TripAdvisor Connect?
- Hotel SEO FAQ #1: What is the best name for my hotel?
- Hotel Website FAQ #1: Should our hotel website be built on a proprietary CMS or an open source CMS?
- Has Facebook's Integration Of The Hashtag Been An #EpicFail?
- 4 Creepy Google Tools That Can Benefit Your Hotel