If you have thought about going on a diet before, you have probably done some initial research to determine the right diet plan for you. And, like most people who finally decide to pull the trigger on a diet, you were probably hoping to find something that promises to deliver fast results … as in, yesterday. While you were investigating these self-proclaimed miracle diet products or meal plans, you probably noticed how easy the ads always make it look. They all claim “Just eat or drink [this] twice-a-day and never diet again” or “ban [this] from your diet forever and drop 10 pounds”. Just like these popular dieting fads, there are always new buzz words, trends, or social media sites emerging in online marketing that immediately catch hoteliers’ eyes and seem to be the “answer” that they have been searching for. They get laser-focused on that one new “it” thing. They pour all of their resources into that one marketing channel, whether it is SEO, Pinterest, or something else they have read about, and they expect a quick-fix. They expect, or at least hope, that their hotel will immediately begin ranking #1 on Google for hundreds of keywords, and their hotel will be at 100% occupancy every night. But of course, that’s not realistic, and deep down they know it.

Why doesn’t a fad diet/marketing strategy produce ideal results in the long run? Because these strategies are not focusing on the big picture and long term investment. My mom has always preached “everything is okay in moderation” and “haste makes waste”, and I think she is on to something here. (Yes, mom, you were right.) I have tried several short-lived diets, and I have even succumbed to a torturous juice cleanse in the past, and I always lose the weight only to gain it back as soon as I start eating a normal diet again. I have witnessed similar mishaps in the online marketing world. Everyone starts talking about the importance of linkbuilding. And then an SEO gets the bright idea to try to produce a miracle by cheating the system. They begin implementing some spammy linkbuilding tactics to speed up the results – what marketers refer to as “black hat SEO”. They go out and solicit any site and every site for free links back to the hotel’s website, most of which are completely irrelevant to the hotel. While the hotel may reap some benefits and rank well in Google for a few days or weeks, it won’t be long before Google catches wind of the gimmick and penalizes the hotel for failing to adhere to standard guidelines. What happens when Google slaps you on the wrist? The blackhat SEO plan backfires, the hotel drops several pages in Google’s rankings, guests can’t find the hotel’s website organically, and online bookings plunge rapidly. At Blue Magnet Interactive, we strive to create a holistic, multi-channel online marketing strategy for every hotel that we partner with because all of the various marketing components are always much more effective and produce much better results when working in tandem. Our team always follows best practices, even though that often requires more time and resources, because doing online marketing correctly the first time is a much better long term investment for the hotel.

Creating a diet/multi-channel marketing strategy that works for your hotel

It all boils down to finding the healthiest marketing mix for your particular hotel – a marketing mix that will help your hotel achieve its specific goals. When it comes to dieting, everyone has their own goals, whether it is losing weight, getting toned, or running a marathon. Everyone also has their own dietary requirements depending on their health, lifestyle, and fitness regimen. If you run 10 miles a day, you might aim for a larger carbohydrate intake than the person sitting next to you. While it is important for every hotel to have a strategy in place for its website content, SEO, social media, paid advertising, and email marketing; the actual strategy and investment in each strategy should differ from hotel to hotel. In order to determine what multi-channel marketing strategy is going to be most effective for your hotel, your hotel team needs to assess its current marketing strategy, establish realistic goals, and determine areas of improvement that are of utmost priority. If your hotel does not have a beautiful wedding space and scenic room views, you may find that you can cut Pinterest out of your marketing budget. If you realize that your hotel has been spending $1000 on a paid search campaign but your hotel doesn’t have a user-friendly website with informative content, you may realize that it’s best to halt your paid media spend and invest in a website redesign and content refresh before paying for more traffic. Once you have determined your marketing goals and needs, you can work with your hotel marketing team to put a multi-channel strategy in place for the next several months – knowing that it is going to take some time before your hotel is sold out every night. But if you continue to follow best practices and invest in a healthy strategy, you’ll get there in due time! You have to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run – no one expects you to be running a marathon tomorrow. As with dieting, you will continue to “weigh-in” regularly and refine your hotel’s online marketing strategy.

Presentation Deck

We were honored to be invited to attend and present at a hotel management company’s leadership conference in Annapolis, Maryland this past week. Our presentation deck below uses this dieting/marketing analogy to visually depict how Blue Magnet Interactive approaches a multi-channel marketing strategy to maximize your hotel’s online visibility and drive online revenue.

When creating your hotel’s marketing plan, it’s important to examine the journey a consumer takes when traveling, because, at a high level, it is very similar for all consumers. They begin dreaming about taking a trip. They start doing their research and planning. Eventually they book their hotel, flight, rental car, etc. They travel to their destination and have an experience. Whether it’s a good experience or a bad experience, they will likely share their vacation stories and photos with friends, family, and anonymous strangers, which will then inspire the next person to begin dreaming about a much-needed vacation. For a hotel to successfully master a multi-channel strategy, they need to optimize all of the various channels that consumers interact with during any of these stages of travel. The deck below gives multiple examples that show how a hotel can diversify their channel marketing and optimize each channel with consistent, informative, and unique content in order to deliver the best possible experience, both online and offline.



Is your hotel on a diet? If you need help determining the best online marketing strategy for your hotel, please contact us. Tweet your questions or comments to @Blue_Magnet.

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If we can learn anything from Facebook, it is that change is inevitable. While it can be overwhelming to log in and notice that nothing looks the way it did five minutes ago, often times these changes are for the best! Facebook's latest round of updates should be influential in your admin's content strategy, will improve your organization within the Ads Manager, and can result in more efficient and cost-effective campaigns. Check out what is new on Facebook in the last couple of months and why this matters to your hotel!

Facebook Update #1: Facebook's Pages to Watch provides more information

What's new: Facebook has finally made the Pages to Watch Section on the admin panel more robust. Previously, this section only showed a high-level glimpse of your page's growth compared to up to five other pages of your choosing. Now located within Facebook Insights, you can compare more metrics to gauge the performance of your hotel’s page and your posts.

FB Changes - Pages to Watch

Pages to Watch can be found under See Insights, at the bottom of the Overview section.

 

Why your hotel should care: You can measure the frequency and engagement of your hotel’s Facebook posts against your competitors'. If your competitors are continually gaining more page likes than your page and have higher engagement (more shares, likes, and comments), is it because they are posting more times each week? Keep this in mind as you create your upcoming content calendar so you can continue to improve your hotel’s Facebook engagement as well. If one of your competitors is consistently outperforming the other hotels in your comp set, take a look at their Facebook timeline to get a feel for what type of content they are sharing and what their strategy is. Is the hotel using better images in their posts? Is their content more relevant to their target audience? Are they constantly running promotions or giveaways? Make note of what works well for other hotels and adjust your hotel's posting strategy accordingly!

Facebook Update #2: Facebook Campaigns changes the ad structure

What's new: Previously, Facebook’s campaign structure within the Ads Manager consisted of two levels: campaigns and ads. The new campaign structure consists of three levels: campaigns, ad sets, and ads. Each ad set has its own budget and schedule, and target audience.

FB Changes - Ads Before  After

Why your hotel should care: The new campaign structure is especially helpful for promoting different events, targeting different groups of people based on interests, tailoring ad copy to each audience, and allocating your budget accordingly.

For example, imagine you are a Chicago hotel and your Facebook Ad budget for April is $50. Your hotel’s overarching advertising objective for the month is to build awareness about your property and gain quality Facebook fans that are likely to travel to Chicago within the next year. You decide to target two upcoming Chicago events that will likely capture your target audience: Chicago Half Marathon and Chicago Bears home games (since the Bears schedule is set to be released mid-April, fans of the Bears' opponents are likely to start planning which games they are attending at Soldier Field). Under Facebook’s new campaign structure, your hotel’s April campaign would consist of two ad sets: (1) Chicago Half Marathon and (2) NFL fans. Each ad set would consist of its own target audience and budget. The Chicago Half Marathon Ad Set targets Facebook users who live in the United States, are interested in running, and like pages similar to "Nike". Your hotel is dedicating $30 of your total Facebook ad budget to Half Marathon ad set. The NFL fans ad set targets people who like the NFL, ESPN, are fans of teams that the Chicago Bears are playing at home this season, and live in Green Bay, WI and Minneapolis, MN. Your hotel is dedicating $20 of total ad spend to the NFL ad set. The new Facebook campaign structure then allows you to create multiple ads within the ad set so your hotel can target by users’ interests, relationship status, location, etc. You can tailor each ad with unique copy to ensure it resonates with the intended audience and control the amount of money you want to spend on each ad.

Overall, this means a more organized process for hotel's that are running multiple ads and the ability to target niche communities more effectively.

Facebook Update #3: Facebook Ads provides more effective targeting options

What's new: Facebook has simplified their ad targeting options based on four main categories: location, demographics, interests, and behavior. Location targeting is more accommodating; Advertisers can now create a campaign including or excluding any combination of zip codes, counties, cities, or states. You will also notice that Facebook has said goodbye to hashtag and keyword targeting and is now concentrating on targeting the overall interests users have vocalized. This means you can choose to target one subject such as "hockey" and Facebook will show your ad to users who have liked or expressed interest in topics related to hockey.

In even more exciting news, Facebook's Partner Categories is now being integrated into the Ads Create Tool under Audience > Behaviors. Partner Categories allows marketers to target people based on their activity outside of Facebook, such as recent purchase behavior, the types of products or services they buy (home goods, cars, etc.), and the device they use to purchase. Before this Facebook ad update, advertisers had to go into Facebook's Power Editor to utilize this awesome feature, now it is integrated into ads to create a more efficient targeting process. You can read more specifics, and see what Facebook has to say about these updates via Facebook for Business News.

FB Changes - Behaviors

Partner Categories can be found in Behaviors within the Audience section.

 

Why your hotel should care: Some of the highlights to the Facebook ad updates include more values for relationship statuses (i.e. civil unions) and enhanced targeting capabilities, so you can now narrow down your audience to be as specific as "people engaged within the last 3 months." Demographics now include information such as workplace and job title - watch out LinkedIn...

This new, streamlined Facebook ad targeting will ultimately result in more efficient, cost-effective campaigns and, in turn, your hotel can get directly in front of the types of people that are likely to book rooms.

Facebook Update #4: Facebook redesigns page layout

What's new: Your hotel’s Facebook page will soon have a similar layout to that of your personal Facebook profile. Your hotel’s timeline (which consists of the page's posts) will appear on the right column of your hotel’s page and the left column will include all of your hotel’s business information (map, hours, website, likes, page tabs, etc.). Currently, all of the business information is at the very top of your page's timeline.

In true Facebook fashion, certain page administrators have been invited to join the waitlist for the new layout, but Facebook has not released an official timeline stating when this change will roll out to everyone.

Why your hotel should care: With this new page layout, Facebook is (seemingly) giving less prominence to page tabs. Page tabs will still be included on the business page, but tabs will no longer have thumbnail images, so they won’t stand out as much on the new layout. At Blue Magnet, we typically optimize hotels’ Facebook page tabs with calls-to-actions, like a Book Now app, Plan a Meeting app,  TripAdvisor review app, or custom-built iFrame for giveaways and promotions. So, if your hotel is hosting a social media giveaway or has a booking widget app integrated on its Facebook page, it will be a good idea to highlight this information within your hotel’s Facebook posts as well to increase its visibility.

FB Changes - Old Page

Example of old Facebook page layout. Note the prominent page tabs and the size of the property's rating.

 

 

 

FB Changes - New Page

Example of new Facebook page layout. The page tabs no longer have images supporting them at the top of the page (there will be images for these page tabs further down your timeline in the left-hand column). In the new layout, the star rating is larger and more prominent.

Check out Facebook’s example of the new page layout here.

Facebook Update #5: Facebook's Newsfeed clean up

What's new: Facebook is making an effort to get rid of posts and stories in the newsfeed that come across as spammy to users. Facebook has broken down the types of posts and content that will be penalized as a part of this process:

  1. Like Baiting: A post that asks people to do any given action, such as liking or sharing in effort to increase the post's reach (i.e. "What is your favorite city to visit? 'Like' for Chicago, 'Share' for Los Angeles, or 'Comment' for New York!).
  2. Frequently Circulated Content: Content, photos, or videos that are shared again and again and again. This doesn't mean you should stop sharing posts from other page's and interesting content, but this is a good reminder to not just share a popular story for the sake of sharing it because "everyone else is doing it”. Make sure the content you share has relevancy to your brand and its mission.
  3. Spammy Links: Stories in the News feed that don't accurately describe where they are linking out to are considered spammy links. Don't try to trick someone into visiting your hotel’s website, an ad, or a special offer. When sharing a link on your hotel’s Facebook page, make it clear where users are going when they click.

Why your hotel should care: If your hotel has a good Facebook content strategy in place, you won't be affected by these clean up initiatives. However, it is always important to keep best practices in mind when creating your Facebook content calendars and brainstorming social media promotions. Smaller scale giveaways asking fans to "like" or "share" a picture where one randomly selected person will win a one-night stay at your hotel will no longer be an efficient way to boost page engagement. Also, be sure to keep your hotel’s content refreshing. If you have a special offer that you are trying to promote, don't keep sharing the same image over and over again alongside the offer details. Instead, try using different visuals and mix up the copy every time you post about the offer.

Additionally, don't feel obligated to link out to your hotel website in each and every status update. Only post links that are relevant to the content your hotel is publishing. When you are posting a link, make the link destination clear so users know where they are going to end up when they click on it. After all, this will ensure you are receiving quality traffic to your hotel’s website, which will result in a higher conversion rate. If you think you are being sly by getting Facebook fans to unknowingly click a link to your website, you will likely see a high bounce rate, meaning the user didn’t want to end up there.

We’d love to hear your opinion! What do you think of Facebook's page redesign? Are you finding it easier to organize your hotel's Campaigns with the new layout in Ads Manager? Tweet us @blue_magnet with your comments or questions!

 

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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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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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*Update (Feb 21, 2014 at 10:00am): You can now go back into your hotel's Facebook page subcategories and add 'Hotel' without it changing to 'Hotel Mooshaus.'

Did you wake up this morning, log on to Facebook, and realize that your hotel decided to change its name to Hotel Mooshaus? Well you're not alone! All hotel Facebook pages have been edited to include a bizarre update on their hotel’s information - the subcategory 'Hotel' has mysteriously changed to 'Hotel Mooshaus'.

About Section with Hotel Mooshaus subcategory

What exactly is Hotel Mooshaus?

We're still trying to figure that out. As of now, if you click on the Hotel Mooshaus subcategory it will take you to a mysterious Topic page. At time of writing, 13,019 people like Hotel Mooshaus on Facebook:

Facebook Mooshaus page

Don't have moose at your hotel? How can you fix your hotel’s Facebook page?

Right now, Blue Magnet has a support ticket open with Facebook to fix this issue on our clients’ Facebook pages. Plus, with Mooshaus trending on Twitter, it's bound to get picked up by Facebook's support staff pretty quickly.

mooshaus-trend-twitter

In the meantime, you can temporarily fix your hotel’s page on your own by removing the 'Hotel Mooshaus' subcategory from the Facebook page categories until their support staff fixes the issue.

  1. Go into your About section
  2. Click to Edit your Page Info
  3. Under 'Subcategories' hit 'Edit' and hit the 'X' on Hotel Mooshaus:

 remove-mooshaus

You don't have to edit your main category - it should still be listed as 'Local Business: Hotel':

Keep as Local Business: Hotel

Will this happen again?

It's possible. Facebook pages within the 'hotel' subcategory have been hacked before, which is why it's always a great idea to check your Facebook page’s 'About' section from time to time. The most recent Facebook hack that affected hotels specifically was a mysterious 'APPhotel.com' subcategory, which has since been removed.

Apphotel example

When can you go back and add 'Hotel' as a subcategory again?

I find this amoosingWe'll keep you updated on our conversations with Facebook and let you know when the issue has been corrected. But, for now, we definitely recommend removing 'Hotel Mooshaus' as a subcategory to avoid any confusion!

 

 

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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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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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Hoteliers know that the online marketing world is fast-moving and ever-changing. To be successful, one needs to look at where the road has led up to this point and anticipate where we are heading next. 2013 definitely threw some curve balls at us with new Google algorithms, social media sites trying to emulate search engines, and campaign-changing PPC updates. Now it’s time to take what we have learned, catch the wave early, and form our hotel’s online marketing strategy around emerging trends and tools.  In this article, I discuss 3 impending changes that I anticipate happening in the not-so-distant hotel eMarketing forecast for 2014.

 crystal ball 400

Tim’s Prediction #1: In 2014, social media will have a direct impact on SEO and require a few more bucks to be effective across all platforms.

We saw social media grow up in 2013. Initially cast as a beneficial marketing channel for brands to reach their target market on a personal level, social media proved it is destined to be so much more than a brand awareness tool in the coming years.

 

Google+ will actually impact SEO

 

This past September, Google released its completely new Hummingbird algorithm. We can now safely say that if your hotel does not optimize and regularly post on Google+, you are missing out on an SEO juggernaut. We’ve been hearing rumors for months about the implications of Google+ for SEO, but in 2014, I predict that Google will openly declare Google+ a necessary element to your SEO strategy. Posting on Google+ allows Google to index new pages on your website almost immediately. The +1s also give an advantage in personalized search. If someone who has +1ed your hotel’s post or someone who follows someone who has +1ed your hotel’s post performs a Google search for hotels, they will be more likely to see your content. This means that building a strong audience on your hotel’s Google+ page can directly correlate with more visits to your site.  

 

Pay your way into all social media timelines

 

Late last year, Facebook announced that business profiles will begin to notice a sharp decrease in organic reach. It was described as a result of increased competition for limited space in the timeline, but implied that marketers will now have to pay for reach.  Because Facebook is a trend setter in the social media world, I can easily foresee other major channels, such as Twitter, Google+, etc. begin to curb reach in the same manner. Especially since Google+ will be an SEO necessity in 2014, I could see how Google could make a pretty penny with the ad revenue from promoted posts. In 2014, I would recommend allocating some of your marketing budget towards social media spend to give your social media campaigns an extra boost. Otherwise, you will probably realize in the coming months that your social media posts are no longer reaching your intended audience.

 

 Hotels vs OTAs tarot card 400

Tim’s Prediction #2: In 2014, metasearch engines and enhanced ad features will give some power back to the hotels by providing more opportunities for direct bookings.

Hotels have always had mixed feelings towards OTAs. Because OTAs tend to dominate all hotel-related searches, hotels have had no choice but to bear the burden and pay large commissions. However, new search engine tools and advanced ad features are making online marketing look hopeful once again for hotels.

 

TripConnect – The One

 

OTAs are computers, hotels are people, and TripAdvisor’s TripConnect is Neo. Maybe the Matrix analogy is a bit dramatic, but TripAdvisor’s new bidding feature gives hoteliers a way to compete with more powerful entities (read: OTAs) for placement in TripAdvisor’s price comparison search. In the past, only OTAs and large hotel brands could bid for that placement in the pricing search results, but now, independent hotels that are paying for a TripAdvisor Business Listing can also participate in the pay-per-click program. This is much more appealing than expensive Google AdWords campaigns because it gives a better opportunity to the small, independent hotel. Hotels will not have to face the Adword budgets of the major OTAs, and they will not have to pay the CPC + commission per booking on Expedia TravelAds. As TripConnect gains more momentum and pitches the new product on a property-level, independent hotels will begin to move their ad budget away from platforms such as Google Adwords and Expedia TravelAds and designate their money to a more opportunistic TripAdvisor.

 

Metasearch Engines become a more dominant booking channel

 

Though metasearch engines are a relatively recent development in the travel industry, the concept to aggregate results from various sources into a single list has been around for some time. Metasearch allows guests to use additional search parameters to find your hotel and pulls the information from a variety of sources to compile a comprehensive result page.  TripAdvisor is a great example of a metasearch engine where users are able to search for hotels by name, location, price, and chain. Though an OTA provides a similar shopping experience, the difference is in the customer conversion. Metasearch engines send users directly to the hotel’s reservation system for a direct booking, while on OTAs, users book a room within the OTA’s reservation platform, which charges the hotel a booking commission. In 2014, look for metasearch engines such as TripAdvisor and Kayak to take some market share away from OTAs because they will provide users with more relevant information and a better user-experience.  More and more, travelers will begin to use OTAs as research tools and metasearch engines as booking tools.

 

AdWords Image Extensions help hotels compete with OTAs

 

Still in its beta stage, Google’s Adword Image Extension presents a more appealing aesthetic alternative to the plain text PPC ads.  Currently, OTAs have much larger Adword budgets than individual hotels, which diminish the hotel’s power to rank for highly-competitive key words. Since OTAs can’t use property photos in their PPC ads, the hotels will have a new advantage in an otherwise skewed system. In 2014, hotels that take advantage of Google Adword extensions will perform better than the OTAs.

 

 Google PalmReading 400

Tim’s Prediction #3: In 2014, Google will integrate Google Maps with Google Hotel Finder, and hotels will suffer the consequences.

Google’s entrance into the travel industry has been a long, drawn-out process. The past few years, TripAdvisor, Expedia, and Priceline have surprisingly outpaced Google in the travel shopping. The world’s most popular search engine has shown in the past that it can enter into almost any online market it pleases, sometimes to the benefit of the industry, other times not so much.

 

Google Maps + Google Hotel Finder = Google Travel Dominance

 

Google Maps will be the driving force behind Google’s travel related searches. Recently, Google has revealed its new “Hotel View.” According to the Associated Press, Google is photographing hotel interiors in order to enhance its travel content. They are slowly rolling out the content but already have a large number of properties undergoing the process. Currently, Google Maps already shows PPC ads. Is it too much of a stretch to believe that eventually Google will want to integrate the often hidden Google Hotel Finder listings?

Launched way back in 2011, Google Hotel Finder is another metasearch engine that aims to provide users an easy way to find accommodations in various cities.  In recent months, Google Hotel finder has made new updates to improve its functionality including the ability to access it from your mobile phone. Currently, the Google Hotel Finder’s pricing menu is dominated by the OTAs. The more popular Google Hotel Finder gets, the more opportunities OTAs will have to advertise to potential guests and the more commission independent hotels will have to pay to the OTAs.  In 2014, I predict that Google Hotel Finder will integrate with Google Maps which would create another challenge for hotels.

Because of this, hotels need to take full advantage of their direct booking channels in 2014. Optimize your hotel’s TripAdvisor listing, build a user-friendly standalone site, audit and refresh your hotel’s SEO strategy, and outrank the OTAs!

 

 

That’s all for my hotel eMarketing forecast for 2014. Keep taking advantage of all the latest online marketing tips and tools to ensure your hotel’s online presence continues to improve in 2014!  

 

 

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These days, it seems like just about everyone is on Facebook - curious parents, tech-savvy and not-so-tech-savvy grandparents, and kids who probably weren't even walking on their own two feet when Facebook was invented. I even know a couple of dogs and a cat with Facebook profiles, although I'm not convinced that they set up their profiles themselves. Facebook has now reached 1.19 billion monthly active users! Add in the 15 million+ brand pages and you can see why it's easy for your hotel's Facebook posts to get lost in the frenzy of likes, shares, and posts that are endlessly pouring into users' Newsfeeds. So, how do you get Facebook users to notice your hotel's Facebook posts and engage with them? There are a number of ways to make your hotel's Facebook posts stand out amidst the competition. Adding compelling visuals, shortening your posts, and targeting select times of day to publish your posts are some of the simplest ways to encourage your fans to engage with your hotel's page.

1. Use A Powerful Photo


With 1 in 6 people using Facebook exclusively on mobile, it's important to think about what content people will notice as they quickly scroll through their newsfeeds while waiting in line at Starbucks or on their morning commute to the office. Undoubtedly, pictures are more eye-catching than wordy posts. Images typically take up more space on the screen, and the brain also tends to process images more quickly than words. A picture tells a story in a glance and can usually be universally understood, while words require more time to read and process. Plus, understanding lengthy posts can be negatively impacted by language-barriers. As social media becomes more instantaneous with the advent of each new platform (from Twitter to Snapchat, to Vine) people are growing more impatient and less willing to take the time to read. So, it's probably not a surprise to learn that photo posts on Facebook receive 39% more engagement than plain text, videos, or links; however posting just any old picture isn't necessarily going to foster that much of an increase in engagement. A quality, engagement-provoking photo needs to have some sort of substance to it and preferably draw on a human emotion. Looking at Parade Magazine's "10 of the Most Liked Photos From 2012", each photo evokes some type of emotion from happiness to pride to nostalgia. The screenshot below provides guests with interesting information about the hotel's hometown and incorporates a visual of a tasty ice cream cone, which will appeal to nearly everyone.

                                                                        facebook-engagement

 

As a hotelier, you have the opportunity to evoke your fan's emotions with photos taken on property. A number of travel inspiring photo opportunities can be found on your hotel property. For example, a fabulous view from a room or a delicious looking dish from your hotel's restaurant. Photos of your hotel's staff appreciation party or a sales team member of the month can also spark high engagement on Facebook because they allow Facebook fans to see the human side of your hotel and forge an emotional connection. As Meghan Biro says in her Forbes article "5 Warnings for Leaders: Brand Humanization is Not a Social Media Fad", "These stories make your business interesting and compelling to consumers, employees, and investors...If you let people bring their humanity to your brand, they'll also bring your brand into their networks. That's a form of reach money can't buy." This screenshot below tells a beauitful story about the incredible team working at the lodge, which guests may not have been aware of otherwise.

 

                               facebook-staff

2. Keep It Short & Sweet


I've been told that you have six seconds to grab and hold someone's attention on the Internet. On social media, six seconds is probably a generous amount of time. Don't make Facebook users work to figure out what you're posting about - give them all the information they need in one packet of information. As people are scrolling through their Newsfeed, they're only going to stop for something that really interests them. A visual can convey so much without words, which is why using a photo is imperative, but oftentimes photos do need further explanation. Facebook allows page status updates to contain photos with nearly as many words as you like, but there is a positive correlation between shorter posts and high engagement, as demonstrated below.


The chart below, from Belle Beth Cooper's blog post on Buffer, shows the amount of likes and comments per post, depending on post length. it is clear that posts from 0-70 characters are receiving many more likes and a few more comments than every other post length. In a close second are the 70-140 character posts, but beyond that the number of likes a post receives drops off significantly. While the number of comments received may hold steady throughout most of the chart, the large posts (231+ characters) have about half as many.

 

                                    facebook-responsechart

One easy way to cut down on your character count without losing important content is to use a link shortener like goo.gl or bit.ly. These programs take long URLs and shorten them. They are also customizable, so your link can act as a descriptor of the page it will direct to.


For example, here is the link to a Colorado Springs pet-friendly hotel page:

 

 facebook-longurl

 

But when put into bit.ly and customized accordingly, the link can be shortened down to this:

 

 facebook-shorturl

 

The link is still informative, but it is now much shorter, saving you precious characters in your Facebook posts. As an added bonus, these link shortening tools will track how many people actually clicked your link as well as what day and time they clicked it.

 

                                                         facebook-bitly

 

While it is important to keep your hotel's posts short to maximize your engagement, it's also important to make sure that the posts have substance to them. A Facebook page that posts nothing but fluff can end up looking spammy and cause fans to unfollow the page. With your hotel's page, you have the opportunity to provide its Facebook fans with an insider's look at your local area by posting informative content or sharing upcoming events. As many of your hotel's fans are likely from out of town, they probably aren't aware that the restaurant down the street has the best pizza in town, that the annual Pumpkin Festival is happening this weekend, or that the local aquarium is free every Tuesday. Try to think of your hotel's Facebook page as a local guide for hotel guests - sharing valuable knowledge and expertise that will resonate with its fans.

3. Timing Is Everything


It's important to keep in mind that your hotel's fans are probably not using Facebook 24/7. Certain times of day will prompt more engagement than others. It's also important to note that a Facebook post's lifespan is pretty short- 50% of engagement happens in just an hour and a half. Check your hotel's Facebook Page Insights to get an idea of what times of day the majority of your fans are on Facebook. Catering your hotel's content to those times of day will help increase interactions including likes, comments, and shares. Insights can also give you an idea of what day of the week your posts receive the most interaction. This knowledge allows you to schedule your hotel's most important posts for days when its fans are most likely to see it and engage.

 

                                                        facebook-insights

The above screenshot was taken from Facebook Insights and shows what times of day a particular hotel's fans are using Facebook. Obviously, posting between 2 and 6 AM would not be a good choice for this hotel, but posting somewhere from 7 to 11 PM would be smart to ensure the post receives a high reach. There are two notable spikes around 7PM and 10PM that demonstrate the absolute best times to post for this particular hotel. Oftentimes, it takes several minutes for a post to filter its way into someone's Newsfeed, so it may prove beneficial to post slightly (15-20 minutes) before the peak times.

4. Pin It To The Top Of Your Timeline

Facebook's pinning feature is helpful for short-term specials or anything else you want to be sure your hotel's fans see. Instead of having the post get pushed down with every subsequent post, a pinned post remains consistently at the top of your hotel's timeline, giving the post a longer shelf-life. Fans will understand that the content is still relevant, even though it might be a few days old. Say you launch a new special offer on your hotel's standalone website, and you want to start driving traffic to it. You can create a post announcing the promotion and pin it to the top of your hotel's Facebook page. This way, even if someone visits the page days later, the first thing they will see is the post announcing the new special offer, which will bring it to their attention and maybe even encourage them to click for more information.

Pinning is simple -- click the downward pointing arrow in the top right-hand corner of the post and select "Pin to Top," the first option listed in the drop-down menu (see screenshot below). Pinning is especially helpful for special promotions running for a set length of time. Just be sure to remember to unpin the post when you no longer want it at the top, otherwise it will stay there for a full week.

                                                                                    facebook-pinning

How Will These 4 Facebook Tips Benefit Your Hotel?

While it may be a challenge to track your hotel's ROI from Facebook, it is still very important for your hotel's online visibility to have an active and engaging Facebook page. Facebook allows you to promote your hotel and your area to potential guests on a channel where they are already spending their time. Following these four techniques will help extend the reach and improve the engagement on your Facebook posts. With a powerful photo and small amounts of text, you increase the chances that a Facebook user will stop to read (and like, comment, or share) your hotel's post, further building their relationship with your hotel. Facebook posts with high levels of engagement also linger in users' Newsfeeds longer than unpopular posts, thanks to Facebook's story bumping. It is important to post relevant and interesting information because it leads to high engagement, which, in turn, ensures that your hotel is reaching as many of its fans as possible. Facebook is a great tool for hotels to use to maintain their relationships with guests, even when they are not visiting. That strengthened connection will help your hotel to remain top-of-mind, so when your fan does decide to take a trip down the road, they'll remember to stay at your hotel.

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