When I talk about online reputation management, I often say that power has shifted to the consumer in the age of social media. While at first this sounds like bad news to the hotelier, it’s not. The shift simply means that marketing must be done in a new way.
Here is how I like to think about it: in this new age of public reviews and social media, hotel guests now own a critical piece of a key hospitality marketing channel, but it’s important to note that they only control the delivery of the message. They do not own the content of the message. The message is still controlled by you. If you provide incredibly great guest experiences, that becomes the message that guests will communicate for you. In other words, the communication of your marketing message, which once required hefty media buys, has now in part been naturally outsourced to guests as they turn more and more to social media to share their experiences. It’s also important to note that your message is now a very true, unvarnished and transparent reflection of the service, amenities and facilities you provide. So while you still control it, you have less opportunity to “spin” it.
Before social media, hoteliers were able to market their properties with fancy photos and catchy marketing verbiage. Today, consumers turn to friends and networks for information on hotels. They seek out and validate options on Twitter and Facebook and review sites and OTAs such as TripAdvisor, Priceline and Orbitz. Because consumers own the communication, a hotel’s reputation is now a more direct and true reflection of service, quality, facilities, value and more.
This shift presents incredible opportunities for a savvy hotelier because WOM (word of mouth) marketing is now more powerful and viral than ever. A hotel that excels at quality and service will drive new business organically. And hotels that can create special experiences that get guests talking will be especially rewarded. With the prevalence of SmartPhones, a guest’s moment of joy can be tweeted on Twitter and shared on Facebook or Google+ in just seconds to thousands of people. (Here’s a good example from my recent trip to Texas.)
On the flip side, hotels that might have operational issues will know as soon as a review is written about perceived problems and shortcomings. If a program is put in place to manage reviews and route feedback appropriately, hotels can quickly fix issues and improve their reputations. (It is for this reason that we added a ticketing system to Revinate.) To avoid problems before they hatch, I always advise hotels to really examine their Web sites and business listings to make sure it mirrors the experience. A fancy ‘spin’ or misleading photos will only lead to disappointment, which you can be sure will arise in the review when the guest does what he does best – – tell it like it is.