Digital marketing is rapidly evolving. Today, as many hoteliers are well aware, we’re living in a different world. The way guests choose to interact with brands, consumer behaviors, and guest expectations have all changed. Whereas recommendations from friends, location, and price used to be the primary determining factors for booking decisions, we’ve seen a shift in consumer behavior over the last five to ten years. Digital sources like online reviews and social media are becoming the new word of mouth.
This means that hoteliers looking to thrive in today’s digitally-focused world need to be well-versed in the nuances of digital marketing, which includes online reputation management, to stay competitive in 2016.
We are going to do a series of eight articles – marketing tips for the hotelier looking to stay relevant and be a strong contender in the online marketing world. Managing your online reputation is a huge part of digital marketing. To set yourself up for success, it’s important to allocate your resources appropriately for your property. Here’s our first tip:
Pick the right places to market yourself
When thinking about where you’re going to market your property, it’s important to understand the context of the situation your guest might be in when they are engaging with your hotel online. Often times, your guest is either in the booking process or they are leaving feedback for your hotel. You should think about what stage in the booking process your guest is in when coming up with a management strategy.
We understand that many hotels, especially smaller independent properties with fewer staff resources, have very little time to dedicate towards social media and online reviews. So, it’s important to start by marketing yourself where it matters. Remember: your property is going to be unique in terms of where it gets attention, so it’s a good idea do some research on where you’re getting engagement and bookings, and prioritize your efforts based on that information. But, here are our recommendations based on how people are researching hospitality businesses, booking their reservations, and talking about where they stayed.
The World’s Largest Travel Site isn’t just about online reviews anymore. Last year it also released an instant booking feature. Now, potential guests are able to complete the booking process, from researching to reading online reviews to making a booking decision, all on one site. Since online reviews are the new word of mouth and TripAdvisor sees 350 million unique monthly visitors, being active on TripAdvisor should be a major priority for every hotelier.
Facebook is the largest social media platform, with over a billion active users. Additionally, Facebook users are creating over 5 billion posts each day. That includes your competition and your guests creating a ton of content. Additionally, Facebook recently launched a reviews feature. While this hasn’t taken hold to the level of TripAdvisor, with the number of potential guests who are active on Facebook, it’s important to monitor your hotel’s page daily and post original content a few times each week. On Facebook, you will get a lot of guests who previously stayed with your hotel and have fallen in love with your brand. This is a great place to take advantage of their valuable posts about your property and engage with your most loyal guests. You could potentially turn them into promoters, which means free advertising for you across their entire friends network.
Thanks to Twitter, you can have terrific two-way conversations with guests before they ever set foot on your property, while they’re enjoying your property, and even after their stay. Twitter gives you an opportunity to answer questions and generate testimonials. Tweets about your hotel also represent an opportunity to build loyalty or enact service recovery. For example, if an incoming guest tweets about arriving at your hotel that day, you can put a surprise and delight action into play. On the other hand, if a guest complains while he or she is still on property, it becomes easy to contact the guest and quickly remedy the situation.
While activity on Google+ isn’t at the level of Twitter or Facebook, it’s important to remember that Google is the most popular search engine, and that content posted to Google+ can benefit your hotel’s SEO. This means that your content on this network can influence guests very early in the booking process, especially if they’re searching on Google for hotels in a certain geographical area.
While TripAdvisor is the dominant force in North and South America, Booking.com gets the highest volume of reviews in other parts of the world (according to our 2014 customer data). In February 2015, Booking.com officially launched the management response feature to all hotels globally, making it possible for hoteliers to respond to reviews on their Booking.com listing.
Yelp is one of the biggest review sites out there, especially in North America. Hoteliers will definitely want to claim their business listing, optimize the page, update the description of the business, and be sure they’re responding to reviews. Also important to note: on iPhones when you ask Siri about a hotel nearby, Siri pulls up Yelp listings. So, managing your Yelp profile is a great way to capture those last-minute bookings.
Whether or not you spend time managing your reputation on other sites depends on the engagement for your individual property. You might start with a list of sites that allow management responses to evaluate what is right for you. It may also be helpful to adopt a reputation management platform, so you can easily see all of your guest feedback in one place.