As we welcome 2012, I wanted to share some observations based on a year spent marketing to and working with hoteliers. The industry has made incredible progress this year when it comes to monitoring and managing online reviews and social media. Here are my top ten observations:
1) As the year progressed we found it less and less and less necessary to educate hoteliers on WHY online reputation is so important. Instead, the conversation focused on the resources needed to succeed in an ever-changing online world. Many hotels we work with have hired dedicated social media managers this year to respond to reviews and manage engagement on social media channels.
2) More and more hotels recognize the importance of responding to reviews. By the end of 2011, 73% of our customers were publicly responding to online reviews. (44% of all hotels we track (customers and competitors) are publicly responding to reviews.)
3) Hotels are finally starting to realize that social media response time is critical. As hotels begin to get on board with Twitter and Facebook they realize that clients expect an almost immediate response to tweets and posts. At the same time, guests begin treating social media administrators as online concierges, asking pre-travel questions about where to eat and what to do when they visit. The hotels that are nailing social media are providing value and acting as trusted friends without delays in response time.
4) 2011 was the year that brands and management groups began including social media metrics in incentive plans. As a result, Revinate introduced GS2 Reports, which allow hoteliers to set goals and monitor their hotels’ performance on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis.
5) Recognizing the operational value of knowing what guests like and dislike about their hotels, clients began requesting the same service for their restaurants. Hence, Revinates for Restaurants is launched in December, 2011. The service is focused on the review sites most important to restaurants, such as OpenTable, Urban Spoon, Google and more.
6) Recognizing the value of being on page one of TripAdvisor, hotels continue to focus their efforts on improving their ranking on TripAdvisor’s Popularity Index. Some have great success by encouraging reviews and improving their ratings. Others are able to exceed their comp set’s performance in terms of review rating and frequency, but find themselves unable to climb up, leading some to question TripAdvisor’s black-box algorithm.
7) Hotels begin using great online reviews to motivate and reward employees. Many management team meetings now include reading reviews and recognizing employees that are mentioned by name or function. Revinate clients use Sentiment Analysis reports to quickly isolate these reviews.
8) Hotels are using social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and foursquare as vehicles for offering loyalty rewards. Consumers are becoming trained to check-in via foursquare or check Twitter and Facebook before booking to see if there are any upgrades to be had by knowing the word of the month or promo code to mention at check-in.
9) Review volumes continue to climb both on online review sites and OTAs. This year Google began encouraging reviews, both on Google Places and Hotel Finder and removing 3rd party reviews from search results. As a result, Revinate begins not only tracking Google reviews, but also investing in capacity and performance as we scale to many millions of reviews and tens of thousands of hotels.
10) Finally, 2011 marked the year that hoteliers, and businesses in general, began thinking of reviews as a currency that can directly impact business. We saw hotel brands, such as Starwood and Marriott, collect their own reviews and publish them on their own brand sites, doing away with the middle man.
Please let me know if you have other observations about 2011 in the comments section. Happy New Year!