Recently, we held a global webinar on Creating Your Social Media Action Plans for 2014. We had over 1,600 hoteliers register and received dozens of terrific audience questions and participation during the live events. In case you missed the session, the webinar slides and recording are available for download below:
We weren’t able to address all questions on the call, so we wanted to take the opportunity to answer many of them here!
Q: Our TripAdvisor market is very small – only 4 hotels are listed in our area. We are currently ranked at #3. How can we overcome the negativity of being ranked 3 of 4?
A: In our webinar on How to Beat the Competition on TripAdvisor, we address the three main factors that influence your property’s ranking – recency, quality and quantity of reviews – and discuss strategies you can deploy to improve performance in each of these categories. The quality score in TripAdvisor’s algorithm is largely dictated by review ratings as well as content shared within the review. Remember that, at the end of the day, these online review ranking scores are directly tied to guest service levels. By proactively asking guests for reviews, hotels improve their quantity and recency indices.
When evaluating your current TripAdvisor performance in your market, you’ll also want to think about how you can stand out from the hotels ranked ahead of you. Are you publicly responding all the negative reviews you are receiving? Are you showing potential visitors to your TripAdvisor listing that you care about the guest feedback you are receiving? Have you optimized your TripAdvisor listing with fresh photo-driven content? These are the questions you’ll want to ask yourself.
Q: We’ve been sending post-stay survey emails that include both a manager thank you and request to write a TripAdvisor review to our guests for months now and have seen an extremely low response rate. How can we more effectively solicit guest feedback?
A: There are a number of factors you’ll want to consider when sending out post-stay survey emails. We’ve learned from our customers using Post-Stay Surveys that response rates drop dramatically if post-stay survey emails are not sent within 72 hours of the guests’ stays. You also need to think about what other ways, in addition to the post-stay email, you are asking guests for feedback. We cover ways to generate more reviews in this best practice guide that you may find valuable.
Q: When responding to online reviews, at what point do you bring the conversation offline?
A: When responding to a review, you want to specifically address any concerns or problems that the guest brings up and explain what actions you are going to take to rectify the situation. When a guest has written a highly negative review that gets very specific, you’ll want to invite the reviewer to reach out to you offline so that you can address his/her concerns in greater depth. In the situations when you offer some form of incentive for the guest to return to your hotel, you’ll especially want take the conversation off of the review site. We address best practices in responding to reviews in this guide.
Q: Which social media platforms are best at driving more traffic to your website?
A: Before the emergence of Google+ and the rampant buzz around Pinterest, discovery engines like StumbleUpon and Digg were thought to offer the best social traffic generation means. It is true that StumbleUpon still can offer intermittent spikes in traffic to your website and Digg similarly remains capable of producing viral traffic to individual posts once and again. However, if generating more website traffic to your site through social is the paramount priority, optimizing your Google+ presence should be #1 on your To Do list. Managing an active presence on Pinterest, where your brand content is ready to be re-pinned and shared by others, should be second on your list, particularly if you are targeting a female audience.
Q: During what time of day is it optimal to post content on Facebook?
A: LinchpinSEO has put together a handy infographic that highlights this information, segmenting the days that have brands have the most Facebook engagement. This information is based on data that was compiled earlier last year by Buddy Media, who analyzed over 1,800 brand Facebook pages over a two-month span to come up with their findings below. Interactions here are defined as a like, comment or share that a post receives. Some findings from their study:
Posts published between 8 PM – 7 AM received 14% higher interaction than posts published between 8 AM – 7 PM.
Brands that post once a day see 19% higher interaction rates.
Pages that most more than 7 times per week see a 25% decrease in interaction rates.
Interaction rate for weekend posts is 14.5% higher than weekday posts, yet only 14% of posts are published on weekends.
Q: How does your sentiment analysis engine process all of this review data? How can we best utilize it to improve our operations?
A: Our sentiment analysis is a highly sophisticated solution that assigns a positive, neutral or negative score to everything that your guests have written about you. The analysis not only shows you your property’s overall sentiment scores – which include numerous drilled down categories of feedback, as seen in this example – but also offers insight into how each of your competitive set hotels are faring when it comes to online reviews. To shed a bit more light on this, we search for mentions of hundred of thousands of words and organize those words into high level categories like rooms, services, etc. Within those categories, we have subcategories that give you a more granular view. For example, subcategories within rooms are topics like beds, noise, room size, room location, etc. To learn more about the science of sentiment analysis and the impact it can make on your daily operations, check out this recorded webinar.
Q: How do you suggest educators start to teach students about these emerging social media and reputation management trends?
A: Revinate has developed an educational program for hospitality universities and educators across the world. As part of the program, Revinate will provide undergraduate or graduate students and professors with access to Revinate for projects and research free of charge. Cornell University piloted the program with a course that encouraged 65 students in a hospitality marketing class to analyze a property’s online reviews and social media mentions, and those of its comp set, to determine how to effectively market the hotel. With data around top keywords, sentiment, review frequency and rating trends, students were able to identify their hotels’ strengths, weaknesses and competitive differentiators.
Q: What advice do you have on how to create social media policies around employees engaging with social media at the property level?
A: You should absolutely encourage your colleagues to participate on social by liking your hotel’s Facebook page, following your presence on Twitter and Instagram, and commenting and re-sharing any additional content you are sharing across other social media channels. It would also be wise to send out a hotel-wide communication that addresses how to properly add your hotel’s social media links to colleague email signatures.
While colleagues and their their friends, clients and guests should actively engage in these social conversations, personal colleague participation in social media should not involve participation in conversations that place colleagues in a position to speak on behalf of the hotel. While all employees are encouraged to contribute content ideas to their department’s social media champion as well as participate in social media in their personal time, your policy should remind colleagues that company-specific questions should be sent to the Marketing and Communications team and that social media use should not interfere with their day-to-day responsibilities.
Q: At a property level, what’s the best advice at convincing your superiors that managing social media is worth a full person’s commitment, as well as worth creating a “social media minded” culture?
Nick Ayres from InterContinental Hotel Group addressed this very well during the webinar. The best way to frame this conversation is by showing your superiors that social media plays more than just a vertical role as a marketing tool. Rather, social feedback plays a horizontal role and impact each and every hotel department. Social feedback can change the way you at the hotel level think about the dialogue you have with your customers.
To show this, outline how you could use positive and negative feedback in your strategic and tactical planning. Don’t hesitate to use printouts of your reports as talking points during daily standup and weekly meetings. Use the feedback to encourage and bolster up your staff as well as highlight places where you have opportunities to improve. And bring the discussion home with the fact that there is empirical evidence to support social feedback’s importance, as 93% of travelers worldwide say that online reviews impact their booking decisions and identify online reviews as a top three booking factor along with price and location.
Q: We often receive negative TripAdvisor reviews which contain false information – such as a guests stating that we did something that we did not or maybe even is about a different hotel. How do we respond online without it becoming a “he said she said” situation?
Regardless of how much you disagree with the reviewer, the first step when responding to a negative review is to thank the reviewer for contributing. Next, you should apologize for their poor experience, remembering that an apology is not necessarily an admission of guilt or wrongdoing. You DO NOT want to make any combative assertions that the guest was wrong in their opinion or use a defensive tone. Instead, invite the reviewer to reach out to you offline so that you can address their concerns candidly and in a private forum.
If you believe the review has been erroneously posted and references an entirely different hotel, you’ll want to contact the Owners’ Center to have the review removed and respond to the review on TripAdvisor transparently. A response like this one would work well in this case: “Thank you for taking the time to post a review. I believe that you may have posted your review about the wrong hotel. In case I am mistaken, please reach out so we can discuss. Thank you!”
Q: It seems that everyone, from your plumber to your mover, is asking for a review these days. Are you seeing any trends regarding this? Are consumers less likely to contribute reviews now that they are constantly being asked to write more?
There is evidence to support that there has been a slight decline in the amount of travel reviews submitted this year across all review sites as an aggregate. That said, there has been an uptick in the number of positive reviews shared across travel sites this year. Moreover, TripAdvisor continues to report substantial growth in the number of contributions it receives every minute as well as unique monthly visitors to its site. So while there may be some indicators that there is a bit of “reviewer burnout” happening, online reviews continue to play an extremely critical role in the purchase decision process.
Q: Do you have any other insights on how to drive more engagement on social media sites?
One of the biggest concerns among social media managers is that feeling that followers are not really engaging with them at significant levels. It is important to consider the size of your fan base when you judge your success in engaging with them. The average interaction rate for any post made by hotels on Facebook is about 0.22%, according to L2. This means that on average you would receive one Like or comment for every 500 followers. The truth is that in a crowded social media world, customers are careful with their online time and energy. This may concern many budget-wise managers, but the value to social media is not the ability to push content to potential customers but to keep those customers engaged so your business remains top of mind. We wrote more on this topic in this blog post.
We customize our responses to each review and respond to all reviews, both positive and negative. Still our TripAdvisor rating has dropped. What are your recommendations to reverse this trend?
Our VP of Marketing was able to answer this question in a Tnooz article. The bottom line is that reputation is a real driver in consumer booking decisions and hotels need to focus their attention on it and do everything in their power to be well positioned online. TripAdvisor is very clear that its algorithm for their Popularity Index takes into account frequency of reviews, freshness of content and quality of reviews. This algorithm has been constant for quite some time and we train our clients to focus on these drivers to ensure the best results on the site. Hotels that focus on service and drive reviews do outperform hotels in their market that don’t proactively manage their reviews.
Q: We work at the corporate level and want to ensure that our properties are proactively monitoring their reviews and submitting appropriate management responses. Can Revinate support us in being involved in that process?
Yes! Revinate’s Corporate Reporting enables brands and portfolio managers to easily monitor and report on the performance of their hotels, track the social media and online reputation engagement and activity of your portfolio and follow key trends at both the corporate and property levels. Also, Revinate’s Response Assistant streamlines review response while upholding brand standards and allows your corporate marketing or brand team to create and load custom templates to ensure that line employees can compose brand-compliant and professional management responses.
Q: What kind of content and messaging receives higher engagement on Facebook?
Facebook published an advertorial that shared some enlightening stats on how to optimize your brand page’s posting strategy. While following these guidelines won’t guarantee exponential fan engagement growth in the short-term, putting these frameworks into practice will undoubtedly improve your overall approach to sharing Facebook content on behalf of your hotel. Here are a few key points to consider:
Posts between 100 and 250 characters (less than 3 lines of text) see about 60% more likes, comments and shares than posts greater than 250 characters
Posts including a photo album, a picture or a video generate about 180%, 120%, and 100% more engagement than the average post, respectively.
Fill-in-the-blank posts generate about 90% more engagement than the average post.
Posts about top-of-mind topics, such as current events, holidays or news, will receive higher engagement levels. For example, posts mentioning Independance Day on July 4th generated about 90% more engagement than all posts published on that day.
Check out our blog post on the topic to see which hotels are best putting these practices into place.
Q: As a GM of a small property with very limited resources, what are the highest priority areas I should be focusing on when it comes to online review management?
TripAdvisor remains the most popular travel review site in the world and most often provides the richest source of guest feedback for your hotel to action. If you are in a market where TripAdvisor is popular, this would be the #1 review site to focus your efforts on as far as analyzing the reviews for sentiment and responding to reviews. Other OTAs and Google+ local are also worth paying attention to, but usually will host review content that is less detailed and isn’t as prominently featured.
Q: We would love to hear your thoughts about how to apply some of these online reputation management action planning ideas to managing hotel and restaurant properties at a private club. Do review sites ever cover private clubs that have member/non-member accommodations and dining?
Most often, private clubs will ask for reviews and customer feedback from their members but will often keep this information internal. That said, if your club also offers hotel and restaurant properties that are publicly accessible, then absolutely review sites will include these assets. Where this consumer feedback is showing up and what kind of feedback it is will inform your online reputation management action planning. That said, remember that the main driver of building a stronger online reputation is delivering a better guest experience – an idea that applies to any service-driven business.
Q: What is the rule of thumb for responding to online reviews? Should every review be responded to, or is the rule of thumb to respond to 1 out of 3 5 star reviews, and all negative reviews?
While it’s ideal to respond to every review you are able to, we are mindful that time is a premium that not everyone has an abundance of. Therefore, we recommend that your hotel responds to all 1 and 2 star reviews, and respond to as many 3, 4 and 5 star reviews that you can – as long as you can personalize the responses. This will also depend on how many reviews your property receives and what kind of bandwidth you have at the property to respond to this feedback. We address all of this in this best practice guide.