As the dreaded budget season draws near, hoteliers need to place a more strategic focus on digital marketing for 2013, especially when it comes to their social, local and mobile marketing efforts. Lodging Interactive and its subsidiary CoMMingle have identified five digital marketing must-haves to add to the budget in order to remain competitive in 2013, especially today's price-conscious mid-size and independent properties.
Lodging Interactive is an award-winning, interactive and social media marketing agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. CoMMingle by Lodging Interactive is an outsourced social media marketing agency that develops customized solutions for hospitality entities. Together, the companies have identified the following top five ways for hoteliers to interact with their guests and prospects and better grow and manage their use of online marketing and social media channels for 2013 and beyond:
1. Keep Your Hotel’s Website "Fresh": Just because a hotel updates or makes corrections to its webpage doesn't automatically make it "fresh." Hotels need to continually add new photos to make the website more visually appealing. New content also needs to continually be added, such as press releases and blogs that also can be linked to the various social media channels to ensure more chatter and visibility. Finally, there needs to be accountability to ensure that the web page is meeting goals and reaching its attended audience.
All these things can be accomplished easily and affordably in 2013 via Lodging Interactive's Hotel Website Solutions program. By adopting Hotel Website Solutions, hoteliers can refresh their web site every two years, at no additional cost. Included in the package is:
• RFPLink group lead capture and reporting
• Online analytical reporting
• Homepage call-to-action tile images
• Website Hosting and Server Management
• Robust Content Management, and
• Guest Review System at no additional cost.
2. Take Control Of Your Hotel’s Guest Reviews: It's a known fact that hotels are dependent on reviews and that travelers will seek online reviews just prior to making their online reservations. Knowing if a review is legitimate is confusing for travelers, but knowing how to best manage guest reviews is even more perplexing for managers. Lodging Interactive has designed a way to simplify the guest review process. The company's Guest Review System offers a turn-key system that enables a hotel's proprietary website with the ability for travelers to post reviews and score their hotel experiences based on service attributes. Hotel managers receive real-time alerts advising when pending guest reviews pop up, eliminating delays in addressing concerns and turning potential problems into new opportunities.
In addition, Lodging Interactive's Guest Review System keeps guests on the hotel's website and turns lookers into bookers at higher hotel rates when compared to the OTA’s. Hotels risk losing website visitors if those potential bookers are forced to leave the website in search of guest reviews on third party websites such as Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia or Hotels.com that sell rooms purchased from hotels on a net rate model. Once gone, they may never come back.
All that is required for a hotel to get up-and-running is a snippet of code inserted on the hotel's Website. Once initiated, managers can immediately begin collecting real-time reviews on their own websites and respond to customer concerns in real time. This empowers hoteliers to interact personally with their most valued direct customers. When guests take the time to post their experiences, their time, effort and patronage should be recognized and rewarded with an immediate reply. The Guest Review System alerts management in real time when reviews are posted. This ensures that there are no delays in communication, and the appropriate staff can immediately fix any pending problems before the customer leaves the property.
3. Mobile Marketing: Industry analysts predict that the mobile web will be more far reaching than desktop Internet use by 2015. Therefore there's no time like the present to jump on the mobile bandwagon and start reaching mobile savvy travelers via the channels and devices they depend on daily. With a mobile website, hotels can offer mobile users a dynamic and streamlined user experience regardless of mobile device.
Lodging Interactive provides FREE Mobile Website Development to all new customers contracting full agency services. Any hotel company partnering with Lodging Interactive for website design and development, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and online reputation management will receive a complimentary mobile webiste. Mobile pages can detail the property, including description of rooms, amenities, premise, packages, restaurants, spas, recreation facilities, loyalty programs and online reservations. Additional features may include mapping and directions, click-to-call functionality, photo gallery, embedded video capability, convention and/or meeting listings, social media links, guest reviews and more. Mobile website management and hosting also is provided by Lodging Interactive.
4. Social Media Monitoring & Management: Today hoteliers are getting comfortable with social media giants Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and You Tube. But new sites are emerging, such as Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and Wikipedia to name just a few that are making an equally big online marketing impact. It's critical that hotels are covered across all social media channels in order to be effective. The problem is finding the internal resources to manage social networks and establishing effective social media marketing campaigns. CoMMingle will assist hotels in engaging online with social media strategic planning, growing and managing social media channels, word-of-mouth marketing and experiential marketing, reputation and consumer sentiment monitoring, and social search engine optimization.
Hotels that can't afford to have an internal, full-time social media watch dog can now cost-effectively budget the services of Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle in 2013 to become the eyes and ears of the hotel, monitoring conversations and posting replies if desired. CoMMingle will work with hotels to initially establish, then manage on an ongoing basis, the following social networks & engagement channels:
• Google+ Business Page – CoMMingle will set up the page if needed and maintain weekly postings on the page.
• Pinterest – CoMMingle will create a Pinterest hotel account, relevant pin boards, and then pin images weekly to the boards. CoMMingle will also monitor and engage with consumers as needed.
• Facebook – CoMMingle will create additional apps for the property, above and beyond what is presently being managed by the hotel.
• Ongoing Facebook & Twitter postings – CoMMingle will go a step further and assist hotels that don't have the time to post content consistently to Facebook and Twitter by posting content weekly on the hotel’s behalf.
• Wikipedia – CoMMingle will set up a Wikipedia listing if one does not exist and create social links. CoMMingle will also monitor the Wikipedia listing quarterly and check content for accuracy.
5. Reputation Management: Hotels of all sizes have begun to add social media technologies that monitor a hotel's or brand's online reputation, but unless those tools are being maximized, reputations and business practices can still suffer. Lodging Interactive believes that it takes people, in addition to technologies, to make reputation management effective. That's why Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle have teamed up with leading hospitality reputation-management companies to supplement their technology applications whereby CoMMingle provides the human resources necessary to answer guest reviews and manage guest responses on behalf of the hotel.
Hotels using solutions from companies such as Revinate can outsource the social media monitoring and guest review response portion to Lodging Interactive. Logging in as the hotel, the CoMMingle team will reply to guest reviews accordingly, always keeping the hotel apprised of comments and alerting it to concerns.
2013 Bonus Tips:
In addition to Lodging Interactive's top 5 budget recommendations, here are other items every hotelier should plan for in 2013:
1. Quarterly landing pages to promote seasonal activities through the website. When properly keyword optimized landing pages provide fresh, relevant content for search engines and website visitors.
2. Facebook applications development to leverage a hotel’s website promotions on the largest social media engagement channel.
3. Create independent videos for the promotion of hotel meeting space and packages, weddings and other social events. Once created, optimize them and host them on YouTube.
4. Consistent email marketing programs targeting travel agents and meeting planners. Email marketing remains very effective and every hotel website should maintain it’s own email capture widget.