Hospitality Social Media Marketing News – May 16, 2018

Social media normally evolves quickly, but the past few weeks have been a flurry of new updates that seem to be coming at us faster than ever. In this bi-weekly edition of our newsletter, we’ve got big updates from Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Keep reading to see how they affect you and your hotel.

Facebook Rolls Out New Analytics App

Facebooks has recently made some big additions to their analytics suite. The first of these changes is a new analytics mobile app that allows admins to review metrics and insights on the go. They’ve also added a new featured called Journeys, which provides anonymous omni-channel data reporting that helps you evaluate the relationships users have with your business before they purchase. This ties in with their new feature that automatically detects sales funnels and common paths to conversions.

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

More data is always good. Being able to access insights on the go is always convenient, but being able to get a better understanding of how guests interact with us online (and not just on Facebook) before they convert and book reservations is incredible. We can see which offers and packages are most effective at increasing bookings, and how more of our guests are interacting with us.

Facebook Announced New Integrations for Workplace

Increasing numbers of hotels and resorts are testing out Facebook’s Workplace to create a cohesive, online work environment. Facebook has sweetened the deal even more, announcing a large number of new integrations for Workplace. These integrations include many of the world’s leading enterprise cloud services, including Hubspot, Hootsuite, Zoom, and SurveyMonkey. Facebook has also improved extension sharing and search features for Workplace.

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

For hotels and resorts using Workspace for their teams, this will improve functionality on the platform. Being able to integrate with third party cloud services and more easily share extensions with your staff will streamline the process and make online teamwork a little more efficient.

Facebook Refines Targeting Policies & Exclusion Targeting

In attempt to keep their ad services in good standing, Facebook has announced that they have removed thousands of exclusion targeting categories from the ad system. Advertisers use exclusion targeting to eliminate irrelevant audience members from seeing an ad, ensuring it was seen by the right people instead. While there are plenty of legitimate uses for this feature, Facebook was worried about abuse.

Image source: https://www.facebook.com/business/news/reviewing-targeting-to-ensure-advertising-is-safe-and-civil

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

There are still some exclusion targeting categories available, so your marketing strategies haven’t been thrown out the door if you use this on your ad campaigns. Facebook supposedly focused on removing topics that related to sensitive or personal attributes like religion, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity. You’ll still be able to exclude users who are already connected to your Page if you want to target new users only.

Facebook Reopens App Reviews

In our last newsletter, we shared an update that Facebook was pausing app reviews while they sorted through privacy issues. We’re happy to announce that Facebook has reopened the review process.

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

If you have an app for your hotel or resort and are trying to get it approved, reviews are now open, making it possible. If you were waiting to submit until after the pause was over, now is your chance.

Instagarm Updates Stories & Posting Functionality  

Stories is an exceptionally popular on feature on Instagram, and now we have new functionality when using it to market to potential guests. It’s now possible to upload multiple photos and videos to a story at once, saving you a significant amount of time.

They’ve also improved location tagging, with Stories automatically suggestions location stickers based on where the photo or video was taken.

These new features are currently available on Android devices and will be rolling out to iOS in the following weeks.

Image source: https://instagram-press.com/blog/2018/04/24/improvements-to-stories-uploads/

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

Since third party posting tools can’t post to Stories but it’s an essential marketing tool, being able to upload more content at once will save hotels significant amounts of time without sacrificing any of the benefits. Even more importantly, location stickers being suggested to guests can increase the number of user-generated content posts your resort gets, as users may be more likely to tag you if the platform does it for them.

Pinterest Releases New Business Profiles & Insights

Pinterest has revamped the appearance of business profiles, which features a dynamic cover image that lets you showcase certain boards or recent activity. In addition to the new sleek, modern look, we’re also getting more insights that include the number of users who saw your pins within 30 days.

Image source: https://business.pinterest.com/en/blog/new-profile-new-insights-new-ways-to-get-discovered

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

The new look of the Pinterest business profiles is already a plus, but the rest of the updates are what will affect hotels and resorts most. Choose your dynamic cover image carefully; instead of highlighting recent activity, use it to share boards of your most popular destinations or spa packages to give them maximum visibility. And as the new insights feature rolls out fully, you can use it to evaluate how your audience is responding to your pins.

Live chat for hotels.

Lodging Interactive Launches Next Generation ADA Conforming Websites for Hotels

Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced its next generation, ADA conforming websites for hotels. Lodging Interactive’s “next-gen” websites include a unique mix of technology and management services designed to drive maximum direct bookings for hotels while staying in compliance with ADA guidelines as they continue to evolve.

“Our next-gen hotel websites leverage the latest website design and development technologies combined with our full-service website management model,” stated DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder & CEO. “Today’s hotel website needs to tell the property’s visual story while being technologically advanced to ensure a mobile-first user experience and conform to all ADA WCAG 2.0 Guidelines; in addition, it needs to load very quickly for users.”

While many digital marketing agencies provide hotel website design services, only Lodging Interactive can offer a fully managed hotel website, digital & social media marketing to support the website and fully managed human live chat services 7 days a week.

Success Factors for The Modern Hotel Website.

Open Source Development and No Proprietary Content Management System (CMS).

Lodging Interactive designs and develops visually stunning hotel websites using Internet Open Source technologies. This enables the highest level of design flexibility while maximizing the hotel website’s search engine optimization (SEO) and the fastest page loading speeds. “Most digital agencies insist hotel websites be developed and managed through their proprietary CMS. While this ensures the hotel is “locked-up” with the agency for many years (good for the agency), it ‘handicaps’ the property in other areas such as page loading speed, design constraints, ADA conformity and SEO,” added Mr. Vallauri.

Fully Managed, Professional Webmaster Services.

Being able to ‘manage’ your hotel’s website changes yourself, sounds really good during the agency sales process and offers the illusion of the property being in total control of its website.  Yet reality has shown quite the opposite is true. Being able to manage your own website changes, means your website will have a CMS (see point above). Sure, with the proper training you’ll be able to change simple text images and in some cases the images on a page, butadding pages, modifying menu items, managing SEO components and maintaining ADA conformance won’t be possible. For that you’ll need to budget additional development dollars.

ADA Conforming Website Design.

Ensuring your hotel website is ADA conforming and meets all WCAG guidelines is not only good business practice it will avoid legal demand letters and potential lawsuits.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, often abbreviated to WCAG, are a series of guidelines for improving web accessibility. Produced by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the WCAG are the best means of making your website useful to all of your users.  Every new website Lodging Interactive designs and builds meets all WCAG 2.0 guidelines and positions our hotel clients with a path towards compliance with the ADA laws governing websites.

Ongoing ADA Conformance Checking & Maintenance.

The modern hotel website is always changing, new content is added weekly and at times new content will present ADA conforming issues that will need to be addressed.  An example of this, is the uploading of a non-conforming PDF document. In order to safeguard our customers, Lodging Interactive runs monthly ADA conforming checks to ensure the hotel website remains within the ADA conforming guidelines. Should any issues arise, our team will fix the issues and continue to monitor for potential future issues. “ADA legal action against hotel websites that are not in compliance with the current WCAG 2.0 guidelines continues to increase and hoteliers should understand that adhering to future ADA website laws will be necessary and should budget accordingly,” said Mr. Vallauri.

Human Powered Website Live Chat Provided 7 Days a Week.

Customer service is the ‘new marketing’ and hotel websites can differentiate themselves by offering their website visitors real-time, human powered, live chat services. Not only is live chat a great customer service differentiator it provides real value to potential guests visiting your website and has proven to increase group and wedding RFP submissions. “Conversational commerce happens when you move your hotel’s website experience from a ‘self-service’ model and start to provide real-time support,” stated DJ Vallauri.

For more information on Lodging Interactive’s next generation ADA conforming websites for hotels, please call 877-291-4411 ext. 704 or visit LodgingInteractive.com.

About Lodging Interactive

Headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, Lodging Interactive is a full-service digital marketing and social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. Through its web design and search optimization division as well as its CoMMingle Social Media Division, Lodging Interactive provides effective Internet marketing services to hundreds of branded and independent properties as well as management companies, restaurants and spas.

CoMMingle has established itself as the largest provider of reputation management services for the hospitality industry, handling over 200,000 guest review responses annually. The company also offers fully managed Live Chat agents for hotel websites through its LiveChatForHotels.com division.

Lodging Interactive is an HSMAI Adrian Award winner and has won awards from the International Academy of Visual Arts, Interactive Media Awards, Horizon Interactive Awards, Web Marketing Association, Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts, and Travel Weekly’s Magellan Awards have recognized Lodging Interactive as an industry leader.

Lodging Interactive is a proud supporter of the Hotel Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and the company’s president, DJ Vallauri, currently serves on the Board of Directors of HSMAI’s New York Chapter and is a Forbes.com Agency Council contributor. For more information, please contact sales@lodginginteractive.com, 877-291-4411 or visit the company’s website.

Messaging Apps as Ubiquitous as Booking Engines for Hotel Websites

Live chat for hotels.

Technology has made us more dependent on its abilities to plan better vacations and business trips. In recent times hotel websites have come a long way from simply being online static e-brochures to becoming more experiential. Online hotel website experiences sell rooms and create loyal guests. Yet, for the majority of hotel websites, the experience remains mediocre and “ok” at best. Think about it, when you visit a hotel website you are basically on your own without any human connections or the ability to engage and ask questions that you are sure to have when you consider booking a hotel online. Why is that? It’s 2018 after all, so it can’t be a technology issue or is it?

 

Personal technologies over the last 10 years have changed our lives and the world we live in. When you consider how far we have come and how comfortable we have become in being interconnected through mobile devices, it’s no wonder that we crave immediate responses to our hotel questions. And mobile technology is the enabler as nearly every human on the planet carries computing power that can fit in one hand what once took large data centers, and millions of dollars, to equal the same power. Do you realize that Apple’s iPad was introduced to the world only 8 years ago? That Uber launched in 2009 and Snapchat was launched in 2011?

 

There is no turning back, we are all online and we are all connected. As a result, we have the ability and, many times, we demand immediate gratification. This is where I believe most hoteliers are missing tremendous opportunities to book more business and build loyalty. By leveraging the power of website live chat and guest messaging, hoteliers can really gain market share. We constantly read about hoteliers wanting to drive more direct business to their websites with the intent of lowering their OTA and third party booking costs.

 

Website live chat has been around for many years and, as consumers, we have become comfortable when a live chat window pops up while we’re shopping for a pair of shoes online. After all we can decide to engage, or not, and we control the conversation. Live chat agents are not applying hard sales tactics, they are supporting us as we navigate through the online purchasing process.

 

Let’s not forget that the hospitality industry is all about being hospitable and providing service to guests when they are in-house but in my experience, hospitality and service needs to start on the hotel’s website before a potential guest books a room. This is where live chat engagement can make a huge difference. Live chat leverages the same technologies we have all become so dependent upon and it provides that immediate guest gratification we want while supporting the online sales process.

 

The smart hoteliers understand that the overall hotel guest experience begins at the website level when the guest first experiences the hotel. This is evidenced by the abundance of personalization technologies promising to deliver a “unique experience” for every website visitor. Yet most hotel websites are cold and impersonal. They provide the potential guest with a self-service browsing environment and the only option is to figure it out for themselves. Why? It doesn’t have to be this way when the technology is here today and with zero learning curve from the consumer’s perspective. Clearly every hotelier I speak to about online customer service agrees that having a live chat channel available on their website makes perfect sense. I have yet to come across any hotelier who disagrees.

 

The clear recurring comment I receive from hoteliers is that budgets and appropriate staffing is the issue preventing their website from becoming more useful to visitors and more effective at driving direct business: Two things they most desperately want by the way. While I agree that on-property staffing specifically for website live chat doesn’t make sense for the majority of properties, all properties can benefit from partnering with a company that provides fully managed live chat services for hotels. Our agency provides USA based fully managed live chat services to hotels, 7 days a week year-round. And while other agencies provide similar services, hoteliers should keep in mind that quality really matters with live chat. The worst possible situation that can happen is for a hotel to partner with a live chat service overseas who has live chat agents that don’t have a good understanding of “American” English and its nuances.

 

I’m a firm believer that just as hotels post telephone numbers on their websites, so too will live chat widgets become as ubiquitous as booking engines have become. Staffing issues aside, there is no downside when you’re trying to help your potential customers do business with you.

 

Messaging services are also becoming increasingly widespread within the hospitality industry. Much of this has to do with the amount of venture capital chasing new technology platforms in an attempt to disrupt the hospitality market. Live chat has not experienced the same level of fervor due to live chat technologies not being the shiny new technology du jour. After all live chat has been in existence for over a decade in other industries.

 

I believe messaging platforms work well at the property. It makes perfect sense to provide streamlined communications for in-house guests. While it is easy for a guest to pick up the phone in their room to request more towels be sent up to their room, it is not always the case where the hotel answers the phone fast enough. We’ve all be there I’m sure, calling the front desk or operator during check in and check out time only to have the phone ring 15 to 20 times before we hang up in frustration. On site guest messaging certainly helps with this, but only if the hotel staff…yes a human is on the other end ready, willing and able to respond in a timely manner. Perhaps when it all plays out with on-property messaging, the same “staffing” issue will become evident. Only time will tell on this one.

 

While I’m on the topic of having “humans” on the other end of live chat and messaging technology platforms, lets discuss the chatbot and its relevance for the hospitality industry. Going back to the beginning of this article, we’re in the hospitality business and in a business where customer service always wins. All the technology in the world won’t help your hotel if you are not able to meet or exceed customer service expectations.

 

Having engaged with (uhm, tested) many chatbots I can say that I’m not very impressed with the level of understanding they have or the engagement opportunities they offer. Going beyond asking a chatbot “what time is check in” or “does your hotel have onsite parking”, chatbots are useless other than to aggravate customers and potentially hurt business opportunities for a property. I believe chatbots for the hospitality industry is simply not ready for prime time. Why would any hotelier risk his property’s reputation and customer service to a chatbot who can’t complete the conversation with a human? Smart hoteliers will want to wait until the artificial intelligence technology improves, which experts say is 10 years away. Customer service and building guest loyalty is so important and still requires humans after all.

 

Oh, one more thing. The genie is out of the bottle and there is no turning back for hotels when it comes to providing website visitors with live chat engagement services. Research confirms this.

 

Live chat is the natural way we, as consumers, have been conditioned to interact online. The successful hotelier is the one who understands this and uses live chat as a true differentiator for his or her property. Our own research indicates that less than 5% of hotel websites in North America offer live chat and real time human engagement services. This presents a huge business opportunity for the smart hotelier.

 

Hospitality Social Media News May 2, 2018

The last few months have been a whirlwind of social media updates coming from every direction, many of which have been fueled by the Facebook controversy. In the midst of all the news, it’s been difficult for many of our clients to sort out which changes are most relevant to them. Take a close look at all the updates below and see how they’ll affect hotels and resorts.

Some Facebook Page Admins Need to Be Verified  

Facebook has actively been making a large number of changes to protect user privacy. One of those changes will directly affect many hotels and resorts, as the admins of Pages with large follower counts will need to be verified.

What This Means for Hotels 

There’s a lot we don’t know about the specifics of this update—we just know that it will be happening. Facebook hasn’t yet announced what counts as “large followings,” or how admins will be verified, but keep an eye out for this, and we will, too.

Instagram Is Getting Ready to Launch Nametags 

TechCrunch recently shared the first look at the soon-to-be-launching Instagram nametags. These nametags are a copycat of Snapchat’s QR codes, and they’ll allow business profiles to create unique images that people can scan with their Stories camera to follow you on Instagram.

Image source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/09/instagram-nametags/

What This Means for Hotels 

Any feature that makes it easier for guests to follow you on social media is automatically a good feature. You can place small signs around your hotel or in your guests’ rooms or brochures containing the new nametag and encouraging them to share their experience and tag your hotel in the process.

Streamlining the process and making it easier for your guests increases the likelihood that they’ll follow through, giving you more followers and possibly more UGC all in one fell swoop.

Instagram is Testing a Q&A Sticker 

Another Instagram feature—which is likely slightly further down the road than the Nametags but hopefully still coming soon—is a new Q&A sticker. This feature will allow Instagram users to ask questions in a Story. Users will be able to respond privately. It’s like a more elaborate version of the current polling sticker, which already has proven to deliver great engagement.

Image source: https://wabetainfo.com/instagram-to-support-question-and-answer-sticker/

What This Means for Hotels 

Hotels and resorts can use this feature to jumpstart conversations with guests and get direct, private feedback. You can ask followers what special offers, services, or packages they’d like to see from you. You could also ask what their favorite part of their stay was, and then ask if you can share their response publicly. In the latter instance, you could make this part of a social media contest, offering an incentive like a free night, dinner on the house, or an upgraded room for the winner.

Snapchat Released New Spectacles 

This is a small update, but it’s one that could affect resorts and hotels. Snapchat’s spectacles work as a hands-free camera that you wear, looking like sunglasses. They capture what you see in circular photos and videos, and automatically load your content to Snapchat so you can choose what to share.

The new spectacles, which were just released, are smaller in profile, making them more comfortable, and they’re also now water-resistant.

What This Means for Hotels 

You can link a single pair of spectacles to multiple different devices, and syncing them is easy. If your hotel has some extra money to spend for social media marketing, you could have a few pairs of spectacles on hand for guests to enjoy while on property. This could encourage Snap creation, and more UGC in the process.