5R’s of Digital Marketing and Social Media Engagement: Renew, Review, Repute, Replace and Respond

Lodging Interactive says Websites, Review Sites, Reputation Management, Content Marketing and the merger of Social Media & Mobile should be top priorities for hotel marketers in 2014

Hoteliers who didn’t pay much attention to digital marketing and social media engagement last year will be playing catch up this year, as 2014 is looking to be the year of “Internet Everything.” Experts are predicting “Millennials will become the core customer within the hospitality and travel industries over the next five to 10 years,” and “global travel to the U.S. will begin to rise dramatically.” These travel trendsetters are international visitors are technologically savvy and expect hospitality providers to be digital-platform ready so they can communicate effectively using the appropriate social media channels.

“Hotel companies that will be the most successful in 2014 are those who are refocusing on their websites and mobile platforms, and they will be vigilantly monitoring review sites in real time to ensure that their reputations are impeccable,” said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive founder and president. “In light of Google’s recent algorithm changes (Hummingbird), successful hoteliers also will be augmenting traditional display advertising with relevant content marketing on blogs, social channels, e-newsletters and webinars, and they will marry their mobile and social media strategies to be more responsive — again, in real time and with fluid design. Millennials or Generation Y travelers don’t go anywhere without multiple mobile devices including smartphones, tablets, laptops and even smart wristbands; they share their hotel experiences on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+; they post videos of themselves in various hotel environments — from lobbies and pools to restaurants and rooms; and they tag friends in photos and then post them for the world to see.

“With millions of travelers talking about your hotel, someone needs to be monitoring those conversations,” Vallauri said. “Contrary to popular belief, reputation management doesn’t take a lot of money; instead, it takes digital content expertise and creative talent. When time and talent are lacking, hoteliers should seek hospitality-specific experts to assist with web/mobile/social programs. ”

Five Reasons Why the 5Rs are Trending in 2014

In “Top 10 Hospitality Industry Trends in 2014,” hotel guru Robert Rausch provides his insight into why these 5Rs are trending.

1. RENEW (Renewed Focus on Property Websites) Rausch: “Finding ways of encouraging direct bookings will be one of the most important parts of a marketing director’s job in 2014. Considering travelers are increasingly taking their transactions online, the hotel’s own website needs to become the most important avenue for bookings to gain the highest ROI.Fresh content, consistent updates of promotions, and rich media will draw in the guests.”

Keeping content fresh, from updating specials and photos to adding blogs and social media links, is common sense. Hoteliers also need to scrutinize structural elements, such domain statistics, social activity, search engine distribution and link status to ensure effectiveness and adjust accordingly. Services and software are available that enable hoteliers to remotely access analytical production information about their website performance, bounce rate and average time spent on the site. Real-time referral reports enables hoteliers to view their traffic and determine where it’s coming from.

2. REVIEW (Review Site Tactics) Rausch: “According to The Wall Street Journal, Yelp reports 50 million users across its web and mobile platforms. TripAdvisor has become the world’s most popular travel website with 34 million unique users each month. Google Places is the Yellow Pages of the digital age meaning that business listings also show up on iPhone searches as well as on Google Maps. In 2014 there is a need to monitor Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google Places reviews and alert management of any low reviews twice a week; comment on glowing reviews to thank them; comment on low reviews and how the property intends to handle future situations; feature Yelp deals.” This puts increased emphasis on [hotels] to manage their online reputation closely and ensure that any negative reviews are dealt with in a swift and positive way.”

Adding a Guest Review Systemis critical in 2014. Lodging Interactive’s web-based tool helps hotels verify, review and display customer comments directly on their hotel websites. By allowing management to respond to comments in real time — or outsourcing that task to an expert — hotels are improving two-way hotel-to-guest communications and boosting guest retention and loyalty. A proprietary Guest Review System will dispatch real-time alerts to hotel managers advising when pending guest reviews pop up. This eliminates delays in addressing concerns and turns potential problems into new opportunities. It also eliminates fake reviews posted by competitors or dishonest guests looking for refunds, helping hotels to maintain their reputations. In addition, directing guests to the hotel’s website to post comments and reviews keeps them from being redirected to an OTA where they will never come back to book direct.

3. REPUTE (Reputation Management) Rausch:“There is much anticipation that reputation management will begin to dictate the hotel industry in upcoming years . . . being able to manage your businesses reputation will determine success or failure.”

Happy guests or dissatisfied guests, they all play a part in a hotel’s online reputation. Hoteliers no longer control the perception of the property; that is in the hands of guests. But hoteliers can influence that perception. While services exist that provide alerts when someone makes an online comment about the hotel, the alert alone doesn’t always stimulate a response. Instead, a true social media monitoring and online reputation management service helps hoteliers with planning their social media strategies, socializing with customers, managing/monitoring their social media sites, writing management responses on review sites on behalf of the hotel, and analyzing the results of each campaign.

4. REPLACE (Content Marketing vs. Advertising) Rausch: “Traditional advertising is rapidly losing value as hotel marketing professionals begin to take advantage of effective content marketing.”

Rausch said he believes that “content marketing will replace traditional advertising in 2014.” Contrary to popular belief, content marketing is not easy; it takes time and expertise.Hoteliers considering hiring the professional services of an outside interactive agency to assist with developing landing pages and engaging content should make certain that the company exclusively serves the hospitality industry so they don’t spend time “teaching” them this business. It’s also important that the company has the necessary technology and tools in-house to monitor the hotel’s website content for effectiveness and suggested changes. The right platforms and intelligence tools are needed to help search engine marketing teams better analyze page content for quality. It is a combination of marketing technologies and human copywriting skills, exclusively in hospitality, that ensures hotel websites are well positioned for Google’s latest algorithm change.

5. RESPOND with RESPONSIVE SOLUTIONS (Social Media + Mobile) Rausch: “Social media and mobile already live in symbiosis and we will only continue to see them merge over the course of this year. Mobile activity has allowed social media to live in real time by allowing users to create updates, tag friends and check-in on their mobile devices. In North America, 2014 will mark the first time that online access is greater from mobile devices than a desktop or laptop.”

Hoteliers need to have a “mobile first” mindset where mobile-enabled platforms lead their online marketing. In the past, one would build a desktop website and then add a mobile version; going forward mobile should come first, with the desktop version second. This is especially true as 2014 is predicted to be the year where there will be more mobile users on the Internet than desktop users. As an industry, hospitality and travel companies will need to address this huge shift in how people access their content.

“Mobility has come and gone as ‘the hot technology’ for travel and hospitality,” Vallauri said. “Understanding today’s ‘Internet Everything’ mentality is key to business success. Rather than just implementing a mobile strategy, hoteliers and marketers need to be thinking about marrying all marketing platforms together. Only when websites are refreshed, reviews and reputations are monitored, content marketing is implemented and responsive to all mobile platforms, will digital marketing and social media engagement be effective. Hoteliers who don’t know where or how to start should give Lodging Interactive a call. We can completely manage the 5Rs on behalf of the hotel or give properties the tools and let them manage these processes themselves.”

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About Lodging Interactive

Lodging Interactive, headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, is a full-service digital marketing agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry for more than a decade. The company provides a portfolio of effective hotel Internet marketing services to hundreds of hotels, resorts, ownership properties, spas and restaurants. Clients include branded hotels from nearly every major brand as well as prestigious, landmark independent hotels. Through its CoMMingle Social Media Marketing Agency operating division, the company offers hospitality focused and fully managed outsourced hotel social media marketing customized solutions. Lodging Interactive has been recognized as a leader by the International Academy of Visual Arts, Interactive Media Awards, Web Marketing Association and Travel Weekly’s Magellan Awards. It is a proud supporter of the Hotel Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and is a Preferred Vendor for Best Western International. For more information please contact us at sales@lodginginteractive.com or at 877-291-4411 ext 701. The company’s website is located at www.LodgingInteractive.com.