Social Media Trend: Race for Creative Tools to Make Dynamic On-site Content

Hospitality Social Media News

As social media has evolved, we’ve seen each platform racing to make on-site content more dynamic. GIFs can be added to comments on Facebook, there are interactive stickers for stories, and video is booming everywhere. The last two weeks’ worth of social media updates largely reflect this trend, granting hotels and resorts new creative tools to better connect with our audiences.

Let’s take a look at what’s new in social media…

Facebook Releases New Video-Focused Features

Facebook has released a handful of new features designed improve its video platform and make it more community-oriented.

These features include:

●     New interactive abilities like polling during Live Streaming

●     Bringing videos from Pages into the Watch tab

●     A new video template that will put videos at the forefront of a brand’s Page (though this is still in testing)

●     The Android version of the Facebook Creator App

Facebook is also testing out a new Brand Collabs Manager. This tool will allow businesses to discover and connect with creators and influencers who they can establish deals or partnerships.

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

Video isn’t going anywhere, so new features to help hotels and resorts get the most out of it are welcome. Take advantage of all video features that are available to you to increase engagement and make your content more dynamic and interactive.

You can apply for access to the Brand Collabs Manager now (though it may take awhile to be accepted). Once admitted into the program, you can connect with influencers who can help you promote your hotel or resort by coming to stay, attending an event at your venue, or even just eating at your on-site restaurant.

Facebook Introduces Info and Ads on Pages 

In an effort to improve transparency further, Facebook has launched a new Info and Ads section to Pages. This section will allow any Facebook user to view all the active ads that Page is running through Facebook Ads (including Instagram and audience Network). Users will be able to click on the interactive elements of an ad, like the CTA button, but not see engagement.

Users will also now be able to see any name changes your Page has undergone, along with its date of creation.

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

Your guests having the ability to see your ads and past business information likely won’t affect most hotels and resorts. You will want to be careful when you’re running special offers that are targeted to exclusive groups, even if it’s because they’re part of a rewards program or first-time guests. One guest won’t like to see that you’re offering 10% off to another for reasons they can’t discern, so keep an eye on this.

Twitter Rolls Out In-Stream Video Ads to More Advertisers 

Twitter has been testing in-stream video ads, and now they’re now rolling out the feature to advertisers in 12 countries, including the US, UK, Canada, France, India, Japan, and Australia. These are pre-roll ads, meaning they’ll show before the video that your guests are interested in watching.

Image source: Twitter 

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

Facebook’s mid-stream video ads have gotten lukewarm reception, but pre-roll ads have distinct advantages. With many users being willing to watch a quick ad to get to the content they really want to see, you have a captive audience. Now imagine being able to show that relevant captive audience a quick intro video about your resort or hotel, selling them the adventure of travel or the relaxation of a weekend away.

YouTube is Testing New Creative Suite 

YouTube is currently working with select brands to test out a series of new tools that will offer new analytics and testing tools for creators on the platform.

These new tools include:

●     Video Experiments, which is a testing tool in Adwords that makes it easier to evaluate the effective of creative aspects of a video ad on its results.

●      Video Creative Analytics that evaluates video performance within different audience segments.

●     Video Ad Sequencing, which will allow you to tell your brand story in snippets through different ads. The videos will be shown to individual users in a specified sequence to improve storytelling.

●     YouTube Director Mix, which is a tool that allows you to create a base version of an ad that can have different text, image, sound, and even video swapped out based on the audience seeing it.

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

Most hotels and resorts won’t have these tools for a little while, but they’ll be great to have once they’re available to everyone. Being able to more effectively test video ads and understand why they are or aren’t working will be essential to improved success moving forward.

The ad sequencing will also be a huge development for brands, as the shorter snippets of video shown in sequence will improve consistency in brand storytelling and make the ads significantly more effective as a result. You’ll be able to slowly introduce guests to your hotel piece by piece, building brand recognition and increasing the odds that they click over time.

Instagram Launches Music in Stories 

Instagram users in select countries can now add music to their Stories. They can choose a song by selecting the Music icon that’s found in the stickers section.

Image source: Instagram

Music for stories is only available in 51 countries (though Instagram didn’t specify which) and on iOS. Support for Android will be coming soon.

What This Means for Hotels & Resorts

Instagram Stories are already fun and can be interactive thanks to features like polling and shoppable stickers. Music takes that one step further. Music is a great way to help your Story stand out from the rest, and it can help you better portray a feeling. A whimsical melody can up the romance of a video of your on-site wedding venue, and a tropical beat could make your sparkling pool that much more irresistible.

Instagram IGTV Launch, Facebook A/B Testing for Organic Posts and more….

We’re almost halfway through the year, and the world of social media has changed drastically– even in the last two weeks. Let’s take a look at the most recent social media updates and how they’ll affect hotels and resorts.

Instagram Announces IGTV

Instagram just launched IGTV, a YouTube-esque platform that allows users to create and share videos up to an hour long. IGTV can be accessed through Instagram, but is also available as a standalone app.

Image source: TechCrunch

IGTV will curate relevant videos for each individual user, including videos from those they follow, and show them that content in their feed.

What This Means for Hotels – IGTV Video Marketing Helps Hotels

Video marketing is huge for the hospitality industry and now you can tap into your Instagram user base and go beyond the short video limitations. You can show extended videos that feature your hotel’s amenities, on-site activities, meeting rooms, and more.

Instagram Shares Algorithm Insights

Last week, Instagram opened up, sharing specific insight on how its feed algorithm works. We now know that the following factors most heavily determine what users see in their feeds:

●    Expected interest determined by past behavior on similar content

●    The recency of the post, with newer posts getting priority

●    How much they’ve interacted with the person posting

None of these factors are surprising, and there are three more factors that can contribute somewhat to feed placement. They also revealed that while they don’t penalize brands for posting “too frequently,” if you share several posts in short succession, you’ll likely only have one or two show up towards the top of your followers’ feeds.

What This Means for Hotels – Driving Hotel Engagement with Instagram

Focus on driving engagement on Instagram, as this will help you perform better on the algorithm. Pictures and videos of the stunning views and exciting events will be sure to get plenty of likes and comments. You’ll also want to make sure you space out content enough that you aren’t necessarily competing against yourself for those spots in guests’ feeds.

Instagram Releases @mention Sharing for Stories

Now, when someone tags your property’s profile in a Story using the @mention sticker, you have the option to add that content to your own Story. The original story will appear as a sticker on yours, which you can rotate, resize, or add to it as you see fit.

Image source: Instagram

What This Means for Hotels – Hotel User Generated Content

User Generated Content (UGC) from guests is exceptionally powerful, and this is one of the best ways to showcase it. Plenty of guests share Stories during their stay with you, but since it disappears after 24 hours, this effect was limited and short-lived.

To get the most out of your guests UGC featuring your hotel, share it to your Story and then add it to a Story Highlight dedicated purely to UGC from guest visits.

Facebook Experiments with A/B Testing for Organic Posts

Facebook is currently experimenting with the ability for Pages to run A/B testing with organic posts. Admins will be able to post two versions of a post and show them to two different sets of audience members to see how each performs.

What This Means for Hotels – A/B Testing for Hotels

A/B testing is important, and it lets us better evaluate what content our guests most want to see. Being able to see what types of posts drive the most site clicks, messages with inquiries, and bookings will be invaluable to improving the effectiveness of your campaigns. A/B testing, after all, will give you more insight than just general analytics because you can see how subtle changes can make substantial differences.

Facebook Enforces New Custom Audience Requirements

Starting July 2nd, advertisers will need to specify how they got the information of their custom audiences when uploading lists of guest files. You can say that you got the information directly from customers, directly from partners, or a combination of the two.

Image source: Facebook

You’ll also need to set up partnerships and agree to share customer files in Business Manager if you’re sharing information with another business.

What This Means for Hotels – Facebook Audience Requirements for Hotels

In reality, the first part of this new change won’t affect most hotels and resorts much. You’ll just need to specify how you got your guest information, and if you got it when they booked, “directly from customer” is all you need.

Hotels and resorts using services from agencies like Lodging Interactive would need to set up this partnership so that we could run their ad campaigns for them. This is easy, however, and only needs to be done once.

Facebook is Monetizing The Marketplace with Ads

Facebook has officially monetized the Marketplace, allowing some advertisers to place ads within the Marketplace feeds. Optional objectives include conversions, video views, reach, traffic, and product catalogue. This feature will be rolling out to advertisers targeting audiences in the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

June 12, 2018 – Hospitality Social Media News

Hospitality Social Media News

 

 

 

 

June 12, 2018 Issue

Latest Updates – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Yelp

 

A lot of social media changes have happened in the past two weeks, giving us features ranging from Instagram Ad updates to new ways to connect with guests on Yelp. This edition of our biweekly newsletter takes an in-depth look at all of them and how they will affect your hotels and resorts moving forward. Let’s get started.

Organic Instagram Posts Can Be Made Into Ads

Previously, Instagram’s organic posts could only be promoted through an ad system if they were boosted natively on-platform. Now, you can turn single image and single video organic Instagram posts into actual ads through Power Editor and the Ads Manager.

These ads will give you more objectives, better targeting, and more bidding options than boosted posts did. If you’re worried about all the engagement disappearing, that shouldn’t be a concern; all likes and comments will be aggregated on the original organic content.

What This Means for Hotels

Hotels and resorts can use this new feature to gain a large amount of engagement in likes and comments on their organic content very quickly, in addition to building brand awareness and encouraging more bookings. Since Instagram has recently rolled out the new CTA buttons that allow for reservations to made, making your content look as good as possible with likes and comments could help get you more bookings.

Facebook Stories Get Instagram-Style Polling 

Instagram Stories polls have been a great way to drive engagement and get feedback from followers. Now these polls are now coming to Facebook. Poll stickers will let you ask a question and fill in two potential answers.

Image source: Facebook

What This Means for Hotels

Facebook users haven’t engaged with Stories as often as they do with Instagram’s counterpart, but that may change thanks to the increasingly engaging features being added to the platform. People love to share their opinions, so now would be a great opportunity to ask guests that they think about a vacation at your resort. Some questions you could ask include:

  • “What’s your favorite part of your stay? Spa or Restaurants?”
  • “Which would you choose: Pool view or Ocean view?”
  • “Favorite resort activity: Snowboarding or Skiing?”

Facebook Events Testing New Ticketing Feature

Facebook is currently testing new functionality for their Events feature, including new ticketing and messaging options. The ticketing feature will allow businesses to offer two purchasing options, including through the site or ad the event, or to request/purchase tickets through Messenger.

What This Means for Hotels

If your resort hosts any kind of event or conference and sells the tickets directly, this could help you boost attendance by offering more convenient ways to purchase tickets and the ability to answer questions quickly.

Facebook Tests Review Scores on Business Pages

The traditional ratings system on Facebook utilizes a 5-star scale. The platform is currently testing a new review system that factors in ratings, user reviews, and the recommendations people share on platform. Instead of five stars, the new system gives you a score out of ten.

Image Source: Social Media Examiner

What This Means for Hotels 

Reviews from guests are always important, and that’s still true. If you only have a few ratings and some other feedback on-site (or a single negative rating and plenty of positive general feedback on the platform), check and see if this new system works for you. Right now some Pages have the option to choose one over the other, though that may not be the case forever. Take advantage of that while you can, and use the system that helps you promote your hotel most effectively.

Pinterest Tests Screen-Wide Video Ads 

Pinterest is currently testing a new promoted video format that will take up the full width of a mobile screen. It’s only being tested by a few big name companies like Kohl’s, American Express, and Tropicana, but hopefully we’ll see more from this soon.

What This Means for Hotels

Full-screen video ads will ensure that you have a user’s full attention, making it easier to accomplish higher video completion rates from users and making your ad more impactful.

Once available, you can showcase the stunning views around your hotel and resort. When possible, use text to explain what users are seeing if you want to get the most clicks (and bookings!). Remember that Pinterest is used to make buying decisions, so once this ad format is available, take advantage of that to put a full-screen ad in front of users doing research for their next vacation or event.

Yelp Rolls Out Collections

Yelp has just rolled out a new feature called Collections, which provides users with personalized, “hand-picked” recommendations based on their Yelp activity. The Collections will be made up of recommendations from friends and top-rated recommendations from the Yelp community in general. New recommendations are provided weekly, and users can create their own Collections of favorite brands, stores, and (of course) hotels. 

What This Means for Hotels  

We don’t know a ton yet about how exactly to be featured in a Collection by Yelp, but this is a feature that we’ll keep an eye on as personalized suggestions containing your resort could be a goldmine.

In general, encourage users to leave reviews on the platform with follow-up emails after their stay, or mention it during checkout. Yelp is already partially a numbers game as it is, so getting more reviews could only help you if you want to be featured in Collections moving forward, too.

Subsrcibe Now – It’s Free & Never Miss an Issue.

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.

 

Lodging Interactive Launches Industry First Real-Time Reputation Management

Real time hotel reputation management

 

Lodging Interactive, an award winning digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced the launch CoMMingle Live Real-Time Reputation Management for hotels and resorts.  CoMMingle Live provides the highest level of reputation management by writing and posting guest review responses on all major OTA’s, social media platforms and for major hotel brands. The service also ensures franchised properties remain in compliance with brand guidelines while maximizing brand quality scores.

“There is no question the guest review landscape continues to change at a rapid pace. TripAdvisor once the ‘defacto’ guest review site now gives way to Booking.com and Google reviews, which when combined make up to 50% of the industry’s total guest review volume,” stated DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder & president. “And according to a recent Moz report, the quality of native Google reviews is a huge factor in the search engine’s ranking algorithm.”

CoMMingle Live, is the hospitality industry’s first reputation management service to include real-time live chat human engagement via Facebook and the hotel’s website. The company’s USA based live chat agents are at the ready to assist any guest, potential or past guest 7 days a week.

In addition, CoMMingle Live monitors and responds to guest reviews on:

  • TripAdvisor
  • Booking.com
  • Expedia
  • Hotels.com
  • Travelocity
  • Orbitz
  • Facebook Reviews
  • Google Reviews
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Marriott Verified Reviews
  • Starwood PHG Reviews
  • Hilton Hotels Reviews
  • IHG Brand Reviews

Serving hotels and resorts since 2009 Lodging Interactive’s CoMMingle Social Media Division has established itself as the industry leader in full service hotel reputation management and social media marketing and engagement. Customers include the Omni Berkshire Hotel in New York, the Boston Harbor Hotel, the Hawks Cay Resort and hundreds of other properties.

“Our team responds to over 200,000 guest reviews per year and works with hundreds of properties around the globe” added Mr. Vallauri. “We believe CoMMingle Live is a natural service extension and delivers unmatched value to our customers.”

For more information please click here or call 877-291-4411 ext. 704.

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.

 

Hotel Website ADA Compliance

Hotel ADA Website Compliance

 Hotel Website ADA Compliance

Hotel ADA Website Compliance – What You Need to Know

Most people can experience the world through the internet. Travel information and choices to make those travel arrangements are at our fingertips. Now imagine a world where you could not easily access the internet to search for hotels and airlines that provide accommodations and accessibility for your specific needs?  For most of us, this is not something we need to consider but, for the disabled, it’s a daily challenge.

To understand their frustrations in navigating a site is to understand what it means to make your hotel website “ADA compliant”. You need to view it from their perspective. That is, putting yourself in the place of a disabled person will better help you understand what it means in terms of making your website accessible.

There are four major categories of disability types: Visual, Hearing, Motor and Cognitive. For each disability category there are certain types of adaptations in the design of web content. Some of these can be helpful to most everyone, like well-organized content or clear navigation.

With the laws of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA, the blind have gone from braille or audio tapes to screen reading software; the deaf have gone from using a stick to type commands to special keyboards or eye-tracking software. In all cases, the changes provided  more freedom and independence to the disabled.

Despite the possibilities offered by these technological advances, there are still sites that have not adapted basic principles that would allow the disabled to access, not only text, but also graphics.

What are the guidelines for an ADA compliant website?

The first thing you should understand is that there is no law regarding ADA compliance and your website, only suggested guidelines from the Worldwide Web Consortium or W3C,  the governing body of the web.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Version 2.0 are based on four principles spelled out in the acronym, POUR.

  •     Perceivable: As a medium of communication, the internet provides access to knowledge and, as far as web accessibility is concerned, this means the brain needs to process web content through the senses (vision, hearing, touch) either through the browser or through assistive technologies (e.g. screen readers, screen enlargers, etc.).
  •     Operable: Some people use adaptive or alternative devices that accommodate their disabilities. In terms of web accessibility, this means users can interact with all controls and interactive elements using either the keyboard, or an assistive device.
  •     Understandable: Language and function is vital in web accessibility. This means content is clear and limits any confusion or ambiguity.
  •     Robust: For web accessibility, this means a wide range of technologies (including old and new user agents and assistive technologies) can access the content.

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the subsequent DOJ publication of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design requires businesses, including hotels, to make accessibility accommodations that enable the disabled public to access the same services as those who are not disabled and this would include hotel websites. However, it does not specifically address websites. These rulings can be confusing in terms of how they apply to website accessibility because they are only suggested guidelines. Regardless, this has not stopped an onslaught of lawsuits for failure to comply with WCAG guidelines as a basis to claims.

Then there is the Section 508 Standards under the 1973 Rehabilitation Act that requires government agencies  to make information and communication, including websites, accessible to people with disabilities whether they are government employees or members of the public. Section 508 was most recently updated to incorporate WCAG guidelines and although hotels may have government travelers, they are not government agencies.

How should hoteliers achieve website ADA compliance?

First and foremost, you need to understand and comply with WCAG guidelines and make it part of best practices. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has an accessibility checklist that can help you check your website for accessibility.

  • Provide text alternatives or ALT Tags to graphics, animations and videos. Consider that if you disable the presentation, the web content should still effectively communicate the message.
  • Ensure text labels are used for all buttons and calls to action.
  • Provide text descriptions to all internal and external links.
  • Ensure keyboard accessibility.  Website should be enabled for navigation by screen readers or alternative keyboard devices so that users can search, find, navigate through and interact with web content. Consider how you would get to content if you could not use a mouse.
  • Allow for longer time to complete a task on the website. Consider slower muscle movements by a person with a motor disability or slower mental processes by a person with a cognitive disability.
  • Pop-ups and image maps are not used on websites.
  • Website contains easily resizable text.
  • Adhere to ADA compliance at the property itself and create a Website Accessibility Statement page, an Accessible Amenities & Services landing page as well as an Accessible Rooms landing page.

Remember, the above are only guidelines and, as mentioned previously in this article, there are no laws governing ADA compliance and websites. Still, you should keep in mind that 20% of the population has some form of disability and spend $19 billion on travel.  In addition, people with disabilities usually travel with a companion, potentially increasing spending to $40 billion.  Hoteliers would be smart to include this group of website visitors by adhering to the WCAG guidelines.  

Please contact us for a complimentary, no obligation ADA website audit.  At the very least, you will understand what your website exposure is and the corrective action you will need to undertake.  

 

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.  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.

Unique Hotels and Experiences Fascinate Locals & Tourists

Whether it’s a local looking for a fun weekend or a tourist looking for a unique travel adventure, hotels are ramping up the possibilities to fulfill guest needs and expectations for the most unique escapades.

 

Today’s travelers are not just satisfied with getting the comforts of home through amenities and services during their hotel stay. They want a hotel to give them a singular, distinct experience. With so much competition, hoteliers are becoming inventive, feeding the imagination to create the ultimate guest experience. There is no short supply of hotels that have sparked interest and created the allure for such one-of-a-kind moments.

 

Imagination is the air of the mind – Philip James Bailey

 

From cave to ice to underground hotels, you can experience it all. You can stay in a cave hotel like Dreams Cave Hotel  in Turkey. How about The Icehotel made completely of ice in Sweden or the glass igloos of Kakslauttanen Artic Resort in Finland with spectacular viewing of the Northern Lights? Stateside you can stay on board what was once a world-class ocean liner, The Queen Mary, or in an underwater hotel like Jules’ Undersea Lodge in Florida. How about sleeping in a caboose car at The Red Caboose Motel in Pennsylvania?

 

Even brand hotels are getting creative by offering entertainment with a unique bent like the new Cachet Boutique in New York City with its soon-to-be revival of the old Playboy Club lounge – bunnies and all. In Los Angeles you have the Onyx Rooftop in the Hotel Shangri-La with its throwback to the 1970’s including a disco dance floor and a 70’s nightclub dress code. On the rooftop of the Dana Hotel & Spa in Chicago, there is Apogee offering beverages made of smoke or edible butterflies.

 

With so many hotels vying for guest attention, the travel trend today is ‘the more unique the better’. The smaller boutique and independent hotels work especially hard to stand out against brands and, in so doing, not only attract the travelers to their unique hotel but also create opportunities to get those coveted bookings.

 

From theme related rooms, bars and restaurants to converted historic sites, there is a hotel adventure to spark everyone’s interest that will surely keep guests talking about their stay long after they have checked out. Mission well accomplished!

How to Make the Most of Competitive Research

competitive research

Whether you run a hotel, marketing company or any business for that matter, knowing your competitors has become an inherent part of marketing strategy. It is crucial to learning how to position your business and allows you to get – and stay – one step ahead. How well do you know your competitors and, more importantly, what can you learn from their ideas and ways of conducting business?

 

Competitive research is not just about analyzing data, but using the knowledge gained to make your business stronger and more prevalent than your competitors. This can be a daunting task if not approached properly and dismissing your competition can cost you drops in rankings and conversions, loss in revenue, a bad reputation, etc.

Benefits of Competitive Research

The potential benefits of your analysis would include:

  • Understanding the market: No matter the business field, understanding the market in which you conduct your business is vital to the survival of your business. You need to know who are your competitors as well as potential competitors so you know where you need to position yourself within the market.
  • Tracking competitor pricing: You know your expenses and the mark-ups needed to make a profit but keeping an eye on your competitor pricing is an important part to factor into establishing your own pricing as well. You always want to remain a viable player within your market.
  • Targeting and reaching customers: Your research could help you find new tools and practices to better serve your existing customers. It can also provide insightful information on potential customers and help you create clear marketing plans to reach out to those new customers.
  • Forecasting potential sales: Through your analysis you can discover new opportunities that could lead to potential future sales.
  • Identifying problems: You can get a clearer understanding of things like why other sites are ranking higher than your own or what content you should be producing or how to better leverage pricing.
  • Reducing business risks: Making sure you keep track of things your competitors have tried and failed at will help you learn what to do – or not to do – for your own business and could potentially spur new ideas and business ventures out of those failures.
  • Building relationships: Through alerts you could set up mentions of your company (as well as your competition) and these mentions can be used as a basis for building relationships.

 

Getting to Know Your Competition

How do you conduct your competitor assessment and how can you use the information to gain a competitive edge in your market? When looking at competitors, there are no undercover spy rings used to sabotage your business rivals. Instead the research is meant to gather data to help your business learn what is the best way to improve your site rankings, gain customers, build relationships, improve customer service, spot new opportunities etc.

 

Now-a-days there is an abundant amount of information we can simply collect through the internet. A good start is to create an outline of general information like name, location, website address, products/services offered including pricing, weaknesses, strengths etc. Such a manual  search would also include running website audits, conducting a competitive keyword search and keeping an open mind to filter in new ideas and strategies.

 

Also, your search should not only include your current competitors but there should also be a consideration for those up-and-coming who might become a future competitor. You need to think that, once you show you can be successful, who will want to come take that piece of the market away from you?

 

When all is said and done, it makes it hard to compete when you have an awesome customer service philosophy and enforce those principals in your customer service staff. Their enthusiasm will become contagious and spread to your customers. Just look at Apple. Not only is the staff knowledgable of Apple products but, you could be in a crowded Apple store and still feel like all the attention is on you – as if you were the only one being serviced in the store.

 

Competitive Research Tools

There are so many competitive research tools available so you will have to carefully weigh your needs to know whether or not they stack up to what you want to achieve, the amount of time you want to spend on the research and at what cost you’re willing to absorb. There are market research groups that can conduct audits that include the likes of audience research, brand analysis etc and run reports for you but this option can become very costly.

 

If you can make the time to do your own research, you can sign up for free services to gather the information you need for your analysis. You can set Google Alerts, monitor RSS feeds, monitor Twitter by subscribing to competitor feeds for any mentions of your competitor names including their executives. You can audit competitor websites by browsing through it as if you were a customer paying attention to graphics, ease of use, load time and special pricing for example. You can even access public records for real estate, legal files or even financial records through the SEC database for public companies and state filings for privately held companies.

 

Regular Competitor Assessment

You not only need to know all your competitors, you also need to regularly assess your performance and compare it with your competition. In the vast ocean of online marketing, this will help you remain aware of things like new product/service offerings, new team members, sales wins and losses, promotions as well as keep track of sudden drops or improvements in rankings, get new product ideas, learn from competitor mistakes and see how you stack up against them as well as what you need to do to react to any changes found.

 

Nothing in business remains stationary for too long as economic and/or social issues will always manifest themselves. Such broader changes inevitably cause changes in the market and you need to adapt your business model to these changes to help your business grow and evolve. This is when you can reap the benefits of competitive research and ensure the survival of your business.

3 Ways to Market Your Hotel Wedding Space on Pinterest

Are you looking for ways to increase RFP’s for your Hotel Wedding Space? Read on and learn how Pinterest can help your hotel.

Did you know that 81 percent of brides-to-be admit that they begin planning their wedding on Pinterest before the big question is even popped?  For brides and grooms-to-be, Pinterest is the number one source when looking for wedding inspiration.

The image-based platform is the perfect way to engage with brides, where you can position yourself not only as a prospective venue option but also as a resource for potential customers. Since brides-to-be and grooms-to-be begin pinning and creating wedding boards much earlier than you might expect, it is crucial that you are properly marketing yourself on Pinterest, so you can serve as wedding inspiration for brides and grooms to be from the very beginning.

3 Hotel Marketing Ideas for Wedding Space on Pinterest:

Pin inspiring images that link back to your site: There is no shortage of high quality images and creative content on Pinterest, especially when it comes to weddings. Find out what it is about your specific location that sets you apart and dedicate a board to it.

However, pinning high-quality photos and inspiring descriptions is just one piece of the pie, or in this case, only one piece of the wedding cake. Every image that you share on Pinterest should link back to your home page or wedding venue page. This simple step is sometimes overlooked. Just as it is easy to get carried away when pinning beautiful content, it is just as easy to forget adding links to each of your images.

Include your location in your pin descriptions: Optimizing your pins by including effective keywords into your description will help to get your images to show up in Pinterest’s search results. Take it one step further by adding your location into your pin descriptions. People may be searching as specific as your town or as broad as a region, so keep this in mind when incorporating your location into both your pin and board descriptions.

Reach out and engage with others: Search for local attractions in your area and begin interacting with them frequently. This will help build trusted relationships while also allowing others to notice you. Re pin, comment and like interesting content that is relevant to you and you will begin to see an increase of traffic to your page.