Latest Hotel Social Media Changes

We’re in the middle of summer’s busy season, but that means it’s more important than ever to stay up to date on all the latest social changes. This month we’ve got new updates that will allow us to continue making more engaging content with a little less hassle. Let’s take a look.

Facebook Adds a Stories Archive Feature

Facebook has been testing and slowly rolling out an Archive feature for their Stories, and it works differently than Instagram’s Stories Highlights. Users who have this feature can now save their Facebook Stories once they expire so they can repost them again later if they choose.

What This Means for Hotels

The expiration of Stories after 24 hours has always been a setback of the feature, because it can be difficult to create content that has such a short shelf life. The ability to save the content and reuse it is a huge advantage if it’s evergreen.

Want to simplify things further? It would also work to just download stories after you create them on Instagram, add them to your Instagram highlights, and then upload it to Facebook, too.

Facebook Rolls Out Crossposting Ability with Instagram 

We’ve had the ability to share Instagram posts directly onto Facebook for a very long time, but now we have a new feature that lets us do the reverse, too. Pages can now crosspost to Instagram as long as their Facebook post contains a single image. Multi-image and video posts are not currently supported.

What This Means for Hotels

Being able to easily distribute content to two platforms at once can save you time, especially if you aren’t already using social scheduling software. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that Instagram best practices don’t always line up with Facebook’s. You’ll want to add hashtags, for example, to your Instagram posts so that potential guests have a better chance of finding you.

It will be better to post individually in most cases, but if you ever have something you need to distribute quickly, this feature will work for that.

Instagram Launched Question Stickers 

Instagram has just released a Questions Sticker to its Stories. This is another interactive sticker that allows users to ask their followers questions. The replies their followers submit will be shown to you privately, but they can be shared within the Stories feed. It is now available for both iOS and Android users with the latest update of the app.

Image source: Instagram 

What This Means for Hotels

This new sticker is another way to get engagement through Stories, but it also gives you a way to build and leverage social proof. Ask your guest questions about their stays or their dream vacations, or even what types of events they’d like to attend or host at your resort. Share some of the best answers to your Stories in order to demonstrate social proof and build relationships with your guests and followers.

Instagram Tests In-App Verification 

In-App verification has been available on Instagram for a while for high-profile brands and users, a coveted blue checkmark you’ve also seen on Facebook and Twitter. However, the company has approved an incredibly low amount of accounts for verification. Instagram is currently testing a new in-app verification option, where public figures, celebrities, and brands can submit a form to apply, which requires usernames, full names, and photo identification. Currently, the in-app form for verification is only available to iOS users in a selected test group, but will soon be coming to Android.

Image source: Mashable 

What This Means for Hotels

The blue checkmark automatically signals that your hotel or resort is established enough to be recognized on social media, and you risk losing credibility if you’re the only one without it. Users may be more likely to go to a website and book reservations through Instagram profiles with that blue checkmark, so keep an eye out and do what you can to apply as soon as possible.

LinkedIn Announces In-Feed Translations 

LinkedIn is slowly releasing a new translations feature similar to Facebooks. This feature will allow users to see a “See Translation” button on posts that are written in languages different than what they speak. There will be more than 60 languages included in the translation feature, including German and Japanese. More languages will follow.

What This Means for Hotels

If your hotel or resort hosts professional events or has a large number of traveling professionals, LinkedIn could be a valuable marketing channel. Even if you don’t, most hotels and resorts may benefit from using the platform to find new employees or vendors. The ability for your posts to have more reach just with a click of a button on the user’s part is a huge advantage, no matter what specific goal you’re using LinkedIn to accomplish.

Lodging Interactive Announces LinkedIn Marketing Services for Hotels

Lodging Interactive, an award-winning digital and social media engagement agency exclusively serving the hospitality industry, today announced the launch of its fully managed CoMMingle LinkedIn marketing service for the hospitality industry. CoMMingle LinkedIn Marketing manages all aspects of a hotel’s LinkedIn presence and community engagement.

 

“LinkedIn presents enormous branding and business opportunities for hotels and has been mostly ignored by property marketing teams.  With over 560 million LinkedIn monthly users, hoteliers must maintain a presence and aggressively build and engage with their LinkedIn community as they have done for years on traditional social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder & CEO. “Our CoMMingle LinkedIn Marketing service is fully managed for the hotel. While we manage the hotel’s entire presence on LinkedIn, the property approves every post and our teams work with the property in a collaborative manner to establish a monthly LinkedIn content calendar.”

LinkedIn Marketing for Hotels

 

Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for $26 billion and continues to enhance the platform as LinkedIn continues to be the leading business-2-business networking platform. LinkedIn’s Q3 2016 revenue was $960 million with 17% generated ($162 million) generated from premium account subscriptions; 18% ($175 million) from marketing solutions, and staggering 65% ($623 million) from talent solutions.

 

“While traditionally known as thesocial network for job seekers and employers, LinkedIn offers an impressive treasure trove of new business opportunities for hotels that only needs to be mined.  For example, when you consider that meeting planner executives can be directly reached through LinkedIn, it becomes very interesting for hoteliers,” added Mr. Vallauri. “Our service ensures hotels have a professionally managed presence on LinkedIn and positions the property to capture new business opportunities.”

CoMMingle LinkedIn Marketing services include:

 

  • Establishing an effective Company LinkedIn Page for your hotel.
  • We will define your audience and goals.
  • Create a LinkedIn content marketing calendar.
  • Pre-approved content and content planning.
  • Write and post LinkedIn content.
  • Leverage rich media video content.
  • Research appropriate #hashtags to use in posts.
  • Manage job postings.
  • Create and manage LinkedIn advertising campaigns.
  • Cross market your LinkedIn profile with your social media accounts.
  • Engage with posted comments.
  • Comprehensive monthly reporting.

 

For more information on CoMMingle LinkedIn Marketing please contact us at: https://lodginginteractive.com/contact/or call 877-291-4411 extension 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 cost-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.

For more information, please contact sales@lodginginteractive.com, 877-291-4411 or visit the company’s website.

Contact: DJ Vallauri

pressreleases@lodginginteractive.com / 877-291-4411

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!