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#AskDJV Episode 29: Hotel Digital Marketing – Social Media Marketing

Are you a hotel sales manager?  Have you ever wondered how to capitalize on your online digital marketing efforts with your offline marketing campaigns?  In this week’s episode of #AskDJV, DJ Vallauri discusses what you can do to integrate your hotel social media marketing with your offline marketing efforts.

Hotel Social Media Marketing

How do you marry both online marketing and real world marketing?  Try some of the following hotel marketing tips:

  • Use something like Periscope (tell stories about your hotel) to stream live video about your hotel.
  • Describe memorable events from working on your hotel property
  • Explain why your hotel is special, but don’t try to “close”, instead, build a community around your hotel.
  • Do not underestimate the power of hotel email marketing. Use this tool as a way to get feedback, earn repeat guests and create a buzz about your hotel.

 

Remember these Hotel Marketing Tips:

  • Show a genuine interest in people
  • Respond to guests through the application, if someone is asking you a question, pause for a moment, answer them, then continue to live stream your hotel video
  • Be Yourself. Be genuine, concerned and a real person.
  • Find a common ground – if you are talking about weddings or social events, stick to the subject matter.
  • Tie your Hotel Internet Marketing efforts with your offline marketing efforts, ensuring that you are reaching your largest guest audience

We hope you enjoy Episode 29 of the #AskDJV show.  Come back next week when we discuss Negative Hotel Reviews and how you can avoid them.

Tweet me @DJVallauri using the hashtag #AskDJV, and your question could be featured on the show!

Until next week!

Why Aren’t Hotels Responding to Guest Reviews Online?

Hotel reception with bell

Hotels that respond to reviews see an increase in overall review ratings and booking
inquiries. The benefits are well documented, and yet hoteliers still are not responding.

If a guest fills out a comment card on-site, emails a hotel’s customer service address or even calls to share their frustration or praise about a recent visit, hotels know to read the card, answer the email or return the call. So why, in an age where everything is done online and the majority of consumers rely on travel and hotel reviews before booking a trip, do hoteliers still miss the opportunity of responding to online reviews?

Ideally, hoteliers would pre-empt a negative experience before it ever made it online, while a guest is on-site. Realistically, that is not possible to do each and every time, for each and every guest. When hoteliers are unable to provide the experience that meets or exceeds a guest’s expectations, taking advantage of posting a management response is an important step in protecting a hotel’s online reputation. This step, however, is something only a small amount of hoteliers do with an average of just 36% of hotels responding.

Hotel guests can post reviews of a stay to over 100 review sites, according to the 2014 Hotel Reputation Benchmark Study, however, hotel management is barely responding to two of the largest review sites online. 56% of hoteliers offer replies to TripAdvisor reviews and just 17% respond to those that review their experience on Expedia.

There is ample proof from a variety of studies that it is in a hotel’s best interest for hoteliers to respond to the online reviews that their property receives. Often boosting a hotel’s rank or rating, bookings or booking inquiries and even justifying an increase in room rates.

Consider these guest review statistics:

A 2014 TripAdvisor study noted a connection between the rates of management responses with the average review rating a hotel receives. Properties responding to over 65% of the reviews they received saw an average review rating of 4.15.

Is this because guests magically experience only positive stays? Not according to the researchers at Boston University who deduced that perhaps the most impactful result of providing management response is that, “consumers with a poor experience become less likely to leave a negative review when hotels begin responding.”

This can be seen across the industry where 75% of reviews are four- and five-star reviews while less than 10% are one- and two-star reviews, according to the 2014 Hotel Reputation Benchmark Report. Do not be fooled though, while one-star reviews make up the lowest percentage of all reviews, the number of total reviews are increasing and the volume of both one-star and five-star reviews are seeing the biggest surge.

While hoteliers aren’t responding to reviews, it seems that they recognize that they should be and are taking steps to begin penning replies. According to Ipsos and TripAdvisor’s 2014 TripBarometer Report, six in 10 hoteliers say that investments in reputation management would increase in the next 12 months. The commitment to invest is a new way of thinking for hoteliers who may finally be ready to reap the benefits of replying to reviews by providing management responses. This is the second largest increase in investment priorities, only surpassed by small renovations – a list of property refreshes likely taken from what guests point out in negative reviews.

Hoteliers cannot afford to neglect review responses any longer, especially if their competitive set is making plans to reply to guest reviews. Hoteliers that understand the importance of management responses and how essential it is to invest in them, but may not have the time to take on the task can look to Lodging Interactive’s CoMMingle Reputation Management services as a complete solution for handling review responses.

We provide a personalized approach to management responses that hotels find to be invaluable. CoMMingle Reputation Management monitors, collects and researches reviews and provides suggested responses for approval by hotel management. We also post the approved responses to the review sites as a feature of the service. Contact us or call 877.291.4411 to learn more.

3 Things Hoteliers Must Budget for in 2015

What every hotelier should consider and budget for in 2015.

Hotelier Budget GraphicGiven recent trends, digital marketing is set to become a majority piece of the budget pie by 2019. In a world of increased mobile use and expectations of rapid online responses from properties and brands, hoteliers need to stay on trend with digital spending when planning their 2015 budget, making certain three areas of web-based marketing are well addressed next year.

3 Things Hoteliers Must Budget for in 2015

Complete Online Reputation Management

Managing your online reputation isn’t as simple as making sure you monitor what guests are saying on review sites. While monitoring and responding to reviews is still a vital part of maintaining a healthy online reputation, they go hand in hand with social media marketing and social customer care on sites like Twitter. Hotels need to budget for the ability to actively listen 24/7/365 and respond quickly to inquiries and issues in order to meet guest’s expectations and stop any problems from escalating and reaching review sites.

Tools to Capitalize on Website Visits

The research is clear, how your website looks and how responsive it is says a lot about how you regard your customers. Mobile and tablet use is increasing steadily and more and more consumers are purchasing from these devices and they want a seamless experience. Hoteliers need to consider budgeting for a responsive design website or converting a recently-built, non-responsive site so that your content is accessible across any platform or device. This budget essential might not be as large of a budget item as you may think.

A Strategy for Travelers to Find Your Site When Searching

The ABCs of a searchable web presence — SEO, SEM and PPC — should be key parts of your 2015 budget. Properties can have the best looking website out there, but if their content isn’t optimized and doesn’t keep search in mind or they don’t have effective PPC advertising in place to drive traffic, it is all for naught. Don’t get left behind in a sea of thousands of hotel and travel sites. Budget for these vital campaigns as well as content marketing services to make sure your property is a top search result.

“Hotels are turning to digital marketing more than ever to find leads, retain guests and engage with the masses,” says DJ Vallauri, Founder and President of Lodging Interactive. “As 2015 budgets are being drafted and debated, hoteliers must keep in mind how vital their online presence — be it their website, social media profiles or responsiveness to reviews or questions — is to their property’s success. These are key budget pieces no matter at what scale you are doing business online.”

Lodging Interactive is an award-winning digital marketing agency that provides a complete suite of creative website solutions, digital advertising strategies, and social media marketing exclusively to independent, boutique and brand hotel properties.

To learn more about our customized digital solutions or to partner with Lodging Interactive in 2015, please contact info@lodginginteractive.com or call 877-291-4411 ext. 701.

Are You Posting Properly to Facebook?

Today, there are more than 1.5 billion active Facebook users, with 699 million people logging onto Facebook each day and 4.5 billion "likes" generated daily as of May 2013, according to the leading social media giant. More important to note is that 16 million local business pages have been created since June, which is a 100 percent increase from 8 million in June 2012, Facebook reports. Hoteliers who want to compete effectively and maintain a competitive edge need to know how to best utilize Facebook and ensure that their efforts stand out and reach intended audiences. CoMMingle by Lodging Interactive, an outsourced social media marketing agency that develops customized solutions for hotels, restaurants and spas, has a simple list of suggestions to make the most out of a Facebook social media campaign.

"Approximately 42 percent of marketers claim that eMarketing via Facebook is crucial for business success," said Rosella Virdo, Director of CoMMingle Social Media Marketing. "That leaves 58 percent of marketers who seem to be missing the big picture. Utilize Facebook as more than just another vehicle to advertise or promote your property. Social media marketing has become an extension of your customer service. With that knowledge and focus, you can then speak with your fans about your property and offerings, drive engagement and create loyalty. Then social media marketing becomes an all-encompassing vehicle to reach, speak and mingle with your audience, paving the road for a successful marketing campaign.

"Social Media Marketing has a different approach than traditional marketing," she said. "No longer do you shout your message, now you share your message to those listening and encourage them to share spread the word. Today with social media, hoteliers have the opportunity to share, connect and listen to their fans/guests, and most importantly, offer the level of customer service they come to expect while still sharing all you have to offer. This new way of marketing includes reputation management, customer service, traditional marketing and giving a human voice to a brick and mortar business. To help hotel marketers put their best Facebook post forward, the CoMMingle team is offering the following tips."

10 Tips to Facebook Posting Success:

1. Keep it short: Share just a bit of what you’d like to say, but be brief. Try to keep the post to around 250 characters, without losing the message you want to share.

2. Photos / Videos: To make your message stand out, a photo or video will bring the eye to the message. Give viewers an inside view of what makes the hotel tick. An example: Showcase your employees. Adding a first name and a face from the person to the service they received or will be receiving, offers that personal touch. Display a front desk clerk welcoming a guest . . . the housekeeper hard at work . . . or your marketing manager smiling at their desk. Always ask the employee for their permission before you post.

3. Call to Action: Engage your audience by asking questions or suggest a link to visit, "like" the post, or share an experience.

4. Offer a perk to your Fans: Create a special offer with link, exclusive to your fans. Links and calls to action add value to a Facebook campaign.

5. Participation: Ask your audience to participate in the process of building your next package or promotion. For example, request feedback from your fans on what type of amenities they would like to see in a package? Free Internet, Free Parking, Free Resort Fees, Dinner for Two, etc. Use the feedback to create the package then let your audience know that they were a vital part of the process by their input. 

6. Be consistent and current: Post about local events around the hotel. Make sure that you offer links, and post consistently (once or twice a week is good).

7. Create a Social Media Calendar: Plan a strategy to compliment your off line marketing initiatives. Topics, times, frequency that work best with the hospitality industry. Remember that these “best practices” of when to post are not relevant to every industry and every audience. Learn your audience; learn the audience of your industry.

8. Target: You can create posts on Facebook specific to an audience. If you have a package available to only the  residents of your state, then target post to the audience in that segmented location demographic.

9. Schedule posts: You can schedule posts up to six months in advance in 10 minute intervals. This will help you manage your time more effectively.

10. Have fun. Keep the “social” on your social network. Post fun trivia facts about your location; create engaging puzzles focused on your brand or city; send encouragement of support to your local sports teams, etc.

"According to Infodocket, the average time spent per Facebook visit is about 20 minutes," Virdo said. "You have a small window of opportunity to share your message and speak with your audience. Knowing effective ways to reach them could make all the difference in your success. If you are still unsure as to whether or not your message is effective, give CoMMingle a call today."

Lodging Interactive to Launch Innovative New Service for Hospitality Industry

Lodging Interactive announced today an innovative new  service for the hospitality industry, www.HotelFAQs.info. Powered by proprietary technology developed by Lodging Interactive and enhanced by professional copywriting services of its CoMMingle Social Media Marketing division, HotelFAQs.info enables hotel websites to offer comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) pages.  The results are increased booking conversion rates, reduced customer calls to the front desk and exceptional online customer service.

“Online shopping websites clearly understand the value of offering their shoppers Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) pages, yet in the hospitality industry we fail to provide FAQs that would improve online booking conversion rates,” said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive’s Founder and President. “Instead, we force potential guests to call the property and to hunt down the information they seek prior to making a reservation; we knew there had to be a better way and developed HotelFAQs.info.”

Developed to leverage the value of social media networking, HotelFAQs.info easily integrates into any hotel’s Facebook page and blog.  Fully mobile compatible, HotelFAQs.info enables smartphone users to also benefit from vital FAQ content, thereby supporting and increasing mobile booking conversion rates.

“Our HotelFAQs.info service is fully managed for the hotel," Vallauri said. "We develop the questions people typically ask the front desk or reservations department, source the answers from the hotel and even allow new questions to be asked by consumers online. We also optimize all content to maximize its organic search engine value so the hotel can benefit from a lift in search engine rankings.”

For more information, please visit www.HotelFAQs.info.

Budgeting for 2014? Remember Reputation Management Plus Social Media / Web / Mobile Marketing

If there is one thing hoteliers can't forget to budget for in 2014, it is digital marketing. Keeping website and mobile web content fresh, scrutinizing the property's reputation via the web and social media channels, plus responding to guest reviews is critical for operational success and true customer-relationship management. The good news is that hoteliers can count on the fully managed digital marketing programs and expertise offered by Lodging Interactive and it’s social media marketing agency, CoMMingle.

"'It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.' Hoteliers need to heed this advise [offered by one of the world's most savvy and successful businessmen, Warren Buffett], especially in today's digital marketing age," said DJ Vallauri, Founder and President of Lodging Interactive, an award winning full-service digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. "Many hoteliers are already finding it hard to keep up with managing content on Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube. Throw in rapidly growing channels Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and others, and marketers are realizing they’re going to need help in order to be effective. The same is true for responding to online guest reviews and managing a hotel’s online reputation. If any of these digital marketing touch points are not being properly orchestrated, the hotel's reputation and revenues will be negatively effected.

"The most cost-effective and productive way to manage and maintain a robust digital marketing program is to work in partnership with an experienced digital marketing agency, and one that is exclusively serving the hospitality industry," Vallauri said. "Budgeting for digital marketing today — including inflation for pay-per-click programs costs — will ensure success in 2014 and beyond."

Lodging Interactive has identified six must-haves that hoteliers need to build into their budgets for 2014 for an effective digital marketing campaign:

1. Staffing to set-up and maintain a Google+ page. Not only do marketers need staff to support a G+ page, but they need to budget sufficient time for staff to engage with the hotel's target audience and support ongoing conversations. Today, two-way communication via Facebook and Twitter pages is not enough. The name of the game in 2014 is aggressive participation on Google’s social network, Google+.

2. Staffing resources to reply to all guest reviews on top travel review sites and social networks. Whether a review is positive or negative, it requires a response. For many properties this can be a full time job. Think of the service as a way to reach the next potential guest who is reading your reply.

3. Guest Review Widget deployment on the hotel’s website, or vanity website if the hotel is branded.  Marketers need to provide guests with a place to leave reviews on their hotel's website, and not online travel agent (OTA’s) sites. By implementing such a tool, hotels are removing OTA's from the equation and taking ownership of the guest-communication process and reducing their contribution of lower rated net rate business.

4. Streamlined mobile website exclusive for smartphone users. Forget about a 75-page responsive design . . . placing too much content on a mobile website can be more of a traveler deterrent rather than an incentive to book or buy. Hotels must have a dedicated mobile website that delivers a dynamic and streamlined user experience regardless of mobile device.  Remember, mobile is about speed and efficiency. 

5. Website redesign. Last year's website is obsolete. Ensure your website has been re-designed to leverage large photography – consumers have larger PC screens than ever and expect to see stunning visuals on your website.  Every hotelier should budget for new photography and re-designing of their existing website.

6. Inflated Pay-per-click Advertising. If your hotel has not increased its pay-per-click advertising budget in the last year of so, you had better do so for 2014. Year over year, travel related PPC costs have increased and there is now more competition than there used to be. The end result, the cost per clicks are increasing and hoteliers need to keep up.

"Hotel owners and marketers must consider adding each of these six line items to their 2014 budgets in order to be competitive, Vallauri said. “Lodging Interactive can provide hoteliers with guidance and support in all the areas mentioned and ensure properties remain competitive and maximize their online revenues in 2014.”

Fully Managed Social Media Marketing
Like Lodging Interactive, CoMMingle can also provide services above and beyond what hotels can provide themselves, especially in the area of social media monitoring and reputation management.

"Hoteliers typically can't afford to have internal, full-time social media watch dogs on staff, so CoMMingle will provide due diligence on their behalf," said Rosella Virdo, Director of CoMMingle Social Media Marketing. "CoMMingle will cost-effectively monitor conversations and post replies on the hotel's behalf. In addition, we can set up a Google+ page if needed and maintain weekly postings on the page; create a Pinterest hotel account, relevant pin boards, and then pin images weekly to the boards; establish and manage a customized blog focused on promoting local demand drivers and, create additional apps for the property — above and beyond what is presently being managed by the hotel. CoMMingle will even go a step further and assist hotels that don't have the time to post content consistently to Facebook and Twitter by posting content weekly on the hotel’s behalf. "

As hotels of all sizes begin the arduous 2014 budgeting process, it's imperative that digital marketing and its many nuances don't get overlooked. If they do, the hotel's or brand's online reputation can suffer. Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle have the human resources and expertise on hand to cost-effectively maximize exposure and credibility to both loyal and prospective customers.

Hotels Looking to Heighten SEO and SMO Need to Engage with SoLoMo

Just when you thought you knew every possible acronym for hotel technology, a slew of new social media terms emerged, many of which are as important to learn as they are critical to implement for business success. Topping the list is SoLoMo, the convergence of Social, Local and Mobile strategies that is dramatically changing the way that businesses and consumers communicate. Lodging Interactive, and its outsourced social media marketing agency CoMMingle, are fluent in speaking the SoLoMo language, and together they are helping hotels improve conversations with global guests across the social, local and mobile channels to tap new revenue streams and target new customers.

"eMarketing today is an art, especially in a SoLoMo environment," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive founder and president. "The Internet, smartphones and social channels have made it possible for even the smallest hotel to share its messaging with the world with just a click or a touch. While the process sounds simple, the intricacies of SoLoMo marketing are quite complex. Which social media channels are the most effective to reach the right audience? When is the right time to push local offers and to whom? How do you manipulate web content for mobile devices and get users to engage with the offers being made? Who is monitoring the various SoLoMo conversations to protect the hotel's reputation? Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle have the time and the talent to address those questions and many more."

Lodging Interactive is an award winning full-service digital marketing and social media engagement agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. The company provides ROI-driven online marketing services, including: website design and development, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and online reputation management. CoMMingle manages hotels' use of social media channels, provides reputation and consumer sentiment monitoring, and social search engine optimization.  

The SoLoMo Connection
According to "Technopedia," SoLoMo is defined as: A more mobile-centric version of the addition of local entries to search engine results. SoLoMo emerged as a result of the growing popularity of smartphones, and provides greater local precision to search engine results than what's available via a PC.

Consider this:

• More Internet access occurs through mobile devices than by laptop or desktop (Expedia)
• Two-thirds of Americans sleep with their mobile device in range (Expedia)
• Current number of bookings via mobile device is about 16 million, and it's expected to double by 2016 (Expedia)
• 97% of consumers now search for local businesses online (Eventility)
• 72% of consumers consider online reviews trustworthy (Eventility)
• 61% of Millennials reference social media when deciding where to go out (Eventility)
• 78% of small businesses now get at least a quarter of their new customers through social media (Eventility)

"Hoteliers can't turn their backs on these who are searching for the very services they offer," Vallauri said. "It's time to grab consumers' attention . . . and those consumers will tell their friends, and so on. The convergence of social, local, and mobile channels is key to how hoteliers can effectively communicate with guests, and how travelers willingly engage in return with hotels. Social addresses 'where' travelers share their hotel experience; Mobile is 'how' they send and receive information with the hotel; and Local speaks to the immediate environment or 'when' travelers can receive the best offers at the best rates for the best experience. When hotels harness the power of the SoLoMo initiative, it enables them to stay hyper-connected with their guests like never before."

Finding the expertise at the property level to launch a strong SoLoMo strategy is challenging, and being able to analyze its effectiveness once it goes live is equally as difficult. Next-generation hotels need to engage with guests socially via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. They must respond to online reviews . . . provide locally-meaningful content and offers . . . and manage that data to ensure that it is relevant to each audience on each channel. Having the staff and expertise to make all this happen is even more challenging. This where Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle can be a valuable resource.

"With SoLoMo becoming such an integral part of consumers' global travel habits, hotels are struggling with finding the internal resources to manage social networks and establish effective social media marketing campaigns," said Rosella Virdo, Director of CoMMingle Social Media Marketing. "Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle will assist hotels by engaging online with social media strategic planning, growing and managing social media channels, word-of-mouth marketing and experiential marketing, reputation and consumer sentiment monitoring, and social search engine optimization.

"We monitor content and keep conversations going," she said. "We become the eyes and ears of the hotel, monitoring conversations and posting instant replies if desired. We also serve as an extension of a hotel's Public Relations and Marketing teams, and as a consultant to its customers, advising hotels how to deal with social media reviews and giving them tools to manage their social presence effectively. The bottom line is that hotels need to tap into their customers, and having properly managed social, local and mobile profiles will keep them coming back and growing revenues while you are growing loyalty."

SoLoMo Portfolio
Leveraging a team of more than 50 highly skilled online content experts, Lodging Interactive offers the following services that work together or independently to support a hotel's SoLoMo campaign:

• Website design and management
• Hotel reservation services
• Social media marketing
• Reputation management
• Email newsletter marketing
• Guest review system
• Video production
• Strategic marketing
• Advertising agency services
• Measurement and accountability

"There is no time like the present to begin leveraging the power of SoLoMo," Vallauri said. "Hoteliers that don't know where or how to begin can tap the expertise of the Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle teams to receive a customized strategy for each property backed by superior customer service.”