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Is Your Hotel Part of the Social Media Conversation?

Are you participating and/or encouraging conversation on your hotel's social media channels? Is your social media presence consistent? Do you know the right social networks to target for your audience and social search? If you're unsure, it's time to call CoMMingle. An outsourced social media marketing agency from Lodging Interactive, CoMMingle develops customized solutions for hotels, restaurants and spas to help craft their social media marketing messaging to keep travelers thirsting for more informational content . . . more dialog . . . and more fun.

"One of the first questions we get asked at CoMMingle is: What social networks do we need a presence on and how do we market to that audience without overselling ourselves?" said Rosella Virdo, Director of CoMMingle Social Media Marketing. "Creativity, posting content consistently, remaining fluid with the ever changing tides of social media, and having a message that is relative to each audience is the key to engagement and social media success.

"You don't have to win a popularity contest on social media to connect with your past, present and future guests," Virdo said. "Hotels should keep in mind the 'social' aspect of social media. In the last five years, social media has evolved from both the user standpoint as well as the business side. People interact on social networks to be engaging, without being bombarded by marketing and advertising."

The question becomes: “How does a hotel share its offerings, promotions, specials, location, etc. without strong arm marketing?” This is where the softer — or conversational  — side of marketing comes in.

"We are not standing on top of a mountain shouting our message and expect everyone to listen," Virdo said. "Climb down the mountain, mingle with the people and talk. It's simple. Just talk. Now is the time to softly market your property while adding a human voice to the business. These conversations will become an integral part of social search."

CoMMingle serves as a consultant to its customers, advising hotels how to deal with social media, reputation management on review sites, online issues that arise as more social media channels become an extension of customer service, and giving them tools to manage their social presence effectively. For instance, CoMMingle will nip a bad review in the bud by working with hotel management to learn the details of an issue, formulate the response to adhere to third-arty website policies and manage the conversation online for the client. A neglected Tweet can turn into a negative Facebook post and eventually turn into a devastating TripAdvisor review. CoMMingle assists in managing the reputation of the hotel in online conversations and comments, as well as enhancing reputation by addressing issues with the transparency needed on the social networks to remain authentic.

"As CoMMingle clients, hotels are not buying Facebook 'maintenance,' but rather they receive a vast array of social media and reputation management services that can be adjusted to a client's specific needs as well as allow the client to stay visible where the conversation is taking place," Virdo said.

Lodging Interactive Becomes Best Western Preferred Vendor

As a Best Western Preferred Vendor, Lodging Interactive, an interactive and social media marketing agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry, will introduce new pricing plans, financial service models, mobile website offerings and content management toolkits exclusive to members of THE WORLD’S BIGGEST HOTEL FAMILY® during the 2012 Best Western Supply Products Showcase, to be held October 11 to 13 at The Venetian in Las Vegas. 

"Maintaining an up-to-date website and monitoring the various social channels for visibility and engagement is critical to brand success today," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President. "Industry reports show direct bookings via the hotel's proprietary website are on the rise, and unprecedented numbers of travelers are being drawn to new and established social media sites — from Facebook, Twitter and You Tube to Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and Wikipedia — to name just a few. Lodging Interactive not only has the team in place to design prized hotel websites for Best Western properties, but our proficiency in managing those sites, along with establishing brand presence on all social media marketing and engagement channels, is unsurpassed."

Through Lodging Interactive's preferred vendor status, Best Western members will receive fresh and enhanced website content, effective social media marketing campaigns, reputation and consumer sentiment monitoring, social search engine optimization, and assistance with online engagement of social media strategic planning via its social media marketing agency, CoMMingle. In addition, Best Western hotels will have the direct benefit of featuring Lodging Interactive's Guest Review System directly on their Websites, giving travelers a place to post comments and score their hotel experiences based on service attributes. In turn, hotel managers will receive real-time alerts advising when pending guest reviews pop up, eliminating delays in addressing concerns and turning potential problems into new opportunities.

Lodging Interactive is comprised of a team of more than 50 highly skilled web experts. Since 2001, the company has provided more than 650 hotels, resorts, spas and restaurants in over 35 countries with proven ROI-driven online marketing services. In May, Lodging Interactive was recognized by the Interactive Media Council Inc., winning three Interactive Media Awards™ for Outstanding Achievement in the Hotels/Resorts category for its website design services. This is the third consecutive year that the interactive and social media marketing agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry has been recognized by the IMC for its aptitude in designing, developing, managing, supporting and promoting hotel websites. 

"We are honored to be part of Best Western's preferred vendor program and look forward to meeting with members in October," Vallauri said. "Our unique online marketing techniques, combined with our social media marketing services, wins online business for hotels and resorts. Whether Best Western members need to supplement their current Internet marketing programs or establish new social media engagement programs, Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle will deliver proven services that are measured by clear definitive results."

How Good Is Your Hotel’s Social Media?

Does trying to manage your social media presence have you in a tail spin? Are you still unsure of the value that social media brings to your hotel's online marketing program? Would you like add social marketing expertise without adding overhead? If "yes," than it's time to CoMMingle. CoMMingle by Lodging Interactive is an outsourced social media marketing agency that develops customized solutions for hotels, restaurants and spas. The company works with its customers to grow and better manage their use of social media channels, provide reputation and consumer sentiment monitoring, and social search engine optimization.

"Social media is more about psychology than marketing," said Rosella Virdo, Director of CoMMingle Social Media Marketing. "Those in charge of managing social media need to understand the mindset of each audience on each network. It's a job that requires the wearing of many hats. It's not just about selling a hotel experience or product. It's about engagement. Content is important. Social channels exist for communication. When guests — past and present — post on your hotel's Facebook page, for example, someone needs to be monitoring the channel ready to post a response. It's a way to take online marketing to the next level."

In a recent article titled "Top 10 hospitality industry trends for 2012," Robert Rauch reported: "By 2016, half of the travel industry will be using social media as a way of generating revenue and bookings. Currently more than one-fifth (22 percent) use social media as a revenue generating tool with a further 27 percent planning to do so over the next five years. Plus, social media will become more of a key component of Search Engine Results Page (SERP) algorithms. Facebook's posts are already integrated into Bing search and Google+ emerged with native integration into Google search. Hotels can no longer afford to linger over adding social media to their marketing mix. It's now a necessary element of traffic-driving success."

Peter O'Connor, Professor of Information Systems at ESSEC Business School in France, recently said: "2012 will be the year when hotels wake up to the power of social media." In an article titled "Hotels Start Putting Their Own 'Social Media House' in Order," O'Connor wrote: "Since travelers enjoy talking about their experiences, discussing future plans and seeking the recommendations of others, social media sites such as blogs, social networks and review sites have become important information resources. Such sites provide consumers with easy access to a pool of high-quality, topical and most importantly, unbiased information, generated not by commercial interests but by other consumers, thus helping to reduce, if not totally eliminate, the aforementioned credibility issue. As a result, social media have had an almost immediate and dramatic effect on how travel is researched, planned and bought."

Engaging with Social Media
With social media 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. CoMMingle is designed to assist hotels in 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

"The challenge for hoteliers is not just being visible via the various social channels — including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and blogs — but being interactive, constantly monitoring content and keeping the conversations going," CoMMingle's Virdo said. "That's where the success or failure of a social media marketing program comes to play. If a hotel does not have a dedicated staff member serving as its social media watch dog, it's easy for the plan to fall apart. That's where CoMMingle comes in. We become the eyes and ears of the hotel, monitoring conversations and posting instant replies if desired."

Not only does CoMMingle become an extension of a hotel's Public Relations and Marketing teams, but the company also serves 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. For instance, CoMMingle will nip a bad review in the bud by contacting the hotel and having the appropriate person address the situation — or CoMMingle can manage the conversation. A neglected Tweet can turn into negative Facebook post and eventually turn into a devastating TripAdvisor review.

"As a CoMMingle customer, hotels are not buying Facebook 'maintenance,' but rather they receive a vast array of services that can be adjusted hourly, daily, weekly or monthly," Virdo said. "We literally go with the social-media flow, identifying for the hotel where its strength lies. If a hotel is strong on Twitter, CoMMingle will suggest a campaign that addresses the Twitter audience; If the hotel's strength is on Facebook, then we will suggest posts that drive traffic back to the hotel's Website and/or blog and also continue the conversation on Facebook and Twitter."

According to travel market research firm PhocusWright, social networking is one of the most powerful forces driving travel planning today. The firm found that social media use among travelers is growing far faster than the travel industry itself. A survey conducted by travel social network WAYN for the World Travel & Tourism Council and carried out in conjunction with Frommer's Budget Travel magazine, asked nearly 3,580 people (780 U.S., 2,800 non-U.S.) a range of questions about how they plan, book and use technology with travel. The study revealed that 38% percent of U.S. travelers and 64% of non-U.S. travelers are using social networks while travelling. Of those, 32% of U.S. and 22% of non-U.S. travelers frequently blog about their experiences.

"Social media marketing must be part of every hotel's strategic marketing plan," said DJ Vallauri, Founder and President of Lodging Interactive. "But it's important to note that one size social media marketing does not fit all. CoMMingle takes the time to understand each hotel's overall goals and objectives, then the team crafts a social media strategic plan for that specific property, backed by proprietary technologies and experienced social media marketers. With experts predicting that social media will continue to grow by leaps and bounds through 2016 and beyond, there is no better time than the present to CoMMingle."