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Lodging Interactive More Than Doubles its Growth and Service Offering in 2012

The adage "You can never have too much of a good thing" is ringing true to hundreds of hoteliers worldwide who received extraordinary Internet marketing services from Lodging Interactive and its subsidiary CoMMingle this year. Over the last 12 months, the interactive and social media marketing agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry racked up an unprecedented list of accomplishments. 

"2012 was a very good year for Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle, but it was even more impactful for our customers," said Founder and President DJ Vallauri. "We planned to introduce a few new services and robust business models, but once we got rolling, ideas for even more breakthrough services were proposed. Thanks to the creativity and expertise of the Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle teams, we provided more new services to hotels in 2012 than in the last 10 years combined. From limited-time FREE audits to full-service website design and management, social media marketing, mobile marketing, and measurement and accountability services, 2012 was truly a banner year for Lodging Interactive."

Since 2001, Lodging Interactive has provided hotels, resorts, spas and restaurants in over 35 countries with proven ROI-driven online services, including: website design and development, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and online reputation management. In 2012 alone, the company achieved a 85% increase in growth, a 40% increase in staffing, and more than doubled the number of services it now offers to hotels — some of which are absolutely FREE of charge to its customers.

In 2012, Lodging Interactive earned the following for website design:

• Three Interactive Media Awards™ for Outstanding Achievement in the Hotels/Resorts category for its website design of the Marriott Burlington in Massachusetts, the Denver Renaissance in Colorado and the Doubletree Oak Brook in Illinois by the Interactive Media Council Inc. This was the third consecutive year that Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle was recognized by the IMC for its aptitude in designing, developing, managing, supporting and promoting hotel websites.

• The Silver Magellan Award from Travel Weekly for the Courtyard by Marriott Ft. Lauderdale Beach, Fla.

• Two Web Awards / Hotel and Lodging Standard of Excellence from the Web Marketing Assn. for the Courtyard by Marriott Ft. Lauderdale Beach and the Marriott Burlington in Massachusetts.

• The 2012 Silver Award / Creative Excellence in Hotel and Lodging from the International Academy of the Visual Arts for the Courtyard by Marriott Ft. Lauderdale Beach.

Like its coveted website design service, Lodging Interactive's Guest Review System also was in high demand in 2012. The hotel-based guest comment system enables guests to post comments about their hotel experience and provides hotel management with the ability to respond in real time when reviews are received. The Guest Review System ensures there are no delays in communication, and the appropriate staff can immediately fix any pending problems before the customer leaves the property or has the opportunity to post negative reviews on third-party websites. Additionally, travelers can share their guest reviews on their Facebook wall and to their network of friends.

The success of the Guest Review System spurred Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle to develop and introduced the following new Internet marketing services this year:

• HotelWebShows — A service enabling hotel marketers to add a personal touch to their websites by using crisp HD Video. All video produced through HotelWebShows by Lodging Interactive are 1080i quality and delivered in TV, Web and Mobile formats. Videos are available in 30 second, 60 second and 90 second lengths, and will include music and graphics.

• CoMMingle Social + — A service for hoteliers managing their own Facebook and Twitter accounts but who also want to get involved in the new, emerging social engagement channels such as Google+ Business Page and Pinterest, but do not have the resources in-house to handle it. CoMMingle Social+ adds weekly postings on Facebook and Twitter for hotels that have pages but find it hard to consistently post during the week.

• InnterACT Performance Portal — A website analytics and social service providing real-time website analytics, key performance metrics, and the latest social media monitoring tools. The InnterACT online client portal was made available to existing customers at no cost.

• Hotel Website Solutions — A service offering online marketing services at a low, monthly fee with all upfront costs removed. The service includes website design and management, reputation management, search engine marketing, real-time analytics and accountability, PLUS Lodging Interactive's Content Management System and its coveted Guest Review System.

• Mobile Website Development — A FREE service made available to all new customers contracting full agency services, including website design and development, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and online reputation management. Through this service, hotels received up to 10 static pages of their online website in a mobile format, with an option to purchase more.

To help its customers stay competitive, Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle also offered the following FREE services:

• FREE Website Audit — Determines if a website is performing properly and achieving rankings
• FREE Social Media Analytics Reporting Tool — Delivers weekly analytics about a hotel's activity on the top social media networks, including: Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Google+ and blogs.
• FREE Content Management Systems + FREE Mobile Website.

"To say we were busy in 2012 is an understatement," Vallauri said. "In addition to creating a bevvy of new services to keep our customers performing successfully, we managed to show support to our brand partners and industry associations as well. In 2012, Lodging Interactive became a Best Western Preferred Vendor, and we support the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Assn. International (HSMAI) and the American Hotel & Lodging Assn. We also participated in select industry conferences and events to network with our customers.

"While being visible is important to Lodging Interactive, it's far more important for us to ensure that our customers are visible via the various online and social media channels and that their online reputations are being properly scrutinized and managed," he said. "This new year, those who partner with Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle will be well positioned to socialize and engage with their target audiences. If your hotel needs to be seen in 2013, then it's time to call Lodging Interactive."

Lodging Interactive’s Top 5 Budget Items for 2013

As the dreaded budget season draws near, hoteliers need to place a more strategic focus on digital marketing for 2013, especially when it comes to their social, local and mobile marketing efforts. Lodging Interactive and its subsidiary CoMMingle have identified five digital marketing must-haves to add to the budget in order to remain competitive in 2013, especially today's price-conscious mid-size and independent properties.

Lodging Interactive is an award-winning, interactive and social media marketing agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. CoMMingle by Lodging Interactive is an outsourced social media marketing agency that develops customized solutions for hospitality entities. Together, the companies have identified the following top five ways for hoteliers to interact with their guests and prospects and better grow and manage their use of online marketing and social media channels for 2013 and beyond:

1. Keep Your Hotel’s Website "Fresh":  Just because a hotel updates or makes corrections to its webpage doesn't automatically make it "fresh." Hotels need to continually add new photos to make the website more visually appealing. New content also needs to continually be added, such as press releases and blogs that also can be linked to the various social media channels to ensure more chatter and visibility. Finally, there needs to be accountability to ensure that the web page is meeting goals and reaching its attended audience.

All these things can be accomplished easily and affordably in 2013 via Lodging Interactive's Hotel Website Solutions program. By adopting Hotel Website Solutions, hoteliers can refresh their web site every two years, at no additional cost. Included in the package is:

• RFPLink group lead capture and reporting
• Online analytical reporting
• Homepage call-to-action tile images
• Website Hosting and Server Management
• Robust Content Management, and
• Guest Review System at no additional cost.

2. Take Control Of Your Hotel’s Guest Reviews: It's a known fact that hotels are dependent on reviews and that travelers will seek online reviews just prior to making their online reservations. Knowing if a review is legitimate is confusing for travelers, but knowing how to best manage guest reviews is even more perplexing for managers. Lodging Interactive has designed a way to simplify the guest review process. The company's Guest Review System offers a turn-key system that enables a hotel's proprietary website with the ability for travelers to post reviews and score their hotel experiences based on service attributes. Hotel managers receive real-time alerts advising when pending guest reviews pop up, eliminating delays in addressing concerns and turning potential problems into new opportunities.

In addition, Lodging Interactive's Guest Review System keeps guests on the hotel's website and turns lookers into bookers at higher hotel rates when compared to the OTA’s. Hotels risk losing website visitors if those potential bookers are forced to leave the website in search of guest reviews on third party websites such as Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia or Hotels.com that sell rooms purchased from hotels on a net rate model. Once gone, they may never come back.

All that is required for a hotel to get up-and-running is a snippet of code inserted on the hotel's Website. Once initiated, managers can immediately begin collecting real-time reviews on their own websites and respond to customer concerns in real time. This empowers hoteliers to interact personally with their most valued direct customers. When guests take the time to post their experiences, their time, effort and patronage should be recognized and rewarded with an immediate reply. The Guest Review System alerts management in real time when reviews are posted. This ensures that there are no delays in communication, and the appropriate staff can immediately fix any pending problems before the customer leaves the property.

3. Mobile Marketing: Industry analysts predict that the mobile web will be more far reaching than desktop Internet use by 2015. Therefore there's no time like the present to jump on the mobile bandwagon and start reaching mobile savvy travelers via the channels and devices they depend on daily. With a mobile website, hotels can offer mobile users a dynamic and streamlined user experience regardless of mobile device.

Lodging Interactive provides FREE Mobile Website Development to all new customers contracting full agency services. Any hotel company partnering with Lodging Interactive for website design and development, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and online reputation management will receive a complimentary mobile webiste. Mobile pages can detail the property, including description of rooms, amenities, premise, packages, restaurants, spas, recreation facilities, loyalty programs and online reservations. Additional features may include mapping and directions, click-to-call functionality, photo gallery, embedded video capability, convention and/or meeting listings, social media links, guest reviews and more. Mobile website management and hosting also is provided by Lodging Interactive.

4. Social Media Monitoring & Management: Today hoteliers are getting comfortable with social media giants Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and You Tube. But new sites are emerging, such as Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and Wikipedia to name just a few that are making an equally big online marketing impact. It's critical that hotels are covered across all social media channels in order to be effective. The problem is finding the internal resources to manage social networks and establishing effective social media marketing campaigns. CoMMingle will 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.

Hotels that can't afford to have an internal, full-time social media watch dog can now cost-effectively budget the services of Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle in 2013 to become the eyes and ears of the hotel, monitoring conversations and posting replies if desired. CoMMingle will work with hotels to initially establish, then manage on an ongoing basis, the following social networks & engagement channels:

• Google+ Business Page – CoMMingle will set up the page if needed and maintain weekly postings on the page. 
• Pinterest – CoMMingle will create a Pinterest hotel account, relevant pin boards, and then pin images weekly to the boards. CoMMingle will also monitor and engage with consumers as needed.
• Facebook – CoMMingle will create additional apps for the property, above and beyond what is presently being managed by the hotel.
• Ongoing Facebook & Twitter postings – CoMMingle will 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.
• Wikipedia – CoMMingle will set up a Wikipedia listing if one does not exist and create social links. CoMMingle will also monitor the Wikipedia listing quarterly and check content for accuracy.

5. Reputation Management: Hotels of all sizes have begun to add social media technologies that monitor a hotel's or brand's online reputation, but unless those tools are being maximized, reputations and business practices can still suffer. Lodging Interactive believes that it takes people, in addition to technologies, to make reputation management effective. That's why Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle have teamed up with leading hospitality reputation-management companies to supplement their technology applications whereby CoMMingle provides the human resources necessary to answer guest reviews and manage guest responses on behalf of the hotel.

Hotels using solutions from companies such as Revinate can outsource the social media monitoring and guest review response portion to Lodging Interactive. Logging in as the hotel, the CoMMingle team will reply to guest reviews accordingly, always keeping the hotel apprised of comments and alerting it to concerns.

2013 Bonus Tips:
In addition to Lodging Interactive's top 5 budget recommendations, here are other items every hotelier should plan for in 2013:

1. Quarterly landing pages to promote seasonal activities through the website.  When properly keyword optimized landing pages provide fresh, relevant content for search engines and website visitors.
2. Facebook applications development to leverage a hotel’s website promotions on the largest social media engagement channel.
3. Create independent videos for the promotion of hotel meeting space and packages, weddings and other social events.  Once created, optimize them and host them on YouTube.
4. Consistent email marketing programs targeting travel agents and meeting planners.  Email marketing remains very effective and every hotel website should maintain it’s own email capture widget.

 

Reputation Management Software Tools: Are They Enough?

Due to the rapid acceleration of social media and the growing desire of travelers to read reviews before booking their accommodations, more and more hotels are subscribing to reputation management software tools to assist in monitoring their social media reputations and guest responses. What they are finding, however, is that having the tools is not enough. To be successful, Lodging Interactive, an award winning interactive agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry, says that by "combining people with technology," hotels are managing their online reputations far better.

CoMMingle by Lodging Interactive is an outsourced social media marketing agency that develops customized solutions for hotels, restaurants and spas. The company works with hotels to grow and better manage their use of social media channels, provide reputation and consumer sentiment monitoring, and social search engine optimization. CoMMingle has teamed up with leading hospitality reputation-management companies, such as Revinate, to supplement their technology applications whereby CoMMingle provides the human resources necessary to respond to guest reviews and manage the entire guest response process on behalf of its hotel clients.

"Implementing reputation management software is good, but combining that technology with people will equal far greater results," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President. "Here's how: Before, hoteliers had direct control over their branding and could direct people easily to their hotel. Then social media came along. Savvy travelers use Facebook, Twitter and travel review sites such as TripAdvisor, to find unbiased reviews. It only takes one unhappy guest to post a bad review, then the company's reputation is damaged, which in turn effects their sales."

To regain control over their reputations, Vallauri said “companies have developed software tools that scour the social media universe for reviews or mentions about the brand. It's like having an in-house intelligence agency providing actionable information and allowing management to see what guests like or don't like. The technology tools come equipped with sentiment analysis and workflow tools to enable each hotel or brand to engage with prospects and drive loyalty. Easy-to-use reports analyze the data, track the program's success and see how the hotel or brand is stacking up against the competition.”

"Now here's the dilemma," Vallauri added. "If the hotel doesn't have the resources available to do the aforementioned tasks (ie. analyzing the data, tracking program success and monitoring the market), the technology investment was for naught. CoMMingle is designed to complement a hotel's existing reputation-management technology tools with 'our people.' It doesn't matter what type of guest-review technology platform a hotel is using; CoMMingle can work within the tools to maximize the messaging and deliver more consistent responses."

Best Practices for Reputation Management
In a recent article titled: "Social media matures, forcing hotels to focus on reputation," Dennis Morris, director of revenue development for Meyer Jabara Hotels, said: “Reputation is so important from a customer standpoint because they read postings and believe they are real. If you are not focused on your online reputation, then what are you doing about your online reputation? There needs to be best practices in place to see that you are managing your reputation."

Lodging Interactive's Vallauri said he believes following a "Technology + People = Reputation Management" formula is a best practice that should be implemented industry wide.

"Purchasing reputation management software is only the first step in managing and monitoring a hotel's or brand's online reputation," Vallauri said. "Technology is critical to capturing information. But unless a hotel has the human resources in place to interpret that data and respond to reviews to manage their ongoing guest relationships, the technology alone isn’t the total solution. At Lodging Interactive, we understand that having the manpower to tackle these tasks is a challenge. CoMMingle brings the much needed talent to the table."

In a recent article titled: "Reputation management an evolving consideration," Associate Editor Andrew Sheivachman, wrote: "More than just proactively responding to reviews and opinions, looking at aggregated data on guest opinions can help to improve a brand's reputation." CoMMingle provides the intelligence and resources to analyze that aggregated data, and then some. Since 2009, CoMMingle has been providing social media assistance to hundreds of hotels. For more information about CoMMingle, visit http://www.commingle.me/.

Lodging Interactive Launches ‘InnterACT’ Website Analytics & Social Tool

In keeping with its ongoing investment in technology, and a solid commitment to increase the service levels to its clients, Lodging Interactive is rolling out a new solution this month that provides real-time website analytics, key performance metrics, and the latest social media monitoring tools. The InnterACT online client portal is available immediately to Lodging Interactive customers at no additional cost.

Lodging Interactive is an award winning interactive agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry, and its subsidiary, CoMMingle is an outsourced social media marketing agency that also develops customized solutions for hotels, restaurants and spas.

"The InnterACT branded portal is yet another way in which Lodging Interactive is providing proactive web monitoring tools to our customers," said DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder & President. "The digital dashboard provides hoteliers with the ability to remotely access analytical production information about their website performance, search engine ranking performance, as well as the bounce rate and average time spent on the site.

"It's an online repository that contains the data necessary for our clients to access key metric reports to see how well key words are performing," he said. "This means Lodging Interactive customers don't have to go elsewhere to see how well their campaigns are running. They can log in and access real time ranking reports to determine where their website is positioned on Google, Yahoo and Bing, and view their traffic and determine where it's coming from. For example, managers running a new banner ad for their hotel can use this tool to see how much traffic the spot generated as early as the day after the campaign began. Because the dashboard can be customized, hoteliers can view these reports in such a way that is personal to them, so that when they log in, the information they need most is always present, such as website traffic analytics and landing page views."

InnterACT Integrates Social Media Key Performance Indicators
Another key aspect of the InnterACT system is its ability to pull key performance indicators for social media activity. Now hoteliers can see at a quick glance how many "likes" they have on Facebook, "tweets" and "retweets" on Twitter, and "views" their video attracted on You Tube.

"In essence, InnterACT is a business intelligence tool that offers transparency to hoteliers in regard to what is happening with their online marketing," Vallauri said. "Now, in addition to the scheduled delivery of client PDF reports, managers can access data any time they want it or need it."

InnterACT offers hoteliers the ability to:

• View real-time analytics for a website and/or blog (traffic, keywords, top landing pages,
referring sites, etc.)
• Access real-time Search Engine Rankings and keyword reports
• Download archived weekly and monthly management reports
• Monitor a hotel's social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube
• Create personalized analytics via the dashboard for quick reference on key performance
indicators
• Create customized PDF reports to share with others
• Export data into Excel

In the future, Lodging Interactive will roll out additional functionality within InnterACT — at no charge — in order to continually drive relevant analytical data to hoteliers.