We had another great turnout for last week’s webinar, and one thing is clear: providing helpful, responsive service on social networks is fast becoming as important to hotels as the service provided on property. Here are a few of the questions attendees asked during the webinar with the personal opinions of our presenters Josiah Mackenzie and Daniel Edward Craig.
How to elicit personal preferences from guests without being nosey? – Richard, Fairmont Hotel
Daniel: Good question. Some hotels and travel companies are providing personalized amenities and services by checking out the social profiles of guests. Whereas some guests will love this, others might find it intrusive. I recommend respecting privacy by using information only that guests have knowingly provided to the hotel—aside from the basic information you would find on a business card. The best way to do this? Ask. And record preferences in the guest profile.
Josiah: I agree with asking guests about personal preferences, but have seen a number of well-received service initiatives that were based on publically available information from the social web. KLM conducted a widely admired campaign that provided customers with small gifts based on interests these people mentioned in their social profiles:
In the hotel industry, we have examples of companies taking a similar approach in order to deliver memorable service and experiences. For example, Accor identified loyalty members checking into some of its Sofitel and Novotel properties, and provided rewards – ranging from behind-the-scenes tours to fishing trips to Ferrari test drives.
I wouldn’t complain if a hotel brand did something like that for me. I feel if information is publically available on the web, and a hotel company uses it in a reasonable way to deliver better service, that is acceptable to most consumers.
We are a small 112-room hotel – do you recommend outsourcing social media management and, if so, how do we find someone or a company to set it up and manage it? – Elen, Comfort Suites Airport & Cruise Port
Daniel: As a rule I think hotels should strive to administer social networks in-house. Social media is about getting closer to your guests, and the most authentic communications come from staff. Hire a company to help set objectives, strategies and guidelines, to train staff and to play on ongoing strategic role. Search for them online, check out portfolios to find a company that works with properties like yours, and check references.
How can we make sure that a private message we send to a client with a bad review on TripAdvisor reaches the client? – Caolina, Iberostar
Daniel. When you send a private message to TripAdvisor members you receive an automated confirmation that it’s been sent and they receive an email alert, but you won’t know if it’s been read it unless he or she responds. And if a member has disabled the private message option you won’t be able to send a message at all. From what I’ve heard it’s fairly common not to hear back, especially in the case of negative reviews. Note that when a public management response is posted TripAdvisor now alerts the reviewer.
Could you share some more concrete tips for really listening in on what people are saying on the social web about our location? So not only about hotels, but also monitoring topics such as dining options and cultural events? – Loius, Ambassade Hotel
Josiah: Certainly. At ReviewPro, we provide hoteliers with the ability to track not only social media mentions of their hotels, but also related concepts of interest in their city or region. The key to identifying the right concepts to track is to identify which topics or search phrases someone is likely to use when planning their trip. This could be as basic as:
- Visiting [City]
- [City] recommendations
- [City] hotel recommendations
- Need hotel [City]
A keyword research tool such as the one provided by Google can be very helpful for identifying phrases that are most commonly used by travelers. Keyword selection for social searches is always a tradeoff between quality and volume. A generic search such as “visiting New York” will return a large number of results from tourists visiting the city, but a specific search such as “San Francisco business hotel recommendation” or “need London event venue” is more likely to reveal buying intent.
For this reason, continual testing and optimizing of your saved keyword searches is crucial. Each market and hotel is a different, constantly evolving situation – which requires continual experimentation.
Should people be concerned with quantity of followers/fans over quality of SM community? – J, BVTM&M
Daniel. Quality always trumps quantity. It’s better to have a small group of enthusiastic fans than a large group of disinterested followers. In the webinar we identified “cultivating a community of people who share an affinity for your brand” as a primary social media strategy. The more engaged your community, the greater your reach. Cultivate these audiences by ensuring your messages, content and contests are relevant to your brand and/or destination.
Josiah: Look at engagement per post as a better measure of social media effectiveness. It reveals how relevant you are. High audience engagement builds strong online communities, customer loyalty, and word of mouth buzz.
Regarding blogs – what would you say is more valuable in SEO terms? Hosting a blog on your own domain so that you have a constant stream of fresh and relevant content? Or publishing your blog on a 3rd party website (such as wordpress) and have it provide your own website with relevant, inbound links? – Jonathan, Sandman Hotel Group
Daniel: I think that having your blog as a subdirectory of your website (vs. a subdomain or separate domain) is the ideal scenario. The benefits of fresh relevant content to your root domain outweigh the link benefits. An exception might be if your website is part of a brand website and is doing lots to promote the brand and not enough to promote your hotel. A blog on a separate domain can act as a micro-site and will help offset some of the limitations imposed by the brand. There’s a good overview of pros and cons on the AgentSEO website.
Relating to the last image, I did not understand how it’s possible to split from sharing to booking directly? – Marco, Parco Dei Pincipi
Daniel: In discussing Google’s Five Stages of Travel, I pointed out that if hotels perform well in the Experiencing stage by exceeding expectations—and a key part is providing great service—it will earn positive reviews and recommendations in the Sharing stage. Plus there’s a stronger likelihood that guests will skip the Dreaming and Research stages when planning their next trip and will go straight to rebooking your hotel. [see graphic]
How to create bilingual social media? Does all content have to be posted twice? Is there any solution to provide more efficient and simpler way? – Jakup, Aparthotel Miodosytnia
Daniel: This is an issue many hotels face, and there’s no easy solution. On Facebook some larger brands have separate pages for different languages, but that can disperse your community. A better option is to use the Customize button when sharing a post to specify the target language (or country). This way only users whose preferences are set to that language will see the post. No need to translate all messaging; share posts in the languages whose audience is most relevant to the content.
It is easier to connect and talk with leisure guests. As an airport hotel, how do you attract business persons on social media websites – they may be less interested in a virtual concierge? – Tiare
Josiah: Operating in an airport hotel, serving business travelers actually increases the importance of real-time service in my opinion. These people may be used to interacting with airlines with a 15-minute average Twitter response time. There are a number of examples of quick-thinking hotel managers reacting to situations using a realtime network like Twitter – like a number of airport properties did in Chicago during a 2011 blizzard – offering a special package to assist stranded travelers.
That said, the overall social media publishing strategy will likely look different at an airport hotel than it may at a resort catering to leisure travelers. Business travelers may not be overly talkative on Facebook about their hotel stay, or may be unlikely to create dreamboards of the hotels on Pinterest. Be smart about what your audience expects and wants from you.
Since promoting every hotel requires a unique marketing strategy, we recommend you begin with listening. Use the techniques I mentioned above to monitor not only chatter about your hotel, but about your surrounding area. Answer the questions that are being asked. Proactively answer questions that should be asked, and use this strategy to build your presence, online and off.
About the hosts
A former general manager, Daniel Edward Craig helps hoteliers across the globe adopt the latest tools and best practices in social media and online reputation management. He collaborates with ReviewPro as Industry Advisor in the area of Client Engagement. Visit www.DanielEdwardCraig.com
Josiah Mackenzie is the Director of Business Development at ReviewPro, and is focused on helping hotels increase their sales by using social technologies to provide remarkable service to their guests.