How do Yelp filter out the bad reviews? [video]

You may remember I recently posted an interview with a friend who is working for Yelp, and we discussed their review product and how hoteliers can manage their online reputation.  This got me thinking – it’s a big claim when any review site tells you that their reviews are genuine.  But how do companies filter out the bad or potentially fake ones?

The team at Yelp pointed me in the direction of this video, which explains what their own technology does to keep their reviews as honest as possible.  Yelp uses sophisticated software to sift through the more than 42 million reviews contributed to date to find the most reliable and helpful ones.  They also go as far as identifying those reviews that they believe are being added by businesses themselves and automatically filter them out.

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TripAdvisor launches widget to allow hoteliers to collect reviews on their own website

TripAdvisor have announced a brand new widget added to their TripAdvisor for Business collection, this one taking review collection to a different level.  The new tool allows hoteliers to collect TripAdvisor reviews directly on their own website.  Simply install the widget (you can see TripAdvisor’s handy video all about this below) and you have an embedded TripAdvisor branded form direct on your homepage to ask visitors to review your property.

Christine Petersen, President of TripAdvisor for Business commented “TripAdvisor’s new Full Review Form tool helps businesses collect more reviews and opinions right from their own websites and make this feedback available before our large community of travellers.  Research shows that 81 per cent of travellers find user reviews important when determining which hotel to stay at during their trip, and nearly half won’t book a property if it doesn’t have reviews on sites like TripAdvisor.”

Here you can see the Hotel Bellevue taking advantage of the new TripAdvisor functionality.

I am sure will be met with a very different response from different areas of the industry.  It’s no secret that some hoteliers hate TripAdvisor and the thought of giving their guests an even easier option to leave a review would not be welcome.  At almost every industry conference I have attended, when the poor chap from TripAdvisor walks on stage, hoteliers boo him (poor guy!).  However, I do believe that aside from all of the usual authenticity issues surrounding traveller reviews of TripAdvisor, a lot of hoteliers see the value in having a platform for both good and bad comments.  Being open and transparent would to me create a good impression.  I also think that the shere volume of reviews means that you have to be realistic.  A traveller is going to leave reviews online.  They are also going to read reviews before they book.  So why not let them do both these things on your own website, rather than on someone else’s.  Get that booking direct – be open and transparent.  Of course for a hotel, the key is how you manage these reviews.  I’m going to put together a ‘top 10’ guideline to this soon.

For more information, you can visit the TripAdvisor FAQ website here.

ReviewPro

I’m often asked how independent hotels can monitor and respond effectively to online reviews of their hotel, both good and bad,  as well as manage what people are saying about their property on social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook. ReviewPro is amongst the best (if not the best) way to do this. Here’s a short introduction video on the ways ReviewPro can help you.

A May Fair Experience

As I approach, I notice something I’m not expecting to see.  Flash, Flash, Flash.  Unaware what it is I am seeing, I cross the road towards the main entrance of The May Fair Hotel and look over my shoulder.  Flash, Flash, Flash.  Then I realise what I am seeing, and why.  I’m outside The May Fair Hotel, one of the most exclusive hotels in central London and the paps are celebrity spotting.  Not me of course, but someone just leaving in a flash Jaguar XK complete with chauffeur and blacked out windows.  Something told me I was about to see something rather special this afternoon.

Everyone has heard of The May Fair Hotel, but it wasn’t a property I had ever been inside, let alone stayed in, so when I was invited to see the property I jumped at the chance.  I should also explain how this came about, and it was another great proof point for the use of Twitter, as this was how Hotel Insight and the PR company representing The May Fair got talking in the first place.

I’ll try to give you a feel for this property, but it really does sell itself.  Upon entering the hotel you get a feel of what’s to come.  Although the lobby is not as grand and ostentatious as you may expect, its the sheer professionalism that provides you with the grand impression.  An ubandance of staff, more than I have seen in any other hotel, ready to help you with any requirement you may have. 

There’s so much to this hotel, I don’t know where to start, so I guess the bedrooms are as good a place as any.  Whether you’re looking at luxurious, mind-blowing suites or you starting off with a Superior Room, you can expect subtle upmarket touches – the Bang and Olufsen televisions in every room, luxurious bathrooms complete with television set at the foot of the bath, iPod docking stations, and yes, my favourite thing, complimentary wi-fi throughout the hotel (regular readers of my blog understand my passion for wi-fi!).

The suites are grand and unique, bigger than most people’s own home.  All of the touches above are included, but it’s the state of the art black granite kitchen complete with large selection of spirits, dinning room, large Bang & Olufsen TV and decked balcony area.  Entering one of these fabulous suites, your mind conjures images of those who have stepped, and stayed before you.

I think one reason this property has been so popular over the years is the fact that everything you need is on site – glamorous casino, trendy bar and restaurant, gym and spa.  Not to mention the state of the art conference facilities including cinema room and meeting rooms, this property has everything for business, leisure or even celebrity guest.  The Spa is incredible – you must treat yourself if you get the chance – genuinely one of the most calming atmosphere’s I’ve experienced in a hotel’s spa, and the amazing stone water feature at the entrance is beautiful – check it out online.

But I don’t just want to talk about how lovely the property is.  The real purpose of my visit was to look at how  The May Fair Hotel use social media and online marketing (which they do very well) and how they make such a unique brand stand out, in the right manner.  It’s not just the social media that’s been well invested in – the website is very attractive and informative, complete with booking engine and an abundance of information.  There’s even a great virtual tour facility available online so you can have a good look around the bedrooms and facilities that The May Fair has to offer.  To find out more about how such a well established hotel uses online social media I spoke to Sarah Priddis from Mason Williams, The May Fair’s PR company, and asked her all about their social media experience so far.

“Social media has allowed us to open the doors of The May Fair and show customers the full personality of this iconic hotel.  With daily updates on platforms including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube we’re able to engage in conversation with followers who love to hear about and talk about The May Fair.  We also update our blog at least three times a week so that readers can see what’s happening at the May Fair with stories coming from all levels of staff within the hotel.  As well as driving extra traffic to our websites, social media has allowed us to engage with our customers and encourage repeat businesses through loyalty”.

I think the key thing here is that The May Fair recognise the need to interact with their guests.  It must be difficult for a hotel with such a name and reputation to embark on social media, after all, occupancies are always high and we don’t see any obvious decline in ADR that the rest of the London hotel market experienced over the last couple of years in the downturn.  So, why bother with social media at all?  Quite simply it’s a key requirement, no matter what type of property you have, and Sarah’s hit the nail on the head.  You need to talk to customers and listen to what they are saying, it’s key to any hotel business, whether you an independent budget hotel chain, or one of the most famous five-star properties in the Capitol.

All hotels have to learn to diversify their business and sticking an association or deal with key events is great publicity, and if you match your brand to the right type of event, there are so many benefits to your image.  The May Fair is no exception and used its long standing association with the film industry and has cemented this role with a series of announcements in the run-up to October’s 54th BFI London Film Festival, in partnership with American Express.  An agreement with the BFI sees the hotel playing host to the 16-day festival for the next two years after a successful inaugural event last year. One of the world’s leading independent film festivals – Raindance – is also to be based at the hotel in September. Finally the hotel has announced that it has created the post of Film Maker in Residence supporting independents to create a suite of films about life in London as well as a series of shorts based around celebrity guests at the iconic hotel.

For more information see: The May Fair Hotel and The May Fair Suites

Setting an example : Urban Beach Hotel

Social media marketing can be a powerful tool, particularly for hotels trying to reach new guests and find new ways to remain competitive in a tough market.  Recently on Twitter, I had some great conversations with the guys from Urban Beach Hotel in Bournemouth, UK.  This got me thinking about what this hotel are doing, and they are really getting it right.  Afterall, without Twitter, how would we both be connecting?  Ok, so they have a fantastic product, but reaching guests is difficult, especially in these tough market conditions.

So, I had a closer look, and wanted to share with you a little about this property and what they are doing to market their hotel.  It’s an interesting proposal, so coming in the next few days Hotel Insight will talk to Urban Beach directly and bring you an exclusive interview.  In the mean time, here’s a loom at the Urban Beach Hotel.

The Urban Beach is situated in the seaside south coast town of Bournemouth, UK.  This is an award winning boutique hotel and within five minutes walking distance to the beach. The hotel features a modern bistro and boasts a menu that sources fresh and seasonal ingredients from local suppliers.

“Whether you are looking for a Bournemouth hotel with a warm welcome and exceptional customer service in comfortable surroundings, or a lovely meal with a professionally prepared cocktail, then the Urban Beach is the hotel for you”.

The following is taken from the Urban Beach Hotel website and really well describes the hotel experience.  “The Urban beach goes much further than any other hotel in Dorset, not just with its award winning Bournemouth accommodation; it also provides a contemporary lifestyle that has spared no expense in creating the unique feel of ‘home away from home’ whilst adding a touch of modern luxury within its ambience. The hotel recently won the awards ‘Best Small Hotel and Best Bar’ at the 2008 Bournemouth Tourism Awards for 2008″.

So that’s a little on the hotel itself, but what really made me look in more detail at this business is the simple ways we could make contact.  We chose Twitter, and they actually picked up on something I was tweeting about free wi-fi (surprise surprise I hear you say!).  On that note, they offer free wi-fi!

But it’s not just a Twitter presence – they write their own blog published on the website, and let me tell you, it’s worth reading.  They have captured the key to writing a blog about their hotel.  don’t rave about how wonderful their bedrooms are and how amazing the hotel is: choose a subject, relate it to the hotel by all means, but don’t over to the PR.  Urban beach also have a “meet the team” section, Facebook Page and the ability to book online. 

I found the whole website experience, use of social media and the property itself truly professional and of such good quality.  Check out their website for yourself, and Hotel Insight will bring you our interview soon.

Personalised TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor have announced their integration with Facebook – meaning that you can share your travel and hotel experiences with your network of Facebook friends directly through TripAdvisor.  This integration, using Facebook Open Graph, also means that if you are trying to find reviews for a city or hotel, you will have the opportunity to see if any of your friends network has been there and ask them directly for opinions and advice.

This is a concept that has been floated around for a long time and more and more networks will start to integrate one another to ease access to content and social media platforms.

This has the power to open up so much content to users.  TripAdvisor get over 34 million monthly hits, and when you consider this volume against the number of people who have Facebook accounts, this technology really could open doors.

Hotel Review: Best Western Forest Lodge

The next ‘Hotel Review‘ post is on the Best Western Forest Lodge, in the New Forest town of Lyndhurst.  I was keen to stay at a Best Western property given the large amount of advertising the chain have been conducting, revolving around their “hotels with personality” strap-line.  Best Western have almost re-launched themselves into the UK hotel market in recent months.  Check out their website where you can follow them on Twitter and Facebook and watch their TV add.  Times have moved on for the chain.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=3736727&dest=-1]

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this three star property.  There were obvious improvements and extras at the hotel to try to stand out from its many competitors in and around Lyndhurst – such as free wi-fi (those regular readers of the blog know how much I love free wi-fi!), indoor swimming pool and sauna, all of which did actually make the property fit the “hotels with personality motto”.  This hotel has aged over the years and was refurbished in 2007 whilst still retaining its Georgian features.  The bedrooms have been transformed into modern and tasteful rooms with four-poster style beds.  Check out the video to see more.  Rooms come with everything you expect, plus a few extras that are nice to haves.  Tea and coffee-making facilities, iron and ironing board, fan and flat screen television.  Notable exclusions, and some reasons why the hotel can only be graded as three star include no safety deposit box in rooms (there is one in reception), no fridge/mini-bar and most obvious during my stay, no air conditioning in the bedrooms!

Breakfast was included in my rooms rate (just as well as they were charging just over £11 for a small cooked breakfast) but was freshly cooked to order and the dinning area was nicely decorated with chandeliers.  The only down side to our dining experience – filthy high chairs that had clearly never been washed since they had been bought!

This hotel is in a good location for a stay in the New Forest.  Lyndhurst itself is worth a short walk, but nothing more.  The Best Western Forest Lodge is a good base for a stay and good value for money.  One final point to all hoteliers – if your going to do a great thing and provide free wi-fi in all public areas and bedrooms, make sure it’s of a decent standard.  Not only was this service down for a whole day after an apparent power-cut, when normal service did resume the speed of the internet was appalling – hoteliers, take note!