Inside Yelp – how should hoteliers manage their online reputation? [interview]

Yelp LogoA few weeks ago I learnt that someone I’ve had the pleasure of knowing over the last few years through EyeForTravel, has moved roles and joined a company that’s always intrigued me – Yelp.  Rosie Akenhead had a key role in organising many of the EyeForTravel events, including the fantastic Travel Distribution Summit, from which so many stories have been derived for my blog.  I was keen to talk to Rosie about her new role and get an insiders view of Yelp to see what I could learn from the experts about how hoteliers should be working with Yelp and managing their online reputation.

I’m sure you have already heard of, or even use, Yelp.  But by way of background, Yelp is one of the biggest consumer review and recommendation sites on the internet, with an average of 108 Million unique monthly visitors and a total of 42 million local reviews contributed as of the end of Q2 2013.  Founded in 2004 in San Francisco to help people find great local businesses, Yelp provides a platform on which to share what’s, good, great and not-so great about local businesses – from hotels, restaurants, shops and local services to spas, mechanics, pet groomers and health professionals. The following transcript is an interview with Rosie Akenhead, Manager of Local Business Outreach, UK,  who shares with us some key tips for hoteliers looking to navigate the online world of reviews

Q: Tell us more about Yelp

A: Yelp, in a nutshell, is a site and mobile application that connects people with great local businesses – anything from hotels, restaurants, bars and spas to dog groomers, mechanics, even dentists!

The Yelp community is made up of engaged locals who connect online and off, to share their opinions about local businesses, and have written more than 42 million rich, local reviews to date. With an average of 108 million monthly unique visitors in Q2 2013, Yelp is the leading local guide for word-of-mouth recommendations.

This video from the owners of Avo Hotel in Dalston, London, helps explain how businesses fit into the mix at Yelp:

Q: Tell us about your new role, and what your objectives are as you begin working for the company.

A: I’m the Manager of Local Business Outreach for Yelp here in the UK and Ireland.  In plain English, that means I help educate local businesses, including hotels, about how to use the free suite of tools Yelp provides business owners, and how to manage their reputation online.

Yelp ImageQ:Did you use Yelp before you started your role, if so, what were your primary uses?

A: I did indeed.  Before Yelp, I was working for a travel trade publication, so I was always using it as a resource for good local businesses to test out when I was in a place I didn’t know so well. What’s different now? I use it all the time to wow friends and family with my great choice of cool hangouts and suggestions of places to check out right in my backyard!  It hasn’t let me down yet.

Even before I took the job at Yelp, I mainly posted reviews where I had an ‘average’ to ‘great’ experience and wanted to share it with others. I think that feeling must resonate with other reviewers, since nearly 80% of our reviews are three stars or above on a five star scale (a fact which certainly surprises most hoteliers).

Q: How strong and how widely used is Yelp in the UK?  Strongest markets?

A: Yelp was born and bred in San Francisco, USA.  We now have people working for Yelp in over 100 cities in 22 countries across the world.  We have Community Managers in 7 cities in the UK and Ireland (London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dublin) whose role it is to interact with Yelp users and business owners in that city, and provide opportunities to connect them to each other.

With the acquisition of our European competitor, Qype, last year, Yelp’s presence on this side of the pond is going from strength to strength as we move forward with integrating the two companies to create a single platform under the Yelp brand. We’re seeing consistent growth in all our European communities.

Q: Hotels are forever being told they have to manage online reputation – how does this fit with Yelp?

A: Having worked in travel and hospitality for four years prior to my time at Yelp, I know for certain that hoteliers already know that that they need to manage their online reputation. That’s obvious. Most have made efforts to better monitor their presence online in one way or another. Yelp is a key place for hoteliers to have a presence, and this can be done relatively quickly and free of charge.

The guidelines that we set out for businesses are to a) make sure you claim your listing, b) fill out your profile and c) make sure you take the time to respond to reviews either privately or publicly.

Managing your reputation online starts with ensuring consumers can find the right information about you, wherever they look. The conversations you then have with those consumers helps build their trust and awareness of your hotel. Consumers are already looking for local businesses on Yelp, and research has shown that the information they find drives them to a purchase decision, so hoteliers need to make sure they are a viable option when they are searching in their hotel’s area by claiming their page and making sure the information is up to date, correct and complete.

I’d say one of the best steps for hoteliers to make is to respond to reviews (which you can do privately or publicly on Yelp) and start conversations with customers past, present and future.

Q: What steps should a hotelier take to have visibility of their content on Yelp, and how should they go about managing their reputation?  Are there costs?

A: As mentioned previously, the first step really should be claiming their business page on Yelp. It only takes a few minutes to claim the page and set up an account and is completely free (honestly, it is, no catches).

I always say to people, you need to claim your Yelp listing! All it means is you are optimising a channel whereby a different set of educated, affluent customers can find you and do business with you directly. Having a listing with photos, full contact information including your website and telephone number, is an easy way to improve the number of people doing business with you.

Yelp Image 2Q: Is a hotel automatically included in search results of Yelp, or does the hotel need to add themselves to your service?

A: Most hotels are already listed on Yelp, and if a hotel is not listed, it is a very simple and quick process to add the business from the Yelp mobile app or the website. To check, simply type in your business name and location at www.yelp.co.uk. Once created, the place to claim and set-up your business account is here: www.biz.yelp.co.uk

Most people are quite surprised to find that their business is already listed, has reviews and that people are viewing that page every day.

Q: Can you give us some stats please?

A: On top of the 108 Million unique visitors to Yelp every month and the 42 Million reviews submitted to date, it is also worth noting that our mobile app is used on 10.4 million unique mobile devices every month, and every second a consumer generates directions to or calls a local business from the Yelp app.

Also, 59% of all searches on Yelp came from mobile web or our mobile app combined, highlighting further just how many people are searching for information whilst on the move. What does this mean for hoteliers? People are looking for instant information, instant resources and a place to stay and spend money.  if they can’t find it, they’ll turn somewhere else.

Q: Will Yelp look at becoming a hotel booking application in the future?

A: I think it’s important to initially state that Yelp is, first and foremost, always about the customer’’s experience.  We seek to show them authentic, honestly reviewed local businesses which they can trust, and that remains core to Yelp’s DNA.

We do have an API facility available for hoteliers.  This can be implemented in a number of ways from within your own website or mobile app to help highlight the great local businesses in the vicinity of your hotel, whether that be restaurants, shopping districts, services or the nearest theatre box office.

We’re always looking to improve the consumer experience and make Yelp as helpful as possible, so keep an eye out for future updates!

Many thanks to Rosie for sharing with us just how hoteliers can manage their online reputation with Yelp and some great stats.

If you have any questions or comments, please do leave them at the end of this post.

The Socialnomics Social Media Video 2013

For regular readers of my blog, you will know that each year I tend to post the latest Social Media Video produced by Socialnomics.  In my opinion, this annually produced video is one of the most powerful ways to explain the influence, reach and usage of social channels with some incredible and hard-hitting facts.  Socialnomics was founded by Erik Qualman with the intent of providing short social stories, statistics, studies and surprises.  I refer to these videos regularly and often share them with people asking me questions about why their hotel should be taking social media seriously.

So, with my thanks as always to Socialnomics, here’s the 2013 video. Enjoy.

Introducing the Kred Story – my favourite social influence tool

During this evenings Twitter question and answer session, I was asked about ways to measure social influence.  My answer was to use Kred.com which in my opinion, is the best and most accurate tool out there.

Kred Story is a visual history of your Social Media Influence. Explore the posts, pictures and links that make you influential. See your full influence story and zoom in on meaningful moments.  I will write a full post on Kred and on social influence tools in general at a later date, but for the time being have a look at this video and give the tool a try.

Holiday Inn gives away free nights on Twitter

I always like to highlight how hotel chains are using social media to drive business, and today I found that Holiday Inn are promoting a new giveaway though Twitter, so I wanted to share what they are doing with you.  Of course, with over 1,200 hotels worldwide, Holiday Inn is the most widely recognised lodging brands in the world so any promotion they run socially will instantly grab the attention of thousands of followers, but the guiding principle of interaction is an interesting one to follow and can be re-applied in different levels.

Holiday Inn Resort Kicks Off Back to School Season with “Extra Credit” and Resort Stay Giveaway”

InterContinental Hotels Group today announced the Holiday Inn Resort “Extra Credit” offer which rewards guests with a $50 Resort Credit to use on property when they stay at least two nights Sept. 4 through Nov. 30, 2012, booked through their brand website.  The “extra credit” can be used toward breakfast, lunch, water ski rentals, bike rentals and more.  For each additional night stayed, guests will receive another $25.

Del Ross, Vice President Americas Sales & Marketing, IGG commented “Summer may be winding down but there are still great vacation travel deals.  Whether it’s a family of five or a couple of friends who want to visit Holiday Inn Resort beach locations or action-packed attraction areas, we’re making it possible to create memorable experiences affordably.”

Holiday Inn are using Twitter to provide more interactive value to their brand followers by launching their  “Resort Stay Giveaway”. Prizes range from a one night stay up to an eight night stay at any Holiday Inn Resort location in the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean. Quite simply, Holiday Inn are encouraging interaction – the more tweets, the bigger the prizes get.

Here’s how the “Resort Stay Giveaway” works:

• Follow @HolidayInn on Twitter
• Tell us why you would love to stay at a resort for your next vacation with the #ResortLove hashtag
• Tweet daily for more chances to win

This is a very clever way to get your followers tweeting about your brand.  Of course, IHG are the largest hotel group around so this is an inexpensive promotion for them, however the ideal is the same even if you are a small independent hotel.  Encourage interaction through your social sites with different offers (these don;t even need to be giveaways, they can be simple communication). Everyone likes an offer and it motivates people to get involved and talk about your brand.

‘The Content Omniverse’ – check out this great Infographic

I found this great infographic this evening, recently published by CopyPress.  Take a look, it really does represent social content online very well.

Infographic courtesy of CopyPress.

ReviewPro Releases Global Review Index™ Top Hotel Rankings for UK Cities

A company that I admire a great deal, ReviewPro, have this week released their Global Review Index Top Hotel Rankings some of Britain’s busiest hotel cities, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle and Oxford.  ReviewPro are a leading provider of online reputation and social media management solutions to the hotel industry who aggregate hundreds of millions of social media mentions from hundreds of the most relevant Online Travel Agencies, review websites and social media platforms.  If you’ve not taken a look at the service ReviewPro can provide your hotel, then you really should.  In my opinion, they are by far the market leader in this field and are truly experts in reputation management.  ReviewPro provides the analysis, customer intelligence, competitive benchmarking and automated reporting needed to help hoteliers more effectively manage their online reputation.

The Top Hotel Rankings are based on the Global Review Index, a benchmark for guest satisfaction in the hotel industry that is calculated with guest review scores from hundreds of the most relevant Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) and review sites worldwide.

In London, The Halkin took the #1 spot in the ranking, followed by Hotel 41 and The Milestone Hotel. The Chester Residence (Edinburgh), Hotel Indigo (Glasgow), Posh Pads at The Casartelli (Liverpool), Velvet Hotel (Manchester), Staybrigde Suites Newcastle (Newcastle upon Tyne) and The Old Bank Hotel (Oxford) took the number one spots in the other UK cities in this ranking.

ReviewPro CEO RJ Friedlander says: “We have released similar rankings in several European and North American cities over the last year, and feedback from individual hotels, chains and industry experts has been amazing.  We are excited to expand these powerful rankings at this key time for the UK hotel sector, when all eyes are on London in the run up to the Olympics.”

Originally piloted in 2011, these B2B rankings are calculated based on guest reviews from more than one hundred of the most relevant review sites and online travel agencies (OTA) and evaluate reviews for 3, 4 and 5 star hotels over the course of a 12-month period. The ranking are based on the Global Review Index, a proprietary algorithm developed by ReviewPro in conjunction with leading hotel industry experts.  It enables hotels to know their current quality score, track their performance over time and compare their online reputation to their competitors or to other hotels within their chain with a single index.

Thousands of hotels in more than 70 countries, including some of the most recognized hotel brands in the world, rely on ReviewPro to better understand and improve guest satisfaction and to profit from the social web. Clients include Alila Hotels & Resorts, the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Cavendish London, Citizen M Hotels, Concorde Hotels & Resorts, Corinthia Hotels, Epoque Hotels, Hotel Bel-Air, 1895 Historic Hotels, Hotusa Hotels, Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, Louvre Hotels Group, Melià Hotels International, Millennium Hotels & Resorts, Occidental Hotels & Resorts, the Red Carnation Hotel Collection, the Roger Smith Hotel and Swiss-Belhotel International.

I joined about.me – take a look and claim your name before it goes!

I discovered about.me a few weeks ago and have been meaning to reserve my page.  Tonight, I was lucky enough to find it was still available.  So you can do the same, take a look at the video below which explains the idea behind the site.  This is not just another social network, about.me is a free service that lets you create a one-page website that’s all about you and your interests. Upload a photo, write a short bio, and add your favorite social networks to show the world the big picture of you.

This is a great way to put all your social networks together in one place so people can get to know you on your own personal page. Take a look!

Everything you need to know about Pinterest [Infographic]

I’m a big fan of Pinterest. You can check out (and of course follow) my Hotel Insight Pinterest Boards by clicking here.  But for those who want to know exactly how Pinterest works and if it’s a social channel that your hotel should be present in, take a look at this infographic, courtesy of TechCrunch.

Google+ Local: Places you’ll love, from people you trust [video]

You may have seen Google announce Google+ Local today. In summary, it’s basically an ability to search for reviews and recommendations from your friends and connections in Google Plus.  Here’s Google’s video about the feature.  It got me thinking, what does this mean for hotels?  Well, another (and uncontrollable) channel for hotel reviews and user-generated content. Have a think…

 

Mark Zuckerberg rings the opening bell and signals the biggest shares sale in years

From Facebook’s HQ in California, CEO Mark Zuckerberg rang the opening bell for the Nasdaq this morning – signaling the most from high-profile share sale in years.

The Athenaeum utilises Pinterest to engage guests in run up to Chelsea Flower Show

I’ve been waiting for a few months now to discover a hotel being really proactive in their Pinterest use, and using the latest social platform to interact with guests in a unique and initiative way.  My wait is now over and I’ve found a great example – and it’s congratulations to The Athenaeum Hotel in London with this fun and interactive campaign, based around one of the big London events.

On 19th May The Athenaeum Hotel will launch an ‘Urban Gardens’ Pinterest competition that will run until the end of ‘Chelsea Fringe’ – the new ‘festival of flora’ which aims to spread some of the excitement and energy around gardens and gardening in the run up to RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The creator of the winning ‘mood board’ will be awarded Evergreen Tea for two at The Athenaeum.

As London starts to turn green in the run up to RHS Chelsea Flower Show, tourists and locals will once again witness giant floral displays and visual tributes to the annual horticultural show appearing around the capital. Installations, events and experiences, exhibits, talks and walks will also take place thanks to ‘Chelsea Fringe’ – a new initiative that will run alongside the historic show.

The Athenaeum Hotel, who’s Living Wall was installed three years ago in conjunction with RHS Chelsea Flower Show, would like to encourage users of Pinterest to capture this activity and to ‘pin’ the best horticultural happenings for all the world to see!

Tim Richardson, the Chelsea Fringe Festival Director and Gardening Writer, says; “The living wall at The Athenaeum Hotel is living proof that Urban Landscape projects can be beautiful, glamorous and cutting edge.This project is a great opportunity to showcase everything that is being achieved in this area across the capital whether they are fringe projects or not. Good luck to everybody who enters, enjoy pinning!”

The Athenaeum Hotel will upload it’s own set of images on to Pinterest to help inspire participants and will ask entrants to tweet their boards with the hashtag#AthenaeumUrbanGardensCompetition.

The hotel’s General Manager Simon Wakefield will select the mood board that he feels best portrays the transformation of London and the creator will be sent a voucher for the award-winning Evergreen Tea for two people at The Athenaeum.

Simon Wakefield, General Manager of The Athenaeum Hotel says; “London is such an exciting place to be in the run up to RHS Chelsea Flower Show and the ‘Chelsea Fringe’ is a welcome addition for Londoners and tourists alike. We hope our competition will capture some of the action for as many people as possible to see. Our Living Wall continues to amaze and excite guests and passers-by – it is definitely a breath of wilderness in the midst of a city, which is what this competition and the ‘Chelsea Fringe’ are all about.’

The Living Wall at the athenaeum is a unique architectural landmark that has transformed the streetscape of Piccadilly; the outdoor living tapestry represents a fusion of the hotel with its Royal Parks environment – bringing the outside in. Three years after it was installed it is in full bloom and has become a valuable shelter for biodiversity. Highlighting the hotel’s participation in making London a greener place, it adds nature to the daily life of not only hotel guests but of London’s residents alike.

A lot of hotels have started to use Pinterest, but mainly to load their photos of the property onto the Pinboard – some of the efforts I’ve seen tend to tick a box to say “we’re on Pinterest” rather than be a true interactive contribution.  This is the first intuitive and interactive hotel promotion using Pinterest I’ve seen and it will be interesting to see how popular the campaign is.

 

Holiday Inn Brussels gets social and shows the rest how it’s done

During a recent business trip to Brussels, I went through my normal routine.  I checked Trover on my smartphone (I wont go into it now, but check it out if you haven’t already) during my taxi ride from the airport to my hotel and once I was at the hotel, I checked-in at the property on FourSquare.  I do these two things where ever I go for a number of reasons.  Primarily, I like sharing where I am with you all, but I also like to see if any hotels I visit interact with me on social media.  I have to admit, I don’t experience interaction very often and when I do, it comes across a little half-hearted.  When I checked-in at the Holiday Inn Brussels Airport, I was to be pleasantly surprised.

After a couple of very welcome beers in the hotel bar with a colleague, I checked my phone and saw on my Twitter feed that the hotel had responded to my check-in and welcomed me – nice touch.  A simple response makes the world of difference to a guest, especially a first time guest.

A Twitter conversation followed and I could clearly tell that the hotel really had a social media strategy, and they were keeping it simple.  Take the chance to interact with the guest – the guests made the first move by checking in on FourSquare, or tweeting the hotel – it’s up to the hotel to respond and add value to that social platform.  It’s the small things that make the world of difference.

I also like the fact that this property encourage interaction.  Okay, I am a hotel and social media geek, so I was always going to check in – but they prompt their guests to do it – by interacting of Facebook, FourSquare and even to leave a review on TripAdvisor by putting their message on their room key inserts using QR codes.

Pleasantly surprised, I thought that was it.  But the next evening when I returned to my room I was to find the hotel really going the extra mile.  On the floor was an envelope, with a handwritten note from the General Manager, thanking me for my social interaction, and giving my two complimentary drinks at the hotel bar.

Not only was this unexpected, but it was a fantastic effort from the hotel.  this truly is how channels like FourSquare, Facebook and Twitter should be used – this is how to make a guest feel wanted, and make them want to come back.  It’s the small efforts of a hotel with a clear social media strategy that make them stand out from the crowd.  Let’s be very honest – an airport hotel from a major chain like Holiday Inn – they are all the same (to most guests minds anyway).  In fact, even to me, I would not have expected this welcome and treatment from an airport hotel.

I know that IHG (the owning company of Holiday Inn) have a clear social strategy and encourage and give creative licence to their properties, but this is the first time I had experienced this kind of interaction, so I felt a post was just reward.

Thank you Holiday Inn Brussels Airport – I’ll come back to you next time I’m in town – you won a loyal fan!

 

 

Hotel Insight on Pinterest

I finally had some time yesterday evening to build my Pinterest page.  I’ve been a fan of Pinterest for some time and watched the newest social network grow and grow.  It was no surprise that Pinterest has done as well as it has.  Photo sharing and networking using images is seeing a growing fan base in all types of media and social websites, to the point that we have moved to sharing photo’s about where we are in real-time using apps like Trover (more on this to follow).  I’d also like to say how impressed I am with the usability of Pinterest – it’s clearly been designed with ease of user and the end user in mind and the whole experience of setting this up from scratch and the continually updating is a joy (some social networks could learn a lot from this).

Anyway, please feel free to take a look at my pinboard so far.  It’s still very much a work in progress, but I am sure there are no surprises as to what my boards include!

Accor launches A-Club Places application on Facebook

Some hotel chains are only just waking up to the fact that social media channels equal booking channels.  Some are only just realising it could be an idea not to just have a presence on Facebook, but to let clients book on Facebook.  Accor have been ahead in the game for a while now, and this week announced that they had the first location-based application to reward a hotel group’s loyalty program members.

Accor launched A-Club Places, an innovative and unique Facebook application, available to A-Club loyalty members.  The launch of this application is part of Accor’s strategy to develop its presence on the Internet, on mobile phones and social networks.  Sales through these direct distribution channels represent close to 29% of the Group’s total sales.

The new service allows members to check in on the application on Facebook and rewards customers with a badge depending on the regularity of their stay and on the type hotels the stay at which convert into A-Club points.

This just shows how hotels are having to develop their online presence in social circles even more carefully.  Its important to offer as much of your baseline service on as many channels as possible, and Accor have plugged the gap with their loyalty program.

The top Irish hotels getting social

Outside of Hotel Insight, my role in the hospitality industry allows me to get really involved in the Irish market, and for that reason, I was speaking with my friend Christina, the owner of CG Online Marketing based in Ireland, about her thoughts on hotels using social media in her primary market.  We had such a good conversation, that Christina offered to provide her insights into this area – so this post is courtesy of Christina!

Christina: “According to Failte Ireland’s visitor survey, everybody loves the Irish hospitality. In my mind, this means that the Irish charm and warm nature is perfect for social media – so here I’ve compiled a list of the top Irish hotel social media pages and campaigns and together we can you can judge if the Irish brand of hospitality translates as well online.

1)     First up is the Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Co Waterford

A stunning location on the south-east coast and close to Ardmore Bay, the Cliffhouse Hotel are lucky to have the ocean as a backdrop.

Twitter: @cliffhousehotel

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheCliffHouseHotel

These guys were born to tweet and never miss a chance to respond (great customer service).

Practically 4000 Twitter followers and high engagement levels. They have been known to tweet and serve simultaneously.

Their Facebook page is just as busy – plenty of pictures, updates and they even shared a few mentions on third party blogs – nice!

Not one question was left unanswered and the tone was consistently upbeat.

An encouraging start!

2)     Next we have, The Clanard Court Hotel, Athy, Co Kildare

Set on the outskirts of Dublin city, the Clanard Court is a popular local for those living in Athy.

Twitter: @ClanardCourt

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ClanardCourtHotel

Let’s look at their social media

This hotel set hearts aflutter with their ‘Love Match’ Facebook campaign to win a wedding

(the one of your dreams, of course).

The competition stages:

  • Couples upload their images
  • Four then progress to stage two
  • Each couple is filmed discussing their prospective partners
  • Fans had to guess the couples.
  • Winners crowned (Love match)

Full coverage here

What I loved about this campaign was the innovation and personalisation of it. Interactive, multimedia-driven (upload images and video interviews), personality (some cool questions like ‘What celebrity does your partner look most like?’) and the amount of time and commitment a campaign of this magnitude must have taken. This is more of a free-fall into social media, as opposed to a side-step and it is a testament to what social media can do for a hotel.

3)     In at 3 is The Maryborough Hotel, Douglas, Co. Cork

The Maryborough hotel (a client of mine, incidentally) is well-known for a warm and friendly service. They are constantly adding to the hotel (Pet Farm, Team Building and Dome) and are dedicated to their guests.

Twitter: @TheMaryborough

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/maryborough.cork

Let’s look at their social media

The Facebook page has personality! Sales carries this function and it’s updated almost daily – sometimes with offers, something with links, and sometimes a just a feel-good shout out.

You may not note the strategy at play, in fact you might be forgiven for thinking there isn’t one at all…but, there is! The updates are all goal-driven – Talking about Santa’s visit, buying Christmas vouchers, Spa offers, etc. Mostly, there’s a sales message at play, but it’s packaged behind an energetic and happy voice, so fans respond.

#leaders11 Have to say the Energy is just Electric here in the Sherrard Suite Tonight!!!’

Plus – they use #tags for tweets and create a nice buzz for their offerings.

There are countless hotels in Ireland worth a mention, like The Cork Airport Hotel – winner of a number of marketing awards and promoters of an edgy, creative vibe (vibrating seats  – need we say more?) http://www.facebook.com/corkinternationalairporthotel, plus The Burlington Hotel in Dublin http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Burlington-Hotel-Dublin/102643726883 where every status update gets a picture (for those not in the know – this increases your chances of being seen by your fans).

Bio

Christina is owner of CG Online Marketing (www.cgonlinemarketing.com) and has ten years experience in online marketing communications from working with Premier Recruitment Group, LA Fitness, Monarch Airlines, Thomson Travel and a host of other companies. Christina is dedicated in providing unique online marketing solutions tailored to individual client needs, and ensuring that all online activities run smoothly and obtain the best ROI possible. Specialties:Online marketing Online media Social Media/Social Marketing SEO / PPC Google analytics (qualified in GA IQ) Web trends + insights, Data segmentation and targeting, Customer Behavior analysis, Digital design, Writing, Ethical marketing Green marketing / Sustainable tourism and Hotel + travel online marketing.

 

Your average day on Facebook [infographic]

I saw noticed this infographic today, created by Jess3 and posted on the Mashable website and wanted to share it with you as it represents very clearly the average day on Facebook, with some very interesting statistics.

Hotel Insight speaks to Jayne Gorman, founder of 40before30.com

It gives me great pleasure presenting to you one of my favorite travel blogs, 40before30.com

For those who have not discovered this blog yet, it’s written by Jayne Gorman, with the simple idea of visiting 40 countries before she’s 30!  It’s a great blog – very fun, yet gripping and informative.  What really interests me is how someone can use a blog such as this to not only sure their experiences with friends and family, but how blogging and social media has become recognised as a key marketing tool in providers eyes.  I also wanted to take the chance to pass on a few blogs that I read regularly in the hope you enjoy them.  Here’s the interview – enjoy.

Q: Jayne, thank you for talking to Hotel Insight.  How would you describe yourself and what you do?

Well I describe myself as a travel addict. I’m a travel blogger by passion and profession (I’m a Social Media Specialist for Flight Centre UK) and am never happier than when on an overseas adventure.

Q: What made you start “40 countries before I’m 30” and tell your story online?

I started my blog 40before30.com nearly 2 years ago because my friends nagged me to. I was always updating my facebook status or sending emails with snippets of my mishaps and experiences abroad and someone suggested I write a blog so it was all in one place. I still write my blog as if it is for my closest friends and family, the fact that anybody else reads it is pure accident and never ceases to amaze me! The name came about because I was in Malaysia at the start of 2010 and realised that was my 30th country to visit. I pondered allowed that I would like to visit 40 countries before turning 30 – I was 25 at the time – and the name stuck. The challenge I have currently set myself is to visit AND blog about 40 countries before turning 30. A lot harder than it sounds as the countries I visited as a child I no longer remember, so I am revisiting or replacing them with new destinations in order to write about the experience in detail.

Q: Do you find travel brands be it hotels, airline, attractions etc welcome travel bloggers such as yourself?

More and more travel brands are waking up to the benefits of social media and are embracing the exposure working with a travel blogger allows them. I wrote about places I stayed and areas I visited for years without anyone taking any notice but more recently I have had emails from hotels like the Sofitel London Heathrow thanking me for my kind words about them, which I really appreciated. Bloggers are also learning how to communicate their value to brands and I have found that if you are able to do this there are many travel brands who are very keen to work with you. I think that a relationship between a blogger and a tourism board can work very well. I have found my readers can be inspired to visit destinations that they may not have previously considered by reading of someone’s experience there – even if this experience wasn’t necessarily a good one. The important thing for me is to remember to keep it honest. A bloggers relationship with the reader is built on trust, I wouldn’t recommend my friends to visit or stay somewhere I didn’t like so why would I tell my readers to?

Q: What’s been the most exciting adventure so far?  And the worst!

My most exciting adventure so far has been exploring the city of Xiamen on the East Coast of China on my own. It felt like I was the only western female in the city that weekend but it was an amazing, if strange, experience. The worst would have to be getting stranded on a island in Fiji where my room was a chicken shack with no lock on the door!

Q: You must have stayed in some great hotels along the way – any spring to mind?

The Meridien in Xiamen springs to mind. It had recently opened when I stayed and everything from the decor to the service was impeccable. I also recently stayed in The Penz Hotel in Innsbruck which has a roof terrace from which you can enjoy your complimentary champagne breakfast whilst staring at the Alps.

Q: The rise of social media has enabled anyone to share experiences online amongst friends and to the masses.  How have things changed in this area since you started your blog?

Social media in travel has grown into a huge industry in itself. Before starting my blog I had no idea you could become a travel blogger by trade, let alone that I would become one. From my personal experience getting involved in the travel blogging community has led to some amazing experiences and (I hope) life long friendships. Through connections on social media I can now travel to almost anywhere in the world and have a local show me around or share their tips – some have even offered to share their homes!

 Q: What number country are you on?

So I am currently 26 but (too) very soon due to be 27. I think since birth I have physically visited 38 countries but in terms of the 40 before 30 challenge I have currently visited and blogged about 24 countries. This leaves me 3 years to get around to discovering and writing about 16 more countries. Do you think I can do it?

Thanks again to Jayne for taking the time to talk to Hotel Insight. Check out her blog today – I’m sure the next 3 years of the adventure will be as exciting as the last!

Social Media Video – Now are you convinced?

I posted a video from Socialnomics over a year ago – this updated version is just as powerful and well worth 4 minutes of your life to see the power of social media (especially if you still don’t understand the importance!).

Again, many thanks to Socialnomics for a great video.

15 steps to successfully launch your hotel

I’m please to present Hotel Insight’s 2nd guest post from Sarah Priddis. Take it away Sarah!

A quick search on Trip Advisor brings up 1060 hotels in London, 1844 in Paris, 432 in New York City and 434 in Milan. That’s a lot of hotels to be heard and seen over. How do you even begin to make a mark when you launch a hotel in what is an increasingly crowded market?

Let’s assume you aren’t relaunching an iconic and world-renowned hotel after a £220m restoration, such as the Savoy. Let’s also assume you don’t have a celebrity budget to die for and Kate Moss, Jade Jagger and Alexa Cheung attending your launch party, like the W Hotel in Leicester Square, London.

Instead let’s assume you are a ‘normal’ hotelier – someone with a vision for a hotel offering, a sense of style, a USP or niche market. Someone who has seen an opportunity and has gone for it, and is determined to make it work. Let’s assume you know your audience you know the business and you know how to run hotels.

That’s a pretty good starting point, so let’s assume you have a good team, a good product and the right price point – essentially, let’s assume that once you get guests and business in, it’ll come back because you’re good.

In this near perfect situation, you now turn your attention to launching; to being seen and heard about, to bringing in business. At this stage I would suggest you do seek the advice of a PR and/or marketing professional, who will help you devise the right strategy for your business and budget (and don’t think your budget needs to be six figures, or even, for that matter, five figures – there are ways to make your budget work harder for you and a good PR/Marketing professional will help you do this). In the mean time, here’s a quick top 15 tips to consider when opening a new hotel.

  1. You MUST engage: Whether this is through traditional or social media, incentive sites, partnerships, business outreach etc whatever the route, you need to establish a message and start to engage with your audience. Start the conversation as early as possible. Relationships get stronger the longer you’ve known someone.
  1. You MUST understand your audience: As I discussed in my last post, audience is key to PR & Marketing – understand who your audience is and you will understand what the product needs to be and how to communicate it.
  1. Get the product right: Do not open the doors until the product is right. A bad experience early on will domino and have a potentially catastrophic affect on business.  PR and Marketing professionals are good barometers for whether you are ready – invite them and a small selection of voices you trust to experience the hotel pre or during a soft launch period. Get the product right early.
  1. Customer Satisfaction: I won’t preach to the converted but customer satisfaction is key to new openings. 1 in 4 consumers use Trip Advisors before they book their holiday. If the customer experience is not right it will be evident. Give one member of your team the responsibility of managing customer feedback and sites such as Trip Advisor and ensure that criticism is fed back into Operations and that all customer reviews, good and bad, are responded to quickly and efficiently. Montague on the Gardens, London, is a great example of success in this way (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g186338-d192036-Reviews-The_Montague_on_The_Gardens-London_England.html). They do not proactively PR their hotel however they have made sure that the product, experience and customer satisfaction is the best it can be. As such they are ranked 6th out of 1060 London hotels and have a 94% approval rating. This is PR enough for them.
  1. To party or not to party, that is the question: You do not need to spend £15k (or more, in fact very often much more) on a launch party in order to make an impact and create noise and stand-out. Don’t get me wrong, launch parties absolutely serve their purpose – the engage with press, influencers, VIPs, new business leads and partners, industry bodies and agents, and they enable you to set yours stall out from the very beginning, to let you make a splash and truly announce your presence. However, this is not always the best way – some markets are more crowded than others and so for a launch party to achieve what you want and need it to you may need to spend more than your budget allows. Be prepared to explore other routes. A series of mini events or one-to-one meetings is an alternative way to launch. Establish your audience groups and invite them to more intimate events and showcases. Enable them to experience the hotel under more controlled and sales-focused circumstances.
  1. Engage with media: Six figure budgets or not, one thing the W and Savoy launches must have in common with yours is their engagement of the press. Everyone was talking about them. Announce yourself to the press and engage with them. Find out what they want from you, how they want to work with you, what they want to tell their readers about you and get them on side! If your budget is limited I strongly recommend getting the product right and inviting press to come and review and tell your story for you. Invest your budget in covering an allocation of comp rooms, dinners and drinks for key press. Get them talking about you and the rest will follow.
  1. Talk Trade: The trade press are invaluable to new hotels. The hotel press are followed by the travel industry and inform consumer influencers, clients and media. The business travel and event trade are essential contributors to a large proportion of your business. Start talking trade early in the process.
  1. Look Long: Don’t forget lead times. This is something that a PR consultant can help you with. Media work on different lead times. So, a hotel opening in August will need to be thinking about its launch strategy six months prior to opening in order to fully engage with all media groups.
  1. Get social: Social media platforms are increasingly important routes to communicate with a key and multifaceted audience. Some restaurants and hotels have seen real success by launching almost exclusively on social media platforms. It is a real investment of time but it can certainly pay dividends.
  1. Engage with influencers: ‘Influencers’ are anyone who has the power to drive business to your property. They could be business VIPs, celebrities, personalities from the right crowd, influential journalists and editors, industry representatives, and brand or business partners. They are an important group that shouldn’t be forgotten.
  1. Agents: Agents are your bread and butter. Engage with them, incentivise them and get them selling for and with you.
  1. Engage locally: Engage with your local media and tourism bodies. Offer your services, and expertise and build a partnership. Become the first port of call for visitors to your location, and engage with what’s going on in your local area. Become a hotel partner, build relationships, be a home for the locals as well as the wider audience. Become the default choice and the natural destination in your area.
  1. Photography: Good photography is vital to selling your property to guests, influencers and media before they even step through the door. In fact, if the photography is poor or non-existent, they may never step through the door.
  1. Partnerships: The right brand or business partnership can be the best way to tap into a new business avenue or audience. The right partnership can create noise through association and generate new business.
  1. Your Product: You need to tap into business avenues across all aspects of your hotel: beds, bar, spa, restaurant, meetings, conference, local, international, leisure traveller, business traveller – the list goes on. You need to engage at every level.

For any other questions, drop me a line – sarah@novel-communications.co.uk

Using Twitter to add value to your guests experience

In such a competitive marketplace, hotels have to stand out from the crowd, not only to attract customers, but to retain them, whilst ensuring that they not only come back to stay with you, but pass a good story on to their friends.  Using social media channels is the perfect way to create a connection with a prospective guest or customer, but this has to be thought about clearly.  Too often I see hotels mis-using social channels and instead of conversing with customers, they frustrate them and drive them away from connecting.

Twitter is at the very heart of this.  Hotels that purely send out special offers and promotions quickly find people hitting the unfollow button.  Twitter should be about creating a personality for your hotel or brand and engaging with people, and making sure they know what you’re doing.  For me, there is one perfect example of how hotels have been inventive with Twitter and done exactly that, and it’s the Hyatt Concierge.

Hyatt have been very clever and even been the pioneer of the online concierge service.  Quite simply, they have created a Twitter account called @HyattConcierge as a way to interact with guests and provide all the services of the hotel concierge desk over Twitter.

And it’s working fantastically well.  With over 16,500 followers, you can see guests interacting with Hyatt on all kinds of levels.  From recommendations for restaurants nearby to their hotels, to post check-out comments on service and suggestions.  This has opened a whole new way for guests to communicate with Hyatt.

Remember, this is not new.  I’m not telling you about a brand new concept.  This account has been in existence for a number of years and is widely used.  It just goes to show that you can truly add value to your guests experience in such a simple way.  Think outside the box, think about what you customers want, then find a way to do it – before they disengage altogether.

Google announce the Google+ Project

Google today announced their latest venture, Google+, aimed at making Google “better by including you, your relationships, and your interests”.  It’s still a new idea and concept, so I’ll let the official video tell you about it rather than me. It certainly sounds like an interesting project and one to watch closely.

Starwood adopt FourSquare strategy to promote hotel check-in’s

I noticed that Starwood have started to promote the use of FourSquare on their Starwood Preferred Guest website, prompting guests arriving at their hotels to use FourSquare to check-in – with an extra incentive of course!  Not only to earn the usual badges and become a mayor as you usually would with the social media channel, but to claim extra SPG points and even the chance to win free resort night rewards.  Each check-in will earn you an extra 250 bonus Starpoints as long as you have a confirmed reservation at that property.  This is now live at over 1000 Starwood hotels.

I actually can’t think of another major hotel chain that’s worked out it’s strategy with FourSquare, or currently doing something in this way, and wonder how successful this has been to date.  I also wonder how else this is being promoted or whether guests are just stumbling across the added bonus when they naturally try to find their hotel on FourSquare, as they would do a restaurant, airport etc.  I can’t see the classic FourSquare logo being displayed on the door of a trendy W hotel!

So I’m considering two things here: firstly, will other hotel chains adopt this kind of strategy?  Starwood obviously realise that a percentage of their guests (particularly their American members I assume) are using FourSquare, and that they see the potential promotion of their hotels through this channel.  Secondly, if the service is well used, I do wonder how manual the process is to credit these check-in members with the free Starpoints.  Have Starwood found an automated way to process this in their own systems?  Or is this down to someone at property level to match the check-in’s with guests stays and confirmed reservations?  You can imagine how big this task could be if adoption grows.  Of course, this could also be managed centrally at such a large organisation as Starwood, who I am sure must have a social media team in place, or even let this be managed by the Starwood Preferred Guest team itself perhaps.

Great to see a worldwide hotel group like Starwood trying to use Foursquare more effectively an interact with their guests.  I really think that other hotel chains will follow suit.  Afterall, FourSquare is another means of interaction with your guest and by adopting an incentive based scheme such as this, it can only be a great way to drive brand loyalty.  If your customers are checking in to your property on FourSquare, then why waste the opportunity to truly interact?  Understanding the power of such social tools is important and ensuring you have the required strategy in place to manage this, even more so.