A social media strategy for the time crunched hotelier

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social media for time crunchedWelcome to day 20 of the 21-day hospitality social media challenge!

As a hospitality professional you most certainly have a tremendous amount of daily responsibilities, tasks to complete, and very long working days. What you probably don’t have is a lot of free time.

A common question from folks in the tourism industry is HOW DO YOU DO ALL OF THIS — TripAdvisor, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc — as a time crunched hotelier?

The simple answer: it has to become part of your daily routine. Just like you would never say that you did not have time to check in a guest or clean rooms, social media needs to be weighted just as importantly. Optimizing your online strategy is the exact same concept. It has to be a priority or it will always get pushed to the side.

How much time can you realistically commit?

Much like exercise, if you do not specifically schedule time to fit your online work into your day you won’t do it. However, similar to your fitness regime, if you can make your social strategy a habit then you are establishing a proactive online approach, as opposed to, being reactive and constantly trying to put out fires.

To be sure, the social web never rests or takes a day off, so if you can implement your scheme to have coverage every day that is fantastic. If not, you do the best you can.

The basics of a social strategy that you will need to cover & your time crunched hotelier social media strategy.

(Please note: I am not stating that this is ideal, I am saying that this is a sample to work within based on your time constraints. Your needs and requirements might vary so take the time to create a social strategy that works for you!)

The following assumes that you have an hour a day (That’s just four fifteen minute blocks!) to put into your online efforts. If you have more time, fantastic! If not, determine where your guests are spending their time online and use your minutes wisely to connect and build relationships with them.

  • Listening (10 minutes) – What’s going on in the online world when it comes to your destination and hospitality venture? What is being said?

Do you have a listening tool like Revinate or ReviewPro? If not you can very easily setup a FREE Google alert for your property (and any other keyword you want) so you can be alerted if you or your destination is mentioned online. Also, incorporate Twitter search to find any @ mentions that you can reply to.

  • Creating (20 minutes) – Facebook, your blog, YouTube, Instagram, and all the other platforms will not update themselves. You need to dedicate time to sitting down and committing to create updates or it will never happen.

Draft a post for Facebook or your blog, create a short video, upload some photos, and/or respond to any comments or input.

  • Managing (10 minutes) – Developing your presence on the social web means gaining the trust of your potential customers. A great place to begin is by helping out in forums and providing useful input.

Check all relevant destination forums to see if there are any questions you can help with.

  • Responding (10 minutes) – If you have any negative reviews online then get to work by writing empathetic and sincere management responses that help to show (your potential future) guests that you care.

Check TripAdvisor,YELP, and other platforms for new reviews and respond accordingly.

  • Reading (10 minutes) – Find out what’s going on with your competition by reading some of their reviews and by looking at the content they are creating.

You’re not the only one concerned with social media, your competition is too! Additionally, the online marketing space changes very quickly, so keep current by reading a few relevant blogs such as Seth Godin, ProBlogger, and Mashable.

Task day 20: Your challenge today is to commit one hour (or four fifteen minute blocks) and dedicate the time to your social media presence.

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How to write an appropriate management response (a template for you)

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Do you struggle with how to respond to negative reviews?

Welcome to day 19 of the 21-day hospitality social media challenge! You are almost done with the challenge and hopefully you have followed along for the whole three weeks. Today you will learn how to respond to negative reviews.

I’ve previously talked about how to respond to negative reviews to those who were not impressed with your hospitality business. However, for today I want to go one step further by providing a real example of a negative review and by giving you some best practices for responding. As a quick recap, here are some best practices to keep in mind while formatting your negative review management response.

how-to-respond-to-negative-reviews

Below is a recent review from a TripAdvisor community member that no GM wants to start their morning off with! As you can see, from the headline alone, the former guest (we’ll call him “JimBob”) did not particularly enjoy the accommodation experience where he stayed.

how-to-respond-to-negativereviews-in-tripadvisor

When I read the review immediately it seemed clear to me that this person’s perception and expectations DID NOT meet reality, and from the tone of the evaluation, “JimBob” probably felt that he was deliberately misled.

If you read no further, understand one thing, the days of “bait and switch” are over. If you have small rooms, the pool is closed, or the restaurant only serves burgers you had better let your potential guests know before they book, to ensure that you can avoid negative reactions.

Your management response template

The following is how I would respond to “JimBob.” Please feel free to use this sample reply as you see fit. If it might be of assistance via the rearranging of some words or with a few edits, by all means, it’s here to help you in your daily routine.

Greetings JimBob – Thank you very much for taking the time to review our property.

Your input, and the feedback from all of our guests is vitally important to us and we always want guest expectations to be met upon arrival.

Per your comments, we have updated our website to ensure that future travelers know that while remarkable hospitality, service and cleanliness are our top priorities some of our bathrooms are indeed small. We sincerely apologize if you did not know this in advance.

We hope to see you again in the future and you can reach me directly at 555-555-5555 if I can be of any assistance.

Line 1. As you can see, I started off with a simple thank you to let the reviewer know I appreciate their time.

Line 2. On the next line I am letting the reviewer, and future readers of this review, know that we care about all of our guests.

Line 3. On the next line issues are addressed and it’s always a best practice to include some positive sentiment for future readers of the review.

Line 4. Finally, keeping the response brief with a simple closing and contact information should further follow-up be required.

When it comes to your future guests, and avoiding negative reviews, your best strategy is to be wholly transparent and to give full disclosure about exactly what you have to offer.

Task day 19: Your challenge for today is to go and respond to a negative review that you have been hesitant to reply to. If you are fortunate enough not to have any negative comments then write a management response to someone who has recently reviewed your hospitality business.

(Note: After today’s post, if you still struggle with how to respond to negative reviews, feel free to contact me.)

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9 pretty compelling reasons why you should be encouraging guest reviews

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Welcome to day 18 of the 21-day hospitality social media challenge!

Do you encourage guests to write reviews of your hospitality business? If not, you probably should!

1. 92% of internet users read product reviews (e-tailing group).

2. 89% of people say that reviews influence their buying decision (e-tailing group).

3. 53% of travelers say they won’t book a hotel if it has NO reviews (PhoCusWright).

4. 81% of travelers usually or always reference TripAdvisor hotel reviews before making selections (PhoCusWright).

5. 98% of users agreed that TripAdvisor reviews helped them have a better trip (PhoCusWright).

6. 300 million people view TripAdvisor content on sites other than TA each month (TripAdvisor).

7. TripAdvisor has 26 million monthly unique visitors.

8. 78% of travelers say seeing a management response to reviews makes them believe that it cares more about its guests (PhoCusWright).

9. 84% of travelers say an appropriate management response to a bad review improves their impression of the hotel (PhoCusWright).

Remember, guests and customers have ALWAYS talked about your business! Social media just allows them to amplify their voice. As opposed to telling ten people, travelers now have the ability to share their opinions with the world. Attention to detail and amazing customer service never go out of favor, master them both and the most difficult part of reputation optimization is taken care of.

Task day 18: Your challenge for today is to encourage a departing guest to write a review of your property.

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5 best practices for connecting with potential guests in destination forums

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destination tipsYeehaw! Welcome to day 17 of the 21-day hospitality social media challenge!

When it comes to travelers and your potential guests, we know most of them will use the Internet for conducting their destination research. However, what many hospitality professionals fail to recognize is many people will also use destination forums when seeking accurate and current answers for their trip queries.

In other words, destination forums are a terrific avenue for finding potential guests, and they tend to be pretty targeted leads because they are asking about your destination.

To be sure, you might not be number one on the front page of Google or even #1 on TripAdvisor, BUT YOU CAN be the NUMBER one person that answers questions about your location!! Remember, when folks are deciding who they are going to book with and give their credit card number to, TRUST plays an enormous role in the decision making process.

tripadvisor tahiti

The image above shows the TripAdvisor forum for Tahiti (all of their global forums look the same). One quick glance shows questions about taxis, what hotels to stay in, and how to drive around the island. Whether it’s Tahiti or your destination, answering questions and being helpful provides tremendous value and is a fantastic way to build trust and develop relationships. Most importantly, they want to hear your expert voice.

If you have been hesitant to expand your online presence in destination forums, here are five best practices to follow!

1. Start slowly – You wouldn’t enter a cocktail party and just start selling and spamming would you? Online communities are no different.

2. Always be transparent – Being honest about who you are and what you have to offer wins every time! If you can, brand your profile with that of your hotel.

3. Maintain consistency – As with anything successful online, you have to have a LONG TERM approach, stay consistent, and try to check in or post every day.

4. Don’t sell, but educate – Travelers in forums are attentive, eager, and readily want to hear from you th­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­e “expert.” You stand a much better chance for success if you educate them and engage in discussion.

5. Avoid “flame” wars – Have you ever-witnessed online arguments where two people get in a spat? Perhaps on Facebook? Its usually embarrassing for both parties and typically no one is a winner!

One final “bonus” tip, if you are struggling to come up with ideas on what you should post to Facebook or on your blog, destination forums offer an almost never ending stream of ideas for content creation.

Task day 17: Take some time today to go to a destination forum and answer some questions about your location.

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The One Big difference between TripAdvisor and YELP (that you don’t know about)

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Greetings and welcome to “the difference between Yelp and Tripadvisor” for day 16 of the 21-day hospitality social media challenge!

What’s the difference between Yelp and Tripadvisor?

You are probably very well aware that YELP is a review site like just like TripAdvisor, although it is not specific to Travel.

In fact, YELP bills itself as the “leading local guide for real word-of-mouth reviews.”

The platform has on average 117 million unique visitors, more than 47 million reviews, and at present the mobile app is on 11 million devices.

yelp for hotels

One of the best ways for you to proactively manage your reputation on YELP is to “claim” your business and to create a profile.

It is free to claim your business and by doing so, you are at least in command of your hospitality venture’s profile information.

claim yelp profile

Also, it should be noted that even if you do not claim your business or create a profile, a customer could still leave a review. So it’s worth claiming your listing to ensure the information (address, phone, website, etc.) is correct, and to allow you to effectively monitor your profile.

The biggest difference between Yelp & TripAdvisor

If you are not aware, the greatest difference between YELP and Tripadvisor is that Tripadvisor encourages hotels and business owners to ask travelers for reviews AND YELP discourages it.

the-difference-between-yelp-and-tripadvisor

Above is a screengrab of an online conversation that the YELP CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, recently had on Reddit. Specifically, he talked about how the platform discourages the solicitation of reviews and even penalizing businesses for doing it.

Conversely, TripAdvisor encourages hospitality businesses to be proactive when seeking reviews and they even provide tools for you in its management center so that you can actively seek feedback from your customers!

Task day 16: While the difference between Yelp and Tripadvisor might be subtle, your task for today is to claim your business on YELP and to make sure you fill out all of the information correctly.

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Three simple Twitter tips PLUS the number one mistake hoteliers make with Twitter

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twitter tipsWelcome to day 15 of the 21-day hospitality social media challenge! You are doing great!!

There is an old saying that if a person is happy they tell three people. If a person is unhappy the will tell ten people.

Social media, and particularly Twitter, simply allows people to amplify their message, so instead of telling ten people, perhaps they are telling 10,000 or more about the experience they had at your business.

For you, the hospitality professional, if you are having trouble coming to terms with Twitter, try to think of it as the largest cocktail party or hotel lobby you’ve ever been invited to where you don’t know a single soul. As an example, if you walked into this “lobby of strangers” where you were trying to make a good impression, would you simply start handing out your business card to everyone and telling them how great you are? Certainly not!

For numerous companies who are new to Twitter, and social media in general, there appears to be a common misconception that as soon as you sign up, customers are going to fall from the sky in droves and you will immediately be inundated with more business than you can handle. Unfortunately, this is not the case. But, as a means of assisting you in your Twitter interaction, below are three simple tips.

1. Listen – If you do not subscribe to an online monitoring service like ReviewPro or Revinate, Twitter has a handy search tool that can be used in numerous ways to help the hospitality professional get a better idea of what is being said about their destination, their hotel, and their competition. For the example below, I just entered “Puerto Rico” in the search box to see what people were saying at the time of writing this article.

twitter for hotels

Out of the five tweets captured above there are at least four referencing trips to Puerto Rico (where conversations could be started!). You can do the exact same thing for your particular destination and property, or you could even follow the competition. Truly, this “listening” technique works for whatever you would like to track.

2. Participate in conversations – Brands and businesses that are successful on Twitter go beyond spamming followers with how great they are. The next example below comes from a Twitter user named the @productpoet. This person was seeking accommodation in downtown Omaha and they said that they would stay with the first hotel that responded (more in the image below).

hilton social media

As you can see above, because Hilton was paying attention (listening!) they were able to reply and book the stay. What did the @productpoet think of the stay? Well, below is what they tweeted to their over 117,000 followers.

hilton twitter

(Note: hat-tip to Social Media Today for sharing this story.)

3. Be a concierge first (and sell second) – Your potential guests have a never-ending stream of questions and you are the expert at your destination. Think of Twitter as an amazing extension of your concierge to help, educate, and take care of your patrons.

A quick search on Twitter for “London activities” brought up many instances of folks seeking help. Below is a perfect example for you to jump in as hospitality professional and offer guidance to this person looking for a place to see Christmas lights.

twitter concierge

If you follow the general rule of interacting and having conversations 90% of the time and selling only 10% you should be able to have real success with Twitter.

The number ONE mistake hoteliers make with Twitter

Interestingly, you can now book a room using Twitter but where many hospitality ventures fail to succeed is that they do not collect @ usernames either during the booking process or while a guest is checking in.

If you are an active Twitter user how good would you feel if a hotel tweeted you wishing you a great stay. Or, if after you checked in, by the time you got to your room there was a tweet from the hotel just checking with you and making sure all is ok. Hospitality professionals, start collecting those @ names and engaging with your guests for maximum impact!

Task day 15: Ask every guest that checks in today if they are on Twitter. If they are, get their @ name and tweet them a welcome!

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How HONY can help you greatly improve your Facebook fan engagement

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Today we will discuss how Humans of New York and their use of image and stories can greatly improve your content marketing efforts.

Oh, yeah! And congratulations to you for making it to day number 14 of the 21 day hospitality social media challenge!

What can Humans of New York FB page do for you?

Similar to training for a marathon where you must put in the work to complete the distance, with social media there are no magic bullets to success or (ethical) ways to game the system. You must be consistent and committed in order to have long-term triumph.

When done right, Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms allow you to become a digital concierge for your destination and they are tremendous avenues for you to build trust amongst potential customers–so that you can increase bookings!

Facebook alone has over 1.1billion active monthly users and 655 million daily active users. The following video highlights the story of how Brandon Stanton, the creative mind behind Humans of New York (HONY), is connecting, sharing, and building his community.

Though it’s not specific to hospitality, there is a lot of value that hospitality professionals (who want to improve their Facebook engagement) can glean from Brandon and how he has experienced exponential growth in a very short time.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkWJU_WzxKc
(Note: If you can’t see the video, this link will take you there >> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkWJU_WzxKc)

If you are too busy to watch the quick video here are the highlights:

  • Brandon Stanton lost his job.
  • He had NO special camera skills or budget.
  • After contemplation he decided he wanted to take photos.
  • Brandon created the Humans of New York Facebook page and started posting the pictures there.
  •  After a while he began including the stories of the subjects that are featured in the photos.
  • Each of his photos get shared and liked by ~50,000 fans.
  • The page’s growth has been explosive and now has 1.8 million fans!

Humans-of-New-York

What Brandon is doing, any one of us can do for our hospitality venture (with some slight modifications of course). He has tapped into story sharing, empathy, and truly caring to get people (his subjects) to resonate with other people (his fans).

Day 14 task: After watching the Humans of New York video story, your challenge today is to come up with three or four Facebook posts that you could create based on Brandon’s example.

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3 ways your smartphone makes you a hospitality multimedia powerhouse (video edition)

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Yesterday in the 21-day hospitality social media challenge we discussed the benefits of photos and how your smartphone makes the process almost seamless. Today we will look at the “Big Kahuna” that is video!

For starters, if you have been loath to start incorporating video into your social media plan, you really ought not to fear the unknown. Spending some time each week recording your snippets to increase your web presence is simple, it’s cost effective, and it works. If you need more inspiration, here are three reasons to get you motivated!

1. YouTube has massive appeal
Did you know that YouTube is the second most-searched website on the Internet after Google? Additionally, YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network. That is a lot of volume, traffic, and potential increased visibility of your hospitality business.

With your mobile device you could shoot some video today that might not go viral but it could do a fantastic job of promoting your business by telling your story and gaining the trust of potential guests.

2. Cross platform engagement benefits!
The video that you might take for YouTube can also be easily shared on your blog or Facebook timeline. In fact, 500 years of YouTube video are watched on Facebook every single day and according to Simplymeasured.com, videos (and photos) can increase your timeline’s engagement by 64%.

With your smartphone in hand, start reaching some of those one billion monthly unique visitors to YouTube.

3. Keyword potential
In a previous 21-day challenge post, we defined what a keyword is and how your guests use them in search. YouTube allows you to include up to 1,000 characters for your profile information description, so make sure you load it with relevant info and include descriptive words and phrases that help your business show up in search results. Additionally, just like for Google search, YouTube has it’s own keyword tool so you can get an idea of what your potential guests are searching for on the site. The example below is just a quick search I did for Bozeman, Montana.

YouTube keyword tool

For your efforts, you want to think your customers when making video content. What kinds of video would be most beneficial to them? Perhaps walking tours, short daily weather updates, or day in the life type of videos. What would they be searching for? In conjunction with the keyword tool, use your smartphone to start creating content that resonates.

A few Youtube best practices and pro tips

  1. Make sure you have your videos properly labeled with a title or else YouTube has no way of knowing what the video is about.
  2. People’s attention spans are very short, so remember to keep your videos brief in length – like one to two minutes max.
  3. Always complete the description with comprehensive information (including keywords) and categorize them properly

Day 13 task: Find a guest who is amenable and friendly, and conduct a two to three minute video interview with them. When done post it to Facebook, your blog, or YouTube (better yet, across all three!).

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3 ways your smartphone makes you a hospitality multimedia powerhouse (photo edition)

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smartphoneWelcome to day 12 of the  21-day hospitality social media challenge!

Do you have a smartphone? If you do then you are a media-making powerhouse! Photos and video can help you to tell a rich visual story, and we all are quite familiar with the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words.

1. 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual
Humans by nature, when they read, are scanners of content. Meaning, they look quickly to see if the information grabs their attention or not. Your smartphone makes taking photos, and including them with your posts, seamless and easy!

2. Photos increase total views
Studies have found that posts and articles that have an accompanying photo have more total views than those that don’t. In fact, on average articles containing relevant images have 94% more total views than articles that don’t include an image.

increase views with photos

Always, always include a relevant picture with your postings. From your blog, to Facebook and Twitter, the beauty of taking pictures with your smart phone is that you can share them easily across platforms.

3. Visual content helps engagement
Your fans and followers are more likely to share, like, or comment on your post if it has a photograph. Studies show that 40% of people will respond better to visual information.

If you are wondering how to better incorporate images, here is an example of the Distrikt Hotel in New York effectively using photos in one of their recent Facebook posts.

distrikt hotel facebook

Notice, that they are not selling anything!

But, it’s a fun image-centric update & contest that their fans can relate to about Halloween. The post got 156 likes, 11 shares and garnered over 130 comments. For a hotel, that is pretty good engagement and interaction by any standard.

Task day 12: For your challenge today purposefully take some pictures (funny ones, “day in the life,” or informational) with your phone. Bonus points if you actively ask your guests to post some of their favorite photos to your timeline or to submit them for you to use in a blog post.

(Please note: We will cover Instagram and Pinterest later on in the series.)

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The art and science behind crafting a post title

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craft titleWelcome to day 11 of the  21-day hospitality social media challenge! You are awesome for sticking with it thus far.

Now that you have come up with some ideas using mind mapping, it’s now time think about crafting your post title, which is truly an art and a science!!

Every day online your potential guests are being bombarded constantly with messages on social media and the streams of information are moving faster and faster. They are definitely not slowing down! With the growth of online marketing, both the channels and volumes of online information competing for your customers’ attention has exploded, making it increasingly challenging to stand out.

Back in 2007 one of the most intelligent and talented bloggers online, Darren Rowse, gave me a piece of advice that still holds true to this day. He told me, “You have to build the need to read” and to give a person a reason to click on your link or to read your whole post.

At present, a typical day on the Internet shows that 2 million blog posts, 294 billion emails, and 864 thousand hours of video are created. Each day also brings 400 million tweets and Facebook has 1,500 potential pieces of new content for you every time you log on.

Titles and headlines matter!

Take note: 80% of readers never make it past the headline and on average, eight out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only two out of 10 will read the rest.

The graphic below is from a study that Conductor undertook on headline preferences. It has relevant data about the types of titles that get individuals to click on your link.

headline preference

As you can see, 36% of people prefer a number in the title, 21 % are attracted to a title that addresses them, and a mere 11% respond to a title that is a question.

With respect to your content creation, it’s important to keep those percentages in mind as you work to improve your online presence and continue to develop helpful information for your ideal guest.

(Pro tip: If you are struggling with coming up with creative titles, this sounds crazy but one of the best places to get title ideas is from magazines in the grocery story. Particularly magazines that are directed at women, but really all of them know how essential it is to get your attention while you are in line.)

Task day 11: Your challenge today is to get used to creating catchy titles. Using the following samples below, structure them to suit your specific needs for an update:

  • Six Best Ways to …
  • The Ultimate Guide to …
  • How to …
  • Three Ways You Can …

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