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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Six benefits of posting regularly to your hospitality blog or Facebook page

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Congratulations to you for making it to day ten of the hospitality social media challenge! You now have a good overview of who your ideal customer is and how to come up with ideas to create content for them. But, you might be curious as to what some of the benefits to engaging in social media are.

You may find this hard to believe, but we all have the power to be publishing companies now if we want to be! Having the ability to create, and post updates and content, is one of the most powerful mediums of the twenty-first century, granting you the opportunity to be the brand manager and chief storyteller of your hotel and destination.

Benefits include:

1. It’s cost-effective marketing because it only requires a time commitment.

2. It allows you to educate your potential guests. Even though you deal with your destination and hotel every day, people are always going to have questions.

3. It provides an extension of your customer service. Social media is a convenient way for you to share your story and be transparent.

4. It enables the development of trust. For example, have you ever hesitated before putting your credit card number online to make a purchase? Your potential guests are not different, but if they trust you and feel like they know you through online interactions, there is a much better chance that they will book with you!

5. It provides improved search engine optimization (SEO).

6. It establishes you as the “go to” place for information and helpful tips about your destination!

Task day ten: Your challenge today is to come up with a mini-schedule of five posts that you can use for your blog or Facebook page next week.

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Your secret tool for creating a never-ending stream of content ideas

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If you have ever asked yourself, “What the heck are we supposed to post about?” then you are in luck because for day nine of the 21 day hospitality social media challenge I am going to introduce you to an insider technique that the content creation pros use called mind mapping.

From Wikipedia: “A mind map is a diagram used to visually outline information and it is often created around a single word or text, placed in the center of a piece of paper or your chosen medium for recording ideas., Major categories radiate from a central node, and lesser categories are sub-branches of larger branches. Categories can represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items related to a central key word or idea.”

As the example below clearly demonstrates, if I needed content and post ideas for where I live now in Rincon, Puerto Rico, which is a tourist destination, I would start my mind map by writing Rincon, PR in the middle of the page. Next, I would radiate out from there with topics that I think might be of interest to my customers and then I would branch off of those topics for more specific ideas.

mind mapping

Rincon is an outdoors style destination and people generally travel here to do activities. I also know that folks will want to eat, so I started with “activities” and “food options” and worked out from there.

Day nine task: Using the example above, for today’s challenge create a mind map of ideas that you can use to develop posts and updates from.

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Facing content creation frustration head-on!

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content creation frustrationWelcome to day eight of the 21-day hospitality social media challenge!

One of the biggest challenges you might be facing is coming up with ideas to keep your content fresh. When it comes to STEP 4, “Information,” in the review feedback loop, sadly, it’s not uncommon to feel like the guy in the photo. Especially if you are already overworked, stressed out, and have about a million other things to do on your schedule. And because you are overwhelmed you might make the conscious decision to do nothing.

One way to conceptualize a Facebook page or blog and its possibilities is to imagine that if your regular website is the front door to your hotel, then your blog or Facebook is your comfortable lobby area where stories are told, ideas shared, questions answered, and trust with the customer is earned.

Another way of thinking about it can be analogous to a very basic, but much-needed tool, such as a hammer. In the proper hands, a hammer has the ability to craft a home that will provide shelter for years to come. But an unused hammer sitting in your toolbox doing nothing is essentially useless!

Just like a hammer, an unused Facebook page or blog will sit there online like an inanimate object, not achieving anything. However if it’s updated with content on a consistent basis it can become the cornerstone of the social media footprint and online presence.

If it all seems too overwhelming, before you throw your hands up in disgust and move on, you should seriously ask yourself:

  • Who knows your story better than you?
  • Who can explain your services better than you?
  • Who can personify your commitment to excellence better than you?

Nobody! In fact, you are more uniquely qualified to post on Facebook or blog about your hotel and destination than the most seasoned online writer.

All you need is the confidence to realize that you are completely capable, and to possess the willingness to leap in and do the work required.

Task for Day 8: The challenge today for day eight is simple, interview one of your guests (it doesn’t have to be long) and post the written answers to Facebook or your blog.

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Why your hospitality website is critical!

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hospitality websiteWelcome to day seven of the 21-day hospitality social media challenge! Your website is your front door and your front desk to the world. It’s critical that you convey information in a seamless manner and attempt to be as transparent and honest as possible about what you have to offer.

Similar to how when a traveler thinks about a destination, when a potential guest lands on your website they begin to form their opinion of your property. And, as shown in stage three of the review feedback loop, I very much like to think that this is where initial review formation begins!

To be sure, the person researching has not been to your property, but based on what you are presenting online they are deciding whether to book with you or not.

Unfortunately, many business owners think the review process starts when a customer leaves their hotel, but in reality it can begin months in advance with that first interaction with your online presence and reputation. You can almost think of your website as the “foot” in the social media footprint and all of your other online efforts extend from here.

Within the hospitality industry, direct bookings are king, so your site must be geared to close sales by getting people to book rooms! Otherwise it’s not working as it should. Hotels give billions to the OTA’s in commissions every year so the importance of your website cannot be understated.

Day seven task: Conduct an audit of your site by standing behind some of your guests as they try to use your website. Graciously seek their feedback to determine the following:

  • Is the information relevant?
  • Is your website easy to navigate?
  • Is the booking process seamless?
  • What would drive them away?
  • Is it mobile friendly?

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5 Tips for creating your hospitality social media posts

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helpful tipsWelcome to day six of the hospitality social media challenge!

If you want to stay competitive in the tourism market, social media and reputation optimization are no longer just “an option” for hospitality professionals. You have to be active and consistent in your efforts.

However, the hospitality industry can be all consuming and it can be difficult to overcome the initial time commitment and creative hurdles you might face. As an starting point, when creating content for your potential guests, keep the following suggestions in mind:

  • Always aim to be helpful.
  • Approximately 95% of what you produce should be non-selling in manner.
  • Focus on building earned trust.

Additionally, if you consider yourself a non-creative or have a shortage of posting ideas, it can become a convenient excuse to NOT sit down and do the work. According to Seth Godin, creative blocks are driven mostly by fear (of being judged, criticized, or ridiculed) and not by a scarcity of ideas. As he likes to write,

“No one ever gets talker’s block. No one wakes up in the morning, discovers he has nothing to say and sits quietly, for days or weeks, until the muse hits, until the moment is right, until all the craziness in his life has died down.”

Five simple tips for creating your social media posts

Below is a simple formula that is aimed at helping you to sit down and get started. It is a guide that you can refer to and hopefully it will have you putting together content snippets in fifteen minutes or less.

  1. Write your titles first – this advice might sound counterintuitive, but I always start with a title and work my blog post out from it. If you are a hotel owner looking to blog for the first time, it’s a great way to get started. Heck, I can even come up with a title that sounds good for scrubbing toilets – “How to Influence Customers and Win at Toilet Scrubbing.”
  2. Get started – like you, I also have stared at the blank computer screen waiting and hoping for someone to just magically show up and start writing for me. When that didn’t occur I realized that I had to START, and at the very least, get my ideas down on paper.
  3. List out bullet points – listing bullet points of what you want to say can be tremendously helpful. These items that you list can be structured into formal paragraphs after you get your ideas “out.”
  4. Write in a “human” voice – when I draft blog posts or even emails, I always try to imagine that I am having a conversation with someone and that I am trying to explain a concept or task in as “stripped down” a language as possible.
  5. Be useful – as noted above, if you are going to put in the hard work that it takes to write something well, then try to at least make it on a subject matter that is important and helpful to your ideal guest. Remember, you have tremendous knowledge about your destination and your potential customers are using the Internet to learn. What can you teach them?

Day six task: Today’s challenge is to write a post (Facebook or Blog) that answers one of your guest’s most frequently asked questions.

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Perception, expectations and the review feedback loop

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Welcome to day five of the 21 day hospitality social media challenge! If you participated in the first couple of days and are beginning to feel empowered and like you truly have the ability to shape your online reputation and web presence, then congratulations! You are correct.

So far you have learned about creating goals, how your guests find you online, and tips for undertaking keyword research. But, have you ever thought about how your potential guests perceive your business from what they research online?

When you contemplate the hospitality industry and the new Internet economy, consider for a moment that perception, planning, purchase, arrival and stay (reality) now all add up to equal guest experience, which in the end drives the online review process.

Therefore, it is critical that all of the content – posts, updates, photos, video, etc. – that you create as part of your social media activities be transparent and brutally honest about what you have to offer.

Have you ever had guests arrive that have either a huge grin or a complete look of confusion and disappointment?

The initial smile, or dreaded lack thereof, when new guests arrive is derived mainly from their online research and the expectations that they have about your hospitality business. Then their emotions come forth when reality meets them upon arrival.

If you are struggling with how this perception — and subsequent online review feedback loop — affects your business, let’s dissect the first couple of stages (see graphic below) starting from when a potential customer decides to take a trip.

review feedback loop initial stages

According to phocusWright, 81% of travelers usually or always reference TripAdvisor hotel reviews before making a booking selection. The emphasis on the fact that your social media strategy needs to be attracting the “ideal” guest for your property cannot be overstated.

Through expectation and perception, the guest experience really begins before they even arrive at the hotel. Remember, you want your social media plan to be proactive and not reactive!

Essentially, potential guests book based on two key factors, a belief that your property will suit their needs and trust.  Stage one of the graphic shows that the beginning of the booking funnel begins as soon as a person decides to take a trip. From that moment forward they start to form an idea of what they think the experience will be like.

Typically the customer will also start to research the destination, lodging, and activities on the Internet and this is where your consistent message across all social channels is critical to attracting the ideal guests. Specifically, once they land on your website and digest all of your postings, updates, and reviews their opinion of your business – and subsequent review formation – starts then.

Note: Many business owners think the review process starts when a customer leaves their business, but in reality it can begin months in advance with that first interaction they had with your online presence and reputation.

Day five task: This might not seem like online social media, but take some time today and ask your guests if their expectations and perception (of what they expected when it comes to your destination and hospitality venture) have been met based on what they researched online.

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Who is your ideal guest?

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Your ideal guestWelcome to day three of the twenty-one day hospitality social media challenge!

In order to start off developing a better online presence and social media footprint, you need to have a good understanding of who your ideal guest is so that you know who is on the other end of the internet searching for your hotel.

That way you can create content specifically for them, and you have a better understanding of what information is beneficial and helpful to them. One of the biggest frustrations when coming up with Facebook updates or blog posts is that if you try to write for everyone you’ll wind up getting frustrated and soon might find yourself writing for NO ONE – meaning you give up because you don’t know what to create.

When I owned my hotel, our ideal guest was an active traveler who liked adventure, Typically, the folks were in their twenties to late forties and they liked activities such as hiking, snorkeling and bird watching. Many of them were also interested in experiencing the local culture and trying non-touristy restaurants or out of the way spots.

And it’s funny, sometimes we would get people from large cities and I could instantly tell that we were not the right place for them. In fact, they probably should have stayed in the city for their vacation. But, as I am sure you know, I found these were the guests that I could learn the most from. In talking with them I always wanted to find out how I could have been better at getting the message out about what we had to offer.

Day three task: Write out who your ideal guest is! What are 5 qualities of your ideal guest?

For example, if you describe your guest as active, then describe what that person looks like. Is it someone who rides a bike every day or is it someone who thinks walking to the corner store is active? What is their age? What do they like to do?

You are looking to target these people, so what types of websites do they frequent? Or how can you connect with them? What kind of things do they buy and what types of restaurants do they like? What amenities do they look for?

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The four basic hospitality social media building blocks

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Welcome to day two of the twenty-one day hospitality social media challenge!

The world is currently in the middle of a communications revolution. For the first time in history, travelers, hotel guests, and tourism customers have been given a powerful voice. Specifically, no matter where an individual might be located, people now have the ability to help, shape, and impact the travel experience of fellow voyagers and vacationers around the world entirely thanks to social media.

For you, the proactive and initiated hospitality professional, this communications revolution is great news because you now have the opportunity to be the brand manager, chief storyteller, and vice-president of marketing for your travel venture. In fact, with the amplification of content marketing and social media, there are now more opportunities than ever before for those in the tourism industry to reach out, connect, educate, and build relationships with potential guests.

Hospitality Social Media Building Blocks

The four basic building blocks of any successful, long term hospitality content marketing and social media strategy include:

  1. Educating guests and sharing stories that resonate with quality content.
  2. Optimizing online efforts to build authority and rank well for chosen keywords.
  3. Building brand and business evangelist relationships through earned trust.
  4. Implementing a proactive reputation management approach (this includes listening!).

However, navigating the social media waters is often intimidating, challenging, and downright frustrating. Many in the hospitality niche don’t know where to begin, or they feel so overwhelmed with the endless array of platform choices that they allow themselves to become paralyzed.

Hence, instead of taking the initiative to get started and claim a competitive advantage in their market, they make the detrimental decision to do nothing. If you have previously been hesitant to jump in, or got started and abruptly stopped, and now find yourself willing to embrace developing a comprehensive online presence, here are three questions to think about as you begin.

  • Do you know who your ideal guest is?
  • Does your current website, content, and social media interaction help your potential guests to solve a problem (e.g. do you provide insider tips, do you make trip suggestions, and are you posting engaging photos)?
  • Are you willing to commit the time that is required?

Day two task: Analyze your competition

Hospitality is a competitive marketplace. On a daily basis you are probably very well aware of where you rank on TripAdvisor and that is tremendously important. But for today’s challenge, go beyond TA to discern what your competition is up to in other areas of the social space (blog, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest). Are they engaging with guests? What do they do well? How can your content and online interaction separate your hotel from theirs?

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Your hospitality social media footprint

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Social Media FootprintWelcome to day one of the 21 day hospitality social media challenge!

The process of building your online reputation requires that you begin thinking like your guests and focus on developing a comprehensive web presence.

One great way for you to perhaps visualize your online reputation is to think in terms of what we call a social media footprint.

Meaning, it’s not just one location on the Internet, such as your website or TripAdvisor or Facebook where potential guests find you, but rather, it is a culmination of all of your online activities that drives customers through your door. The benefit of a comprehensive online presence is that if you are not #1 in the rankings people will be able to find you via numerous different avenues.

Many potential guests want to find out every detail about your hotel online and to read about you. You can be PROACTIVE and give them easy ways to discover you through distributed channels, without necessarily spamming people constantly about how great you are.

From the moment a person decides to take a trip they begin to form perceptions and expectations about what they think the experience will be like. Therefore, optimizing your reputation is largely dependent upon your ability to understand your customer and to ensure that you are attracting the right guest via your social media engagement and content creation activities.

Your online efforts are almost like tending a garden. If you look after it on a daily basis it should grow and flourish, but if you limit your work to just taking some initial steps, your online presence, like the garden will wither.

We are all here to learn and the beauty and frustrating aspect of online marketing is that you can never know everything about everything! There is always more you that can learn.

Day one task: For day one of the social media challenge, your initial assignment is to undertake a Google search for your property and conduct a simple reputation audit.

When you search the name of your hospitality venture online, are you pleased with the results? Do former guests have a positive or negative sentiment towards your business? If you have created content before, such as blog posts or YouTube videos, do they appear in the rankings?

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