Blogging, is it worth it?

Blogging is defined as a frequent, chronological publication of personal thoughts and Web links by marketingterms.com, dictionary.com defines it as “a website containing the writer’s or group of writers’ own experiences, observations, opinions, etc., and often having images and links to other Web sites”. Most traditional marketers would simply define it as a waste of time. However, that is because they are unaware of the true importance blogging has for enhancing a brand, especially in the hospitality industry.

Take the room with a view blog which is maintained by the Pan Pacific Vancouver. The frequency and relevance of posts has increased the hotels search engine optimization a great deal. A blog produces real-time, organic results in search engines such as google, by maintain one that has key words or phrases you are essentially increasing your visibility on these search engines without having to pay for a sponsored listings. Not only that, because they focus on events and happenings in Vancouver along with their property, when someone googles an event such as Canada Day, the room with a view blog is visible in these listings. This allows them to create awareness along with increasing their SEO without spending any precious marketing dollars.

Another benefit of blogging within the hospitality industry is the fact that it is building relationships and establishing rapport with past and future guests. By reading your hotels’ blog guests can begin to relate to you and associate a personality with your property. This approach provides comfort, instills confidence and engages travelers. A few other benefits of having a blog include:

  • Increased website traffic
  • It generates back links
  • It is an excellent content management system – you can easily upload images, videos and other documents
  • Generates media and public realtions connections

With that being said here are the 3 most important elements to keep in mind when  blogging for hotels:

  1. Establish a clear point of view and personality. If you have different people writing be sure to introduce each person and ensure the reader knows who is writing.
  2. Create a blog schedule, know when you are writing and what you are writing about. This will ensure there is consistency and not a long period without any posts. In addition, it will allow to work in posts that come up spur of them moment.
  3. Encourage a conversation, ask your guests questions and to share their experiences. This not only adds to your SEO but also allows instills confidence in future guests. Most importantly, be sure to respond to these comments, the last thing you want to do is create a conversation and make participants feel ignored.

To all of those who feel that blogging is a waste of time, don’t knock it until you try it. Clearly, the possibilities are endless.

Happy Blogging!

 

 

 

 

 

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Facebook, are you utilizing it?

Much like the introduction of Google in the late 1990’s, Facebook has taken the world by storm. With over 500 million users and more than 70 site translations it is statistically one the most widely used programs around the world. It is not only used for people to interact with one another but also as a business mechanism and free marketing outlet. Since the introduction of social plugins in April 2010, Facebook has approximately 10,000 new websites integrate with it every day. It is truly amazing what this program has accomplished since its inception in 2005. Check out this fascinating image:

Photo Credit – www.onlineschools.org

With that being said, I feel that it is a crucial tool in the success of social media marketing for all hospitality companies. For instance, The Westin Bayshore  is working at integrating this outlet into their social media marketing. They currently promote specials and showcase different elements of the hotel. In addition, their information is very detailed and informative to users. It clearly outlines the location, property and company overview in a concise summary. They are also developing great partnerships with local bloggers by linking to their sites.

However, they only have 531 check ins and 399 likes. For such a dynamic and well-known property you would think these numbers would be substantially higher. A downtown Vancouver property with over 500 rooms should be showing a steady increase of likes and check ins and the Westin Bayshore is not producing these numbers. A few things that may be impacting this are:

  • The limited interaction from guests or potential guests
  • There are very few photos or applications to make the page interactive
  • The saturation of staff posts
  • The quality of information they are posting
  • The lack of scheduled post consistency

The Westin Bayshore is certainly not doing an inadequate job of maintaining this social media platform but I would make some suggestions for improvement. They have beautiful photos displayed on their website, it would be beneficial to incorporate these on their page. In addition, I would post at least once per day and not just list specials. Items such as hotel events, events around Vancouver, hotel initiatives, community involvement and blog posts to name a few. Individuals need to see a variety of information to maintain interest rather than just promotions. I would also suggest they have the staff member limit his postings to once a week. Finally, I feel the most important element to bring to life is guest interaction. Currently, they are talking at their guests not with them. The Westin Bayshore would benefit by asking questions or have a contest that asks guests to post their experiences at the property.

As a hotel guest, what is important to you when you view a properies Facebook page?

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Are You Tracking Effectively?

Tracking your Social Media Marketing efforts is something that is often overlooked by the vast majority of businesses taking this avenue. With only 16% of companies actually measuring their return on investments I find myself asking “why are these people using Social Media Marketing if they aren’t evaluating their campaigns?” The answer is most likely the fact that they don’t know how, they don’t think it matters or they think that is going to be associated with a large cost. All of these challenges are with untrue or can easily be overcome.

From a hospitality standpoint, if you are not tracking your efforts you are essentially shooting yourself in the foot. If guests are taking about you need to engage yourself in the conversation whether it be positive or negative. Twitalyzer is free, comprehensive tool that allows you to track and evaluate conversations. It is clear and concise and summarizes social media activities on one page and allows you to evaluate. I also used backtype and searched Fairmont Hotels as a person

These free tools allowed me to gauge how successful Fairmont Hotels Social Media Marketing efforts are. It also allowed me the see the most shared URL’s the number of retweets, the percentage of replies and number of conversations surrounding Fairmont Hotels, I have summarized the top ten conversations below.

1. Arizona Romantic Weekend Package at The Fairmont Scottsdale …: Spend a romantic weekend in Arizona

2. Awesome! RT @fairmonthotels: A special offer I’m hoping our followers eat up…literally: http://on.fb.me/iHsDWs @mashSMday @mashable #SMDay

3. @fairmonthotels I’m a HUGE fan of @FairmontJPL, hoping to get down there after visits to @FairmontCLL @FairmontBanff this summer.:)

4. @fairmonthotels Might want to consider making the conditions of offer conspicuous, not buried in boilerplate or legalese.

5. Staying in shape while traveling just got much easier with @FairmontHotels. – http://ow.ly/5kIyx

6. SO COOL RT @fairmonthotels: Don’t forget, once we hit 15K, 1 lucky (& random) follower will get this: http://bit.ly/FHR15K @FairmontWhistlr

7. RT @fashionfood: Love!!! RT @fairmonthotels Taking local to the next level: http://www.twitpic.com/5eexq7 #food #travel

8. @fairmonthotels hello! Did my practicum at hotel van! I miss hotel van a lot! The people are so nice!! Props to hskp hotel van!

9. @fairmonthotels Will u ever have a @blackberry app? That would be amazing and very helpful as you guys are my first choice in hotels always.

10. @fairmonthotels Ooh, wonderful! Thank you very much, I appreciate it. 🙂

The majority of all conversations taking place were all positive, the one that were not were accompanied by recommendations from guests which are generally aprreciated and can be hard to come by. With all of that being said, without these tools Fairmont Hotels may have had no insight into what was being said by consumers about their company. These tools allow them to track and react to their Social Media Marketing efforts.

Do you think that Social Media Marketing can be successful without using these useful tracking tools?

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Sustainability at it’s finest!

With such a strong focus on global warming and the environment in society many hotels are putting are putting in a great deal of effort to work on their conservation initiatives. You will often see cards in the washrooms to reuse your towels, recycling bins and energy-saving lightbulbs. However, many hotels are taking it much further. Recently, the iconic Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, BC was awarded a 5 Green Key rating through the Green Key Eco-Rating Program.

Read the entire Press Release here.

This outstanding achievement is no easy undertaking. The Green Key program is dedicated to sustainability, they certify and inspect hotels and resorts in North America based on their commitment to sustainable “green” operations. The Wickaninnish Inn’s most notable contribution to sustainability is titled The Organic Temple of Transition in which they compost vegetable and fruit waste, not to mention that it is housed in a beautiful RedCedar shelter. Other initiatives include re-usable water filters in guest rooms and an organized community clean up. The Wickaninnish Inn is incredibly proud of this prestigious award.

I love to see anyone putting in an effort to conserve, especially when it is a large business. Have you recently stayed in a hotel or visited a business and were blown away by there commitment to conservation?

 

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Exceptional Social Networking

Many hospitality and travel companies have jumped on the Social networking bandwagon there is no question about it, however, there is a question as to whether or not they are doing it well. I think that the fair share of companies have simply reacted to social networking and have created a number of profiles in order to be current, rather than embrace it and use social networking to its full potential. However, I also feel that a large number have actually been proactive, meaning they have a plan in place for effective social networking, and are not necessarily flying by the seat of their pants.

One particular hospitality company that I feel is doing a phenomenal job with social networking is Whistler Blackcomb. Social networking is about connecting like minded people and despite being a ski resort, Whistler Blackcomb is also very popular for a number of other things. They utilize social networking through their various different divisions and virtual communities to connect fans. They created a page on their website called the “The Movement” which features all of their virtual communities, blogs, videos and images. It is a one stop shop for all of their social networks. Not only are they involved in several virtual communities, they are capitalizing on all the opportunities these communities provide. They are active and engaging in conversations with their guests.

As a consumer, and member of virtual communities this is exactly what I would look for from a social media perspective. It is clear, concise and cohesive not to mention entertaining and very attractive. Whistler Blackcomb also uses social networking to connect people in “real life”. They regularly hold “tweetups” for their fans and followers. They invite individuals to Whistler Blackcomb, have games and contests and trivia questions and allow all of these individuals with their shared interests and hobbies to connect with one another. It is such a fantastic way to engage your guests and personalize the experience.

They also have Facebook and Twitter accounts for their restaurants, bike park and ski and snowboard lessons, allowing individuals to narrow down a specific area of the resort the interested in to connect with others. Not to mention, the fact that they consistently engage in conversation with their guests, they answer questions, respond to posts, and provide recommendations.  Whistler Blackcomb’s social networking is top-notch and first-rate in the hospitality industry. I mean really, do you know another resort that networks as well as they do, because I sure don’t!

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Video Engagement

I recently read an article that detailed 26 different ways to engage your customer using video. Why is it that people enjoy videos so much, whether it be a YouTube video, a documentary or even a newscast people are now looking to this form of social media as an outlet for new information. I personally believe it is the entertainment factor as well as tangibility for travellers. From a hotel standpoint, people are often purchasing rooms without knowing what it is really like to be inside them. They want to know what the experience is like before they buy the product. It is one thing to look at images but videos can prove to be much more effective in closing a sale. Check out my video below for more information about the effectiveness of social media videos for the hospitality market.

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Top Ten Unique Social Media Efforts

Many business within the hospitality industry have done something extraordinary to make their mark on the growing social media world. I have put together, in no particular order, what I feel is a list of the top ten unique social media efforts in the hospitality industry.

1. The Best Job in the World – http://islandreefjob.com/

Last year the Queensland Tourism board ran a contest for the best job in the world. individuals submitted essays and videos and one person, Ben, was chosen as the Queensland ambassador. In 2010, Ben began his 1 year journey to introduce Queensland to the world. His role is to live and explore and blog about it, not bad if you ask me. This contest generated millions of contest entries and hits for the Queensland Tourism board. 

2. The Balsams Blog –  http://thebalsams.com/resorter_blog/

Alex and Luke originally started a blog in 2009 detailing their 9 month cross-country road trip. On the trip, they stayed at The Balsams Grand Resort in New Hampshire. The Balsams enjoyed their work so much, they asked them to come and live in the hotel for a year and blog their experiences as the Inn-Bedded Resorters. This blog was a great success and I love this original idea.

3. Tripwow by TripAdvisor – http://tripwow.tripadvisor.com/

Trip advisor is becoming more and more interactive and they recently developed Tripwow. This tool allows you to make a free slide show with the highlights of your vacation. All you have to do is tell them where you went and provide your pictures. They then organize all of your memories into slide show that emanates a Travel TV show. To top it off, once it is complete you can download it to a disc and keep it forever, or you can easily share your unique link on any social media website.

4. Red SUCKS – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7Z0MBLHF20

Red mountain resort in Rossland, BC created this amazing Youtube video and put what was a virtually an unknown resort on the map for ski and snowboard enthusiast across the world.

5. Everyone’s an Original – http://www.everyonesanoriginal.com/

Fairmont Hotels and Resorts recently created this campaign that allows guests to posts reviews from their recent stays. Although, the idea is very similar to TripAdvisor it is unique in the fact that it gives Fairmont’s guests the opportunity to share and interact with other Fairmont guests.

6. TripAdvisor Instant Personalization

Trip advisor again, they are just so inventive! If you have a TripAdvisor account, instant personalization, allows you to log in and type in a destination you are planning to travel to. You can then connect with facebook and see which of your friends has travelled there and/or written reviews and use them as a travel resource.

7. YouTube Concierge – http://www.youtube.com/user/sanjuanmarriottlive

What a fantastic idea the Marriott in San Juan came up with, the Concierge
spends time meeting guests throughout the resort and asks them to record a quick 30-second video to send to friends and family as a virtual postcard from the beach. The video clip is then professionally licensed and uploaded to the San Juan Marriott Live YouTube Channel.

8. Best Western TV – http://www.youtube.com/user/bestwesternTV

Best western created a Youtube channel to showcase their hotel. The draw from the idea that every hotel has a story. This indie film series has hit home with a number of people as it details Best Western’s commitment to making sure every guest feel cared for.

9. Aloft (by Starwood) – www.secondlife.com

Aloft is the world’s first hotel brand to place a 3-D computer generated property inside a virtual world. With more than 1 million users, Aloft has generated feedback that has been input in to the design of their hotels. Guests and owners are able to provide feedback that is reflected in real life, including; radios in guest rooms and extra seating in lobbies.

10. KLM Surprise – http://www.aerlines.nl/index.php/2010/klms-social-media-surprise/

KLM began a campaign to utilize social media to reward guests. They would locate guests who had checked in via 4 square or left a message through twitter. Next, they would evaluate their social profiles to come up with an idea for a personalized gift, something small and thoughtful. They would then have a staff member scour the airport location to present guests with their token of appreciation and the results were absolutely heartwarming. Watch the video and see how a little bit of thought and effort can create lasting loyalty.

These days it is important to stay inventive in order to maintain interest and I think that these campaigns do a phenomenal job. In fact, as I wrote this I sat here asking myself “why didn’t I think of that?”

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