Contributed by Teresa S. Villaruz, Sr. Marketing Specialist
Hotels, Social Media, and Online Reputation Management
We’ve heard it time and time again; social media is the new wave of Internet marketing and it is definitely here to stay. But it seems like there is still a handful of hoteliers that are not convinced of the power of social media and why marketing through these channels is important for their online branding. It doesn’t help that social channels and networking sites come and go like seasons, and staying on top of the latest and greatest in social media technology is a full-time job in itself. Understandably, these are reasons enough why hoteliers may pull back when it comes to social media marketing.
But we can’t escape the fact that having presence in social media is critical to any brand’s growth. Conversations about your brand are happening online whether you like it or not. The question is, are you listening and joining in the conversation?
With that in mind, this article focuses on the importance of online reputation management and how social media can help improve your hotel’s online branding.
What Is Online Reputation Management and Why Is It So Important?
Online Reputation Management (ORM) is the act of monitoring online conversations about your brand and executing online strategies to highlight positive, quality content while suppressing damaging content from the consumers’ view. In today’s social web, consumers who used to share product information and service experiences during coffee breaks or backyard get-togethers now turn to online channels to share their thoughts and product ratings. Furthermore, search engines now consider social channels and conversations in their results listings. If a traveler performs online research on your hotel and finds that the majority of online results are negative in nature, the likelihood of this traveler booking a room at your hotel is slim to none. This is why online reputation management should be a critical part of a hotel’s revenue management/sales and marketing strategy.
There are 3 ongoing steps to online reputation management:
According to a research by the Opinion Research Corporation (ORC), 80% of travelers perform research prior to booking, while 84% of Americans say that their buying decisions are highly influenced by online reviews. Therefore, as more travelers perform diligent research prior to booking a room, it is important that GMs and hotel owners know exactly what information consumers can find online about their hotel.
Ignoring online social activity and hotel mentions, or responding inappropriately, can have a negative effect on the hotel’s branding, which can then be detrimental to its overall revenue. This is especially true if negative reviews dominate the search engine results. There is, however, an upside to this. Traditionally, happy clients are the best source of new/referral business, and online forums are the new and more powerful word-of-mouth, which leads to the second step in online reputation management: listen and learn.
- Listen and Learn
In today’s world, consumer reviews come in through a variety of different websites, blogs, and social media channels. In a sense, the Internet is the modern day comment card. So it’s important for hoteliers to be proactive in listening and understanding what people are saying and sharing in various online channels. Monitoring what guests say about the hotel allows the GM or owner to understand why the hotel’s online reputation is as it is. Are most reviews positive or negative? What are the issues that guests mention? What are the keywords that they use to describe the hotel? By asking these simple questions, hoteliers can learn what their target consumers are looking for, and the hotel staff can then define steps on how to improve their services.
- Manage and Engage
First things first – don’t ignore guest reviews, especially negative ones. Instead, consider the following steps:
- Start by thanking the guest for their comments;
- Provide an explanation for their experience (whether good or bad);
- Provide a list of actions the hotel will be performing or has taken to improve guest experience;
- Provide direct contact information to personalize the response;
- Share guest reviews with hotel staff and assign tasks to improve services.
By looking at ‘bad’ reviews in positive lighting, hoteliers can pinpoint problems and improve services. By acknowledging the reviewer, showing that management is listening and assuring their concerns are heard, an angry guest can be converted into a loyal customer.
How Can Social Media Help Improve Your Hotel’s Online Reputation?
Social media gives hotels the opportunity to reach out to their tech-savvy customers online. The internet is full of websites that provide tools and applications to make smart purchasing decisions, and travel consumers perform diligent research prior to booking. Below are several ways hotels can use social media to improve their marketing strategies and manage their online branding:
- Brand Building – social media channels offer a way for hotels to create brand awareness. Narrow down your target market, identify the social media venues that they are frequenting, and make sure that your hotel has a presence in these channels.
- Modern Day Comment Card – online reviews channels, such as TripAdvisor and Yelp, are today’s modern day comment card for hotels. Travelers are now more vocal than ever when sharing their travel experience. Brands can get valuable feedback about their properties by examining the top hotel reviews sites.
- Build and Improve Customer Relationship – listening to what your guests think about your hotel can help you improve your services by understanding their issues or finding out what they like most about your property. The next step is connecting with them directly and informing them that their concerns are being taken care of. This action can turn a disgruntled guest into a satisfied and loyal customer.
- Using Social Channels as Real-Time Customer Support – social networking channels, such as Twitter and Facebook, allow for hotels to provide real-time customer support for their guests.
- Creating Brand Ambassadors – there’s no better brand ambassadors than happy and satisfied guests. Ask cheerful guests to leave favorable comments on reviews channels and share what they like about your hotel with their online friends.
- Position the Hotel as the Local Expert – frequently sharing upcoming events, local attractions, and things to do in your local market can help position your hotel as the expert in your market and the go-to profile for travelers looking to visit your area. Integrating social sharing buttons such as Facebook’s ‘like’ and Google’s ‘+1’ on your website and blog makes it easier for your guests to share your information with their social circles.
- Saturate Universal Search – search engines place importance on social media and reviews as ranking factors in search. Having well-optimized social media profiles and sharing quality and relevant content can help your hotel saturate search results.
- Drive Revenue – there’s direct correlation between guest reviews and revenue performance. Good hotel reviews will influence travelers to book rooms at your hotel, while bad reviews will push them to your competitors. We suggest hoteliers encourage happy guests to leave more reviews on different online channels.
In conclusion, social media and online reputation management should be part of a hotel’s revenue management/sales and marketing strategy. Spending the time to review these channels can help hoteliers understand consumer behavior, learn about their guests’ experiences, and spot customer trends. By doing so, hoteliers can then make the necessary steps to improve their services. In addition, hoteliers can also allocate marketing efforts on these channels to help improve customer relationships and overall consumer perception of the hotel, which can drive reservations and increase revenue.