Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hotel Marketing and Technology - Location-Based Marketing

Foursquare

The explosion of mobile technology has been closely followed by the popularity of a social media network uniquely designed for mobile users. Foursquare is a location-based service where users can do a hotel search and then “check-in” or tag themselves at hotels and other establishments they frequent. Foursquare presents an opportunity for hotels, tailor-made for the nature of the hospitality industry. Hotels that offer online hotel promotions to customers who check-in at their location can reap the benefits of Foursquare users preferring their establishment to another. Just like other social networks, it is important to make the hotel’s listing profile thoroughly complete and give users incentives to “check-in” at your location when they arrive for their hotel reservation. Monitoring, once again is vitally important becauseFoursquare allows users to post short reviews and give tips and pointers. Staying ahead of any negative comments allows the opportunity for a proper response and the information can provide valuable marketing intelligence as well.

 

Google Local

Since the public at large still has not embraced Google , having a business page on the network is not critical, yet. But having a Google local page is important from a SEO search ranking perspective. A local page is just like a business page; the difference being that the owner of the page selects “local business” rather than “brand” or “organization”. The page will then be shown on Google Maps, will appear in local hotel searches, and feature ratings and reviews from users. Higher search rankings are the end result of creating a Google local page for any hotel.

Location-based services such as Foursquare are a perfect fit for the hospitality industry and don’t require much interaction or engagement with users. Having a Google local page on the other hand, is essential for a hotel to be favorably ranked in Google’s search engine and can make the difference between being found by potential guests and remaining invisible to the weary traveler in need of accommodations.

 

 


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Monday, April 28, 2014

Driving Hospitality Revenue With Social Media - Twitter

The sheer volume of tweets on the social network Twitter and its resulting highly viral nature, make it vitally important for hotel marketing campaigns to have an active presence on the platform. The space limitations of Twitter may make hoteliers wonder if it is worth their effort, but that would be a mistake. Since Twitter is all about people communicating in real-time and the hospitality industry is naturally operated in a time-sensitive manner, the two are a good fit.

 

Make It a Conversation

Begin by just listening, and then join in the conversation. This is where there is the biggest possibility for mistakes, not being in conversations. Twitter is not the venue for stale marketing blurbs limited to 140 characters. Ask questions and answer those that come to you quickly. Be an online hotel information resource in real-time, about your destination for the followers of your hotel. Re-tweet comments by audience segments that are important to you. Twitter search engines will help you find the people who might be prospects, based on terms they use in their profiles. Follow them, listen in for a while, and then join in their conversation where appropriate. Use hashtags (#) connected to important keywords in your tweets. Some people follow certain key hashtags of importance to them.

 

Complete Your Profile

The hotel’s Twitter profile needs to be visually appealing and grab the attention of your followers. First impressions count. Include an image that highlights your hotel, along with a Twitter background in tune with your brand. Make sure the hotel bio is complete and keyword-rich within its 160-character limit. This is important to Twitter search engines. 

 

Monitor When You Are Mentioned

Keep track of everything said about your hotel as much as possible. You can use Twitter’s advanced search features to accomplish the necessary monitoring. From there you can see all mentions of your hotel, both positive and negative, and stay on top of the conversation to head off any potential problems. Also, monitor Twitter for any mentions of terms related to the location of your hotel, such as “ski resort hotel” or “beach hotel” for example. The mentions may also be about a specific location, such as “Miami hotel”. Responding to these can be a great technique for bringing in guests.

Twitter can be a surprisingly effective hotel marketing tool for the hospitality industry, if used properly.

 

 


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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Building Hotel Brand Loyalty - The Business Traveler

The business traveler is a lucrative niche hotel market and presents the most obvious place to start building brand loyalty for hoteliers. It is crucial for hotels to gain and keep the loyalty of business travelers, since they can make up the majority of business for some establishments, especially during mid-week. The business traveler is not looking to pay top dollar, but expects quality and value, with many having to turn in an expense report after the trip.

Top at the list of hotel requirements for all business travelers is service. In survey after survey, service is what is most important to the business traveler. This includes every aspect of hotel guest services, from room service to laundry. The expectation is an attentive staff available anytime day or night. The next most important items to the frequent business traveler are an extremely comfortable bed accompanied with wonderful pillows, and a nice shower.

 

Here are some more business traveler pleasing items:

  • Free high-speed Internet that is truly high-speed.
  • Free breakfast room service.
  • Free bottled water.
  • Early check-in, late checkout ability.
  • Express checkout, preferably by mobile device, along with friendly and efficient front desk staff.
  • Coffee maker in room.
  • Nice towels.
  • Newspaper at door in the morning.
  • Larger televisions.
  • Quicker valet service.

 

This is all from a survey of business travelers conducted by LMA Communications.

The business traveler does not appreciate being charged for every little service or perk. They expect a high level personalized service whenever they need it and require comfort and convenience in every aspect of the room space. This market segment may be the most important for hotel marketers to reach out to and please, essential for hotel brands looking to earn brand loyalty


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Friday, April 18, 2014

Current Trends In Hotel Reservations For 2014

There are two major trends developing in hotel bookings and reservations that are likely to affect the hospitality industry in the coming years. First, consumers are increasingly adopting mobile devices into their daily lives, with a corresponding impact on hotels and the way travelers will interface and experience hotels. The second trend is the ability of hotels to steer travelers to book their stays directly on the hotel’s website, rather than through an online travel agency. This saves the hotel having to pay booking fees to the online travel agency. Both of these trends are shaping the future of the hospitality industry in respect to both marketing and operations.

 

Mobile

Mobile technology is having a profound impact on society at large and hoteliers are catching on. How each guest experiences their stay at a hotel is enriched through the use of smartphones and tablets at each stage of their stay. From a reservations and booking perspective, hotels are beginning to incorporate mobile technology into their marketing and booking efforts with apps and mobile-optimized websites. Hospitality industry marketers are now gearing their efforts toward the mobile traveler. Searching for accommodations, booking the stay, check-in, and even choosing room preferences can be accomplished through mobile devices. Once at the hotel, guests can order special services via mobile as well.

 

Direct Booking

For years now, hotels have relied on the rise of the online travel agency to steer guests to stay with them. This arrangement has proved beneficial to both consumers and hotels. Consumers have been able to find the best deals available to them, and hotels have seen an increase in their occupancy rates. But for the hotel this comes at a price, in the form of booking fees through the online travel agency. Hotels are now trying to encourage guests to book their stays directly through the hotel’s own website.

The hospitality industry is accomplishing this in two ways. First, they are offering consumers a much improved online booking experience. Second, loyalty programs only available on the hotel’s own site are keeping consumers coming back to book completely in-house. Direct booking is another area in which mobile technology will play a role in the future of the hospitality industry.

Hotels that embrace these trends in the industry will not only position themselves for growth in the coming years, but will be meeting the needs and expectations of their guests. These developments in the hospitality industry point towards hotels gaining the loyalty of travelers who will become repeated guests.


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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Current Trends In Vacation Rentals - SEO Website Optimization

People are making most of their travel arrangements online, with nearly 8 out of every 10 booking online according to Google. And the world’s number one website search engine decides who and what they see. Recent changes to Google’s search algorithms have complicated the issue for vacation rental companies trying to stand above the crowd. Thinking of the end user, Google is encouraging original content with higher rankings and penalizing sites that merely stuff themselves full of keywords. Also, an active and engaging social media brand presence is an increasingly vital facet of a website’s search engine optimization (SEO). In this two part series, we will explain what steps can be taken both inside and outside a website to optimize it for higher search engine rankings.

 

Website Optimization

 

Relevant Keywords

In order to compile an effective keyword list for your website, it helps to truly understand your vacation rental home, its rental guests and their needs, and your vacation rental’s place in the community. Make your keywords descriptive with terminology that might be used by your guests. Be specific to the things that make your vacation home and its location special and unique. You must also understand the difference between broadly written keyword search terms and wording more specific to your particular location. For example, “Florida beach vacation rental” as opposed to “vacation rental”. The former will compete with a much smaller number of websites by being more specific.

 

Quality Content

Providing rich, valuable content to visitors is the most effective way to raise a websites search ranking. Giving your audience content that is always relevant while enjoyable, helpful, and informative, will bring them back again and again. This takes considerable effort and time, but pays off in the end. Quality, useful content will always help give your website ranking a boost.

These are a few things you can do directly on your website, but Google’s latest search algorithms give higher rankings based on social media presence and engagement

 


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Monday, April 14, 2014

Driving Hospitality Revenue With Social Media - Flickr

The photo sharing website, Flickr, is another social media website which can be successfully leveraged by hotels. Once again, the highly visual nature of the hospitality industry easily lends itself to social media marketing via Flickr. Blatant and direct marketing is strictly forbidden on the website and its most active users are photographers, both professional and amateur. However, Flickr is a powerful tool for gaining exposure around the world for images that are shared on the network. Being part of the Yahoo network affords Flickr a considerable web presence, resulting in greater search engine optimization (SEO) attention by Google and higher rankings in search result listings.

Images may be shared in a “slide show” format and link back to the hotel’s website, which helps SEO rankings as well. Hotels could include high quality images taken of their surroundings and showcase what makes their destination unique and desirable, for example. A few images may be included of the hotel property in a classy way without the slideshow becoming a direct hotel marketing message.

A definite advantage to the Flickr platform is that its low cost, basic accounts are free and upgrades are nominal. Flickr shares its images with other websites also, spreading your hotel’s visual message even further with a viral effect. The artistic emphasis of Flickr has resulted in the network having a truly international audience that transcends language.

Interaction with the audience takes place most effectively in two ways. Commenting on photos shared by others results in exposure for your account username and the associated links to your images and information. The second way is through Flickr Groups. These groups are a collection of people centered around a particular subject or topic. The members of the group share relevant images with the rest of the membership and discuss them. For example, a hotel could join a group related to their city and find plenty of opportunity for engagement and sharing with other members of the group, who can then share the hotel’s uploaded images outside the group. Flickr Groups can provide a powerfully viral element to a hotel’s photographic efforts.

As with other visually oriented social media websites, the images shared should be of the highest quality and resolution possible. The choice of images to be used should always be representative of your hotel brand. Your hotel’s Flickr images will become a reflection of the hotel and should always be complementary to its reputation


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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Current Trends in Vacation Rentals - Social Media - Google

Google is the social network of the world’s number one website, Google. The search giant introduced its own social media network in September 2011 and has since built up to 343 million active users as of August 2013. For most of its short history the network had a reputation for attracting only “techie types”, but that is changing and the network is growing outside its original user demographic. Google has been expanding and connecting all of its various services, which over time will make the network harder to ignore for everybody. As we move forward into 2014, experts are predicting that Google will become a widely accepted and used social network. This is just one of the reasons for the vacation rental industry to get onboard with Google ; here are some more.

 

Google Local

This important feature, which used to be called Google Places, firmly establishes your rental property’s place on the Google map. This is will help potential guests easily find your rental properties. When users search Google for vacation rentals in a particular location, your property will show up in the listings with photos and contact information. Users can leave reviews of the property as well, increasing exposure even further.

 

Google Circles

This unique feature of Google provides the functionality to organize your followers into different categories. Specific posts can be targeted to certain groups of followers based on the ‘Circle’ in which you have placed them. You can select which circle or circles will see each of your outgoing messages. This useful feature is only found on Google .

 

SEO

If for no other reason, this is why it is essential for vacation rentals to have a presence on Google . The network is part of the most powerful search engine on the planet and just having an account set up will boost your property’s search ranking. If you use the network actively and link it to all your other social network accounts and website, it gains even more power for you.

Having an active presence on Google should be an important piece of any effective online marketing campaign for vacation rentals. If you are still on the fence, why not harness the power of the search giant’s own social network?


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Friday, April 4, 2014

Current Trends In Vacation Rentals - Social Media - Twitter

 

Twitter is a micro-blogging website which limits user’s posts to 140 characters. Vacation rental owners and managers who do not use Twitter may be surprised at just how effective the network can be for marketing rental properties, when properly used. Twitter had just over 115 million users as of August 2013, a powerful user base. Add to that the over 58 million tweets being sent each day, the sheer volume of tweets on this social network and its resulting highly viral nature, build the case for how important this network is for the vacation rental industry.

 

A Twitter account is one of the foundations of any vibrant online presence, essential for building your vacation rental brand. With recent changes to Google’s search algorithm, social media engagement is now crucial for SEO (search engine optimization). Twitter is a good fit for the vacation rental industry since the network is all about real-time communication between people, and vacation rental properties are offered in a time-sensitive manner. Here are some useful purposes for the vacation rental industry to use Twitter for online marketing:

 

Driving Traffic

Twitter can be an effective tool for steering potential guests to your property’s website. The best way to accomplish this is to have all your social media accounts and website connected through cross links on all of them. With all of your accounts cross-linked, every re-tweet, Facebook like or share, re-pin on Pinterest, etc. has even more power to drive visitors to your site. Using hashtags (#) connected to industry specific keywords is a commonly used device for helping Twitter users find your content and become followers of your brand as well.

 

Brand Building

Twitter is also highly effective for establishing your brand within the travel industry at large. Networking with other vacation rental property owners and managers along with other segments of the hospitality industry, will secure your brand’s place as an expert authority on travel. Providing quality content with helpful information about your local regional destination, homeowner tips, local attractions, etc. will prove to others your brand professionalism.

 

Property Promotion

Finally, Twitter can be used occasionally for direct promotion of your properties. However, this must be done without overt sales pitches and only on occasion. The general rule of thumb for direct promotion is 1 in 10. One tweet can be links to property information with short descriptions, the other nine posts should be informational tweets followers and others will find helpful in some way.

Twitter is a potent marketing resource, which is available to the vacation rental industry that may be overlooked by some property owners and managers. In a future post we will see the benefits for vacation rentals to have an account on the Google network.

 

 

 


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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Current Trends In Vacation Rentals - Social Media - Facebook

 

With over a billion users worldwide, Facebook is a powerful force that can be leveraged to a brand’s advantage. The vacation rental industry has been slow to adopt social media in general and Facebook specifically, but that is changing, To build a successful vacation rental Facebook page requires some knowledge of how the network works.

 

Engagement

Engagement and the level of it your brand inspires in its fans is what drives the Facebook engine. The network actually has its own algorithm, like Google, to determine page rankings. Called EdgeRank, it is crucial to deciding when and if your fans will see your posts. The level of interaction in the form of likes, comments, and shares between your page and each one of its fans goes into the networks placement of your posts and an actual level of visibility. A fan that only likes a few posts and does not engage beyond that will probably only see a small percentage of all your total posts. So therefore everything posted by your brand must be as compelling as possible to spur engagement, especially shares and comments that are more important to EdgeRank than likes. So what is the key to engagement?

 

Images

Pictures and video have been taking the social media world by storm in the last year or two. The old saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ really applies to social media. The fact is that images drive engagement levels. There should at least one picture for every Facebook post by your brand. Especially since the vacation rental industry is so image-oriented and vacations are all about photos and videos. Choose an image that will stir the imagination of want-to-be vacationers and entice them to book your property.

 

Links

Your posts on Facebook need a clear call to action. This is where outbound links come in to play. With a link embedded in your post, you can steer your fans directly to your website. From there you can obviously give them much more detailed information, including the phone number to call, about the property being promoted. If necessary, the link can be shortened by use a service such as Bitly to make it a more manageable size. Outbound links from Facebook not only increase the page’s EdgeRank, but help increase your website’s search engine ranking (SEO) with Google as well.

With its huge number of users worldwide, Facebook cannot be ignored. The largest social network is a valuable resource for the vacation rental industry. In a future post we will take a look at Twitter as a marketing platform for vacation rentals.


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