In our previous blog post ”Worried about Your Hotel’s Online Reputation” we discussed how important online reputation has become for hotels. We looked at how the booking habits of travellers have morphed over the years and examined the shift from static offline hotel marketing to today’s multifaceted digital approach. Now we’re going to take it one step further by introducing you to Web 2.0. The aim? To improve your hotel reputation and rank online.
Previously, we walked you through the booking process, one filter and review at a time and discovered that travellers are now key contributors to hotel brand image. In fact, the guest and the hotel have become one. They carve your reputation as much as your hard work does.
The hotelier depends on his team as much he does his travellers; not just to fill beds, but to craft a successful self-perpetuating business for years to come.
Utilising technology and working with the guest to grow your brand is more important now than ever before. To build this two-way relationship and remain competitive, you must employ Web 2.0 strategies to manage your reputation.
Web 2.0 is the buzz term used to identify the second phase of the World Wide Web. This new generation is all about collaboration and enabling people and brands to share information digitally. It’s no longer sufficient to have a website alone.
In this second installment of the Online Reputation series, we’re going to talk about the main characteristics of Web 2.0 (think review portals, forums, blog, booking websites, etc.). Then we are going to address and ease your worries about online reputation with a clear outline of the advantages Web 2.0 brings.
What has Web 2.0 changed and how does it affect my hotel?
“My friend told me that last year he was in a spectacular hotel in Paris somewhere near the Seine called, uhm, we’ll I can’t remember. But there was this incredible café near it too….you should stay there if you find it.”
This, sadly, is not a unique situation. Especially ‘back in the day’. People easily forget names and places. Now, with the Internet at most people’s fingertips, it’s easy to look up such forgotten things. But it hasn’t always been this way.
Have you ever thought about how many travellers you were just not able to reach in the past? When there were no smart phones, prominent search engines or social media. Not long ago it was difficult to know exactly what potential guests and patrons thought of your hotel. Let alone what they said about it or if they remembered the name. You also had limited ability to make an impression above and beyond the walls of your hotel or to reach new locales and target markets. Simply put, the conversation and engagement typically ended when the traveller walked out your front door on the last day of their trip.
Enticing tourists to visit your property was difficult as well. Direct communication touch-points were limited to static brochures and the whim of the past guests and travel agents. You had to hope that they remembered your name and told people about your hotel.
When people were talking about their stay, you also had little ability to monitor or control the conversation. Typically you had two options: word of mouth marketing, or spending a lot of money for advertising. The former was effective, albeit not particularly efficient, and the latter was efficient but did not help you to compete against bigger brands with larger budgets.
That’s all changed now.
Internet and Web 2.0 have opened the door for you to reach new people and locales.
No longer is your brand image dictated solely by the words of the few. Instead you have the power to guide the conversation and actively shape your brand both on and offline. With a savvy approach to online marketing you are better able to compete against the bigger brands without a large ad budget.
Web 2.0 channels
So let’s get started.
Social media – It is an incredible place to begin: Monitor and join conversations about the industry, your hotel, and its guest needs via channels like Facebook and tools like Mention. The best part is that channels such as Facebook and Twitter are free for businesses to use! Hoteliers are able to connect with potential guests on their own business page, leverage local tourism pages, and respond to customer inquiries fast via chat features. Reviews, feedback, photos, videos, and more are all collated here. Social media fosters an even playing field, nurtures transparency, and propagates a culture of sharing. When a brand is engaging, it resonates with potential guests and encourages user generated content: an invaluable advertising asset. This is where guests turn into brand advocates.
Blog – A blog is another great place to tell your story and educate travellers. Don’t sell, build a lifestyle around your hotel instead. Build trust through education. Tell them what makes your region, town, and hotel unique. Show them what they’ll experience through photos and engaging content. It is well known that nurtured audiences not only have a higher tendency to convert into customers; they also typically spend more money over a longer period of time. Use your hotel’s blog to share your story. Provide tips on the most unique attractions in the area and help travellers to truly experience the best you have to offer.
Metasearch – publishing hotel details on your various profiles helps to get you noticed. Metasearch engines aggregate information from across the Internet and its search engines to present a specific and comprehensive set of results to the user. In the hotel industry, users are able to compare hotel information, pricing, and reviews simultaneously without having to visit numerous websites.
One-way communication versus participative communication
In the past, there was little possibility of connecting with potential guests in real time. Updating marketing materials was cumbersome and conversations between the potential guest and the hotel were limited. Gauging client expectations and needs proved difficult.
Now, hoteliers can develop, tweak, and improve their brand image quickly online with the channels above and many more. There are metrics available at your fingertips that inform on the success of your tactics and provide insight into the consumer’s impressions. Making affordable adjustments to your communications is also feasible. Travellers have the ability to provide hoteliers with almost instant feedback, giving hotel managers the chance to address concerns and needs quickly. The ability for hotel managers to own the customer experience, from the research and booking stages through to their arrival, now exists. Because of the vast amount of information and ease of communication, Web 2.0 has fostered a much more transparent and trustworthy atmosphere within the hospitality sector.
Less poignant communication versus enduring communication
This is one of the most polemic points as many hoteliers usually grumble about inaccurate and outdated reviews. Reviews and comments are everywhere. They are on social media, metasearch, hotel booking websites, apps, forums, and blogs. If you are concerned with negative reviews or if you do not have recent ones then now is the time to actively work on that.
But it isn’t difficult. The good news is that Web 2.0 is streamlined and the algorithms that evaluate your reviews are too. This means that a bunch of recent positive reviews will discredit the older ones, they’ll display prominently, and they’ll improve your rank on metasearch and various booking platforms. You should actively seek reviews from your over-the-moon guests.
How? Try using a link and a clever CTA in your email signature to encourage consistent reviews from guests. Regardless of the tactics you employ, keep a close eye on your reputation. Continuously encourage reviews, and address reviews, as you get them.
It is not only the online reputation that is important. The care you display and the way you manage your brand and guest communication is key. Don’t be scared or intimidated by negative comments or reviews. There is a huge opportunity here to take hold of the situation, be proactive, and convert a negative-Nancy into a brand advocate. A negative review can often be turned into a positive one if you are offering good service and listening to your guests.
Be professional and prompt. Respond to negative comments right away and offer to resolve the issue on a private communication channel (i.e., move the conversation from social media to phone, email, or face to face if the guest is still at your hotel).