For businesses busying themselves trying to catch the social wave, to engage customers via digital channels, the learning curve can be steep. All along the path to competitive edge in online marketing, the pitfalls of “not knowing” end up costing companies before the online lesson is learned. Nowhere is this more evident than in the hotel industry. Using the wrong communicative channels, or using them in the wrong way, can determine who does and does not survive.
Is your company, your hotel, using the right channels to optimize profit? What criteria have you used in determining the value of SM and other conduits for business? Did you simply follow the trend, hoping for the best? Or, like so many, did you take the advice of some social media guru? Let’s get down to business, shall we? Has TripAdvisor really panned out for you like you thought it would? Really?
Facebook, Twitter, OTA’s like Orbitz and Expedia, even bloggers and YouTube are now, not only billboards, but listening posts for anyone with eyes and ears. This is widely known. The question is though; “Are there lost opportunities even in apparently successful campaigns or placements?” Or, “Has TripAdvisor really been good for your business?” Let’s look at a couple of really good example of how an online channel might NOT be good for business.
On November 8th, hotel industry experts will meet at the Annual Hotel Conference in Manchester, one topic of discussion being managing said channels for the best competitive advantage. On the panel moderated by Mike Jones of Delta Squared will be some of the industry’s most forward thinking experts including; Michael McCartan of Rate Tiger, Calum Russell of De Vere Hotel Group, Phelim Pekaar of p3, and Tom Magnuson of Magnuson Hotels and the coming Global Hotel Exchange. The panel will try and answer this “channel change” question, but let’s look into this ahead of time, shall we?
For the sake of speeding up this conversation to come, I took the liberty of looking at De Vere Hotel Group’s digital footprint, so to speak. What I discovered was more enlightening than even I imagined. First of all, not only did I find De Vere Hotel Group in the social game, but in winning fashion too. By way of example, look at elements of their Twitter and Facebook profiles above and below respectively. Of the Twitter aspect above several things are apparent. First of all, the account has been customized aesthetically. Second, it has the proper follow/follower ratio. Third, it is clear the account is managed and in two way communication with guests. I could go on, but let’s shift to Facebook.
Now here’s where the discussion of channels gets interesting. As is true with any online presence, with a bit of effort any can be faked. To say De Vere, or anyone for that matter, cannot contrive their own social engagements is folly. But what is clear to me in looking deeper is; A – the Facebook and Twitter peeps underneath here seem genuine, and B – digital engagement ends up being a one-on-one anyway. What I mean by B is, this lady will know the hotelier gives a hoot. Conversely, in cases like the TripAdvisor profile below for De Vere… Well, you’ll get the point after the image.
We don’t have to get into rocket science here to illustrate TripAdvisor’s nil value for this hotel group, at least for people searching similar hotels in the area on TA. The “shocking” reviewer, like so many on TripAdvisor, joined up in August of this year, failed to add an image of herself, jotted down no information of a personal nature, and set about globetrotting from a rave restaurant review in Greece, to another culinary treat in Barbados, and on to the damp and dusky UK to bash the folks at De Vere? Seas and continents away in two months to add to TA’s content value? Possible? I guess. I can just see the TripAdvisor review of Slaley Hall (below). “Shocking! Our stay at this ghastly manor was… well, where do I start. The massage therapist had me so enthralled I missed my pedicure! We’ll never go back.”
Heading for a conclusion to this segment, one I guess we could call “bad channels no one should watch” – let’s move to other players already engaged in “changing the channels” – so to speak. An article on USA Today by Barbara De Lollis, highlights Starwood Hotels switching the TV tuner to their own Facebook aspect, and potentially away from “less credible” reviews. This potentially “risky” manuerver with “confirmed” guest postings on the branded Starwood sites, is a big departure from TA and hoteliers’ reliance on third party sites. The trend is clear, for me at least.
The reader can check out Starwood’s progress at their Starwood Buzz Twitter aspect here. For an alternative “channel” De Vere Venues should probably keep open, Booking.com has some crappy pictures, but reflects the same Wokefield Park accommodation as Good, with over 200 reviews. And for those ready to change their own channels? I suggest you keep up on the news from the Annual Hotel Conference, the panelists mentioned (we’ll have some breaking news there shortly), and the upcoming World Travel Market in London.
For now, there’s a right and wrong way to optimize channels for your business. But more importantly, how you value and weigh the available channels of communicating is really the differentiator – or will be very soon. Phil out for now.
Feature image courtesy © HaywireMedia – Fotolia.com