Whether you’re a brand new 3-bedroom guest house or a successful hotel chain (especially if you’re a successful hotel chain), you can no longer ignore the digital era we are now in.
It is now dead-easy for anyone to search for your business online – and whether you’ve made an effort to control your online presence or not, there will be some information about your bed and breakfast/hotel/guest house online. Mark my words, someone will have left a review somewhere, whether it’s on Facebook, Trip Advisor or a small hard-to-find travel forum – your guests will be talking about you.
Tip #1: Make the most of the little control you have
On the internet, anyone has the power to be a publisher and create their own website. What’s more, with review sites like Trip Advisor and Booking.com becoming more and more popular, it’s important that the areas which you do have control over (your own websites and social media channels) are optimised to be the best that they can be:
Start with your website and be honest, is it in need of a facelift?
Over the past few years, website design has advanced quite a bit and a good-looking, easy-to-use website now plays a huge part in increasing your traffic, online visibility, and reservations. Your website is your biggest online asset, and it’s important that you give yours the TLC it deserves.
With the mobile platform (smart phones and tablets) taking an increasingly larger share of internet usage, it’s important to make sure your website either has a specially-optimised mobile version, or is responsive.
If I used the term SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), what you understand what I meant? SEO is the process of making your website achieve greater online visibility and make it easier for prospective guests to find you. If you’re new to the term ‘SEO’, check out this guide to help you get to grips with the basics.
Once you have an up-to-date, optimised website you’ll have made the first step to controlling your online presence.
Social media isn’t for everyone – but if your prospective guests are present on social media, your business should be too.
The easy basics for successful social media marketing are:
- Knowing your audience – where they hang online, what content they share, and what information they want to know about
- Listening and engaging with your audience – sharing relevant and useful content
- Being current – getting involved in current topics of interest and industry news
- Being active – social media never sleeps, make sure you keep a consistent presence online
Social media marketing isn’t as easy as some blogs make out – you shouldn’t expect overnight results just because you created a Facebook and Twitter account in one day. Social media in an on-going process, but by following those four simple techniques you should continue to see increasing success.
Don’t forget about the core factor of social media: the social aspect. One of the easiest ways a hotelier can use social media to their advantage is by using it as an extension of their customer service.
Customer service is an integral factor for success in the hospitality industry, take yours to the next by using social media as a way of listening to online conversations, and being proactive. Ask your prospective guests questions, analysis their answers and use this information to improve your services. Not only will this improve your business, but it’ll also increase your reputation and authority. Customers will see that you value their opinion and make an active effort to engage with them – making them like and trust you.
Tip #2: Be present: Get involved and interact
If you don’t have a blog, your traffic will suffer. It’s as simple as that; companies with active blogs receive 97% more leads, so if your website doesn’t have an active blog yet then this is the year to start one.
Use your blog to share your latest news and make your business look awesome, but also use it to discuss the latest industry news, share the latest industry trends and have your say in the latest industry debates. Doing so will make you current and give your business a personality. This will not only help people discover your brand, but also allow them to engage with you.
Gone are the formal days when businesses remained tight-lipped and corporate – the development of social media has made it possible for large companies to not only interact with each other, but also with individuals. Share your blog posts on social media and encourage others to share their opinions.
This also works the other way around. Has your competitor or industry influencer published a new article recently? Share your response/opinion in the form of a blog post and share your response with them over social media. This will also help you to develop your industry and business relationships.
Bonus Tip: DON’T be afraid to disagree with industry experts. As long as you put forward a valid counter-argument, you’ll be rewarded for taking a different stance and being honest. Treat your online conversations the same way you would offline conversations – not everyone shares the same ideas and opinions.
So go ahead and get blogging. If you’re at a loss for ideas, here’s 12 content ideas for your hotel’s blog from yours truly (your welcome).
Forums are another way people communicate online, and there will be local and/or travel forums which might hold opportunities for your business.
People typically use forums to ask questions – about anything and everything. If you find a forum or thread that’s relevant to your area or services, you could gain online exposure, build brand awareness and increase your reputation by joining that forum and answering the questions that are being asked.
But that’s not the only way to use forums to your advantage. If notice the same questions popping up again and again, you write a detailed, helpful answer in the form of a blog post. You could then share this across your social media pages. By doing this, you will be increasing your reputation and authority, providing useful and helpful content that your audience clearly requires AND gaining online exposure and brand awareness.
Tip #3: Embrace Online Reviews
81% of travellers find user reviews important. That’s how important and powerful an online review can be, but you already knew that.
When TripAdvisor first arrived on the scene, hotels began issuing a storm of lawsuits against the user review site, accusing the site of publishing false and misleading reviews. Despite this, the popularly of TripAdvisor continued to grow and grow, and now it is one of the world’s largest travel sites, with 125 new contributions posted every minute.
Hoteliers realised that fighting the mega-review site was pointless – worse than that, it was having a negative effect on their business, as prospective travellers continued to share there love in TripAdvisor; hotels that fought against the site were just bitter about the fact they had received a handful of negative reviews .
The simple truth is, every business will experience a negative review. It happens. It is pretty much impossible to please 100% of your customers 100% of the time, especially in the world of hospitality. A couple of negative reviews aren’t the end of the world, as long as your respond appropriately.
Responding to online reviews is extremely important, especially negative ones. A good hotel should respond quickly and professionally, admitting fault if needed. Customers will appreciate your transparency and your apology; an ignored review makes it look like you do not care about your guests’ experiences.
Read our guide, how to respond to online reviews, for more tips.
Tip #4: Monitor Your Online Presence
It is important to monitor your online presence, and keep a watchful eye over your reviews. A great way to do this is by using Google Alerts, which is a web monitoring tool. Just enter the search term you’re interest in following (like your hotel’s name) and how often you want to receive updates and Google will send you updates via email or RSS.
Your Online Action Plan
New Year’s resolutions have come and gone, but if you’re a small, new or stale accommodation provider – make this the year you sort out your online strategy. Follow these simple steps to start developing your online presence today:
1. Update and optimise your website
- Make it appealing – a dated site with poor quality images and a bad colour scheme will put users off
- Make it current – ensure that your website has up-to-date and relevant information
- Make it easy to use – Check the navigation of your website and make sure it’s easy for customers to use
- Make it responsive – look at how your website appears on a mobile and a tablet and make amendments as necessary
- Consider SEO – make sure you understand what SEO is and how you can use it to optimise your website
2. Join at least 1 social media network
- Find out which social media channel would be most relevant for your business and target audience
- Engage with prospective customers and other businesses in the industry
- Share interesting and useful content
- Keep a consistent and active social media presence
3. Create a blog
- Write an least 1 new post a month (more if you can!)
- Make sure your posts are interesting and useful
- Include images
- Share your posts on social media
4. Monitor forum sites for questions
- Find 3 popular forums related to your industry/location, make sure they are used regularly
- Once a week, search for questions that you could answer
- Answer questions in the forum, or in the form of a blog post
5. Embrace online reviews
- Find out where guests write reviews about you
- Check each online review site daily for new reviews
- Respond as quickly as you can to reviews – both good and bad
6. Monitor your online presence
- Create Google Alerts for your hotel name, location and other relevant keywords