How Small Hoteliers can Use Blogs & Flickr.
By Andy Hayes ~ Exclusive for 4Hoteliers.com
Wednesday, 13th January 2010
Two more options in the small hotelier's arsenal of online marketing tools are blogs and Flickr.

Blogs are one of my absolute favourite ways to promote a property online, but so many people go into them with expectations that are totally unreasonable. Let's explore some ways that you can be more successful with a blog (and Flickr) for your small hotel.

Don't get hung up on the name.

A lot of hotel owners freak out when they hear the term "blog." What if I said "Latest News and Events" instead is that less scary, and a phrase your customers know better? Or maybe something more personal, like "Behind the Scenes"? Remember, a lot of customers do read blogs yet will tell you they don't know what a blog is. So stop being scared of the name and rename it to what it is: a place where you provide frequent, time, and relevant updates to your community about what's going on with you and your team.

It has to be integrated with your website.

Many will disagree with me, but I am not a fan of launching a free Wordpress or Blogspot blog on a separate URL to your website. It makes for a poor user experience, for one, and it lessens your ability to reinforce your sales funnel. Work with your designer or web administrator to get that blog snug and tight in amongst your other website content, so that your web browsers stick around to see what else you have to offer.

Don't forget the sales funnel.

Speaking of funnels don't forget yours. You aren't blogging for your health, so always bring it back to business. Here are some examples:

  • Article on the festival that starts in March, followed by a call to action that you only have six rooms left
  • Interview with a tour guide about some local walking trails near your property, followed by a mention that you have a concierge desk that is free of charge with all confirmed bookings
  • A photo essay of the new flowers you've just planted in the garden, and a call to action to check the latest rates after mentioning everyone has free use of all the gardens.
These examples might not work for you, but see how they all add value while staying on target with a friendly sales message?

Quality updates over quantity. Always.

A lot of blogs I see are hurried, rushed blurbs of text that really add no value and appear to be there just for the sake of having a new blog post on the page. Don't do that. Make a commitment to yourself on how often you will update your blog and then create quality content on that basis. I suggest a minimum of once a week, and make sure you have about a page at least per article. Remember, given that search engines love blog content, this might be the first thing a customer sees about your property. Do you really want their first impression to be that you aren't really all that interested in telling them about your destination?

Photos. Always. Or video even.

Don't just have drab text always spice up articles with photos and video if it suits. People have short attention spans so breaking up long pieces with headers and photos makes your content a lot easier to digest.

Flickr Tips

Speaking of photos, Flickr is a great tool to help find photos to use as well as store your own photos. I love Flickr because it's a great tool to organise photos you probably needed to do that anyway, so why not store them here? The nice thing is if you add descriptions and tags, others searching can easily stumble upon your photos. You never know who might be looking.

Flickr has the possibility for you to create Groups, and I'd encourage you to create once as it is very, very easy. Then when customers have photos to share you can direct them to the group to add them (again, very easy for the user to add, though they need an account) and then you have a whole collection of customer photos to use.

Yes, it is a nice to have, but considering it is so simple an easy, why not spare the hour to set it up?

Andy Hayes is the Managing Partner of Travel Online Partners (TOP), a company focused on helping for small businesses in travel and tourism with online technology.

To find out more about their do-it-yourself guides, coaching and consulting, visit the website www.travelonlinepartners.com
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