Since the advent of social media, the way travelers make decisions has changed dramatically; Increasingly, shoppers are tuning out hotel marketers and turning to peers, other travelers, and third-party retailers for information and advice.
To stay on top of this seismic shift, hotels must reallocate even more resources from traditional "push" media to owned and earned media, and specifically to activities that engage travelers, drive advocacy, and manage reputation through social media channels and review sites. And it's not enough to simply "join the conversation"—you need to track feedback, ROI, and conversions.
The good news is, there are a number of time-saving tools to facilitate these activities. At a minimum, subscribe to alerts from Google or Yahoo to monitor online chatter. They won't catch everything, but they're the right price (free), easy to set up, and customizable to keywords important to your property. For social media mentions, try SocialMention and TweetBeep.
To gain insight into visitor traffic, behavior, and ROI on your social media channels, use free analytic tools provided by Facebook Insights, YouTube Insight and Google Analytics. An essential resource for any property is TripAdvisor's Owners Center, where you can set up alerts, respond to reviews, and take advantage of free basic analysis and reporting from Market Metrix.
But if you're serious about managing your reputation, you'll need to dig deeper. Fortunately, a number of bright minds in technology and hospitality have developed some great tools to aggregate, organize, and analyze reviews and social media feedback from across the web.
Whether your property is independent or part of a group, a social media monitoring tool will help you turn guest feedback into a competitive advantage. It will help you identify areas of strength and weakness by department and service category, engage advocates and detractors, and benchmark performance over time against competitors and affiliated properties.
To what extent you use this data will be up to each property, but you'll achieve the best results by taking a similar approach to revenue management: integrating reputation management into your daily operations, culture, and best practices.
Most of these tools offer similar features, with a few key differences. To help you find the right tool, I surveyed the key players that specialize in the hotel industry. Revinate
Based in San Francisco, Revinate launched in March 2010 and has experienced rapid growth since. I've worked with them and find them to be highly service-oriented and responsive—essential qualities for developers of a fairly complex and multi-faceted tool.
The Revinate dashboard is easy to use, intuitive, and available in real-time from any web browser. Features include a "social media scorecard" that measures key metrics and charts performance, custom alerts with suggested actions for follow-up, and response functionality integrated with review sites. TweetConcierge facilitates the management of Twitter profiles and tracks ROI on campaigns.
Says Michelle Wohl, VP of marketing and client services, "Revinate allows hotels to monitor performance against previous trends or their competition, identify competitive advantages and disadvantages to improve marketing and operations, and even grab new customers who are unsatisfied with other hotels. Revinate also has the tools, visibility, and controls that portfolio managers need to effectively operationalize online reputation management."
At the InterContinental Montelucia Resort and Spa, the sales team uses the Revinate dashboard to show clients an objective measure of guest satisfaction, and operations uses it as part of staff training. (See case study).
Revinate has customers around the world but is particularly strong in North America, and recently became an authorized TripAdvisor partner. Pricing varies according to property size and room rates; the monthly fee is the approximate equivalent of one booking, with volume discounts for groups. Clients include Kimpton, Peninsula Hotels, and Joie de Vivre. For industry news, resources, and tips, check out the Revinate blog.ReviewPro
Based in Barcelona, ReviewPro offers a standard, advanced, and basic free version. Hotel performance is assessed on both quantitative analysis, measured by a general online reputation score called the Global Review Index™ (GRI), and sentiment analysis, which gauges sentiment in guest comments based on sixty key attributes and hundreds of related concepts.
When the Olivia Plaza Hotel in Barcelona noticed a pattern of complaints about street noise, they asked ReviewPro to add noise as a semantic attribute. "We can now look at which clients are affected by noise and how many comments about noise we receive," said revenue manager Ricardo Samaan. (See case study).
ReviewPro CEO R.J. Friedlander says the company is committed to "helping clients increase guest satisfaction and drive revenue growth for their hotels, including optimizing online distribution strategy". Special features include the ability to compare reputation to rate positioning and to measure GRI for individual OTAs. A "Quality Seal" badge can be posted to your hotel's website that displays the GRI and scores reviews aggregated from a variety of websites. (See Landmark London case study).
Initially targeted on the European market, ReviewPro has branched out to 25 countries, including the US. The company collects data from thousands of sources, including 55 OTAs, and analyzes reviews in eight languages. Sentiment analysis is provided in English and Spanish, and a German version is being tested.
The base price for the advanced version is US $199 per hotel per month, with discounts for volume and pre-payment. The free version offers basic functionalities. Clients include Sol Meliá, Eurostars, and Room Mate Hotels. For case studies and industry news, check out the ReviewPro Blog. TrustYou
Headquartered in Munich, TrustYou started out as a meta review search engine for travelers and has since launched multiple APIs and a monitoring tool for hotels.
The Widget API is used by brands like Best Western and InterContinental to integrate review scores and brand reputation in real time on their website in order to increase conversions and user trust. The Semantic API is used by brands like Holidaycheck ("the European TripAdvisor") to analyze and categorize millions of reviews for better usability, filtering, and search.
Like ReviewPro, TrustYou Analytics provides a seal hotels can post to their website that gives an overall score from reviews culled from a variety of sites and indicates how many were positive, negative, and neutral. TrustYou provides sentiment analysis to interpret guest feedback in eight languages in a range of categories. The "Tops and Flops" report allows hotels and brands to identify strengths and weaknesses over time, and the Buzz section allows users to manage social media channels all on one page.
Pricing starts at €1490 for an annual subscription, and a 14-day free trial version is available. Clients include Swissôtel, Marriott, and IHG. A client-only section of the website provides case studies, resources, and best practices.eBuzz Connect
Launched in July 2009, eBuzz Connect is from MileStone, a full-service internet marketing company based in Santa Clara, CA founded in 1998. President and founder Benu Aggarwal's background as a former hotelier is evident in the scope and depth of the product's offerings.
The eBuzz Connect dashboard provides strong collaboration and accountability features, facilitating communication among departments, enabling tracking of review responses and actions taken, and measuring user engagement. Hotels can compare rate positioning to guest satisfaction ratings against competitors and track lead generation on social media channels. There is also an "Impact Index" to help hotels identify and prioritize significant issues.
Most clients are in the US, but the company is expanding to the UK, Asia, and South America and tracks reviews in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and other languages. Standard pricing for eBuzz Connect starts at $100 per month, with discounts for hotel groups. Chatter Guard
Chatter Guard is from Lodging Interactive, a full-service interactive marketing agency based in Parsippany, NJ. The company is a pioneer of social media monitoring, having launched its service in 2004.
Chatter Guard's package includes the manual reading and scoring of service attributes such as housekeeping, dining, personnel, rooms, and value to give hotels a measure for each review and an aggregate score for each service. "This keeps the rating system consistent across all sources," says Richard Walsh, VP of business development. An email notification is sent to the hotel after analysis and scoring, within a few days of posting.
Also included is a professional response service for Expedia, Yelp, and TripAdvisor reviews. A Chatter Guard representative drafts the response, forwards it to the property for review, and then posts it under an agreed-upon title like "Guest Relations Manager". All reviews, including positive, receive a response. The tool does not track competitor activity, which Walsh says is not of interest to most clients.
Pricing ranges from $325 to $725 per month based on total room count, plus a $350 setup fee. A low-priced option, Chatter Guard Lite, was recently discontinued. Clients include the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, CA, Maison Dupuy, and Turtle Bay Resort in Hawaii.ReviewMetrix
Based in San Francisco, CA, ReviewMetrix is a Market Metrix product that provides reporting and analysis for TripAdvisor reviews only. The company offers a single-property version and a multi-property version called Enterprise.
Performance is measured according to the proprietary Customer Satisfaction Index™ (CSI), which rates TripAdvisor reviews from zero to 100 based on seven key categories, including guest comments. This makes it easy to compare performance with other properties and to set benchmarks. Hotels can select a benchmark set from a database of more than 450,000 hotels worldwide.
"The challenge with social media feedback is that it's inherently messy," say Jonathan Barsky, VP Research and Robert Honeycutt, CEO. "It's public, unsolicited and unpredictable." They call for a comprehensive feedback strategy that incorporates reviews and social media commentary, formal surveys, and third-party polls and panels. Market Metrix provides all of these services, and publishes a quarterly survey of hotel, car rental, and airline experiences of 35,000 customers called the Market Metrix Hospitality Index™.
Pricing starts at $25 per month for individual hotels of up to 50 rooms, or $75 for the Enterprise system. Clients include Loews, MGM and Viceroy Hotel Group.
Brand Karma and Avalon Report did not respond to requests for an interview and product demo. This is an excerpt from the new e-guide, The Hotelier's Guide to Online Reputation Management, available for download. For more information about social media and reputation management for hotels and to purchase The Hotelier's Guide to Online Reputation Management, visit www.danieledwardcraig.com For an overview of things to consider when purchasing a monitoring tool, check out How to Choose Hotel Social Reputation Software, by Josiah Mackenzie, who is affiliated with ReviewPro.Daniel Edward Craig is a former general manager turned hotel consultant specializing in social media strategy, storytelling, and reputation management for the lodging industry. He is the author of three hotel-based novels, a popular blog, and various articles about issues in the hotel industry. His new e-book, The Hotelier's Guide to Online Reputation Management, is now available. Visit www.danieledwardcraig.com or email email@example.com. Twitter: dcraig.Copyright © 2011 Daniel Edward Craig. All rights reserved.