How to Run an Effective Social Publishing Program.
By Josiah Mackenzie
Thursday, 5th May 2011
'What do we publish?' is one of the most frequently asked questions I hear from hotels as they begin participating in social media.

Content publishing can be a challenge for anyone but with the right systems, the process gets easier. I demonstrated this process during an online class at ReviewPro last week, and wanted to share with you the highlights of how to build an effective social publishing program.

Part 1: Before you begin publishing
  • "Think like a publisher.
  • Create remarkable content.
  • Distribute it as far as possible."
This has been my mantra since I began getting serious about online publishing. I wrote this out and posted it by my desk after reading The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott, and following this approach at every step helped me build Hotel Marketing Strategies into the #1 source of original hotel marketing advice worldwide. You can also use it to establish your hotels as leaders in your market.

Content is a strategic asset

This concept of "thinking like a publisher" is so important because online content is becoming a strategic business asset.


Research has indicated upwards of 90% of travel purchases begin with a web search. When you are publishing answers to the questions people look for, the chances of someone finding you increases dramatically. For this reason, websites that publish travel planning advice often become the most popular. If you look at some of the biggest travel sites in the world, such as TripAdvisor, you can see they were built around the concept of service – providing answers and advice to travelers.

Think of all the questions that go through your head when you plan a trip to a new city: everything from airport transportation to dining and shopping options to activities to do in the area. Savvy organizations are using what I call the concierge approach to content marketing: the practice of publishing material to proactively answer questions. This can take many forms – from articles, to Twitter updates, to videos on YouTube. But hotels create this for one purpose: to help their customers and guests.

Publishing content is also a strategic asset because it builds competitive advantage. Creating great content requires a creative approach, which makes it difficult for your competitors to copy.

Content must be linked to the buying process

Understanding that people look for different things at each stage of their travel planning can help to guide the publishing process.

Before trip – the "dreaming" phase
  • Your job: Help with planning
  • Best tools: Blogging, video, photos
During trip
  • Your job: Service for enjoyable, memorable time
  • Best tools: Twitter, mobile
After trip
  • Your job: Get them to share online
  • Best tools: Review sites, Flickr
Content should relate to your audience

You probably already know some basic demographic details about your clientele, but it is worth researching this a bit more. Better knowledge of the people you're trying to reach helps you answer the right questions and identify the most appropriate resources to share.

No publisher knows exactly what their readers want until they actually start publishing and then measure the feedback. So start now, test various forms of content, and experiment until you find a mix that generates the best results for you.

"A key to engaging content is put the customer first, to solve her problems and answer his questions. This requires understanding their beliefs, feelings, wants and needs." – Keith Wiegold, the Content Marketing Institute

Content needs a style guide

We often talk about social media policies, but let's assume you already have one in place at your organization. A key part of running an effective social publishing program is developing a style guide that will direct the process.

As you create content, it's very important to remember where your brand is positioned in the market. I find that the types of content that work well online don't vary much across different hotel segments, but the "voice" and tone – the style in which you communicate – varies widely. How should your Twitter authors, for example, use humor? What might be seen as edgy for one brand might cross the line into bad taste for another. So be sure to set the expectations in your style guide. A style guide keeps all your content consistent, and allows you to engage multiple people in the publishing process.

Part 2: Identifying the right content to publish

A look at the most popular hotels on Twitter and Facebook reveals some common themes about what content types get the greatest response.

10 things to post on Twitter

1. Responses to questions, comments and mentions
2. Retweets of positive feedback
3. Retweets of other resources
4. Recommendations
5. Media mentions
6. Questions
7. Contests
8. Real-time information
9. Personal thoughts
10. HR and recruiting

10 things to post to Facebook

1. Professional photography
2. Photos from your staff
3. Photos from your guests and fans
4. Curated lifestyle content
5. New amenity announcements
6. Staff interviews or profiles
7. Polls and surveys
8. Syndicated content from other networks
9. Contests
10. Deals and special offers

Part 3: Practical tips for producing the content

How to find the content

The top challenge for publishers on the social web is finding and producing high-quality content. Overcome this by thinking about co-creation opportunities – getting your guests to help you in the publishing process. Not only does this help reduce your workload, but it provides several distinct advantages:
  • Potential to increase brand loyalty: active participation in content production can create a sense of ownership.
  • Greater depth of information – there's a reason Wikipedia is over 25 times larger than the Encyclopedia Britannica; everyone working together can create more content than one individual organization. A wide range of information is essential for reaching the long tail of niche web searches.
  • Guest's perspective: travel planners would rather hear from other guests than from marketers like us.
  • Increased search visibility: Neislen Buzz Metrics reports 26% of all search results link to user-created content.
  • Free & candid market research: guests will be freely talking about what they like and don't like – without interruptive surveys or focus groups.
The next time you receive positive feedback, ask the guest for some type of online contribution. Have them share that experience online with their friends.

"The minute we overstep in that community and try to push our message and not celebrate the message of the community our disconnects shoot up. You have to co-create and participate and honor the community." – Coca-Cola Marketing SVP Wendy Clark

In order to encourage people to share content online, you need to communicate what they have to gain from the process. It allows them to share experiences with friends and family. It helps other travelers. It builds their own social profile.

A big trend in the area of content co-creation is blending journalism with professional editorial content. For example, CNN is experimenting with "Open Stories" which combines crowdsourced coverage and material from professional journalists. This process works well in news, and can also be very useful for travel companies.

Other sources of inspiration

A big thing that differentiates the best publishers is they have better inputs. High-quality sources help writers create high-quality content. Build a system that helps you identify new stories:
  • RSS reader to track the newest stories from a diverse range of websites
  • Twitter lists that allow you to actively follow a diverse group of people
  • Delicious hot links and Tweetmeme for trends
  • Local news and event websites such as Patch.com
Get organized

The best publishers are also usually the most organized. As data overwhelm becomes an increasingly dangerous threat, the need to source, store, categorize, and retrieve information becomes increasingly important. Build a toolkit to help you with the publishing process.

1.An idea collection system, such as Evernote or Delicious bookmarking
2.A story planning system, such as mindmapping
3.An editorial calendar (Building an online audience is all about consistency and quality, and a calendar is essential for this)

Depending on your needs, you may need additional supporting tools. We put together a list of 18 tools here that can help you with publishing: http://reviewp.ro/publishingtools

Promote your content

Publishing has little value unless people actually see the content. This is why it's a good rule of thumb to spend half your time creating, and half your time promoting. You need good content and good coverage.

Often, the best way to promote your material is to re-purpose it for many different channels. Repurposing & reposting content helps you reach new audiences. This is why I encourage publishers to think like a DJ – always "remixing" their published content. This can take many forms:
  • Blog posts
  • Email
  • Newsletters
  • Articles
  • PDFs for download
  • Press releases
  • Case studies
  • Video
  • Twitter updates
Make the content easy to spread and share: encourage people to include your content on their websites, and pass it along via Twitter and other channels. David Meerman Scott talks a lot about losing control of your message if you want it to spread.

Identify partners with influence scoring

The right partnerships can accelerate the spread of your content online, and influence scoring is a good way to identify potentially valuable partners. Once you have identified the influential voices in your niche, work to develop mutually beneficial relationships with them.

Think internationally

The web is not just about the English-speaking market, and this is especially true in the travel industry. For many hotel groups, significant opportunities exist in distributing content in local markets around the world. If you want your messages to receive maximum coverage, establish a plan for raising global visibility.

Begin with translation. Taking your existing content and translating it to other languages is a good first step. Start by translating core "evergreen" content – such as a city guide.

Quickly proceed to creating localized content. Different audience may have different needs. Isabelle Lozano of the Apostrophe Hotel in Paris is one of the most interesting examples I've seen of this. Their entire website is built as an online magazine, with a significant amount of original content. She creates unique content in French and in English, since she finds that these audiences have different questions and interests. Chances are good that your hotels would benefit from a similar approach.


About the author

This blog is written by Josiah Mackenzie, who enjoys exploring the relationship between emerging technology and the hospitality industry. 

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