How to Generate More Reviews, Followers and Engagement on the Social Web
By Daniel Edward Craig
Wednesday, 21st November 2012
So you just want to be liked? You're not alone; hotels are discovering that the old maxim 'If you build it, they will come' doesn't necessarily apply to social networks.

Consumers, bombarded by "like" requests and promotional posts, have become more selective about which brands they follow and engage with online. As a result, many Facebook brand pages and Twitter feeds are lonely places, with stagnant followings and low interaction.

To breathe new life into your social networks, experiment with these tried and true tactics for increasing reviews, followings and engagement on the social web.

Mind the gap. Social success starts and ends on property. The gap between expectations and results is where reviews and social commentary are incubatedórants, raves and everything in between. If you run an unremarkable property, you can't expect a lot of social media love. Train and empower staff to exceed expectations time and again and the love will flow organically.

Be likeable. Don't get too hung up on how many followers you have; quality and engagement are more important. By quality I mean people who are truly interested in your brand; by engagement I mean how well you interact with them and garner likes, shares and comments. To accomplish both you should be helpful, responsive, curious, a good listener and supportive of other businesses. Oh, and funny helps too.

"Engagement is our number one priority," says Todd Iseri, director of sales and marketing at the Marriott Napa Valley Hotel and Spa in California, which has attracted over 11,000 Facebook fans. "We go to great lengths to provide information and resources for our audience, specifically related to the Napa Valley, wine, food, the arts and travel."

More eye candy. Photos and videos grab attention and get more visibility and real estate on the social web. According to a recent HubSpot study, Facebook posts with photos receive 53% more likes and 104% more comments than other posts.

Stunning visuals have helped Seven Hotel in Paris attract over 44,000 Facebook fans, a staggering number for a 35-room hotel. Says Martin Soler of WIHP, the hotel's marketing agency, "We believe that the more you make people dream or wish to be at the hotel the more shares you get."

Be relevant. Yes, people like to be entertained, but before you upload those Gangster Kitty pics bear this in mind: a recent study by Facebook found that the relevancy of a post topic to the brand was by far the biggest predictor of engagement. So stay on topic and true to brand.

Ask. Don't allow all the chatter on social networks to distract from your number one priority: reviews. New research from Chris Anderson of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration using data from STR and ReviewPro shows a direct relationship between reputation, pricing power and demand. Review volume has benefits to search visibility, TripAdvisor rankings and consumer confidence, and yet hoteliers are divided over soliciting reviews from guests, some deeming it essential, others "a bit desperate."

If you come from the "essential" camp, provide staff with a basic script. A simple request like "It would mean a lot to us if you shared your experience on [review site of choice]" should suffice. Then hand them a card with a link. Or better, send a post-stay email.

For guests of its 19 hotels, B. F. Saul Company hands out cards with a QR code and link to a dedicated site called ReviewOurHotel, where guests can choose their social network of choice, including less obvious sites like WeddingWire, Google+ Local and Yahoo! Travel.

Give a reason. Simply saying "Please like us" can sound a bit desperate. Better to say why, such as "to gain access to special events and promotions." After all, a survey conducted by ROI Research last year found that access to coupons and discounts is the top reason people like and follow travel brands.†

Display icons and widgets. Add share buttons to website content and social icons to staff email signatures, email blasts and print collateral. To kick-start its Twitter feed citizenM Hotels emailed its database, producing an instant 5,000 followers, says social media strategist Diego Sartori. The latest TripAdvisor widgets allow you to display reviews, photos and awards on your Facebook page and enable travelers to post a review without leaving your website.

For special events create a hashtag and include it on signage, in programs and on badges. Partnering with events like Social Media Week and Yelp community gatherings has helped citizenM Glasgow attract over 10,900 Facebook check-ins.

Offer incentives. Encourage social check-ins with signage at the front desk, in guestrooms or in outlets. The Marriott Napa Valley has attracted over 8,300 Facebook check-ins by offering discounts on spa services, free wi-fi and free appetizers. Topguest partners with hotels to offer incentives for checking in and sharing photos on Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter and Instagram.

Flip.to interfaces with booking engines to offer incentives to guests like upgrades and discounts for sharing upcoming trips on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. "It's the best way to work on social media as these are highly qualified shares," says Soler of WIHP.

Hold contests. Contests help build followings and email databases while promoting your products and services. Note, they must be run through third-party apps from companies like Wildfire, 3 Tier Logic and Buddy Media. Give away something worth talking about and sharing, and target demographics that will also pay to stay rather than those simply in it to win it.

Find influencers and advocates. Sites like TBEX, Meetup and Twellow will help you find travel bloggers and interest groups, whereas Klout will help you gauge social influence. Foursquare identifies frequent customers and Commun.it shows top influencers and supporters. And don't forget to mobilize your greatest advocates of all: your employees.

Cough up. Power-boost organic efforts with paid advertising, which can be particularly effective on Facebook. But stay clear of companies offering to sell followers and reviews. As Carolanne Donovan of O'Rourke Hospitality says, "No amount of fake fans will increase your social media ROI."

Reap the benefits. We know the value of positive reviews, but what about followings on Facebook and Twitter? "One of the largest benefits is notoriety," says Soler of WIHP. "Seven Hotel is entering a rock star status on Facebook and thus gets tremendous visibility on many other platforms such as blogs, media, etc." It also gets regular bookings, as does Prague's Fusion Hotel, which Soler says receives 6% of its direct revenue through Facebook.

Says Iseri of Marriott Napa, "We use trackable links for offers and have generated over $100K in social media related guest room revenue in the last two years." He estimates the real number to be as much as five times higher.

For citizenM the benefits include higher brand awareness and word-of-mouth. "But in the end," says Sartori, "it's about delivering a great hotel experience."

Now that's a comment worth liking and sharing.

Register for my free webinar with ReviewPro on November 27, Spreading the Love: How to Generate More Reviews, Followers and Engagement on Social Networks:


Daniel Edward Craig is a former hotel general manager and the founder of Reknown, a consultancy specializing in social media strategy and online reputation management. He collaborates with ReviewPro as Industry Advisor, Engagement. Visit www.reknown.com.

Copyright: © 2012 Daniel Edward Craig. Reprinted with permission.
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