By Daniel E. Craig, Founder, Reknown
After over a decade of social media in the mainstream, the online reputation management function has reached a maturity level in the hotel industry. As we look to 2017 and beyond, we can draw from past experience to develop our future strategies.
The online reputation management function grew out of the explosive popularity of social media, which connected consumers, gave them a voice, and facilitated the exchange of purchase information and advice at scale. Today, most travelers check out online reviews as part of trip planning, and a hotel’s reputation can significantly impact its ability to attract business.
Social media has elevated the travel experience by obliging hotels to be more transparent and accountable. The old “bait and switch” tradition so common in travel marketing in the past is much riskier today. Hotels that fail to meet the expectations they set for guests face a backlash in bad reviews. Today, it’s about reality marketing: setting realistic expectations.
All types of social media tend to be lumped together, but it’s important to distinguish between online reviews, as found on TripAdvisor, Google, online travel agencies and other travel sites, and content shared on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
As a marketing channel, social networking sites are crowded and inefficient. On Twitter, it feels like everyone is talking and few people are listening. Facebook, having all but shut out brand posts from user news feeds, has become an advertising platform for hotels. Yet these channels can’t be ignored because they are used by travelers as a customer service channel to make inquiries with hotels and share feedback.
Hoteliers are easily distracted by the interactivity and instant gratification of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, whereas online reviews can be raw, bruising and disruptive. It’s easier to disregard or downplay online reviews as extreme, unfairly biased or fraudulent.
But online reviews must be the top priority, serving as both an operational tool for measuring guest satisfaction and guiding improvements and a marketing tool for building awareness and driving demand. Whereas people go to Facebook and Twitter to socialize and catch up on news, they go to Google, OTAs and TripAdvisor to plan trips, where reviews and ratings are listed alongside rates and booking options. Read more »