An unapologetic look at Hospitality

Entries categorized as ‘Social’

Get your hotel on the tube – Part II – Lowering the bar

August 2, 2011 · Leave a Comment

I was going to make part two of my articles on video (part one is here) about equipment, but then I realized something… There is a high likelihood that you simply will not consider creating your own video because you are under the impression that it will hurt your brand. Let’s face it, you are not a professional director, much less a seasoned camera operator and you might not even consider yourself good at creative marketing. Using “home brew” video to promote your hotel is going to be a disaster right?

Take a look at the video below. It’s from the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. The Peabody is an institution in the southern US. This world renowned hotel posts home-made videos on YouTube, and so can you.

I could point out that the lighting in that first shot was horrible, or that whoever was operating the camera in the zoo had a serious case of the jitters. But did you notice that? It’s a brilliant video that shows family friendly fun in Memphis while promoting the hotel! The fact that it was produced in-house only adds to the authenticity.

You can do the same thing! All it takes is a half decent camera and some creativity! Start shooting already! And when you are done, let us know where to find your video!

Categories: Hospitality · Social
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Get your hotel on the tube! (part one)

July 20, 2011 · 1 Comment

Video is super easy these days. Honestly, if I can do it, so can you! Look at the video below this text. It took me 10 minutes to create and less than a minute to throw it up here! Other than the camera used, this was entirely done using free tools available from around the web. And frankly, this being essentially a slide show, it didn’t even require a video camera.

Besides the obvious “everyone is doing it”, there are some very good reasons to get a video of your property online.

  • It adds authenticity to your product
  • A picture is worth a 1000 words
  • It’s good for SEO
  • It gives consumers another way to contact you
  • A video is easy to share

People still pay more mind to visual information. I can describe my product as an “environmentally luxurious duffel bag” but as soon as I show a picture they will know it’s a burlap sac. Instead of telling you about a green car I can show you an image and instantly give you much more information than I could trying to describe it. More content online will (if done correctly) give you better results in the search engines. Your video on YouTube may spark discussion among your (potential) guests for which there is no place on your own web site and, video sharing sites aren’t called video sharing sites without reason.

Even so, a lot of people think that video is either difficult, or expensive, or both. The truth is that video is as pricy and as complicated as you want it to be. Most people own a video camera already and don’t even realize it. If your laptop is less than two years old, it most likely includes a webcam that is capable of fairly decent recordings. Likewise, your smart-phone probably does video (and a lot of them offer HD). A dedicated video camera doesn’t have to cost more than 200 dollars.

Putting your video online has also become super easy. How else do you think that 24 hours worth of video is added to YouTube every 60 seconds?

In upcoming articles here on this blog I plan to tackle some of the stuff that is helpful in putting your hotel video online. Meanwhile, if you are one of the champs that has already done so, leave a link in the comments so that others can get inspired by your work!

Categories: Hospitality · Search · Social
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Beware the Guru… Social media is a scam?

July 9, 2011 · 2 Comments

BEWARE: this is not entirely safe for reading at work!

As much as I gave the PriceLine guy a hell for calling social media a scam, which of course it is not (although — credits below — it was pointed out to me that coming out of the gate with a denial is fishy), there is enough crap to go around. I am talking about all those guys (and gals too) that call themselves experts just because they have a Facebook page.

Sturgeon’s Law states that 90% of everything is crap. This law was created in the 1950’s, much later Gary Vaynerchuck stated that 99.5% of all social media experts are clowns. Remember the early 90’s when everyone and his brother all of a sudden became a “web designer”? My late father (a REAL designer) is still rolling over in his grave when he hears that word… Web designer. The same thing is happening all over again!

TwitterIn 2010 B.L. Ochman did some research and found that Twitter was the home of 17,283 “Gurus”. Using titles such as “social media ninja”, digital marketing guru” and my own personal favorite, “change agent”. What the hell is a change agent? Somehow I am supposed to understand, from that title, you are NOT the guy putting orange cones on the road during periods of construction? I mean, that is change right?

Anyway, that number led someone else to project that by 2013 there will be 360 million social media experts out of an expected 375 million total Twitter users. In other words, a contingency of people larger than the population of the United States, will somehow be helping us “getting the word out”. Yeah Right! That begs the question, who are these people and who are they working for besides each other?

You really ought to watch the AMAZING presentation that Scott Berkun did called “Calling BS on Social Media Gurus”. You can watch it here. Humorous and informative, Scott shows how to call BS (yes that stands for bullshit) on the so called social media experts to a group of social media experts (that’s guts right there). During the presentation Scott explains why social media is not a “fundamental shift” or “transformative”. That if people start by saying “it’s not a fad” they probably have something to hide (coming out of the gate with a denial is fishy) and that anecdotal data should probably not be trusted.

If you still don’t believe that 90% of everything is crap (Sturgeon) or that 99.5% of all social media experts are clowns (Vaynerchuck), then maybe you should read Alex Blom’s “Why social media gurus should be trampled by elephants“.

Lastly (thanks, Scott) it’s probably a good thing to inform yourself of the true meaning of the word Guru. According to Wikipedia:

The syllable gu means shadows
The syllable ru, he who disperses them,
Because of the power to disperse darkness
the guru is thus named.

Advayataraka Upanishad 14—18, verse 5

That’s some heavy stuff! That’s almost Darth Vader shit! Do you want one of those 300some million clowns going all Star Wars on your bee-hinde with your marketing budget? As always, the comment lines are now open!

Categories: Social
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Blame yourself, not the customer!

June 26, 2011 · Leave a Comment

Ever booked a hotel at a great rate only to find an ever lower price the next day? Happens all the time right?

But if the sign outside your front door says 59 dollars, maybe it’s not such a good idea to list your room on mytotallycheaphotelrooms.com.au (yes I made that one up) for 79. That’s what happened to an obviously annoyed tripadvisor reviewer.

…and if we had not paid in advance, we would have moved on. Rate we paid was around $79 and when we arrived there was a sign outside advertising rooms “from $59”. I feel we vastly overpaid for what we got.

Oops! But what is really surprising is the response from the management of the property.

If you paid a 3rd party agency in advance, we are unable to accommodate that kind of issue. Booking direct with ANY hotel is always the best method of booking.

Come again? No, it’s highly unlikely that this guest will come again. I have no idea what happened here, but not refunding because the room was booked through a third party agent, really? Of course I have no idea which third party agent the customer booked through, but it seems to me that the hotelier padded the room rate with the commission he is paying out to the OTA.  Of course booking direct is sage advice, but not as an excuse for your unwillingness to accommodate a customer.

NO REFUNDSYou are the master of your domain! You set those rates on the various channels, or at the very least should be aware of how you allow third parties to adjust them. To the consumer it makes no difference. We all make mistakes, but this could have easily be turned into a positive.

While we do indeed offer rooms at a lower price, one of those rooms would not have accommodated your party as they contain only single beds without room for a roll-away.

It’s sad to see that in an industry dedicated to people’s comfort this kind of stuff is going on. Worse yet, that we hide behind 3rd party agencies to cover our own shortcomings and even feel the need to do so on a review web site with millions of visitors. But… this is the beauty of social media. The customer has a voice. It’s now our job to learn to deal with that voice. Of course anyone that puts a sign in the lobby saying “Absolutely NO refunds without Manager’s approval” may have a hard time with that learning process!

What are your horror stories about dealing with unhappy customers? Leave a comment and let me know.

Categories: Hospitality · Social
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Jack, you don’t know Twitter! (Why having one account for multiple hotels sucks)

June 24, 2011 · Leave a Comment

More and more I notice that hotels operators are trying to consolidate their social media effort by establishing a single account on social networks. It seems easier, if you have limited staff (or your resources are otherwise stretched) to house all your activity under one stream. Now your social media person/marketing wizard only has to manage a single account for all your hotels, motels, hostels, resorts… you name it! Seeing how these are all similar products you can use the one single account to promote multiple destinations and your social contacts now only have to friend/like/follow you once. What’s not to love?

It sure beats having to manage several Facebook, Twitter and what have you accounts, but the benefits are quickly outstripped by the drawbacks once you sit down to think about it. Let’s start with why people follow you to begin with. (more…)

Categories: Hospitality · Search · Social
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@Hospitalitystat Twitter top 10

June 13, 2011 · Leave a Comment

As you know I have got this side project going on (www.campsydney.com), collecting interesting stats about how hotels use social media. I just used all that information to come up with the first ever “Hotel Twitter Top more than 10 less than a 100”. The results and full analysis are over this way!

Categories: Hospitality · Social
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@HospitalityStat

May 13, 2011 · Leave a Comment

That list of Twitter updates over to the right of what you are reading, is my attempt at collecting interesting stats on the “social hotel industry” (or: how the hotel industry is using social media). I am a geek and I automated most of it. Sometimes that goes wrong… It just did for TripAdvisor. The cobbled together stuff I use to grab information from TA went on the fritz. On my other site, I am explaining in just a bit more detail what the heck happened.

Categories: Social
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No Vacancy 2011 – Social Media is a scam!

April 22, 2011 · 1 Comment

On March 23rd the No Vacancy conference was on in Sydney, Australia. I was supposed to go but instead I got stuck in the office dealing with real business. You know how that goes, someone has to stay behind making sure service to our customers isn’t interrupted. I was stuck following the events through various live-blogs, Twitter and the likes. What follows are a few highlights of #novac11 as seen through the eyes of an absentee.

William ShatnerFinding himself amidst several key-players in the socio-sphere, I couldn’t help but think that Mister Glenn Fogel of priceline.com should have gotten the price for gutsiest performance. Either that, or he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Given that you don’t just become EVP of a company that large on good looks alone, maybe there is something he knows that we don’t. But to paraphrase, he called social media people scammers. Hmm! As the Web In Travel folks asked on their Facebook page. Did he say that out of fear or conviction?

The exact quote got somewhat lost in the shuffle for me (that in itself is an interesting side-effect of social media). Web In Travel used the term charlatans, while the Tnooz live-blogger Graham Robertson quoted Fogel as saying,  “No one understands if social media will work out. They are hucksters trying to steal your money.” Hmm times two!

To be fair to Glenn, he seemed to have mostly been talking about buying advertizing space on social networks. I am with Glenn at least on that one.  I don’t think an ad on Facebook will ever be more than marginally successful. In the greater scheme of things however, saying that no one understands social media flies directly in the face of soc. media success stories. A few of which being told at #novac11 that very same day.

Take for instance Accor hotels putting TripAdvisor reviews right on their own web site(s). That is a bold move! And it’s not just some test in a backwater market where nobody ever books a hotel either. During #novac2011, Accor’s Australian VP  Simon McGrath explained that Accor saw a booking increase at properties with lots of review traffic compared to those with less reviews. When asked why Accor didn’t use their own review system, McGrath’s answer was that TripAdvisor, as a third party, had much more credibility.

In the end it’s simple. Who do you trust? William Shatner or your neighbor?

Categories: Hospitality · Social
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RevPAR or RevPAT (Revenue Per Available Tweet)?

April 19, 2011 · Leave a Comment

Ok, I’ll admit the title is nothing if not totally misleading. But now that I have your attention, I want to talk about Twitter. You see, from a traditional marketing perspective Twitter may not at all be the “wunderkind” that some people have you believe.

Matter of fact, it may very well be the biggest waste of time in your marketing efforts. Research shows that only 29% of all tweets get a response in either a retweet (RT) or a reply. What’s more, of this 29 percent most all activity occurs in the first hour. In other words, if your tweet is more than an hour old, it might as well not exist.

You could say that not every tweet you write requires a reply or a RT, but it stands to reason that the lack of replies after that first hour is a direct result of how people use Twitter. They just don’t scroll back that far! Translation, you need a 1000 followers to reach 250 of them. All of a sudden your 100 followers don’t seem quite so impressive, do they?

Twitter is a broadcast medium, more so than any other social network. But it is a social network, and not the classifieds page. To keep people’s attention you need to offer something that is worth reading. Of course Twitter isn’t a complete waste of time (like I said above) but you have to be really careful not to be a waste of time. So if every 2nd or 3rd tweet you write goes something like “When you are in Savannah, why not stay with us?” (provided of course your hotel is in Savannah) you are not going to get much out of Twitter.

I once heard a hotelier say that tweeps (twitter users) follow hotels because they want to be kept up-to-date on good hotel deals. Really? The only way that Twitter will work for you is if you can clearly define the marketing goal that you expect from Twitter. Do you know what your Twitter=ROI is?

Categories: Hospitality · Social
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Youtube for hotels

February 22, 2011 · Leave a Comment

Why would I want to sit through hours of silly cat videos? Another dog on a skateboard?  Or your buddy hurting himself really bad? I don’t even know the guy! When Jackass (the show) is on TV, I change the channel. Why would I want to see the same thing while at my PC?

If that is the state of video-sharing web site www.youtube.com according to you, it might be time to give the it another look. YouTube gets more than 200 billion views a day. The average user spends 15 minutes on the site. Every minute, 24 hours worth of video is uploaded to YouTube. Every minute! So while you have been reading this, another 24 hours of video got added. And you aren’t even at the end of the article yet!

So is it all crap? You bet! 99 percent of it is total rubbish.

Just kidding! It’s just like anything else on the Internet, You take what you can use and throw away the rest. Luckily, YouTube is owned by Google, which means that it has a killer search-engine. I sometimes use YouTube to look for hotels I DON’T want to stay at before booking upcoming travel.

And that of course is where the problem comes in! As with all user-generated content, who is in control of the message? Surely, you don’t want to be THIS cruise-line where the bathroom sinks spew brown/yellow-ish water (it’s hard to argue with a video that got OVER 22 thousand views) and is being called “ghetto” by the creator of the video.

Unlike your web site that will eventually get indexed by the Bings and Googles of the world even if you do absolutely nothing to expedite that process or your SEO, on YouTube you HAVE TO work at it. No video, no search results. That wouldn’t be so bad were it not for the fact that any John Doe with a camera can upload a video. And he might just upload something to put you in a very negative light. If you own a hotel by the airport in San Jose, don’t type “Worst hotel ever” in YouTube’s search box, or you might find a video of (one of) your rooms like the 11 thousand viewers before you.

Not that there is that much wrong with the hotel room in that particular video, but you don’t want to have your name associated with those search terms. The reason why should be totally obvious.

At the very least you should be familiar with videos about your hotel that are already out there. So go ahead, hop on over to YouTube and start searching. Your next step should be to reply to any (both negative AND possitive) videos you find. So go ahead get an account on YouTube. But your best defense against negative publicity on YouTube is to upload your own videos. Just like with any search-engine, there are ways to make your videos come out on top in the search results, but that is a topic for another time (and for someone with more YouTube experience).

Categories: Hospitality · Social