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Hotel Marketing Conference 2017 – Social Media Success Factors

Posted by on Sep 5, 2017 in Social Media

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Recently, I was lucky enough to attend the annual Hotel Marketing Conference in Burton Upon Trent. Not only this, but I gave a talk to the delegates on Social Media Success Factors and wanted to share some of my tips.

Beth Murrell Hotel Marketing Conference 2017(Image Source: Pavan Gill)

We all know that social media is well and truly changing the marketing game. We can’t ignore the domination of this channel for our brands, as more and more travellers are using it in the decision-making process when they book their holidays.

When it comes to social currency, travel is definitely up there. You can’t miss your friends and family sharing their travel posts online, from a check-in on Facebook to a smug Boomerang of a cocktail on Instagram. Social media is extremely important, and some key questions that people ask are:

  • How do I create success on social?
  • How do I measure success?
  • What’s my ROI on social?

I’m hoping to answer some of these questions in this post. First up, however, what is Marriott as a brand doing on social media?

Marriott uses a platform called MLive, which acts on the principles of geo-fencing, allowing our hotels to quickly:

Analyse – Gain consumer insights and extended intelligence based on activity at our hotels.

Surprise and Delight Receive notifications when something exciting has happened at a property, like an engagement, and the ability to respond.

Amplify – Use sponsored posts to reach guests with hyper-personalised ads.

Marriott International Mlive(Image Source: Marriott International)

MLive also allows us to have a truly two-way conversation with our guests, as well as real-time social listening to keep up with trends and crisis management. All of these combined allow us to create content on the fly.

The Aim of the Game Is to Engage Guests to Inspire Others

I know that not everyone can do this, or not everyone has access to a platform like this. However, as a brand or hotel, you don’t need MLive to:

Interact – Ensure you’re getting that personal interaction with your guests.

React – Respond to trending topics and have a robust social-crisis process.

Listen – Learn what guests are saying about you and use it as an opportunity.

These are all important factors that will lead to your success on social media. And, although you may not see a direct return, you’re ensuring that any guest or potential guest will come away having had a good experience.

Social Media Quick Wins

When thinking about your social media, there are a few things that you can look at right now to make a big impact:

  • Go live on Facebook or Instagram. Share events, like wedding fayres or event setups, to give followers an authentic look at your brand.
  • Utilise free tools like Hootsuite or Canva to make scheduling easy, or to improve the look of your posts.
  • Find your social media style and brand. Use apps like Snapseed or VSCO to improve your photos.
  • Find those team members with a natural affinity for social media and use it!
  • Optimise your social profiles, have consistent branding and use keyword research to boost your visibility.
  • Have a content calendar ready and plan at least three months in advance.

So, how can you actually measure success in social media?

If you’re not looking at any form of paid social advertising, you’ll likely encounter questions about how you can measure success. Here are a few measurements you can use:

Interactions

One great way to measure your content’s success is looking at your interactions. Below is a great example from one of our hotels, the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London. After posting this short video, the hotel got some great comments, which they interacted with. Within most social media platforms, you will have access to analytics tools which will show you posts that perform the best, as well as times, demographics and much more. Use this to benchmark improvements in your social strategy and utilise the results to modify your upcoming posts.

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Instagram(Image Source: St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Instagram)

Campaign Performance

One solid way to measure performance is by using paid marketing, such as Facebook ads. Here, you can clearly see a return on your investment, and we’re seeing that FB especially is favouring paid advertising more and more.

Real-Life Interaction

Through our Marriott Digital Services programme, we work with hotels on their digital strategy. One of those is Snapchat filters. These are a great way to see real-time interaction with your social channels, and anyone can do these!

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London Snapchat Filter(Image Source: London Marriott Hotel Park Lane Snapchat)

The Key Is, Anyone Can Do This

Eventually, all of these elements will lead to bookings, stronger brand awareness and brand likability, ultimately securing loyal repeat guests.

The World of Metasearch – Quick News Hits from the Metasearch Giants

Posted by on Aug 29, 2017 in Digital Industry News, Travel Industry News

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Since 2014, metasearch traffic has tripled. More recently, it has been suggested that metasearch advertising is one of the most important channels for hotels, allowing properties to amplify their book-direct strategies. If you aren’t familiar with metasearch channels, in a nutshell, they aggregate rates from a variety of sources and allow a user to compare a supplier’s room rates against those of many other channels. Koddi, a metasearch bid-automation platform, recently shared an excellent infographic to help answer the question “What is metasearch?

If you are already well-versed in the metasearch landscape, you know that the space is becoming increasingly competitive. Today, many of the major players are prioritizing innovation and ramping up marketing spend to ensure they can solidify their spot in the future of the hotel-rate-comparison business. Take a look at what some of the biggest competitors are up to these days:

Google Hotel Ads Tests, Including Vacation Rentals

This summer, Google began testing, including vacation rentals in their Hotel Ads interface – a first and major milestone for the company. Traditionally, users could search for dates and see a variety of hotels, but never alternative lodging options. According to Skift, the test appears to include 7,000 property listings and is focused on European cities, including Barcelona, Paris and Rome.

Booking.com and Hotels.com (owned by Expedia) both have listings appearing in the test; notably, Airbnb and HomeAway are not present. Koddi President/Co-founder Nicholas Ward noted a few clear shortcomings of the current user experience, including the lack of filtering options, content and reviews for the vacation rentals. Even still, the test marks the monumental entrance of Google into the vacation-rental business, and the company certainly has the resources for further testing and development if there is demand.

Google Hotel Ads(Image Source: Jacqueline Sharp, screen capture of Google Hotel Ads)

“Alexa, ask Kayak to book me a hotel room”

Conversational search queries are on the rise and, in May 2016, Google stated that 20% of mobile queries were voice searches. For the hotel industry, though, voice bookings were an untapped playing field until Kayak introduced the opportunity to book hotel rooms through Amazon’s Alexa, the persona of the Echo device, in June 2017. The new functionality can be used in two ways:

  1. You can share your destination and travel dates with Alexa, and she will recite the available hotels and their rates. When you hear one you like, you can request to book it.
  2. You already know where you’d like to stay and when, then you can ask Alexa for the rates and to complete the reservation.

Of course, for users who are interested in scouring many different sites to find the best rate, reading reviews and looking at photos, the Alexa experience will not be well-suited. Even still, the capability is the first for the industry, and will only get better and more advanced with time.

TripAdvisor Reacts to a Decrease in Advertising Spend

In July 2017, TripAdvisor experienced softer cost-per-click pricing on their hotel metasearch rate ads – a result of suppliers and OTAs spending less than in the past. Expedia and Priceline had traditionally been the company’s largest advertisers, contributing up to 46% of the annual revenue. But with the recent decrease in advertising spend, which is not particular to one region but rather experienced globally, TripAdvisor has taken action.

While it may be too early to tell if major OTAs pulling their money from TripAdvisor and directing it elsewhere will become a trend, the company has launched a series of television commercials to combat the lost revenue. Between July and September, TripAdvisor will spend over $35 million on the television spots, and will run the campaigns in the United States, Canada, France, Spain, the UK and Australia.

Trivago Urges Independent Hotels to Advertise Online

Trivago’s CEO Rolf Schrömgens recently shared that “Trivago now has access to 1.8 million properties sourced from more than 180 booking sites, more than 230 hotel chains and some 11,000 individual hotels.” While these numbers are impressive at first, it’s estimated that there are between 140,000 and 600,000 independent hotels globally, leaving a tremendous amount of properties outside of the Trivago landscape. Today, the majority of hotels on the platform are the major chains, while many independent hotels rely on OTAs to drive their businesses instead.

Trivago hopes that by continuing extensive television advertising, they will further achieve brand recognition, and as Schrömgens shares, “It’s hard to reach them [the independent hotels]. But this effort will help.” In addition to increased advertising, Trivago introduced Rate Insights in June 2017, a solution designed to help independent hoteliers access rate data and understand traveler search volume and fluctuations.

Sources:

https://www.tnooz.com/article/the-direct-booking-movement-is-moving-to-meta-what-hoteliers-need-to-know/

https://www.koddi.com/metasearch-infographic/

https://skift.com/2017/07/20/google-is-testing-vacation-rental-search-in-its-hotel-price-comparison-tool/

http://searchengineland.com/google-reveals-20-percent-queries-voice-queries-249917

http://www.cntraveler.com/story/you-can-now-use-amazons-alexa-to-book-a-hotel-on-kayak

https://skift.com/2017/08/10/can-tripadvisor-blame-its-hotel-bidding-slump-on-expedia-or-priceline/

https://skift.com/2017/08/08/tripadvisor-aims-to-keep-up-its-tv-ad-blitz-to-lift-its-sagging-hotel-business/

https://www.tnooz.com/article/trivago-focuses-on-serving-suppliers-lifts-hotel-inventory-to-1-8-million/

https://skift.com/2017/08/07/trivago-urges-independent-hotels-to-get-more-involved-in-digital-marketing/

http://hotelmanager-blog.trivago.com/en-us/rate-insights/

iSearch – How AI will Change the Future of SEO

Posted by on Aug 22, 2017 in All Matters SEO, SEO Oddities

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If you are like me this is probably the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear “AI – Artificial Intelligence.”  But as you will see at the end of this post, it is less spine-chilling than that. It is changing the face of SEO, but not how you might think.

We’re talking about algorithms that enable machines to make connections, “learn” to process the data and apply its learning in upcoming tasks.

When you search for something, the results displayed take into account a number of considerations like your search history, location, favorites and what other users click on for a similar search results. AI improvements mean ranking factors can change from query to query, as the algorithm learns how people are clicking on the search results and decides on the most related factors to take into account for each search.

So how can this influence the world of SEO, you may ask? Most of us consider SEO to be really important only for web browsing on computers. That is where the change happens.

Google Search On Mac(Image Source: Pexels)

According to ComScore, by 2020, 50% of searches will be voice search. Voice is the future of web search. Both Google and Bing have stated that the majority of search queries they receive take place via voice on mobile. This is just a matter of time taking under consideration the development of hands-free devices. With the vast improvement in the quality of digital voice assistants like Google Now, Siri and Alexa, it was only a matter of time people discovered the vast convenience of voice search and rely on it for their queries.

Imagine one of such searches…

  • Alexa, find me the best hotel in Berlin?
  • Google, book a table for tonight at the best Italian restaurant near me?

What can we do to be ready for voice searches?

  1. Focus on phrases and longtail keywords

The search focus will shift from just random keyword combinations to more natural language, full sentences and phrases. The way we speak is very much different from the way we write and the words said will be different from those we would type in the search box.

  1. Optimize your website for local SEO

Mobile voice search is three times more likely to be local-based than text search. This is closely related to the fact that most smartphone searches are also local. With this in mind, businesses should keep their profiles and contact information up-to-date, since this is what Google will pull for queries such as, “Where can I get the best coffee in London?”

This means you need to step up your game, because voice search is rapidly becoming the way your customers will find your services. Keywords need to be relevant to your local customer, include places, sites, district names that would be associated with your location, etc.

Your Google Knowledge Graph should be up-to-date reflecting your contact details, opening hours, services, etc. “Where is the best Chinese food near me?” and “Where can I go swimming today?” These are clearly local searches and they trigger ads in the search engine results that allow the user to act without going to a web page. In the results, you can see reviews, a phone call button, directions button and a “book now” button. Users don’t have to come to your website to complete their intent.

This is only the tip of the iceberg and there is more to come…we will be communication more using voice commands and voice search will only continue to grow.

A Quick Guide to WeChat

Posted by on Aug 15, 2017 in Social Media

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The more I explore WeChat, the more I see that you really can do everything within this one app. There is no more need to have apps on your phone for Facebook, Skype, Uber, Tinder, Amazon, WhatsApp, Twitter, etc., as these are all included in this one app! But here’s what you need to know about WeChat and how it works.

Where did WeChat come from?
WeChat was an instant messenger app originally launched in China in January 2011 under the name of Weixin. Quickly, the app evolved: adding videos in August 2011, voice and video calls in July 2012, syncing with Facebook and Twitter in September 2012 and, in the same month, reaching 200 million registered users. Gaming and mobile payments were added in August 2013 and taxi bookings in January 2014. In May 2014, WeChat stores launched, allowing any business to have a virtual store within the WeChat app. In June 2014, money transfers launched followed by WeChat phone payments in September 2014 (like Apple Pay). (Source: TechInAsia) Now, in Q1 of 2017, WeChat reported having 938 million active monthly users!

What is WeChat?
Basically, WeChat merged together apps you currently know to form one app that includes WhatsApp, Facebook, Skype, Uber, Amazon, Instagram, Tinder, Twitter, YouTube and more. You can also do things like make your appointment at the doctors or see how busy it is at the shopping center you were going to head to after work! You really can do everything in one app, but what does this mean?

Consumer Data
WeChat currently holds a phenomenal amount of consumer data for everyone that uses the app. Just think about it – they know everything: where you are, where you’re going, what you had for lunch, what holidays you are planning, what new clothes you are looking to buy and who you are currently socializing with. Now, although the thought of this can be quite scary for an individual, from an advertising perspective, it’s a marketer’s dream. By having all this data, WeChat is able to allow companies to really target their specific clientele and anyone else who matches these profiles.

Why should you know about WeChat?
I recently came across an ad of sorts for WeChat which was put together by Jonah M. Kessel and Paul Mozur at The New York Times – I would recommend skipping in 2 minutes 15 seconds if you don’t have time to watch the full clip. It really does provide everything you need to know.


(Video Source: New York Times)

Generation Z. Who Are They, and Why Do They Have So Much Money?

Posted by on Aug 10, 2017 in Digital Industry News

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Mary Grace Cooney was one of two MDS 2017 summer interns. During her time with us, we challenged her to write a blog post about content that she learned while working with our team.

Look alive – Generation Z is here. Spanning ages 7-20, these technology masterminds are revolutionizing the way businesses need to advertise, which constantly keeps the travel industry on its toes. Gen Zers are generally seen as globally conscious individuals who have a major impact on what money is spent on, and how it is done. The mindset of the Gen Zer is everchanging, making it challenging for the travel industry to stay ahead of the game and create lifelong loyalty members from a young age. Let’s take a look at how the industry can keep up with the superpower known as Generation Z.

Who exactly is Generation Z and what is the group’s purchasing power? Let’s break it down. According to Uniquely Generation Z, a study by the IBM Institute for Business Value, a Gen Zer is, “someone who was born in the mid-1990s or beyond, and estimated to be between 2 billion and 2.52 billion strong. Self-reliant digital natives, they socialize, learn, and have fun living in a fluid digital world – one in which the boundaries between their online and offline lives are nearly indistinguishable.”¹ To put it simply, purchasing power is the ability to buy goods and services with money. Purchasing power can also be seen in the form of influencing purchases, which Gen Zers do a great deal of.

Generation Z(Image Source: IBM)

As shown above, Gen Zers spend a lot of time online, but they also spend a great deal of time hanging out with friends and family, actually stepping away from their screens for a bit. Socializing is at the forefront of their daily thoughts, so it is important for companies to design products that give Gen Zers something to talk about. According to the CMO of Home and Lifestyle, “They [Generation Z] are ‘always on’ and expect everything to be available ‘on-demand’ because they are used to having everything at their fingertips 24/7.”¹

What Generation Z Cares About(Image Source: IBM)

It is crucial for companies to conceptualize the chart above. Yes, Gen Zers have this purchasing power, but will they spend it on your goods and services? As shown, almost half of the surveyed individuals care about what their peers think, as well as trying to stay as eco-friendly as possible when purchasing. Take Amazon, for example, who does a fantastic job of appealing to Generation Z. Their business model is one of the best at capitalizing on efficiency. It is rare for Amazon to sell out of an item or delay shipping, even on their ever-popular Prime Day. In fact, they are so efficient, they now can get items to your doorstep within one or two hours. If that doesn’t scream the instant gratification that Gen Zers long for, then what does? Hotels can capitalize on this speed and use it to their advantage when assisting Gen Zers. Marriott is beginning to incorporate “speedy technology” that greatly appeals to Gen Zers, such as mobile check-in and digital room keys. This is a great start, and will only improve from here on out.

Although some Gen Zers have limited monetary spending power, they usually have an enormous influence over purchases made by their families. In 2015, Gen Zers spent a mountainous $829.5 billion USD.2 A lot of this can be contributed to the age difference seen in households. Gen Zers grew up in the digital age, unlike their parents and grandparents. According to a press release put out by MarketWired, “Gen Z, tweens/teens carry significant influence on household purchases than previous generations. Ninety-three percent say their children have at least some influence on their family’s spending and household purchases.”3 The teens and tweens of this generation influence the buying of everything from food and beverage, to bigger-ticket items such as travel, and everything in between. According to VisionCritical, 86% of Gen Z’ers prefer to stay in hotels. Staying relevant in the eyes of a Gen Zer by appealing to their likes and interests is a great way to make sure you become their go-to hotel. These individuals have a vital influence on their families’ decision to travel, and have ever-changing preferences. It has been said that Gen Zers growing up in the digital age want a good story and are won over by video. It is crucial to “sell” Gen Zers the experience that your hotel can offer them, assuring them that you are worth their time. The chart below illustrates what Gen Zers spend their money on and how they influence the spending of money by their families.

Generation Z Influencers(Image Source: IBM)

According to IBM’s study, over 75% of Gen Zers spend at least half, if not more, of their monthly income on clothes, food and technology, among other things. Where does this money come from? Although a lot of it stems from allowances and gifts, a quarter of Gen Zers seek out jobs and ways to make money online. They are a forward-thinking generation and use this to their benefit. Being able to use and create innovative technologies propel these teens into entrepreneurial masterminds with endless possibilities at their fingertips. The hotel digital experience must be nothing short of consistent eye-opening interactions to ultimately hook Gen Zers and reel them in. Some examples of this can be seen in recent efforts done in Marriott’s Innovation Lab Hotel.

As Generation Z matures, so will their lifestyle and behavioral decisions. Marriage, entering the workforce and purchasing a home are only a few of the factors that are bound to increase the purchasing power that Generation Z holds. As far as businesses are concerned, Gen Z is a spending force to be reckoned that has no plans of stopping anytime soon. Generation Z loves to feel appreciated and special, and it’s up to hotels to make them feel that way. They have nothing but options to exercise, and the ability to make decisions that not only affect them, but those around them.

1 http://mccrindle.com.au/the-mccrindle-blog/gen-z-and-gen-alpha-infographic-update

http://www.nextgeneration.ie/generation-x-vs-y-vs-z-workplace-edition/

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/generation-gap-workplace-its-effect-organizational-asad-ur-rehman

2 https://www.fungglobalretailtech.com/press-releases/gen-z-to-be-most-image-conscious-demanding-consumers-in-history-says-new-fung-global-retail-technology-report/

3 https://finance.yahoo.com/news/deep-focus-cassandra-report-gen-151500647.html 

5 Actionable Facebook SEO Tips

Posted by on Aug 8, 2017 in All Matters SEO, Social Media

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Michael Rosenblatt was one of two MDS 2017 summer interns. During his time with us, we challenged him to write a blog post about content that he learned while working with our team.

5 Actionable Facebook SEO Tips(Image Source: Pexels)

When we think of Facebook and Google, we tend to categorize one as a social network and the other as a search engine. Where they certainly have subtle differences, both companies have the same objective in mind which is to keep consumer attention for as long as possible. Initially, Google’s mission was to pass its users along to different sites as quickly as possible. Over the years, that mission changed to finding ways to make money off the user while they’re searching. In 2011, Google+ was launched as a means to enter into the social realm. The internet giant couldn’t seem to figure it out as they went through many failures and false starts.

As Google was stumbling to emerge into social, Facebook kept growing larger and becoming more influential. By 2010, Facebook was approaching 500 million users with real names, birthdays, photos and a network of connections. From a hotel perspective, the growth rate and number of active users of Facebook is what makes it so enticing. Given all the data Facebook provides, creates for a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on potential guests for your hotel. When creating a Facebook Ad, your hotel can optimize the ad by targeting specific location, demographics, age, gender, interests, behavior and connections. Due to specific targeting, your hotel should have a precise idea of who they are intending to reach. One imperative element your hotel should consider is optimizing for SEO keywords. The idea is to choose keywords that are relevant and provide value to your hotel. An extremely useful tool to assist you with this is, Moz’s Keyword Explorer. This tool provides accurate monthly search volume data, an idea of how difficult it will be to rank for your keyword, estimated click-through rates and a score representing your potential to rank.

Why SEO for Facebook is Now Important as Ever?

Little-to-none of Facebook’s activity is indexed by Google or other mainstream search engines. Therefore, it is essential to start optimizing your hotel for Facebook’s internal search.

5 Actionable Facebook SEO Tips:

  1. Facebook social signals can have a lot of potential for SEO value – use it as a channel to build traffic and links back to your hotel website.
  2. Name your profiles correctly and fill out the entire profile completely – use the full name of your hotel across all social media channels. All areas of the profile should be completed: photos, bio, videos, links, topics, tags – whatever the channel offers, take full advantage of it.
  3. Take advantage of the customized meta titles and images when you share links in your posts. Facebook will automatically pull in images and titles from your website to display in a carousel like post – however, you can choose which images you wish to upload and edit the text.
  4. Link to legitimate accounts – remember relevance is important and if the social media profile of a group or user looks unnatural or keyword-stuffed, your reputation is at risk.
  5. Ensure UNAP (URL, Name, Address, and Phone Number) are accurate and consistent. Never use variations of your hotel’s UNAP.

As Facebook continues to grow past its current 1.9 billion users they are going to keep innovating ways to capture the user’s attention. One of those ways is by continuously improve the user’s search experience. Google is aware of this threat, as of July 19th Google announced to redesign their mobile search app with a personalized feed. The offering is called “Google Feed” which you may note is very much like Facebook’s “News Feed.” Facebook and Google are battling for attention online so it is imperative they each continue to innovate and evolve. With that said, it is important to stay up on the latest trends for both platforms in order to optimize them for your guests. With this post, I wanted to specifically highlight successful SEO tips for Facebook. Facebook’s News Feed algorithm has a history of being updated on a continuous basis. Therefore, staying up-to-date on these changes is critical to the success of your hotels presence on the platform.