January 16, 2012
By Ryan Bifulco
Dec. 30, 2011 -- As 2012 is quickly coming upon us we now realize the importance of digital marketing and advertising for hotels. However, many hotels do not have a large online presence and continue to remain skeptical about new media and Internet advertising. For those hotels that have yet to reap the benefits of online marketing programs-it is time to quickly reconsider your plans for this upcoming year:
1. Update Distribution. Partnering with people that produce results is a must. Doing this will allow you to grow your bookings through a combination of targeted banners, textlinks and emails. Flash sales are key to consider. As long as you approach it with a revenue management perspective you will feel the benefits.
2. Be consistent on your social networks. Having a social media presence is vital this coming year. It is not just about a having a Facebook and Twitter anymore, everyone already does. Look in to the numerous social networks out there and cross promote information so that you cover a wide audience. It is also about consistently updating and maintaining your accounts with information that matters to a key audience. This means at least 2 updates from Facebook and 8-20 tweets from Twitter per day, if you're not doing this you're missing out.
3. Create a focused and localized audience on social media. Generally speaking, people who come from out of town to stay at a hotel will not ever care about information coming daily from it. That is why when considering whom to build your social media following around, it is best to look for a localized audience. Does your hotel have a bar? A venue? A premium restaurant? Great! These are the types of things people in your city will care about and is a way your hotel can generate revenue through its amenities alone.
4. Use Digital PR. It used to be important to just have your hotel featured in the Sunday section of The New York Times. Today it's also vital to have your hotel show up on popular online sites like About.com, which coincidentally is owned by The New York Times and draws in 60 million unique users a month.
5. Refresh Your SEO Plan. SEO is constantly changing and many people think that this is something that you can do on your own. The truth is, it's not. There is heavier competition on the web than ever before and if you want your hotel's page to wind up first on Google, you're going to need a professional.
6. Update photos and have HD video footage. Customers want a visual experience when they visit your site. This is not only beneficial for your homepage but can help your social media accounts as well. Guests book with their eyes so make sure you are giving them something good to look at.
7. Package your hotel with real value. Many times guests don't buy in much to package deals because there is not much of a deal. Now that there is a million different daily deal sites people expect a great value, so now is not the time to be stingy.
8. Marketing your social media within the hotel is just as important as marketing it online. Guests who normally do not spend a lot of time online may be more inclined to ‘like' your Facebook page for a special offer if they see some type of signage in the front lobby. Why not take the extra step to add a QR code as well for the smart phone savvy guests?
9. Monitor your social media through these sites: ReviewPro, TrustYou and Revinate. These days a company cannot survive without great online reviews and the good grace of word of mouth. It is important to know what people are saying, where they are saying it and how to fix any problems that arise. It would involve someone working a full-time job to scan and monitor the countless number of online outlets where guests can rant and rave about your hotel online. However, even then, there is no way to catch them all. These three sites bring all the reviews to one place and give you an easy assessment of your online reviews.
10. Make use of mobile technology. Mobile does not just mean apps anymore. A lot of specialty apps may only get used once, so not every hotel needs an individual mobile application. Take advantage of having an account on Four Square so that guests can virtually check in.
11. Don't run banner ads unless you can track view through bookings. For every conversion or booking that is tracked from a direct click, some advertisers can see 10 times more bookings from view-thru conversions. That happens when a user sees your banner but does not click it. Then 3 or 7 or even 29 days later the user will visit your site directly and book with you. In one case study by Online Performance Marketing, a client saw 54 conversions from direct clicks, but then saw an additional 310 conversions from view-thrus, all from people that saw the banner but did not click initially!
12. Develop a digital strategy. Brainstorm with your team and work with experts to understand how to tie all these things together in a way that fits your brand. The items listed above are all related and must be harnessed together to really get ahead.