Blog category: facebook

Using social media to build customer relationships

By Des O'Mahony | On Wed, August 12, 2009

Online marketing for hotels is quite different from online marketing for other products. For example, a hotel is in a fixed location, so marketing to those to whom the location will appeal must form part of the strategy. Hotels have quite individual character, so finding something unique to ensure you stand out from the crowd in the busy hospitality storefront is also crucial. The hotel is rarely the reason for traveling (except for a lucky minority who manage to make the hotel the destination itself), so the choice of hotel is ancillary to the primary travel purpose and this must be factored in by trying to determine the most likely reason your guest are searching for a property like yours. And on and on it goes.

This sounds like a lot of work to get right, and it usually is. But Web 2.0 tools help get to the bottom of this quite quickly if you use them effectively. Fundamentally, the tools of social media online can not only help you market your hotel effectively, but their use can wake you up to how your customers perceive your business. The valuable and free information gleaned can allow you to rapidly improve customer satisfaction. Be prepared to be humble - the customer’s perception is often quite different from yours, but remember it is only theirs that matters.

Everyone and their dog is saying that social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogger and other Web 2.0 platforms such as YouTube, Picasa are increasingly important. But important for what exactly? Before jumping in, it is important to step back and appreciate what exactly you are trying to achieve by using such tools. Put simply, when you have a particular purpose in mind, you choose a tool or approach that best suits the purpose. You don’t find a tool and then look around for something to do with it.

Not the forum for the hard sell

With social networking, you are basically trying to build or enhance your brand through engaging your customers, and you are aiming to build deeper relationships with them. While the reason for this ultimately is to raise your profile and build potential future custom, this is not a forum for the hard sell. If you want the hard sell, invest in advertising. After all, social networking is “social”, meaning people-oriented, community, common interests, like-mindedness, and “networking”, the intercommunication of those people on a voluntary basis.

Social networking is all about being part of a conversation. To be successful with social media, just like in a conversation, you have to be prepared to listen, you have to have something interesting to say, you have to contribute something new so that people are bothered to listen, and you have to engage on the level of everyone else and avoid preaching. Sticking to those rules will ensure success in social media either personally or as a business.

Charleville Lodge Boosts Business by 59%

As an online strategy partner for hotels, Bookassist (bookassist.org) has been engaged in the social media and web 2.0 arena for some time and in recent years has been strongly encouraging their hotel clients to be proactive online. Following a Bookassist seminar on web 2.0 tools in mid 2008, owner/manager Paul Stenson of Charleville Lodge boutique hotel in Phibsboro, Dublin (www.charlevillelodge.ie) decided to focus on interacting with his customers via TripAdvisor and Facebook, as well as providing a richer web experience to them via Youtube and Picasa.

According to Stenson, they’ve seen “over 8000 views on the Youtube account in that first year. We can see that people move from there to the website and vice versa so it’s definitely something people are interested in seeing.” While he acknowledges that directly attributing bookings and revenue to his use of web 2.0 tools is hard to track, he has no doubt about the success of the strategy. “We’ve had a successful website for many years, but used Bookassist for a new website in 2008. We worked with them also to set up Youtube, Facebook and other tools. In the year since we started, we’ve seen a 59% increase in direct booking income through our website compared to the previous year. Bear in mind that this is in the middle of a recession and our booking value has been forced downwards also with increased competition”, says Stenson, “so we consider that pretty strong proof of the power of social networking”.

Stenson is also rigorous in his approach to TripAdvisor, ensuring that he deals with issues that may arise as quickly as possible. “There is no doubt that guests are cross-referencing TripAdvisor content with our website, our Facebook pages, the reviews we publish on our own website in the Bookassist booking engine, all of these things. People clearly want assurance before they book and we have to be sure we keep on top of it all.”

Using Facebook to talk with customers, answer queries and provide information is something that has become routine in Charleville Lodge, with staff always online to field queries. With hundreds of followers, tracking of incoming bookings for his hotel originating from Facebook hits is on the rise, according to Stenson. “The interest via Facebook is strong, but the drawback is that customers have to request to be a friend first before we can interact. We’re now working with Bookassist on a Twitter strategy so we can converse with potential customers in a more immediate and natural way and be even more proactive in getting the news out there about our property and getting guests’ views. It’s early days but Twitter seems the way to go.”

“Getting” or “not getting” Twitter

Stenson’s experience highlights one of the key differences between sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, and the Twitter service. While Facebook and the others are largely about keeping in touch with people you know, in a leisurely way, Twitter is about finding people you don’t know but who have information you need or questions you can answer. Twitter is extremely immediate, reflecting what’s on people’s minds right now.

Twitter is undoubtedly becoming more and more important, but it is still a mystery to most business owners in terms of where it sits in their online strategy. Bookassist’s view is that it can sit dead-centre if handled properly.

There’s a typical evolution that people go through in embracing the Twitter platform. They first see it as a useless fad and ignore it, but they eventually try it out to see what the fuss is about. At this stage they don’t quite “get” it. If they persist, then they get comfortable posting tweets but even now are really just using it “one-way” to make observations or statements. This is as far as most businesses go. But moving beyond this to a real “two-way” conversation is the real hard part. Persistence pays off.

Hotels should set up Twitter accounts and use tweets to advertise special offers or events they may have. Tweets should contain keywords that others may be searching for to improve your chances of being read, (“hotel”, “special”, “dublin” book”) and the offers should be immediate, for tonight, tomorrow etc., since Twitter is so immediate. This is the basic approach of using Twitter in an advertising strategy.

But hotels should also pose questions to their guests using Twitter, to try to get conversations going. For example, “do you think our atrium dining room is the best feature in the hotel?” might elicit responses where people say they didn’t realise you had an atrium and something else was far more important to them in their stay. You now have valuable information about what is important to your guests. You can ask if guests would like to see any other kind of events, or ask how specific services can be improved. Rather than waiting for comments or fielding complaints like in TripAdvisor, you can get into the driving seat with Twitter.

Going beyond this, the open approach of Twitter where your tweets are published to the entire world by default, as are your guests tweets, means that anyone can search for all conversations that involve your hotel and can therefore see an entire history of what you say online and how your interact with your guests. And how quickly you resolve issues. Likewise you can jump into conversations involving your competitors and legitimately highlight how you would have done it differently, or offered better service, giving you a marketing advantage. Once you tweet honestly, are not overly commercial in pushing your business, and remember that everything is public and forever, then you have nothing to fear from being part of the online chat.

Undoubtedly, time commitment is an issue for hoteliers. Once you begin with Twitter, you need to continue to do so or your lack of interaction itself becomes a negative. Because it is fundamentally “personal” in its approach, it puts you the business owner at the front line. But there is no better way to engender trust in your customer base than to interact with them on a personal level, with immediacy, and to show through your public interactions with others that you actually care.

According to Stenson at Charleville Lodge, “it all really just boils down to service. If you can show high service levels online before they even arrive at your hotel, which these tools help you to do, then you are already winning”.

Charleville lodge is online at www.charlevillelodge.ie, and is on Facebook, YouTube and just beginning to take the plunge on Twitter. —- Dr Des O’Mahony is CEO and Founder at Bookassist, the leading technology and online strategy partner for the hospitality industry.

Labels: youtube, web2.0, twitter, tripadvisor, tips, strategy, seo, sem, facebook

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Facebook bigger than Google for hotels? Not quite

By Des O'Mahony | On Mon, May 24, 2010

There’s been a lot of talk about the traffic on Facebook and how big it is, surpassing even Google recently. What really is the consequence for the hotel sector of this kind of traffic?

A report by Max Starkov at HeBS shows that certainly Facebook is one to watch. There are interesting case studies that show a real revenue comparison between Facebook and Google related links to hotel websites. But as Starkov says: “Facebook is definitely here to stay and has experienced tremendous growth, but it is not going to replace Google as a travel planning tool anytime soon. “

Get the whole story here at http://bit.ly/dfIRR1

Labels: social media, google, facebook

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Social Media and the Fan Phenomenon

By Des O'Mahony | On Fri, June 04, 2010

People are constantly asking us at Bookassist what they should use social media for, which social media channels are the most important, how can they build their fanbase, or even at a most basic level, what is social media and do we really need it? We thought it was a good time to bring back to the table those issues related to social media that are particularly important for hospitality.

Ask Why? Not What?

When the web first started up and businesses began to contemplate a web presence, much the same questions were being asked in relation to websites. It took time for many companies to even realise that they had to engage with the web, that there was no choice if they were to survive. A website was about presenting your brand and offering, about projecting your image. It evolved into a marketing and commerce machine, about making existing sales efforts more efficient, about new capturing sales, and about generating revenue with better margin. It took time for that progression from static to dynamic to occur.

We know that social media is about conversation, it’s about listening to what is being said about you and engaging in that conversation with other businesses and with your customers and potential customers. But why is this conversation important? The why needs to be addressed before the what and how.

Customer Service

Social media gives you, in hospitality, an ideal opportunity to project your customer service outside your establishment in a way that you could not do before. By engaging in a more casual way through channels such as Facebook and Twitter, it shows that you are interested in your existing and potential customers, that you are willing to listen to them, and that you are open to converse.

This does not mean that you must always agree with their comments! But it does afford you a clear opportunity to clarify issues promptly and fully should they arise. For others to see that public engagement between you and your customers or reviewers is a clear sign of your commitment to customer service.

To put it another way: your customers are already online and talking about you, or commenting on you, whether you like it or not. To not acknowledge that through engagement means losing an opportunity to control the conversation, to be factual, and to demonstrate customer service. If nothing else, it is not polite to have positive customer comments online met with silence on your part.

Quality, Not Quantity

When hospitality businesses do engage online, particularly through Facebook and Twitter, there is often initially a naïve drive to simply work up a bigger list of fans and be a top ten player in fan count. While having followers is obviously important, the quantity in itself says nothing about your success on the ground, about your revenue or reputation.

What is the point in having 2000 Facebook fans who have never actually visited your premises and probably never will, but are there because their hip and cool Aunty Muriel asked all her fans to follow you? What is important is the level of engagement that you have with your fans.

How many of those fans visit your page regularly? Do you actually know? How many of your fans actually comment back to you when you post something? How many respond to questions you may pose online? How many avail of any special offers or competitions that you might run? Are you tracking that? These at least are metrics that you can use to try to gauge success, and to gauge how many of that fan base actually matter.

In many ways, the fan base can be like the huge email list of old, before privacy legislation made pruning the list an urgent necessity. An often inflated list that was regularly bombarded with emails but whose recipients rarely engaged or generated revenue. Far more important to have 100 solid emails that want to regularly receive your information, than 1,000,000 that are disinterested and bin your email immediately.

Focus on serving those who have opted to follow you for a reason, and you will naturally gain more loyal fans organically. Good customer service is always talked about and builds brand ambassadors. This is no less true online.

Des O’Mahony

Labels: web2.0, twitter, strategy, social media, facebook

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How Best To Use Social Media For Your Hotel

By Des O'Mahony | On Fri, June 04, 2010

Here’s quick run-through on how best to use Blogger, Facebook and Twitter for your hotel and generate good quality followers.

Blogger

Go to blogger.com and sign up for an account if you do not already have one. You will need to choose a name for your blog, so give it something recognisable for search engines, such as “greenhotelgalway”. Blogger will then generate a blog for you at the address greenhotelgalway.blogspot.com

Content:
Blog articles (like this one!) are longer descriptive pieces, similar to news articles. Make sure to use keyword-rich content relevant to your business and location so that you can improve search engine presence for your business.
How much to write:
Minimum of two paragraphs.
How often:
At least once every one to two weeks, more often will do no harm.
What to write about:
Local events, hotel updates, new menus, special offers, coming attractions and events, recipes, reviews or commentary after events, human interest stories about your establishment, perhaps a short interview with a famous guest etc.
What to include:
Always include an image or two to break up the text, but watch out for copyright issues. Best to use your own photos once the quality is good enough. Always include a link back to the hotel website and links to other articles you have written where relevant to get good cross-linkage. Include other media where possible and keep the tone of writing less informal.
Effectiveness:
Long term effectiveness, as search engines index you blog entries. Value to potential guests who see a wealth of events and happenings at your establishment over time.

Facebook

Go to Facebook.com and sign up for an account. Once you are signed up, you can also set up a page for your business, and can invite others in your business to also be administrators of that page, so that they can contribute as authors too.

Content:
Similar to a news update service, with catchy headings and text.
How much to write:
Two to three lines to get your point across in a punch, don’t write too much text.
How often:
At least 3-4 times a week. Avoid spamming - too many posts from one page too often could result in users “Unliking” the page.
What to write about:
Special offers, upcoming events, unusual happenings, seeking guest opinions on something, hotel or restaurant updates, posts to exploit different departments of your business etc. Try to engage customers and get their input.
What to include:
Always include an image, link, event or video to attract extra attention visual attention. Include some capitalized text and call-to-action words if you have a once-off item i.e. SPECIAL FACEBOOK OFFER, GIVE YOUR OPINION, CLICK HERE etc., but don’t overdo this as it looks like “shouting”, and nobody likes a loud person! Use a less formal, chatty and engaging tone.
Effectiveness:
Short to medium term, for those who follow your posts this will drop down their Facebook page relatively quickly and lose freshness in a couple of days. Good to create immediate awareness of events, offers etc .


Twitter

Go to Twitter.com and sign up for an account. You can use other tools to post to Twitter also, such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and others, which give you more management and scheduling capability. Hootsuite will also handle posting and scheduling for your Facebook pages.

Content:
Similar to news flash with catch, high-impact headline.
How much to write:
Restricted to 140 characters, like a single text message, so focus!
How often:
On a daily basis if possible, or even a few times a day when you can.
What to write about:
Daily offers, hotel updates, daily entertainment, daily restaurant specials, sudden happenings that highlight your hotel. Often quite gossipy (“XY has just walked into our hotel!!”) etc.
What to include:
Try to add a shortened link (use the bit.ly service for example) to the hotel website or to the article or image you are referring to. Use an informal tone, keep tweets interesting to entice tweet to be shared (retweeted).
Effectiveness:
Tweets have a very short life span and drop down the follower’s page very quickly. They have a very short term effect and reflect immediacy.


Social Media Comparison Chart from Bookassist

How To Generate More Quality Likes and Followers

When starting off a Facebook “Like” page it can be hard to generate a solid group of followers. The best suggestion to initially build the base is to get the business’s employees to “Like” the page and then get them to suggest the page to their friends. But remember to only suggest to friends that may be interested in the business’s messages. Once this is done the “Likes” will take an initial jump. This can the be built on, for example, by creating a competition for followers that entices new followers, and once a certain “Likes” goal has been achieved a winner will be selected. Another more powerful route would be to write interesting posts that would entice followers to “Share” that post with there friends. Once a “Like” goal is achieved, test the new “Likes” and see if they are of good quality by asking for feedback on some issue or getting opinions on some aspect of your business. Use your Facebook analytics to see how people are interacting.

With Twitter, you will start off in the wild with no followers, and you must begin to tweet messages or retweet others’ relevant messages in order to start building a personality or focus for your Twitter account. To generate followers, an initial route would be to search for people or businesses in the locality or in the hospitality industry and follow them in the hope of getting a reciprocal following. Once a follower base is there, if they tweet anything interesting you should retweet it. This will add the follower’s Twitter link onto the followers wall thus exposing that follower to a wider audience.

With all your social media outlets, add their logos to your business publications both online and offline. Online, include them in your website, ezines, newsletters, email signatures etc. Offline, include them in leaflets, brochures, posters etc. If you post a blog entry, right a tweet about it and link to it. Mention it, with a link, in Facebook. You can use free tools to get a feed from your Twitter, Facebook and or Blogger account to your website showing the latest updates. Get all of these media interlinked and working together as your information network.


Paul Ferry is Search Specialist at Bookassist

Labels: twitter, social media, facebook, blogger

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Facebook Places – What does your hotel need to do?

By Des O'Mahony | On Mon, March 14, 2011

Bookassist’s Paul Ferry discusses Facebook’s move into location



Facebook Places has been live in certain countries since late last year, and in Ireland since the start of February 2011. But what exactly is it, and what do you need to do?



Facebook Places uses GPS (satellite location services) so that people can “Check In” on their mobile phones to their current location, letting friends know where they are and what they’re up to. It functions similar to Foursquare.



When people use Facebook on mobile to check into their location, they quite often find that there is no “official” Place on Facebook for where they are. They can therefore choose to add a new Place to Facebook’s current list of Places. As a result, a lot of hotel Place pages are appearing on Facebook that were not set up by the hotel in the first place, but by some customer at the location who was first to check in, as the image below shows:






So as a service provider at your location, what you need to do first is check if your hotel is already set up as a Place in facebook, and if so you can claim it. If not, you can set it up from scratch. Search for your hotel name in Facebook Search Box or use you mobile phone when you are in the hotel to “Check In” - if your hotel appears on the list, then it has already been added, see the image from iPhone below.








So the next questions you might ask are: How do I take control of this Facebook Places page that represents my business? Or if I don’t have a Facebook Places page, how do I set one up?





How do I take control of this page?



Most of the time you will find that the hotel’s information has already been entered on the Facebook Places page, so what you need to do is claim this page. To do this, go to the hotels Facebook Places page and click on “This is your business?” link, see image below.






After you tick the box and agree the terms and conditions you may be prompted with a “Call Me Now” screen, see image below.






If the Places page does not have a phone number already added, you will be prompted with a form that you fill out to add official documentation in order to claim the Places page.



The automated call back will present you with a 4-digit verification number. After you have entered the 4-digit number from Facebook, you will be prompted to merge your current Fan page with your Places Page, see image below.






Facebook will then email you to notify you that they are merging your Facebook Fan page and your Facebook Places page. When the migration is complete, visit your Fan page and click on the “Info” button under the profile picture and you will see that your hotels details have been updated with a map and directions.





I don’t have a Facebook Places page, how do I set one up?



If your Place does not currently exist on Facebook, you will need to add it through your mobile device by clicking on the Places icon in the Facebook App. Tap “Check In” in the top right of your screen, then search for your hotel name. If it’s not there tap on “Find or Add a Place”






Once this is done your hotel will now be available for people to “Check In”. Once you have added the hotel go through the previous section of this blog to claim your Places page and merge with your existing fan page.





The Benefits



The services are slowly rolling out in all countries, but at the moment the real benefits are only in the United States where you can create Facebook Deals for people that “Check In” to your hotel. For more info on this please visit http://www.facebook.com/places



Our advice is to get this set up now, so when Facebook do roll it out in your country, your hotel is already set up to go on Facebook Places. One addition that we have noticed is that when you hover over your hotel name in either the “News Feed” or your “Wall”, a snapshot of your page is generated with directions and info about your friends that “Like” this page, see image below.






If you have any comments on this blog entry please leave a comment below.



—-

Paul Ferry is Senior Social Media Strategist at Bookassist (bookassist.org), the technology and online strategy partner for hotels.

Labels: social media, facebook

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Facebook Fan Page Upgrade – Latest Changes

By Des O'Mahony | On Fri, March 25, 2011

Bookassist’s Paul Ferry outlines the latest changes to your hotel’s Facebook Fan Page after recent Facebook upgrades, and shows how you can take advantage of them.



Since March 10th, 2011 Facebook has globally upgraded how you can use your Fan Page. In this article we detail some of the changes that are important to your hotel and also other changes to note.



Use Facebook as The Hotel

The biggest change in the recent Facebook upgrade is that you can now interact with fans as your hotel’s Fan Page rather than as your personal login. To do this simply go to “Account” in the top right-hand corner of your screen, click on “Use Facebook as Page” and select the relevant Page in the pop up.




The advantages of using Facebook as a Page are that you can interact with the hotel’s fans and leave comments on other pages as the “hotel” rather than as yourself. Other features include the ability to respond to fan reviews as the “hotel” and also the ability to tag the hotel itself in photos, events and videos.



Notifications

Another great feature is that you can get notifications sent to you when a fan interacts with your hotel’s fan page. You can edit notification settings by going to “Edit Page” and selecting notifications from the left hand menu.




These recent changes to Facebook Pages represent a step in the right direction to help optimise your ability to interact with your fans.



Fan Page Display Changes

The old Fan Page layout displayed tabs along the top but these have now migrated to the left hand column under the profile picture, see image below.







The effect of this change is yet to be seen as quite a lot of hotels had set up customised tabs which have now taken a less prominent postion on the page, so conversion on these customised pages may be affected. Yet another new feature is that your recent images are displayed just above the wall similar to a personal profile page, see image below. This gives the page a much more inviting feel. You can alter the images by hovering over them and using the checkbox to delete, and another image will be selected from your existing photo albums. (You can also turn off the image strip completely in wall settings.)











Exit Static FBML Pages - enter iFrames

For developers and app users perhaps the most significant change to note since the 10th March upgrade is that Facebook no longer supports the ability to create Static FBML Pages (customised pages) which many service providers had built for enhancing Facebook Pages. Instead it has placed emphasis on embedding external web pages into Facebook using iFrames. This new approach is very flexible and is another move to make Facebook the one-stop shop for all interaction with your customers. Watch this space for some exciting Bookassist announcements relating to Facebook services shortly!



If you have any comments on this blog entry please leave a comment below.



—-

Paul Ferry is Senior Social Media Strategist at Bookassist (bookassist.org), the technology and online strategy partner for hotels.

Labels: social media, facebook

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Facebook Insights for your Website

By Des O'Mahony | On Thu, March 31, 2011

Bookassist’s Paul Ferry shows how new features in Facebook’s Insights tools can be used to monitor your website’s performance.



Facebook Insights has been available for some time now, its main function being to record the performance of your Facebook Fan Page. But in early March Facebook released “Insights for your Website” which is an interesting development in their use of the Insights tools.



Insights for your website monitors the performance of your hotel’s website popularity in Facebook. It also monitors the performance of the Facebook plugins installed on your hotel website. Some plugins you may have already installed include the “Like” button and the “Like” box for example.



Here is a simple guide to how you can start monitoring your hotel’s popularity on Facebook and the performance of your hotel website’s Facebook Plugins.



1. Visit this URL: http://www.facebook.com/insights



2. Click on the green button on the top-right of the page:




3. In the pop up, enter the URL of your hotel’s website and in the drop down select your hotel’s Facebook Page.




4. Copy the

code and paste it between the

tags of your hotel’s website homepage



5. Return to Facebook and click “Get Insights” in the pop-up. Insights For Your Website is now active.



After a day or so you will begin to receive data from your website in Facebook Insights, here is an example of what it looks like, see image below.




Facebook Insights contains a number of graphs and metrics. To find out what they represent simply scroll over the graphs or click the “?”.



If you have any comments on this blog entry please leave a comment below.



—-

Paul Ferry is Senior Social Media Strategist at Bookassist (bookassist.org), the technology and online strategy partner for hotels.

Labels: social media, facebook

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Doing Hotel Business on Facebook

By Des O'Mahony | On Sun, April 03, 2011

Bookassist’s Des O’Mahony explains that the importance of Facebook for your hotel business is on the rise. As Facebook users’ habits begin to change, Facebook is beginning to more strongly influence business on and off your hotel website.



Let’s start with what Facebook is not.

Facebook is not a substitute for a high quality website. Facebook is not a replacement for a well-conceived, executed and monitored marketing campaign online. Facebook is not about driving your main direct hotel business online.



So why is it that hotels seem so obsessed with Facebook despite the evidence indicating that it has yet to reach critical business importance?



Familiarity and Ease of Use



Hotels are using Facebook because of familiarity and ease of use - regardless of commercial value. For hotels, Facebook is a simple, non-technical way to interact with your customers online. Hotel staff who use the “official” hotel Facebook page can quickly post stories and comments, and can do so in a more “casual” manner than they might do on the main hotel website.



Many already use Facebook on a personal level, so they feel comfortable doing so officially also on behalf of the hotel and would far rather spend some time online there than working on a blog or website content. For most people it’s just a much simpler and more dynamic medium to engage with on a regular basis than their hotel’s website. And it demands much shorter and less formal input than, say, a blog entry. It’s just easy.



Plus, most users are probably logged in anyway to their personal account so switching over and monitoring the hotel’s account is pretty simple.



Facebook for Business - Unsociable But Effective



Interestingly, despite all the noise about the “social” aspects of social media, there is very little actual “conversation” going on between Page owner and Fan on Facebook. Mostly, its about the Page owner posting and others reading, but not any significant conversation occurring other than a possible “Like”. Facebook can be very social, but that is certainly not how the majority are using it.



On the other hand, the idea that hotels could use Facebook for business has been hotly debated for as long as Facebook’s been around. The argument has always been that, because Facebook is a social-driven site, your viewers or fans are not business-minded or research-minded when they’re on Facebook; rather, they are using Facebook in a more relaxed and casual mode so booking rooms or buying services is not particularly the “mode” they’re in compared to those visiting your website.



For businesses like hotels, many Fans are content to receive regular updates as wall postings and act on them if they are interesting - they don’t necessarily feel the need to actually interact in a truly social way. There is nothing wrong with that of course - if Facebook is behaving like a news ticker for your business then it is certainly of value.



The reality is that Facebook user habits are changing rapidly, and business use is very much on the rise. Facebook is becoming a valuable additional promotional and selling tool for hotels. Even if the conversion on Facebook itself is far lower than that on your own website booking engine, the awareness that Facebook can bring for your brand is clearly increasing, as evidenced by the increase in referrals to hotel websites that we are seeing. If nothing else, Facebook is capable of putting ideas into people’s heads via postings on their wall so that when they are eventually interested in a purchase, your brand has already achieved some additional traction through its presence in Facebook..



Facebook is now a Top 5 Influencer



We’ve looked at traffic figures for a large number of our clients that use active Facebook pages for their hotels. In terms of figures from Google Analytics for the hotel website, we’ve seen Facebook rise significantly as a referring site in the last year (i.e. a site that is sending traffic to the hotel website), to a point where it is typically one of the top 5 referring sites for hotels with an active Facebook page.



Interestingly, this does not seem to correlate with the number of Facebook fans - showing yet again that is it not the number of fans or likes that your page has that matters, but the quality of the interaction that you have with those fans or likes.



Facebook Fans want something different



For those same hotels seeing traffic from Facebook, we’ve also seen significant improvements in special offer sales in the last 12 months where Facebook-only promotions or promo-codes are offered. This again shows that the Facebook user is changing habits and is more aware of the business and bargain opportunity that service providers may be offering via Facebook.



Hotels, it’s time to get moving on Facebook and to start taking it a lot more seriously.

Labels: social media, facebook

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Guaranteed Bookings on Facebook: 5 Tips on How To Succeed

By Des O'Mahony | On Thu, May 26, 2011

Bookassist’s Paul Ferry outlines a winning formula for guaranteed success in generating revenue through Facebook.



Bookassist Apps For Facebook were successfully launched at the end of April 2011. With hundreds of hotels worldwide already using the Bookassist Apps on their Facebook pages, it is now time to see how hotels can use the apps to their full potential and earn extra revenue using the power of Facebook.



At Bookassist, we have put together some tips to successfully generate a new revenue stream for your hotel on Facebook using the Bookassist Apps For Facebook. The following tips are based on research and tracking of revenue-generating promotional pieces on Facebook using only the hotel’s Facebook fan base and the Bookassist Apps For Facebook.



1. Get In Front Of Your Fans - When to Post



Remember that your hotel’s fans on Facebook receive your hotel’s posts in their news feed on their own Facebook page. They don’t need to be on your hotel’s Facebook page to begin interacting with you. The news feed is where your hotel can constantly get in front of your fans. The key to success is that your hotel needs to post their promotional content as frequently as possibly (but not overkill) to ensure visibility to all of their Facebook fan base. Without telling your hotel’s fans about the latest promotions regularly and at the right times, more than likely they will not interact or not even see the promotional text in their feed.



Remember this is free - there are no advertising costs, there are no pay per click costs, and it is targeted directly at people who have already expressed a direct interest in your product. This is an opportunity not to be missed.



From our research, posting between the hours of 7pm and 10pm will get a higher interaction from your hotel’s fans. Posting throughout the day will receive a substantial amount of views from your hotel’s fans but their interaction isn’t as high as later in the day. Research has also shown that weekends can be a good time to post for higher post interaction, but the amount of views will be substantially lower compared to weekdays.



2. Strong Call To Action



Posts should always include links to wherever your hotel’s fans can buy the special offer or view details of the promotion. This includes linking fans directly to the Bookassist Apps for Facebook tabs on your hotel’s Facebook fan page. Adding simple and attractive special offer or promotion related images, or videos, will also improve your fans’ interaction.



Another powerful and simple way to raise your fans’ interaction when they visit your hotel’s fan page is to design a descriptive Facebook profile image that features a strong call to action. Your hotel should design their Facebook profile image to clearly indicate where the Bookassist Apps for Facebook buttons are located. Figure 1 shows two examples of simple but effective Facebook profile image redesigns that encourage interaction.





Figure 1. Making use of the profile image


Sending an ezine, newsletter or mail shot to your hotel’s contacts referring to your Facebook page’s latest additions (i.e. the Bookassist Apps for Facebook tabs) can also generate awareness of the apps tabs and the new buying facilities on your hotel’s Facebook fan page. It may not convert now but it plants the seed for future conversion.



3. Use The Full Power Of The Bookassist Apps For Facebook



Bookassist developed a suite of apps that hotels can use to gain revenue on Facebook. We have detailed how each app can by utilised to its best ability and functionality.



The Bookassist Special Offers App has shown itself to be the most powerful app of the suite to entice your hotel’s fans to buy. This app has the ability to either show all your hotel’s special offers, a few of your hotel’s special offers, or just show one special offer at a time. This can be extremely powerful if you are promoting the hotel’s latest special offers, trying to fill low occupancy dates with a special offer, or having a special offer sale. For help with setting up your Bookassist Special Offers, simply contact your Bookassist account manager.





Figure 2. Bookassist Special Offers App for Facebook





The Bookassist Book Now App allows fans to make reservations just like on your hotel’s website. This app should be promoted by you as a new facility to make a direct reservation. As mentioned previously, simply designing a new Facebook profile image for your hotel can be very affective way to make your hotel’s fans aware of the Bookassist Book Now App. The app can also be used in conjunction with Bookassist Promo Codes that can be entered in the check availability box to provide your hotel’s fans with discounted rates or special offers. We can configure the hotel’s promo code to be automatically displayed to your hotel’s fans in the check availability box, if the hotel wishes.





Figure 3. Bookassist Book Now App for Facebook


Another valuable attribute to the Bookassist Book Now app and Bookassist Special Offers app is that only people who “Like” your hotel’s fan page will see your hotel’s promo code or special offers. If they do not “Like” the page they will be greeted with messages encouraging them to “Like” the page before they can avail of offers.



The Bookassist Vouchers App can be used to sell and promote your online vouchers. This app can be particularly powerful to promote your hotel’s vouchers around peak voucher sales times, for example promoting online vouchers at Christmas time. Promote the new voucher buying facility by simply adding a link to the Bookassist Vouchers App to your posts.



4. Make it Exclusive



From our research, there are a few specific actions that contribute to converting your hotel’s fans from lookers to bookers. Actions such as constant promotion of the Bookassist Apps For Facebook in your hotel’s posts and redesigning your hotel’s profile image to indicate the location of the app buttons certainly work. But these are just steps to make your hotel’s fans aware of the apps. The next step is to convert the Facebook fans from lookers to bookers.



Our suggestion to achieve this goal is simple. Provide your hotel’s fans with the feeling of exclusivity. Providing them with an attractive special offer or promotion will best achieve the end goal of a booking.





Figure 4. Making Offers Exclusive


The special offer could be a simple reduction on a B&B; rate by entering the promo code or an exclusive Facebook fan special offer.



5. Make it Compelling - Create Urgency



From research, our next suggestion for an effective way to successfully convert your hotel’s fans from lookers to bookers is to put a time limit on your exclusive offering, for example a twenty-four hour room sale or an offer with an expiration date fast approaching. As we have seen from the phenomenal success of daily discount sites, creating a sense of urgency certainly works and by using the Bookassist Apps for Facebook you can effectively create your hotel’s own mini discount site. You might not be reaching the same large audience as the daily discount sites, but neither is your hotel paying the large commissions charged by the daily discount sites nor suffering the significant rate reductions you must provide to have the opportunity to appear on those sites.





Finally, if you have not already installed the Bookassist Apps for Facebook and you use the Bookassist booking engine on your hotel’s website, you can install them today for free by visiting our Facebook page at facebook.com/bookassist and navigating to the “Bookassist Apps” tab for instructions or visit the Bookassist Apps For Facebook product page on our website. If you have any additional questions please contact your Bookassist account manager.



Paul Ferry is Senior Social Media Strategist at Bookassist (bookassist.org), the technology and online strategy partner for hotels.

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Target Facebook Fans by Language and Location

By Des O'Mahony | On Thu, June 16, 2011

Bookassist’s Paul Ferry shows how you can make use of Facebook’s location and language features to target more relevant posts to parts of your fanbase.



Facebook provides a useful feature in the Status box on your Facebook wall that allows you to target your fans with by location and/or language. Hotels may not be aware that they can use this to their advantage with their posts.



The targeting feature is extremely useful to hotels on the continent that would like to separately target their native language speaking fans and their English speaking fans from the one hotel Facebook Fan page. It can also be useful for hotels to directly target certain countries or cities where their Facebook Fans are located.



Before we look at how to use Status box feature to target your hotel’s varied Facebook Fan base, we will analyse the hotel’s Facebook Insights to determine the demographics of the hotel’s Facebook Fans.



1. Analyse Facebook Insights




To analyse your hotel’s Facebook Insights simply visit facebook.com/insights or click the “View Insights” link on the right hand column of your hotel’s fan page when logged in. Once you have accessed the Insights section for your page, click the “Users” link in the left hand column of the page.




Figure 1. Facebook Insights, Demographics graphs found in the User section.




From this data we can determine the demographics of your hotel’s fan base. In this case, a quick look shows that the majority of fans are located in Ireland but there is a substantial amount of fans located in other European countries. English is the predominant language with an even split of Italian, Spanish and French speaking fans. Considering this information, posting in English will cover the majority of the fan base in most countries but posting in other languages to reach out to everyone would be highly recommended. Another additional observation is the town/cities column. Using this information your hotel can target specialised posts to smaller demographics.




2. Targeting Posts by Location





With Facebook Insights you have a better idea of who you should target with your posts. To activate the post targeting feature simply begin to type in the Status box and a drop-down button appears beside the “Share” button. By default this drop-down is set to “Everyone”. Simply click on the drop-down and select “Customise”.





Figure 2. Simply click on the “Everyone” drop-down and click the “Customise” option



Choose “Customise” and a pop-up window appears. In the “Location” field of the pop-up begin to type the country or countries you would like to target your hotel’s post. Facebook will automatically generate a list of countries to select from.



Figure 3. Facebook will automatically generate a list of countries



To further target your post to a cities or towns in a particular country, select the country first and then select the radio button “By City”. Similar to the country selection field, Facebook automatically generates a list of cities or towns in your selected country so you can enter multiple cities.



Figure 4. Facebook will automatically generate a list of cities or towns



Once finished, click “OK”. After you have finished writing your post click “Share” and only the selected fan base will see that post in their newsfeed. (The post will still appear to everyone on your own Facebook page.)



3.Targeting Posts by Language



Targeting posts by languages requires the same steps as targeting by location. Select the “Customise” option from the drop-down beside the “Share” button and the pop-up will appear. In the “Languages” field simply begin to type the language or languages you would like to target.



Figure 5. Facebook will automatically generate a list of languages



4.Targeting by both countries and languages





Follow the steps mentioned in the previous points to combine choices for location and for language.



Figure 6. Both language and location targeting



Different nationalities have different travel habits, and take holidays at different times of the year for example. They also have different interests in terms of what your hotel or location offers. The above steps can help hotels to more strongly target certain demographic groups with special offers or more relevant information rather than always using a “catch all” approach. This can increase interaction with your posts, and hence conversion.

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