Travel and tourism marketing: 6 resources to help you improve your online review rankings

August 24, 2012

If guests like you, ask them to share that love with other travelers.

How to ask for reviews, get more and better reviews, improve your rankings on review sites, and more

Last week I wrote about the importance of paying attention to your rankings in online review sites.

This week I’ve assembled some of my favorite content explaining the value of online reviews, how they work and how to improve yours. Here goes…

1. Why hotels should encourage guests to leave more online reviews

Anil Aggarwal, CEO, Milestone Internet Marketing explains the importance of online reviews to a hotel property’s success, and how to use online reviews to benchmark how you’re doing versus competitors.

2. Five Basic Guidelines for managing your hotel’s online reputation

This post in Hotelier is one of the most succinct overviews of the subject of online reviews, and offers some good suggestions for developing a systematic approach to responding to online reviews.

3. How to respond to online reviews

Explains the dos and don’ts of responding to online reviews, is comprehensive in its approach, and provides some unconventional ideas on how you can respond to negative reviews.

4. How to improve your hotel rankings in TripAdvisor

If you want a good explanation of how TripAdvisor’s Popularity Index works, and how you can affect your Popularity Index scores, read this post.

5. Increasing direct hotel bookings with social media

Joshua McKenzie from ReviewPro focuses on how online reviews can help your search rankings and increasing sales conversion rates by increasing consumer confidence.

In particular, Joshua offers a number of novel suggestions for using online reviews to keep people on your website longer.

6. How hotels can increase the volume of their reviews

If you’ve always wondered how and when to ask guests for reviews, read this ReviewPro report.

It also offers excellent case studies on how hotels have successfully increased their reviews using some of the recommended techniques.

What have you learned about online review sites, and how to manage your online reputation? Share your experience with us.


A few statistics on how travel brands are using social media to boost ROI (infographic)

August 22, 2012

Thought you would enjoy this infographic on social media created by the travel experts at Simplifying and EyeforTravel.

Before we show it to you, here are a few statistics on social media Simpliflying didn’t want you to miss:

  • Travel marketers surveyed revealed that using social media reduced PR costs by at least 24%.
  • Most companies in the travel industry are spending over 25% of their marketing budget on social media.
  • 61% of companies surveyed will spend more money on social media efforts over the next quarter.
  • Interestingly, social media is being seen as a viable way to drive customer loyalty given that almost82% of frequent flyers use Facebook and place the most importance on great customer service.
  • Airlines are increasingly taking to performing customer service on social media as almost 86% of tweets to airlines are about customer service issues.
  • There’s an increasing investment in social media platforms to engage customers. About 191 airlinesnow have Twitter accounts and tweets sent out by airlines increased by over 51% from March 2011 to July 2011.

Credits: Simplifyling and EyeforTravel

What travel and leisure marketers can learn from history’s greatest social media screw ups.

August 8, 2012

6 of my favorite history lessons from the biggest social media screw ups of the still-young century.

1.  April 2004:  A blogger picks a Kriptonite lock using a Bic pen.

Social Learning:  Kriptonite (and the rest of us) learned that news travels a lot faster on the internet, and failing to respond can be costly.  By the way, Kriptonite ended up spending $15 million on a product recall.

2. June 2006: Dell’s reputation goes up in smoke when Gizmodo publishes a photo of an exploding laptop.

Social Learning:  Dell learned the power of a single incriminating photo spread across the internet, and the importance of responding quickly to negative news spread virally.

Dell was forced to recall more than 4 million laptop batteries. And quickly got its social act together.

3. January 2007:  Jet Blue passengers who are stranded on the runway for 8 hours film (and post) their ordeal.

Social Learning:  Jet Blue got the significance of these actions right away, and CEO David Neelman immediately crafted and posted an apology on YouTube.

And taught the rest of corporate America how to own up to a screwup online, in real-time.

4. August 2008:  In one of the first documented cases of Twitter-squatting, “Janet from ExxonMobil” creates a fake corporate Twitter account.

Social Learning:   This incident taught giants of industry across many categories that you ignore social media at your own peril.

5. A Twitter army of angry  moms swarms a sassy Motrin commercial aimed at moms, and forces Johnson and Johnson to apologize.

Social Learning:  A small group of influential Tweeters can use the megaphone of social media to get a giant company’s attention.

6.   United ignores passenger Dave Carroll’s pleas to fix a guitar the airline damaged in transit, and becomes the butt of Dave’s popular protest video.

Social Learning:  United learned that it’s a lot cheaper to fix a disgruntled passenger’s broken guitar than a reputation damaged by 9 million views of a viral video.

There are 31 more social mistakes of monumental consequence documented in a recent SMI presentation. You can view the entire presentation on Slideshare.

Twitter users influence your travel or leisure brand more than your Facebook followers.

August 2, 2012

Twitter users are three times more likely to impact your brand’s reputation online than the average consumer.

Although Twitter has far fewer users than Facebook,their regular users are the most influential online consumers, according to a recent study by Exact Target.

Their conversations fuel discussions across all areas of the internet–from blogs and forums to product reviews and coupon sites.

The study highlights 5 key findings:

  1. Active Twitter users’ reach goes far beyond Twitter because they blog, post reviews, comment on news stories and participate in discussion forums
  2. Their tweets are also indexed by Google and syndicated by the Twitter API
  3. Twitter also gives these people faster access to  breaking news and events than mainstream media
  4. People regard a branded account more reliable than an individual account.
  5. But they appreciate the opportunity to interact with the individual account of a high-ranking officer of a company.

So what kinds of content should you tweet to your visitors and guests?

  • Flash sales
  • Upcoming discounts and promotions
  • Updates on new or future offers
  • Offers of free nights or packaged discounts
  • Exclusive content just for your Twitter followers
  • News about your travel brand
  • New property or product introductions
  • Invite guests to share ideas and give feedback
  • Invite guests to make recommendations
  • Send direct messages from your travel brand

If you’re the CMO of a travel or leisure brand, use this valuable information to update your Twitter content strategy.

You can sign up for and download more information from Exact Target here.

Travel and leisure marketing: Are you budgeting enough for your social media program?

July 20, 2012

Social media costs less, but takes more time.

Our research indicates most travel and leisure brands are spending between 10-15% of their total online budget on social media.

How much should you budget for your social media program?”

  • The good news: a robust social media program can cost just 11-14% of your digital budget. That’s a fraction of the average cost of a TV campaign produced in LA or New York.
  • The not so good news: Social media takes a lot of time, whether you’re paying an in-house person or an outside agency to do it.

Cost of In-House Resources Versus Outside Contractors

  • If you’re relying on existing in-house resources to get your social media program off the ground, the general rule of thumb is to start by budgeting for one full-time employee.
  • That person will be responsible for creating content and overseeing the design of your blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed as well as write any e-books and online presentations.

Salary Ranges for Social Media Managers

  • The salary range for this in-house position can run from $32,500-$55,000 for a social media manager or community manager, although a Director or VP can earn 3 times that.

Components of Your Social Media Budget

Your budget should account for three phases of social media spending:

1. Strategy and Planning

  • In this phase, budget for time to research tools, identify outside contractors who can help you develop your social media strategy and tactics, and staff time to interact with your contractors.
  • Don’t forget to account for the time and expenses necessary to promote your new social sites through your existing media campaign.

2. Campaign Launch

  • Budget for in-house staff hours and outside contractors to design and develop your blog, design a skin for your Twitter page, and populate your Facebook page with content.
  • You’ll also want to account for the cost of implementing tools for listening to and growing your fan base and Twitter followers.

3. Ongoing Support

  • After you launch, you’ll want to budget for staff and contractor time for creating ongoing content and promotions, and refreshing the design of your blog and Twitter skin.
  • In addition, you’ll want to keep up with the ever evolving technology tools to monitor your audience and to keep adding friends and followers.
  • Because social media is moving so fast, you may also want to budget for your staff to attend at least one annual conference on the latest tools and tips.

Total Costs for Your Social Media Strategy

  • A recent Marketing Sherpa study found that on average, participants spend 11% of their total online/digital marketing budgets on social media.
  • The IT Services Marketing Association polled its members and found that B to B marketers are spending 14% of their online/digital marketing budgets on social.
  • An e-Marketer survey broke those numbers down further and found that 60% of social spending is for in-house salaries, while 40% goes to outside agencies, consultants and service providers.

That’s what we’ve learned about budgeting for social media in leisure marketing.  How does that compare to what you’re doing?


10 travel destinations share their Facebook marketing secrets

June 26, 2012

The Grand Junction CVB offered a Facebook coupon for a local vineyard.

10 easy-to-implement suggestions to increase engagement from CVBs and resorts around the country

How do successful travel and destination brands keep their Facebook fans engaged every day?

To find out, we studied the Facebook pages of CVBs and destinations around the country. Here are 10 tips from some of our favorites:

1. Ask fans to name their favorite attraction.

Branson, Missouri got 30 likes and a couple dozen comments after posting this question.

2. Offer your current fans an incentive to help you attract new fans.

Glenwood Springs, CO  gave away free passes to a local attraction and a night in a local hotel if their fans would spread the word and help them pass the 6,000 fan mark.

3. Give them a coupon from a local merchant.

Our client Grand Junction, CO, which positions itself as the epicenter of Colorado Wine Country, offered their Facebook fans this coupon for a local vineyard.

 4. Offer them a gift card to shop at your stores.

During the holiday season, Downtown Boulder, CO offered a $500 gift card good at participating local merchants.

5. Use a TV news-style video to report on upcoming events.

Once a week, Estes Park, Colorado puts out a news-style video with an anchorperson reporting on events for the upcoming weekend.

6. Post a QR code linking to deals at local merchants.

Estes Park recently posted this QR code that links to a local jewelry store’s deals.

7. Post a newspaper or magazine article, and ask for feedback.

VisitDenver recently posted this article from a local magazine, 5280 on Denver neighborhoods, then asked its followers if they agreed with 5280’s characterizations of each neighborhood.

8. Invite your fans to give you ideas for your annual travel guide.

The New York Tourism Board invites their Facebook fans to share their favorite places to stay and shop, and promises to include a few in an upcoming edition of the New York State Travel Guide.

9. Invite locals to post their videos of local scenery and activities.

Our client Wind River Country recently posted this video from a local video production house featuring heart-pumping footage of prime local snowmobile terrain.

10. Offer a giveaway from one of your sponsors.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort got their sponsors Subaru and Marmot to put up the money for this giveaway.

Those are a few examples of what other destinations are doing. Now tell us what’s working for you.

Travel and tourism marketing: Alabama tourism focuses on food as a destination

June 22, 2012

This famous Decatur BBQ joint is one of the featured eateries in the campaign.

In 2005, the Alabama Tourism Department created  “The Year of Alabama Food” campaign to draw attention to Birmingham’s culinary delights.

The campaign proved so successful, that 7 years later, the state’s tourism agency has decided to bring it back.

The $1 million marketing effort will feature the popular “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die”, an Alabama BBQ Hall of Fame, and an Alabama Restaurant Week.

The campaign will focus on state dining treasures like Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, the original Wintzell’s Oyster House in Mobile, and dozens of other favorite eateries.

The state decided on this direction because they realized they don’t have beaches or major theme parks to attract tourists.

But local chefs and food trends have attracted visitors from around the region to the state for its great food and chefs.

Fine dining in Birmingham is the jumping off point, but to take the concept statewide, state tourism officials came up with a theme that also highlights country cooking, barbecue and seafood.

Since its inception in 2005, the popular “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die,” has become so popular it’s updated annually.

In fact the state distributes 200,000 brochures on the subject through state welcome centers and local chambers of commerce each year.

Many restaurant owners in the state who have made the list proudly display the designation on the windows of their businesses and mention it in their advertising.

The 2012 “Year of Alabama Food” campaign will feature a 30-second TV spot and a website– –that includes directions to restaurants across these the state.

There’s also a big social media push, with a Facebook page, Twitter feed, and blog posts from many of Alabama’s top chefs that include recipes of some of their favorite dishes.

The blog will also have a section where visitors can take pictures of and post comments about the places they visited and the dishes they tried.

Throughout the year, “The Year of Alabama Food” will also highlight food festivals and events around the state.

In August, restaurants throughout the state will offer fixed-price lunch and dinner specials during the inaugural Alabama Restaurant Week.

What do you think of Alabama’s efforts to use food as a differentiator? What are you doing to differentiate your travel brand from your competitors?

If you’re interested in reading more, here’s a link to the “100 Alabama dishes” brochure. 

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