The do's and don'ts in building and managing guests’ opinion
Doing business in the era of internet has both its advantages and disadvantages. While online transparency might be difficult to handle at times, it, on the other hand, creates enormous and equal possibilities for players of any size. So while maintaining good online reputation might be a struggle, its importance is not discussable. Business without a decent digital content strategy risks not only losing guests' awareness, but also actual sales. Recent researches and different surveys show, that online reviews or social media appearance not only help us with better search engine ranking, increases our creditability and guests’ trust, but directly influence guests’ purchase decision and our revenue accordingly. So active online reputation management should be a priority of any hotel, restaurant or other hospitality establishment.
Simply said, online reputation management is the practice of monitoring and influencing how our property is perceived throughout the web. To ensure that perception is not only positive, but also stimulating guests to buy, here are the main things to consider:
Proper management of online profiles is the first step into online reputation journey. We should have not only official profiles created on important and business relevant review sites (think TripAdvisor, HolidayCheck, Yelp, Google, etc.) and social media channels (such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and others), but also ensure our profiles are complete and designed in a way that reflects our brand. There is nothing more annoying from the guest prospective as not finding necessary information or seeing ten years old photos of the property. Great accurate presentation will either encourage our guests to explore further or move on to the ocean of internet for other alternatives.
Active participation on social media
No secret social media has before not only one of the most important tools for socialising, but it also serves as a huge source of inspiration. Travel industry is especially touched by this phenomenon, so being present and active on social platforms is a new must. Choosing at least two or three depending on our guests’ profile and their preferences will create presence and give us opportunity to inspire or even influence our guests.
Use of User Generated Content
User generated content is described to be any form of content which has been created and voluntarily posted by the guests. It refers to sharings of all types from photos or videos to blog posts, reviews, etc. Needless to say, when positive - it is one of the best marketing instruments we can hope for. Without being paid our guests step into the shoes of advertisers to promote our business.
User generated content is especially powerful among millennials, where surveys show it is perceived as a good indicator of quality of a brand by more that 85% of travellers. Why is so?
To start with, UGC is more trusted by potential visitors than our own “corporate” content because it is personal, authentic and comes without intention to sell, so creating a higher level of trust. Secondly, have a look into yours or competitors content and compare it with the one posted by the guests. Very often the latter is not only personal, but also more fun, engaging, natural and showcasing real, emotional situations.
So using UGC in our official marketing channels (websites, social media, etc.) is not only cost effective way to promote our business, but also a great opportunity to build community around the brand.
If our guests are able to create valuable content, we should be surely skilled to do so as well. Long gone the days when our guests only wished for the fundamental deliverables. Living in the age of transformation economy they are seeking experiences that are holistic, emotional and transformative. So should be our presence online.
Are we creating any value for the guests with our content or are we just sharing the random impressions of our facilities? The photo of our pool might look stunning, but how does it enriches someone’s day? Sharing the content that will connect the people, educate them or entertain should be our goal. Who says that the hotel or restaurant should only provide accommodation or food? What about teaching people how to cook or provide some tips for a home SPA? Why not to show them the germs of destination (which cannot be found in Lonely Planet!) or introduce them to local craftsmen? Why not to entertain them with funny language classes or even anecdotes about destination? Content, which is optimised and brings value, can do wonders. So if we can’t hire the influencer - let’s become one ourselves.
Encouragement of online feedback
Since online reviews hold such an important role in guests decision making process, we should put an effort in ensuring we get some. Although truly memorable experiences will often be shared without encouragement, a little reminder might help in certain situations.
If our goal is to receive more reviews, we should first of all enable this to happen. Many hotel guests, for example, do not like postponing this task for the end of the visit, and the tendency of leaving a review while still in the property, is increasing. So ensuring we have reminders around and high speed internet access will be very helpful.
Including social media sites in our wished feedback list is also a good idea. Many, especially younger, travellers might not be wiling to spend time going through the review process on TripAdvisor or HolidayCheck, but might be happy to spare a few moments from scrolling the feed and leaving a note on our Facebook page. We need to ensure that our profile is present (and without duplicates!) with all necessary features, such as e.g. check in option.
The simplest (and likely most effective!) way to encourage guests reviews is to simply ask for it. Directly when speaking with the guests or with the help of written or digital form, such as emails after the stay or Thank You letter on departure - anything that suits our guests and our brand.
Response to guests' feedback
If guests spend their valuable time to share their feedback with us, we should at least respect their effort and react to it. Replying to online reviews or social media posts not only shows that we care about their opinion, but also paints the picture of a professional and modern business. Being known as a brand which fosters the dialog with its customers is a positive note towards our reputation, so we should use this opportunity. And if on top of responding to guests feedback we can also showcase the actioning on it - our chances to shine will surely increase.
Online reputation management might be a challenging task, that requires both the knowledge, time and human resources. But it being such an important part of our guests' daily life we simply cannot take it recklessly.