Taking Travel and Related Surveys with a Grain of Salt

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I’ve recently (and not so recently) seen quite a few reports from marketing companies touting “mobile accounts for 40% of all travel reservations” and “Facebook ads account for 30% of wedding sales” etc. without giving providence of where this information was coming from, and more importantly, what demographic are they actually soliciting these surveys from.

This actually refers to pretty much any report that references “X” number of people surveyed, and doesn’t actually provide a source of where those surveyed came from. I would exclude sources such as Tripadvisor, Cornell Hospitality, Hubspot, any of the Smartbriefs and Social Media Examiner, as their surveys are culled from their direct email lists and members, and I would gauge information from them is more likely to be accurate.

While I don’t doubt that mobile use is in a step incline as well as perhaps mobile bookings, and some Facebook advertising does indeed work, I would ask that companies and journalists who make these claims, and refer to statistics, provide some more information about their sources.

I recently had a client ask me about some statistics that an online article touted, and he came to me asking whether I thought they were accurate or not. It concerned click through rates and click fraud (or a claim of lack thereof) on Google Adwords. This sparked a discussion about where these so called survey statistics were coming from.

Doing quite a bit of digging turned up very few legitimate survey outlets where one could submit a survey and have a fairly large number of results returned. One of the legitimate ones being Mechanical Turk (through Amazon). Being the curious person that I am, I signed up, heaven help me.

I discovered several things very quickly. One, I really stink at transcription (which is the only thing that actually pays anything). Two, I was amazed by the number of legitimate colleges, news outlets and marketing firms posting surveys on there (I am not allowed to say who), and three, this is NOT something to make a little extra money at, unless you are unemployed, or have some other reason for being stuck at home for many many consecutive hours at a time.

In three weeks and over the course of perhaps 6+ hours (taking brief breaks from real work) I managed to make the amazing sum of $36.00 doing various and assorted surveys and tasks for anywhere from $1.00 to .50 cents. It will at least pay for a couple of bottles of wine for the sake of research. I made a whopping $2.50 filling out a yes, you guessed it, travel survey, one of three I ended up doing.

The reason I bring this up, is the people that are spending time filling out these surveys, are probably not the middle to upper class traveler who inns want to be marketing to. They are more likely to be unemployed, the bored housewife/househusband or someone with not much better to do.

So this begs the question. Are the demographics for some of these surveys skewed and are they to be trusted? I would suspect yes, they are skewed and not to be trusted entirely.

The information being garnered in these is in my eyes quite questionable. The majority ask for things like yearly income. How many people fib on their taxes? How many people do you think stretch the truth a bit here? “I am unemployed and have been for several years but oddly enough my income is over 80K………………………”. And I take 3 fabulous vacations every year in the Caribbean.

I call attention to this in order for lodging and lodging marketing companies to ask when you see articles come up with statistics, but no verifiable proof of demographic information, to question both the article/post/whitepaper writer, and to take the information with a grain of salt.

To often I am hearing innkeepers or other tourism related industries referencing information that is questionable and has a questionable providence. When information that isn’t verified is passed along, it ads to the confusion of what innkeepers should be believing, and also taking into account on where they need to spend their marketing dollars.

As an example: If an innkeeper must make the decision to pay extra on an online outlet, for the extra exposure of having a mobile special available, it would behoove inns to be operating on the correct, or at least fairly accurate estimation of how many reservations are actually made by mobile, through that outlet, instead of information perhaps gathered from people that probably had never stayed in a B&B in their life.

And as the old saying goes, anything posted on the internet, must be true. So ask for sources and providence before believing everything you read.

Posted in B&B, Lodging, marketing, Observations | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Pros and Cons of Social Media for Innkeepers-Twitter

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This is the third in a series covering social media pros and cons for innkeepers, following will be Linkedin, Google+, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram. Please check out the first one in the series: Pros and Cons of Social Media for Innkeepers-Blogs and the second, Pros and Cons of Social Media for Innkeepers-Youtube.

Twitter

https://twitter.com

Can be personal or business, or a combination of both. You can have multiple accounts on twitter but you need separate email addresses to administrate each one. You can admin multiple accounts through Hootsuite and Tweetdeck.

Accounts have followers, DMs (Direct Messages), favorites, hashtags,  the ability to tag photos (with the twitter phone app) and public and private lists, you can also follow other people’s lists.

Posts can be sent automatically to Facebook through the Facebook platform. https://apps.facebook.com/twitter/ (not recommended) or you can feed your Facebook posts to Twitter https://www.facebook.com/twitter/ (recommended) and your blog posts to Twitter with http://twitterfeed.com/ .

Pros of Twitter

  • Reputation Management, people do talk about inns on Twitter, both positive and negative, an account gives you the ability to respond to a complaint or a compliment, or a question.
  • Customer Service and Networking
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  • Guest and Potential Guest Outreach, you can source potential guests by interest and by location.
  • Content Sourcing, especially useful if area attractions, local shops, restaurants, area events, etc, have twitter accounts, put them on a list and it’s one stop shopping for things to do/see in the area that’s up to date.
  • Direct Messaging (private)
  • Messaging without having to follow someone (public)

Cons of Twitter

  • #1 reason, Probably the hardest of all the social media platforms to learn and understand.
  • Shelf life of a tweet is extremely short-term
  • Spam and Sales
  • Advertising $ out of reach for small businesses
  • Can be time-consuming

Why Should Innkeepers Use It

  • Reputation Management, people talk about brands all the time on twitter, the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve seen more inns and hotels mentioned on twitter that should have gotten a response from owners/management (good and bad both) but owners/management either didn’t have accounts in the first place or just weren’t monitoring..
  • You can reach out and converse and make contact with people all over the world just by chatting with them.
  • It’s a terrific place to source content
  • Loyal guests can be kept and made by keeping in touch with them, it’s a much more casual connection then being personal friends with them on Facebook.

Why Shouldn’t Innkeepers Use It

  • Can be time-consuming if not managed correctly.
  • Can have very little ROTI (Return on Time Investment) if not used and managed well.
  • Can be addictive
  • Shelf life of a tweet is extremely short-term (so tweets need to be scheduled for proper posting times for more views.)

Some Fallacies about Twitter

  • The only people on it are ones that want to sell you something, or people talking about drinking coffee.
  • No ROTI (return on time investment) that is true but only if you DON’T bother to track it.
  • That you have to respond to a tweet at the very second after its been tweeted.
  • It’s best used on a mobile phone. Mobile phones are great for instantly posting tweets and photos, but to utilize the full extent of what twitter has to offer, you need to use a desktop.

Recommendations as of mid/late 2014

Inns should set up an account, at least if they blog or use Facebook, set up a autofeed for posts.  Suggest checking the account at least a couple of times a month, preferably once a week and actively following back anyone that looks like a real person or business. Inns accounts that are autofeeds that have skewed follower/followee counts will turn off new people from following the account. So if you don’t follow anyone or only follow a few, you stay stagnant in terms of new followers. The ratio ends up being steady at less than 200 people following the account and it will stay that way pretty much in perpetuity.

If you have a twitter account and you don’t use it but advertise on your website you have one, then DEFINITELY set up a feed, so at least it looks active. Nothing worse than a dead site linked from your home page. I personally am not in favor of “just” doing feeds, but so many inns have accounts and literally haven’t updated them in years, at least get the SEO value out of it and help promote the inns and inn specials to people who do use twitter.

In addition to the feeds, I would suggest putting some area people/events/things to do on twitter lists, so you can refer to them when you are looking for things to post on your own social media. It’s also handy to have a news list like https://twitter.com/forfeng/lists/news or to aggregate information like https://twitter.com/NHCountryInns/lists/tourism-journalists.  Because you can also follow other people’s lists, don’t try to recreate the wheel, many people have already put together useful lists for you to access and use the information posted. Mast Farm has a great example of lists https://twitter.com/MastFarm/lists, like https://twitter.com/MastFarm/lists/travel-media-vip in particular. The advantage of lists is don’t have to actively “follow” individual people. Lists aggregate and follow their tweets, not the person themselves.

Looking for some more twitter related articles and how tos? http://chefforfeng.wordpress.com/?s=twitter

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Pros and Cons of Social Media for Innkeepers-Youtube

This is the second in a series covering social media pros and cons for innkeepers, following will be Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram. Please check out the first one in the series: Pros and Cons of Social Media for Innkeepers-Blogs

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Photo credit Dreamstime 

Youtube
https://www.youtube.com (a Google product)
-Youtube Pages have subscribers and individual videos on the page/account have “likes”.
-If you’ve claimed your Google+ Business Page, your Youtube channel can be connected as a tab on your G+ profile

Pros of Youtube
-SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
-Great Soft Sell and Hard Sell Device
-Once video is up/no maintenance
-In-beddable into Facebook as a tab, as well as into blog posts and websites, and pinnable to Pinteret
-You can now make slideshows within it from still photos
-Youtube channels can be custom branded
-Videos can now be longer then 15 minutes, but from a marketing perspective, try to make them under 3 minutes long.
-More and more people are watching content on their Smartphones, much of this from Youtube

Cons of Youtube
-Cost of good quality video may be cost prohibitive
-Youtube has related content all over, you may lose your guest to another video or channel, and they may not return to your site (Suggest if you link from your website to your Youtube channel or video, have it open in a new tab, so your inn website still remains open)
-Unrelated and occasionally inappropriate videos may show up to a potential guests right side of the page, when viewing your video on the Youtube channel itself. (selecting the proper keywords will lower the risk of inappropriate videos showing up)

Why Should Innkeepers Use It
-Terrific for SEO (Search Engine Optimization), I would say in the top 4 of social media platforms, second only to Blogs.
-Great for visual advertising, you can capture more of your space with video then with stills.
-Related content/videos make great marketing fodder for your other social media channels
-Once your video is online, it’s no maintenance, its not a social media channel that has to be updated regularly.

Why Shouldn’t Innkeepers Use It
-A poorly done video will hurt a B&B’s image instead of enhancing it.
-Youtube trolls making nasty, vulgar or inappropriate comments (comments can be disabled though completely or moderated)
-Unlike blogs that will show up in organic search for related terms, B&Bs videos do have to be actively promoted to gain views. Bed and Breakfast is not a normal search term “within” Youtube itself (you can have the video appear though for related searches using the proper keywords, i.e. an inn within a region that has civil war reenactments can put those terms in their video keywords)

Recommendations as of mid 2014
-Even if a B&B doesn’t want to spend the time and/or money to do a video, explore the slideshow option, it is extremely customizable and very easy to use.
-Find videos of your area, things to do and area attractions for use in your other social media marketing.
-If you do decide to do homemade videos and want to do room panoramas using your smart phone, recommend this clip http://www.amazon.com/ChargerCity-Exclusive-Adjustment-Easy-Adjust-Smartphone/dp/B008VI7ORA (my new favorite toy) for your Smartphone or a related it, it attaches to any standard camera tripod and is adjustable.

Some innkeeping video examples:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gwuzob0FWNA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbJRshiWioY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9SGBKr0qGo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0WXYO_2H2c
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGVWwbXlL6o
https://www.youtube.com/user/axleonex/videos
Plus there are some additional example ones in YouTubing Innkeepers, surfing the digital river of the net (link below)

Related Reading
How Innkeepers can leverage Youtubes photo slideshow option
http://chefforfeng.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/how-innkeepers-can-leverage-youtubes-photo-slideshow-option/

How to Use YouTube to Enhance Your Area Activities Page
http://chefforfeng.wordpress.com/2010/01/25/how-to-use-youtube-to-enhance-your-area-activities-page/

YouTubing Innkeepers, surfing the digital river of the net
http://chefforfeng.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/youtubing-innkeepers-surfing-the-digital-river-of-the-net/

Posted in B&B, How tos, marketing, Observations, SEO, Social Media | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Pros and Cons of Social Media for Innkeepers-Blogs

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This will be the first of a series covering social media pros and cons for innkeepers, following will be Youtube, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

Blogging

http://wordpress.com (or .org if you want to pay for it)

http://www.blogger.com  (a Google product)

Plus there are dozens more out there that one can use, wordpress and blogger being the most popular.

Blogs

  • Can be personal or business or a combination of both.
  • Posts can be set to automatically go to Twitter and Facebook through the blogging platform.

Twitterfeed: feed your blog into twitter and Facebook  http://twitterfeed.com/

Networked Blogs: https://www.facebook.com/networkedblogs  Blog to Facebook

RSS Graffiti: https://www.facebook.com/RSS.Graffiti  Blog to Facebook

Pros of Blogs

  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Long Term and Short Term
  • Ability to impart information utilizing the soft sell
  • Put Yourself out as an Expert, in terms of innkeeping, you’re putting out useful information for guests and potential guests.

There are no rules about what you have to post or what direction or genre you have to post in. If you start a blog about local things to do and then switch to recipes or a mix of, that’s awesome!

Cons of Blogs

  • Can be time-consuming
  • Writers Block
  • High Abandonment Rate
  • ROTI (return on time investment) is long-term

Why Should Innkeepers Use It?

Of all of the Social Media platforms out there, blogging has the best long-term  value for both SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and for the ability for re-use and re-purposing content.

Plus it’s a great way to aggregate information for use to send to guests. “Things to do this coming month close to our inn” (information already provided by area online papers and new media), it’s a blog post!

Why Shouldn’t Innkeepers Use It?

Of all the social media platforms out there, blogging is the only one I can not come up with a reason why not to use.

Some Fallacies about Blogging

That you have to write a novel for each and every blog (if you can stick up a couple of photos and a few lines, that’s your post)

That you HAVE to write a blog daily or at least weekly (if you can, that’s great, but no one that actually works for a living has time. The bloggers that say you need to be doing this? That’s their job, blogging, but that’s what they do FOR a job, not running a 24/7 business)

That your going to get tons of comments and if you don’t, you’re not doing it right. #1 fib out there. People comment on blogs that are really useful, putting something really new out there or something they disagree with. If you write a post about the best tomato hybrids out there and no one comments, it’s really OK. Go by the amount of incoming traffic you get instead and this is long-term traffic. A blog, when you originally post it, may only get a dozen views/readers the day you post it, but cumulative, and long-term, over the course of a year, you may get a thousand views/readers. Once you post it, the search engines pick it up, and it stays there pretty much forever and is searchable.

Recommendations as of late 2014

If you don’t have a blog, start one.

If you’ve abandoned your blog, revisit it. Blogging doesn’t have to be a novel. Put it into your schedule and start collecting ideas, write posts up in advance and get ahead of the game.

Blog posts can be sent out to further promote your inn to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ personal and business pages as well as Linkedin personal and business accounts and pages, plus if you include images and pictures in your blog (recommended) you can pin your blog to Pinterest.

Don’t stress about having to do a blog daily or once a week, try to do one or two per month at least, if you can do more, that’s great, but don’t beat yourself up.

If you have blog burnout, then take a break for a month, or two if you need it, but don’t forget to go back to it.

Some innkeeping blog examples:

http://blog.claibornehouse.net/ an example of an inn blog offering a mix of things to do, opinions, recipes etc.

http://murskihomesteadbb.com/blog an example of an inn blog primarily recipe based (remember recipes are the #1 most shared thing on the internet, if you don’t want to do research on whats going on the in the area etc, do a recipe blog)

http://whitecedarinn.blogspot.com/ an example of an inn blog focusing on primarily photos and little text, pretty much everyone has a smart phone with a camera, go out and take pictures where ever you go.

http://www.themastfarminn.com/mast-farm-inn-magazine/ a great example of things to do in the area, promoting the inn and more.

Related Reading

Blogging Homework for Bed and Breakfasts

https://chefforfeng.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/blogging-homework-for-bed-and-breakfasts/

30 Reasons why Innkeepers should be blogging

https://chefforfeng.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/30-reasons-why-innkeepers-should-be-blogging/

25 Blogging ideas for Inns and B&B’s (also useful for things to tweet about)

https://chefforfeng.wordpress.com/2010/01/06/25-blogging-ideas-for-inns-and-bb%E2%80%99s-also-useful-for-things-to-tweet-about/

35 Places to advertise your blog

https://chefforfeng.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/35-places-to-advertise-your-blog/

Posted in B&B, Blogging, How tos, marketing, Observations | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Waste Lists and Why Bed and Breakfasts Should be Using Them

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What is a waste list? A waste list is generally a clipboard of paper, or a log book stored in the kitchen that tracks what food products are thrown away on a daily and weekly basis.

This list should include any food that is returned from a guest’s plate. not just food product overages and expired products, it should include anything noted at all that’s extra on a plate when it’s returned to the kitchen, extra sauce, extra butter, etc.

I know some Bed and Breakfasts who utilize waste lists, but not many that actually carry it one step further and analyse them on a monthly and yearly basis.

Why keep track of what comes back on a guest’s plate? $$$$$$

Yes it’s time consuming, but the time it takes it to track, more than makes back what you save on costs.

A real life example from a B&B:

A five-room B&B has 40% occupancy or (39.45% if you want to nitpick) with 720 out of the 1,825 available room nights they have available booked for the year. 8 single travelers and 52 couples (104) = 112 people on average per month as guests.

A pineapple throughout the year ranges in price seasonally from $2.00-$5.00, so on a yearly average we will call it $3.50 per pineapple. Each pineapple yields an average of 10 slices, coming to .35 per slice

Each plate has a garnish of a slice of pineapple, two strawberries and another piece of assorted fruit in season.

112 people a month

40 of them don’t eat the pineapple

40 X .35 = $14.00 per month = $168 per year

Because we are costing by the slice and not by utilized product we are not going to take into account unusable product (the peel and stem).

$168.00 per year could have been spent on a couple of sets of sheets for guest rooms.

Another real life example from a B&B:

A 10 room Bed and Breakfast has 55% percent occupancy, So 2081 room nights sold out of the 3650 available a year. This B&B is primarily a romantic destination, so 99% of their guests are couples, so 2060 of the rooms have couples (4120 people) and 21 single travelers, primarily male. 4141 guests, appropriately 2100 are males.

The B&B placed on every two top (table for two) a 6 oz. small pitcher of high-grade maple syrup. (As of this past June, the National average price of maple syrup was $37.40 per gallon. In the case of this B&B in CT, maple syrup was about double that. We will take the national average in this case for the example. http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/New_England_includes/Publications/0605mpl.pdf) 6 oz of maple syrup at .29 cents an ounce = $1.74 per table.

Statistically, women used 2 oz of the maple syrup and the men used the rest of the 4 oz of maple syrup, overpouring on their plates more syrup than needed or used. The B&B started using a waste list and started noting that the vast majority of the men’s plates would be returned to the kitchen with an excess of syrup on them. They switched over from one 6 oz. pitcher per table to 2, 2 oz. pitchers per table, in the course of a year, they only had 2 people ask for additional syrup.

2100 people wasting 2 oz of syrup each previously. 4200 oz at .29 = $1218.00 a year.

These are only a couple of examples, but if you have 15 small things like this that are small amounts and small costs on average, they add up.

Once you start keeping a waste list you’ll start to pay attention to the small things that don’t pop out at you on a daily basis. Pay attention to the plates! And write it down.

The average restaurant has on average over 250 small things they can do to reduce food costs, I’ll put B&Bs on an average of 15.  But even that 15 adds up.

To use the pineapple as a low-end of the spectrum example, $168.00 per year X 15 small things= $2520.00.

To use the high (and I’m going to half the 10 room B&B to a 5 room) Maple syrup,  $609 per year X 15 small things = $9135.00

That’s a lot of bed sheets that could have been bought.

Posted in B&B, How tos, Lodging, Observations | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Innkeepers, Are you losing your identity?

Online Identity Theft

As innkeepers, your lives are public, they need to be.

Guests do like to know who they are staying with generally, it’s an integral part of the B&B brand. And while not every innkeeper has their names and photos on their websites, the vast majority do.

Realistically, it’s not much different then most businesses online, you can find out who owns a business, how long they have been in business, etc. just by trolling through the information found easily on Google.

This post though is not about brand and brand identity, but about identity theft.

As innkeepers, once your own information gets compromised, so can your guests and their personal and financial information, so it’s extremely important that you take precautions to protect not just your own information, but those of others you’re associated with. You are taking guest’s names, phone numbers, addresses and credit card information………..

Many innkeepers are on Facebook, not all use business pages, but this isn’t about business pages, this is about the amount of information on your personal accounts. And for those innkeepers on Linkedin as well.

People using one or both of these mediums are more at risk for identity theft, then those who are not. I am not saying don’t use them, but instead be cognizant of what information you are putting out there.

Many people put their birthdays on both platforms. That’s fine, but don’t put your real birth year and don’t put it online anywhere in anything (aside maybe from your bank that might require it). If you have sites you use that ask for that info, pick a birth year date that’s within a century of your birth, but not too close to your own, and then stick with it across all platforms. The first step in identity theft is gaining access to your birth date, don’t just give it away.

Look at how much information is on your networks. Many people on Linkedin and Facebook put graduation years, high school and college and they put the specific dates, Graduated from Lands End College, July 17, 1979.  If you want to network with others from that graduating class for example, put July 1979 or just 1979, the more information you give out, the more an ID thief has to work with.

On Facebook, “Location: currently residing in Lands End, MA, from Riverfront, PA”  Guess what, someone now has; where you were born/grew up, when you were born, where you currently live, where you went to college. etc.

Eyeball the information out there and lock some of it down.

You might say, “Well I have it set (on Facebook) so only friends I know and relatives can see the information……”

A wake up call, recently a spate of cloned Facebook accounts has been going around. A fake profile using your friend/relatives name, profile picture and similar “likes” is created and then invites start going out to the people that they are connected with.

Almost 50% of the people assume the person in question had a problem with their account or got disconnected from them, so they automatically reconnect.

That spammer/scammer/ID thief now has access to others personal information until which point it’s realized it’s fake, and then disconnected and reported. It is extremely easy to set up a fake FB account, all your need is an email address. Less than 5 minutes is all a scammer needs to troll through an account that they now have access to.

I’ve had some people say well I don’t put any of that info in Linkedin or Facebook, BUT if you go through posts, people tag relatives and friends, list places they have visited/stayed. Put their dogs/cats name for all to see.  “Look at cute little Buster with his ball, isn’t he just the best pup?” “My favorite vacation spot is Westerly, RI.”

They have done multiple studies on passwords, many people, if they have favorite pets, make pet’s names part of frequently used passwords.  Favorite vacation spots are another. So an ID thief finds your dog Lucky’s name, and your favorite number is 6 (based on comments on various other people’s posts) and you love Chicago, and they snagged your email address off of Linkedin and/or your website……………………….

Plus many people use the same or a same set of passwords for everything!  With so many online sites, plus social media sites, reservations software, etc. it can be mind-boggling to try to remember them all.

The best solution to remembering passwords is either (if you don’t trust the cloud) get a small address book and put them in alphabetically, and store in a safe place, or use a safe and proven online storage program like Lastpass (https://lastpass.com/) or others (research wisely before using), or develop several sets of passwords (that have no relation to yourself but you’ll remember) that you rotate weekly or bi-weekly in and out of any platforms and online programs you use a lot.

And I’ve touched on some of these before and will again (and probably again).  Antivirus and Backing-up, My biggest challenges when it comes to working with BandBs.

Have a good Antivirus and even more importantly, make sure it’s up to date and updates frequently. (I’ve got lost count of the number of times per month when I talk to a client and they say, “I think it’s up to date”, and it hasn’t been since 2011) Statistics range from how many new viruses come out daily, anywhere from 300+ to 10K+, but even if you took the lower number, that’s now about 328, 500+ viruses that your computer is not protecting you against.

Have a good malware program. Antivirus will not catch a lot of malware, and malware can be even more malicious and damaging than a virus. If you get a keylogger on your machine, it will capture every single keystroke you make on your keyboard, including all your usernames and passwords for EVERYTHING!

Back up your Data, and keep copies in multiple places, at least one in the cloud and at least one offsite.

Once your computer and your information is compromised, don’t forget, it’s not just you that becomes at risk, it’s any guests, future and past as well.

And if compromising the information of others doesn’t scare the tuckus out of you enough, think if you had a malicious former bad guest (who was tech savvy) who really wanted to cause some trouble for you…….. Imagine having a guest say to you, “I didn’t know you were in prison/a stalker/a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, etc……………..” Ouch!

Posted in B&B, Hospitality News, How tos, Lodging, Observations | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bed and Breakfasts Need to Do Some Digital Housekeeping!

moenyInnkeepers, when was the last time you looked, REALLY LOOKED at your website, especially your home page? And checked it? And checked the whole site?

I have a project I am working on for a lodging organization, it includes going to every member’s website and gathering together their social media links, or in many cases, lack there of, and in the process I am looking over their sites and noticing things.

Of the 500+ member pages I’ve managed to take a hard gander at so far, these are some things that have stuck out as significant problems. Issues are not just social media related, there are usability issues, image issues and contact-ability issues, which means that A. web developers are not paying attention, B. innkeepers are trusting their web developers to pay attention and they are not, and C. there’s a darn lot of innkeepers out there not paying attention to their websites.

I’ve noticed many of these things over the years as well looking at B&B sites, this project kind of condenses the issue into where it really hit me over the head.

Your website is generally your 1st point of contact between you and your guest. If it’s broken or portions of it are broken, potential guests are not going to tell you, they will go somewhere else = Lost revenue!

I found the following things on inns/B&Bs websites. If I found more than 25 of them on various websites they made the list. Percentage wise, that’s a big ouch. Statistically over 3/4 of them had at least one of these issues.

1. Click here/click link to email or click button to email: I know people don’t want their email addresses public because they will think spammers will get a hold of their addresses and they will get more spam. Guess what folks, most of the spammers are automated now and they go through your source code and grab your email addresses automatically, it doesn’t matter whether they are “public” or not.

If your guests are using Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or any other web-based email system, including the Outlook web app, you can’t just click to email, you have to right-click on your link/button/image, if you have a PC, (I have no idea anymore on how to do it on a Mac) and then copy the link and paste in into their email program.

Do you have any idea what a pain that is? Or how many bookings you’ve lost because someone wanted to email you and can’t easily?

2. Social Media Links. Many many, many inns had social media accounts, namely Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter accounts (and they were active accounts) with no listings to them on the home page of their sites or anywhere else on the website for that matter. Facebook (lack of links) was a clear winner with over 100 B&Bs (out of 500+) actively using Facebook with no links to their pages from their websites at all.

Folks you have to TELL people you are on Facebook and Twitter and Google+ and Pinterest and Youtube, etc. etc. People don’t just go to those channels and search for your inn.

3. Web forms. “Submit your information and have the inn contact you.” Have you tested yours recently? I recently had a case of an inn I know whose web form malfunctioned and they potentially lost several thousand dollars worth of revenue, because the web form didn’t copy the email addresses that were being submitted for information. Down one big wedding and a bunch of room bookings.

Web forms are notorious for not working or stopping working. If you have them, test them regularly.

4. TYPOS, need I say more?

5. Social Media links with no content or very, very outdated content/posts. I think we can point a clear finger at web developers for that one, but partial blame lies on Innkeepers for letting them put them on. If you’re not going to use Pinterest, don’t let your web developer add a link, If your going to stop using Twitter and your going to let your last post be from 2 years ago, then for crying out loud take the link off.

6. Cute phone numbers. Ok so I only saw a dozen or so of these, but it’s a personal pet peeve of mine, so it made the list.  Call 1-888-Jan-eDoe for the Jane Doe Inn, instead of Call 1-888-Jan-eDoe (1-888-526-3363).

Have it spelled out so it makes it quick and easy to actually call someone, instead of puzzling through the numbers. For a normal person this is a pain in the tuckus in the first place, for someone with dyslexia (like myself, which is why it’s a pet peeve) it takes me about five minutes to puzzle through the numbers/letters.

7. Facebook “like box” misusage. Having the like button on your page, where someone can like it, is liking your website and sending the information to Facebook that someone has liked your website, it does not mean they are liking your Facebook page.

There is a big difference between this:Facebook plugin 1https://developers.facebook.com/docs/plugins/like-button

and this:

fb badges

FB like

https://www.facebook.com/badges/ and icons.

9. Photo placement on pages. Look at the site from the perspective of a customer. Look at it like you’ve never seen it before. What do you see?

spa services

I thought this one above was funny, but the one I saw yesterday of the “We Are Pet Friendly” dog (top) where it looked like it was peeing on the muffin shot underneath took the cake. I’d take a screen shot but it had the inn’s name on it. So just use your imagination.

10. Social Media links with incorrect URLs. lots of http://www.www.twitter.com/janedoeinn  and http:////www.facebook.com/janedoeinn etc. or links that lead just to the social media platforms but are not connected to anything at all. Even though the inns do have social media accounts and are actively using them.

11. Misspellings in the about/bio sections of their social media accounts and links in those bios that are out of date or incorrect (see above).

12. Copyrighted photos. I came across several sites that had clearly watermarked photos from stock photo sites on them. Ooops. At least buy the stock photos so they don’t have watermarks (also so you don’t have the stock photo companies coming after you).  I also came across more than a few images clearly snitched from Google images.

Just because it’s on Google images does not mean it’s copyright free. If one of those is a Getty image, you won’t see a watermark, it’s embedded, but you will get a letter from them demanding $1500 and up, and they WILL set collections on you, be warned, even if you take the image offline pronto. If you don’t know where every single image on your website originated, whether it be from you, a professional you paid, or from a documented bought stock photo site, you need to replace those images ASAP and fire your web developer.

People whose images you might have used illegally, and Getty don’t go after the web developer, they go after you, the owner of the site.

13. Out of date information on sites. Saw a lot of this, blogs are one thing, but having specials pages advertising Special Offers from 2011? And Christmas Packages from 2009?

Innkeepers, look at it this way, weigh how much time it takes you to go through your website periodically and double-check to see if everything works like it should and looks like it should, vs how much potential revenue you could lose/have lost/could be losing in the future due to things that don’t work or look like they should for a potential guest.

Please also see 5 Digital Housekeeping MUST DOs in the New Year for Innkeepers

 

Posted in B&B, General Rants & Raves, Hospitality News, How tos, Inns, Lodging, marketing, Observations, Social Media | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments