Q&A with Tripadvisor’s Head of Industry Relations, Brian Payea

TA

A bit over a month ago, I got to visit Tripadvisor’s new Headquarters in Needham, MA, with our Fidelco Guide Dog Puppy in tow. (off topic for a minute, my husband and myself are volunteer puppy raisers for the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, my apologies for the shameless plug for Fidelco, but it’s a great organization that trains dogs for a great cause. 🙂

Their new headquarters is cool, and I think it interesting that anytime a article has come out in the past month with snarky comments about, “My business listing money increase put to a great cause, etc. etc.” and “oh so THATS why they raised my biz listing fee.” I can understand the unhappyness and frustration that having raised fees causes, but if I could point out, and this is not in Tripadvisors defense, but just an external observation, the new HQ is geared (from what I could observe) in making their employees happy and productive. I personally would much rather call a company with someone happy and helpful on the other end of the phone to deal with my problem, then a grumpy, unhappy and fed up with life customer service rep, IMHO.

I spent more then a hour talking with Tripadvisor’s Head of Industry Relations, Brian Payea, and we talked about the state of the industry and where Tripadvisor was headed.

I had been collecting questions for some time from inn’s that I had been talking to and gave Brian a laundry list of questions. I hadn’t priorly published them, as I was still waiting on some of the statistics that took some time for them to put together. There is a comment regarding reviews and claimed listings (from me) at the bottom that I think the B&B industry needs to address.

General Questions from more than one property:

A comment: A ton of inns said they would continue or start to list on TA if they kept rates affordable. But every time the rates are raised more small properties are dropping. When their marketing budget is $3000 for the year and their TA listing is more than ½ of that, they just can’t afford it.

Just to be sure everyone’s using the same terminology, every business has a free listing on TripAdvisor.  The Business Listings product, which provides contact info, links, special offers and announcements, is a distinct product that is available for purchase.  So, whether or not a property decides to purchase the Business Listing, they always have the free listing.

Business Listings has evolved from the first iteration, where we had flat pricing regardless of the property’s business specifics, to a product where each property has an individually calculated price.  Each property now sees property-specific pricing, based on a calculation using the following elements:

  • Number of rooms
  • Geographic area
  • Total page views for the property in the last 12 months
  • Click-through rates for the property
  • Estimates of conversion rates based on industry standards
  • Average daily rate and average length of stay

The pricing is higher than it was when we first introduced it.   The factors used in any property’s pricing are available for consideration, and if the property owner disagrees with any of the individual elements of the calculation, he or she should contact their sales person and explain which elements are incorrect, and then work with the sales person to determine the price that reflects the accurate elements.

Why is Tripadvisor so hard to contact and get answers from? Especially support?

With more than five million businesses on TripAdvisor, we constantly re-examine how best to provide support sustainably.   We have recently made significant changes in our support structure, and have seen a measured improvement in the time to respond.   Our management center is still the place to begin all dialogs regarding most areas that require answers.    Our Help Center has also been rebuilt, and almost every question of policy is answered there.  Where properties most frequently want additional help is when there’s a desire for escalation of the discussion after an answer has been delivered through the management center.   In those cases, they are able to reply to the email, or call the toll free numbers and follow the path to customer support.  The wait times on those calls have gone down, but I can’t guarantee there will not a hold time.  

My experience with customer support issues when I’ve been drawn into the discussion is that frequently the request, for instance a review dispute, has not been framed with the TripAdvisor guidelines in mind.   I recommend that before submitting the request, take a look at the guidelines and consider whether the request has been described in a way that the violation of the guidelines is clear.    Also, it’s important to include details that will help the investigators come to the same conclusions.  

Why do do B&Bs continuously get promises to follow up on issues once they get ahold of support and many don’t get followed up on?

 Unfortunately it’s not possible to speak to specific instances without the details of the case. I’ve investigated claims like this after conversations with innkeepers and sometimes find that there is a difference of opinion about whether the inquiry has been addressed.  It’s good to check the spam filters on emails in case the email response got caught there. Second requests can be entered in the management center as well, or the phone support can be used to see if the case is closed on our side, and to discuss the outcome.   The innkeeper may decide to begin a new case with additional evidence that wasn’t provided the first time as well.

If site traffic from Trip Advisor is down, why do you think a rate increase is justified?

Site traffic to the site is up overall.  If a particular property is seeing less traffic than previously, they might want to check their figures against what is provided in the management center, and discuss any differences with their sales person.

Why must business listing members choose between a Special Offer & Announcement? Why not both?

Business listings customers do get both the Special Offer and Announcement.   I’d suggest checking out the resources in TripAdvisor Insights, www.tripadvisor.com/tripadvisorinsights to read some of the case studies and best practices documents about maximizing the impact of both of these features

Why not remove the most commonly used terms algorithm? It’s clearly not being updated.

We constantly reevaluate every feature on the pages.  If something isn’t benefiting the traveler, it’s tweaked or removed to make way for something that helps the traveler more.   You’ll see many new tests in the area of personalization that should improve navigation, and help travelers discover B&Bs as well.

What’s the process for merging small towns that only have 1 or 2 listings each?

We don’t merge towns unless the local government merges.  We keep properties in the towns in which they are built.   One option that you might be considering is when it makes sense to create a larger entity that includes multiple destinations.   One example is Cape Cod.   While a property in Chatham stays in Chatham, there is a larger area destination of Cape Cod, which includes Chatham, Brewster, etc.   You will see those across the top of the page, with the final destination on the right, and working back left, you’ll see Cape Cod, Massachusetts, United States, etc.   If you believe your area would be well served by adding that additional layer of structure, please let us know.   Maybe best to contact Heather (heather @ forfengdesigns.com) and she can forward to me.

TA has been telling B&Bs this week that ALL lodging business listings start at $899/year and that is for a property with a $70/ADR. Is that true?

Our Business Listings are priced individually and the pricing changes.   Best to contact your sales person for your specifics.

Why don’t they charge restaurants for listings?

Every business gets a free listing on TripAdvisor.  The commerce opportunities vary by segment.  As you’ve probably noticed, we now feature booking options on restaurant listings, often through Open Table in the US.   We’ve also recently purchased companies in this space, and you’ll see The Fork, as one of our restaurant initiatives.   The different businesses have different ways to engage in commerce, and can choose to or not.  But all businesses have a basic free listing.

Why can’t they tell B&Bs unique visitors vs. total visitors when given their stats.

When the management center was built we worked with business owners to determine which pieces of information would be most useful, since we had to prioritize.  We will add your suggestion to the list of possible changes for the next version.

I’ve had a bunch of inns say they had a top listing in a town, with 5 star reviews and more then double the reviews of the competition, when they stopped paying for a premium listing their ranking dropped to #2

The ranking of properties has absolutely nothing to do with a property’s decision of whether or not to purchase any commerce opportunities on TripAdvisor.  Everyone’s heard us say that the popularity algorithm is confidential, and it will remain as such, so I won’t disclose any additional details here.  But the total number of reviews is not as important as the number of recent reviews.   Use the resources in the management center to compare yourself to your competition and pay particular attention to how many and how good the reviews are from recent months.

Why aren’t the analytics that are being provided anywhere close to the numbers that Google Analytics and other tracking programs return with. In terms of clickthroughs and visits.

We provide information from our servers, based on the clicks travelers make from our site.   Our data regarding what travelers do on TripAdvisor should be more accurate than another party’s data about our site.   Your sales rep should be able to walk through this particular data with you. 

Why do they favor hotels (e.g.; asking travelers to “choose a hotel” and totally leaving out B&Bs).

TripAdvisor is delivered in 28 languages and is used by people literally all over the world.   Hotel is a universally known term, while the B&B experience varies language to language.  The overall question is how best to get travelers who are looking for, or would enjoy, a B&B experience to those property listings.   Our ongoing testing of personalized navigation should be a big step in this direction.    While many ask for B&B tabs, we know from experimenting with them that that isn’t the answer, and we continue to innovate to help find your ideal customers and help them find you. **This also came up in conversation, about TA trying to best word B&Bs, as in other countries B&Bs are also known as guest house, holiday lets, country house, gites, etc.

Why are they now making it impossible to stop subscribing to Trip Connect until the end of an annual agreement?

TripConnect can be turned on and off as you wish.   You choose when it appears on the page.

Why doesn’t TA automatically “reset” the review count to zero when a business is purchased by a new owner?

If you notify us of the purchase, using the management center, the reviews from the previous owner can be removed and you start over.  Keep in mind you also start over in your popularity calculation and the reviews cannot be replaced after having been removed.   It’s your call.  We don’t automatically reset it without a request, as many purchasers consider the history of reviews as a goodwill asset of the property.

This request from many many B&Bs

Why is TA requesting auto renewal as one of the renewal conditions, considering the fact that the prices are increasing every single year drastically? Why they are not giving people the opportunity to go on on a year to year basis? People cannot just let Auto Renewal On and agree to have the money taken out their accounts when prices are increasing hundreds of dollars every year.

 Auto renewal is the standard contractual language, but you are notified in advance and given the opportunity to end your subscription.

This from one of my innkeepers. (and it was a question I had from some of my clients as well)

Our rate was going to go up by $339 this year to a total of over $1100 for 3 rooms. That is higher than I pay for B&B.com and they are our highest referrer and responsible for highest booking rate. I use http://intellakeeper.com and proved them wrong with the actual bookings TripAdvisor was responsible for. (we also have Google Analytics and Awstats on this account and neither match even close what Tripadvisor is reporting for stats)

Any time you have data that contradicts what is being used to calculate your new pricing, you should present that information to your sales contact. **Brian specifically said when we talked about this, TA is willing to negotiate, but you need to present them with facts about reservations, etc. 

How many B&Bs under 12 rooms in the United States have listings on TripAdvisor.

  • Total B&Bs under 12 rooms: 17,309

How many B&Bs under 12 rooms in the United Kingdom have listings on TripAdvisor.

  • Total B&Bs under 12 rooms: 26,221

How many B&Bs under 5 rooms in the United States have listings on TripAdvisor.

  • Total B&Bs under 5 rooms: 11,633

How many B&Bs under 5 rooms in the United Kingdom have listings on TripAdvisor

  • Total B&Bs under 5 rooms: 18,096

How many B&Bs in the United States have registered owners? (i.e claimed their listings)

  • Of the 23,471 B&B properties in the United States, 12,563 have at least one registered owner at them (46%)

How many B&Bs in the United Kingdom have registered owners?

  • Of the 29,288 B&B properties in the United Kingdom, 19,856 have at least one registered owner at them (68%)

How many B&Bs in the United States are writing management responses?

  • Of the 23,471 B&B properties in the United States, 19,140 have reviews (82%). Of the properties that have a review, 7,036 have written a management response (37%).

How many B&Bs in the United Kingdom are writing management responses?

  • Of the 29,288 B&B properties in the United Kingdom , 27,631 properties have reviews (94%). Of the properties that have a review, 11,405 have written a management response (41%).

————————————————————————————-

Of concern to me is in the US, how many B&Bs have not claimed their business listings (the free listings) as well as how few (37%) have written management responses.

Considering that guests are booking lodging with a very heavy review bias behind them before they book, I think it’s of the utmost importance that B&Bs claim their listings so they can respond. If your B&B has nothing but great reviews, that’s terrific, but my feeling is you should still respond to the reviews. People have taken the time out of the day to write a positive review, responding lets them know you have acknowledged that, as well as for the thousands of other people looking at those reviews after the fact.

Posted in Hospitality News, Reputation Management, Tripadvisor | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Suggestions for Professional and DIY Inn Photography

In browsing many innkeeping sites and looking at photos taken by innkeepers, as well as professional photographers, I’ve come across a few things of note that all photographers should be aware of. There are some great blog posts on DIY photography out there that touch on things like making sure your wastebaskets are out of the shot, and power cords are moved, but many of them don’t touch on some common mistakes that from a guest’s perspective may make the photograph seem “off” and may not realize why.

I am including examples of things I’ve seen on multiple (i.e. more then several dozen sites, in a few cases hundreds, especially the unopened wine and champagne bottles). **I do have photo permission to use the below photos.

These are cropped portions of full sized website photos, things that caught my eye and will also catch a potential guest’s eye.

As the trend to use larger and larger photos keeps on, and I forsee keeps getting more and more common, inns need to heavily eyeball photos, and look at them from the perspective of a potential guest.

a

No utensils and no napkins.

b

A table set up for multiple people, but only one place to sit at. I’ve seen this on many porch shots as well.

c

Tables with drinks and food many feet away from a place to sit. To a viewer this shot is staged, but if you wanted it to look like from the perceptive of an action shot (which this one was supposed to be), the table should be closer to the couch and the two glasses and plates aligned with the people that would be sitting on the coach. (note the unopened champagne bottle). I see this on a lot of B&B sites but logistically doesn’t make much sense.

d

Cords, a different wrap for this would have been suggested. Or remove the appliance entirely. I realize leaving it in the photo is to show that it’s an amenity, but using a black twist tie (easily replaceable if lost) to neatly wrap the cord is an option.

e

Missing items, where are the tongs?And the full unopened bottle of wine accompanied by two glasses with wine in them. If you are doing “action” shots make sure all your props are in place and see whether you are missing something logistically.

f

Angle of the soap pump dispenser, but primarily the tissue box, tissues should be tugged up to a point.

g

This is from the same inn and the prior photo, un-consistency, in the prior photo, soap dispenser is in the cabinet, prior on the sink. In this case, the amenities are arranged nicely but the dispenser is kind of tossed in. The towel is also something to address. (will in another photo).

i

Oh the rose petals!!! (and the unopened wine again). I see this on decorated beds for romantic retreats as well. A guest’s subliminal impression? Wow it’s going to take forever to get those out of the tub (or off the bed).

j

The crimped towel hang, I see this on alot of B&B sites. While a tad time consuming, it may be worth it to invest finding out some additional ways to use towel folds so they give a neater impression. Try https://www.pinterest.com/legnonfamily/decorative-towel-folding/ for a few ideas.

k

The empty hangers. In each room in this inn there are complimentary robes in each bathroom, either remove the hangers or hang the robes in the armoire (for the photos sake). Or consider cropping out the armoire totally, in this case it was on the edge of the photo.

l

Alarm clocks and Ipod/phone docks that are unplugged. In every other shot on this inn’s website, there are phones plugged into the docks, so not consistent as well as not “on”.

m2

Unopened champagne and full glasses. I’ve seen this on scores and scores of B&B sites. Probably twice as much as the unopened wine.

n

Another (unopened wine) but in this case, look at one of the glasses, it looks like wine speckles on the glass but its from the wood work. Easy enough to edit out. The cheese should be trimmed to be neater (remember this is for show) and the cheese with the rind should be turned around. From an technical perspective as well, the amount of cheese vs the amount of crackers to accompany them is also off.

The benefit of digital photography and especially if you are a DIY photographer for your inn, is the ability to take multiple photos until you get exactly what you want. I’d recommend blowing up the good ones, and doing some serious eyeballing of the image to see if things can be moved, what draws the eye in the photos, and have some other people seriously take a gander at the photos to point out what they see, or in some cases don’t see.

Here are some of the other things I’ve run into on multiple inn sites as well, so when you are staging your rooms and are looking at your photos or your photographer’s photos, just to be aware of.

  • Making sure silverware is centered and straight. (this is another personal pet peeve with me coming from the restaurant fine dining venue) but it does make photos look sloppy when the knife and spoon are straight and the fork is not aligned.
  • Games (Chess and Backgammon) set up for two players, but only one has a place for someone to sit at.
  • 1/3 full glasses of wine next to fully made beds. If the photo had a bed with the covers pulled to the side as if someone was going to get in, that would make sense, but otherwise it just looks off.
  • Trays with teacups and tea (or coffee) and nothing else on them on top of beds. Cream, sugar, napkins, utensils?
  • Beer mugs with microbrew empty beer bottles with more beer in the glasses then the bottles hold.
  • Breakfast with coffee and food but no cream and sugar.

Look at your photos, you may be surprised at things you catch after the fact.

Posted in Hospitality News, How tos, Lodging, marketing, Observations | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

New Important Changes for Facebook Page Owners that Innkeepers Need to Know.

arrgg

  1. The Addition of a “People Also Like” Box to the left, it can be reordered but not deleted.

2.  The “Welcome to this Page” option (under the About Section) for mobile, looks like it may have only been a test, this option is now removed.

2. ***Verify Your Page looks like it’s now rolled out to all Pages. Verifying is easy. They call you with a pin number, you enter it and you’ve got the verified check mark.

Note, if you have a number for the business set in the page, you can change the number to call to verify it. This almost seems rather pointless as anyone can then verify a page, even someone not officially the business owner, or someone can set up a competing page for a business and have that verified. I just verified 5 pages (with the same phone number used) as an example. I suspect this may come back and bite Facebook at some point.

3.  ***Reviews has moved to its own location in the menu bar underneath the banner. The option to hide your reviews by unchecking the map option (in the About section) looks to be currently gone. It’s now been changed to “Show Map and Checkins on Page” instead of “Show Map and Reviews on Page”.

It does appear you can now comment/respond on ALL reviews, not formerly an option depending on individual privacy settings.

This is really bad news for page owners, if your business hits the news in a bad way, you may have to resort to unpublishing your page until it blows over now.

4. ***Adding Pages to Interest Lists has disappeared (from where you previously added them on the page itself in question).  The option itself still seems to work, you have to be logged in as yourself/personal account, go to your main page/feed, scroll down on the left to where it says Interests.

If you already have interest lists you can still add to them, or you can create new, you will have to “find” the page by entering it into the search box to the right. Note you must have also liked the page in question first before you are able to add it. I really hope they don’t do away with this option completely as this is one of the few things that made aggregating content on Facebook easier.

5. ***Page banners are undergoing yet another change and revision. Reverting a bit to the old format where most of the buttons/options with the exception of the Call to Action button are moving back under the banner. The smaller avatar profile image is getting smaller and moving up into the banner itself more. So anyone that’s spent time customizing their banner to look nice (if it has text on it) will probably have to redo it.

The interesting thing about this option is it’s not be rolled out to page owners, it being rolled out to users. I first heard about this about a month plus ago but the vast majority of users still don’t see the new format. I’ve so far run into two people who have the new view option and from reports I’ve found I’d peg it at about 5% of Facebook users see the new format currently. I’d recommend changing the image as soon as you can, past experience with views and major changes usually takes about 2 months and we are about a month in so far. I don’t have the option enabled, the screenshot was sent by a FB friend who has the new view.

Old Header

Richard old header

New Header

new header

Usually Facebook when rolling out some major changes (like the last four) means there are still more changes in the works. I’ll try to add to this if I come across any more.

Posted in B&B, Facebook, Hospitality News, How tos | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Unbundling, Innkeepers is it time to start thinking out of the box?

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I was recently talking to a friend of mine and was extolling the virtues of staying at B&Bs vs hotels, motels and Airbnb options, and he had an interesting question for me.

His question was do B&Bs ever offer the option of offering a guest to stay and pay for just the room, but not the breakfast. He is a frequent business traveler, and he said while he loves the environment of staying at a B&B, he generally is not a breakfast eater, and frequently just isn’t hungry in the morning, on top of which he says he doesn’t want to spend the time out that breakfast at a B&B would require, when a yogurt and piece of fruit would do, and he would rather (or needs to be) working on a report.

I was reminded of an interesting Skift article that came out last week: Will Unbundled Amenities be the Future for Budget Hotels? http://skift.com/2015/08/19/will-unbundled-amenities-be-the-future-for-budget-hotels/  And the leader into this article was The mid-range to low-end hotel sector hasn’t had an easy ride of things recently. With the popularity of vacation rental sites like Airbnb growing, hotels have decided they need fresh new ways to compete.” The article (and I recommend actually reading it in-depth as it’s got some interesting points of note) goes into several hotels that are “unbundling” their rates, offerings and amenities.

While I don’t put B&Bs into the budget hotel category, I do put many of them into the mid-range (and they are usually less expensive than said mid-range hotels) and with the ever looming and ongoing Airbnb threat (which sadly think is here to stay) B&Bs have to think up some alternatives to the traditional Bed and Breakfast model.

One of the major highlights of a stay in a B&B is of course always the Breakfast part, but in order to compete with the ever-changing world out there, Flash sales, Last Minute Booking Options, OTAs and Airbnb, B&Bs need to be realistic, offering options, like not having breakfast, it doesn’t mean everyone gets it, or doesn’t get it, but it could fall into the category of unbundling. Most Airbnbs do not offer food unless a “guest” wants to raid someone’s fridge, technically it’s a luxury.

There are other things that can be considered amenities that a B&Bs could consider unbundling as well, the biggest obviously being the breakfast, but things like housekeeping/room cleaning, bottled water, towels or just changing out the towels, amenity baskets, early/late check-ins. You could even go the route that hotels go if you really want to unbundle, AC (if available), TV (if available), WIFI even, parking, etc.

If you take your average room rate, most B&Bs average between $140 – $160 per night. By unbundling some of the regular options a B&B might offer they could potentially compete with the hotel/motel market, and Airbnb rentals without compromising their standards, or more importantly by losing money on the options because that’s what they are, options.

How much does your breakfast actually cost you? And then ask what would you charge a guest individually if they wanted to “add on” breakfast as a stand alone. $15-$20? Realistically your actual cost numbers should be between $7-8 a head, but you should have budgeted $10-12 which would include your labor, gas and shopping time and overhead like utilities. Build a realistic “retail” price that you would charge a guest for breakfast, like $15, but you don’t want to price too high because it would become an option that more would perhaps take out to lower the final price point.

A couple of key points from the end of the Skift article that bear consideration if a B&B would like to try this. I personally like the model Nomad Hotel’s uses, where guests are deducting amenities (i.e. especially ones they would normally get at a B&B) like breakfast and daily room cleaning. These two paragraphs (in segments) instead of having a base and adding on.

“The nature of Tune’s booking system feels somewhat miserly in the way guests have to pay for every amenity they want. And of course, their base rates can only go up, whereas Nomad’s can only go down. Budget-conscious travelers will undoubtedly find something rewarding in seeing their room rates drop every time an amenity is removed.”

And I think from a Bed and Breakfast’s perspective, people go to B&Bs “for” the breakfast as one of the best reasons, they have the option to take it away, but why do that as it would part of the normal booking amenity one would get anyway.

“Nomad Hotel’s booking system also exploits a human tendency that finds the fear of loss greater than the desire for gain—a consumer psychology phenomenon known as loss aversion. Applied to the idea of “subtracting” rather than “adding” amenities, customers would be less inclined to get rid of amenities that in theory, they already have.”

A B&B would have to put a price tag on each amenity prior to offering the deduction, your cost vs “retail cost. I am just going to put some numbers in for rough examples, they obviously will vary per B&B.

A suggested mock-up if a B&B was going to try this

Your regular room rate is $139

Minus Breakfast (and then a luscious description of breakfast – as a tease to not delete because who would? BUT they have the option.)  -$15.00

Minus Daily Housekeeping -$10.00

Minus the Amenities Basket -$7.00 (I know some B&Bs that this would be higher)

Minus WIFI -$5 (I think people would choose to keep, still cheaper than a hotel)

Minus Water bottles in room (2) -$3.00

All deductions would bring the room rate down to $99.00.

Minus the Housekeeping, amenities and water, down to $119, still very competitive and they get breakfast to boot!

Think about if you take away some of the things that are normally costing you money, daily housekeeping (labor, laundry costs, general overhead), amenities basket and the bottled waters (both found for free in almost every B&B I’ve ever stayed in, but hopefully built into your rooms cost), You are saving the money, they see a cost savings.

Most people will still take the Breakfast option and probably the WIFI, the key being you are giving them a choice, plus also than competing (or seeming to compete by giving them options) with both the traditional hotel/motel, plus at this point, and more importantly, the Airbnb competition (if there is some in the area).

I tend to think regular B&B goers will also keep the housekeeping as well, but the point here is the “illusion” of having saved a few dollars, water + amenities basket still brings the rate down by $10 and it’s your cost savings still as well at that point.

I would make a point of mentioning on this page, (with the options) about the fact that a B&B is fire inspected, has insurance, etc. etc., all of those are part of your “regular” lodging price, and it protects the guests, vs an Airbnb rental that offers none of that will still charge a similar rate.

While I love the traditional B&B model, I think it’s time that innkeepers need to start investigating ways that may be a little alternative to the regular business model in order to compete and long-term, stay competitive.

Just a snark of note, similar to PAII’s Better Way to Stay video, I’d love to see a B&B (more as a gag to a well-adjusted guest who can take a joke) have their room filled with things with tags on it (like the hotels do) Bottled Water “Cost free, in a hotel this would have been $5.00” etc.

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

Some Social Media Changes Innkeepers Should Be Aware Of For 2015

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Facebook Is Testing “Saved Replies” To Help Pages Manage Customer Service Messages http://marketingland.com/facebook-is-testing-saved-replies-to-help-pages-manage-customer-service-messages-131055 As the post mentions, it “could” be a boon for small businesses, but for innkeepers it may not be, but it’s good to be aware of this as it may have potential future applications. Of the 40+ B&B Facebook pages I am the admin of, 99% of the incoming messages would not have been a good fit for a canned response. I do think it may have some value if you are outsourcing your social media, and you do have a very well crafted response done up in advance for your outsourcer to use for something like a complaint, or a basic booking inquiry.

Google Says It May Unverify Inactive Local Business Listings http://searchengineland.com/google-says-it-may-unverify-inactive-local-business-listings-222414 Why is this important for innkeepers? Because many innkeepers have gone ahead and claimed their pages thinking that is all they need to do to them, and have never returned to them again. Google+ pages of all of the social media platforms out there seem to be the least used and utilized amongst innkeepers.

Why should innkeepers bother to keep an eye on this? If your page is unverified and someone leaves a review, you will have to re-verify it before you can respond. Google says they will try to contact businesses via email before un-verifying, but innkeepers may ignore this as a spam solicitation. “In some cases, we may contact Google My Business users via email to confirm that they are still actively managing a business page. If a user is unresponsive to our attempts to contact him or her and has not logged into Google My Business for a significant length of time, then we may unverify pages in the account.

I would recommend innkeepers (even if they are not going to actively use their Google+ accounts) put it into a calendar that every few months go over to their Google+ account and login to avoid the possible future inconvenience of having to reclaim their pages again.

Mike Blumenthal has a thread going about this topic with further information as well. http://blumenthals.com/blog/2015/06/04/google-now-requiring-null-edits-to-keep-accounts-active-in-us/. A question to Mike about what constituted logging in to the Google+ account came back with. “In conversation with Google they noted that Logging in would be logging in as the page in any respect — so that would be any of the following– seeing the GMB dashboard, – making an edit, – posting, etc. So, yes, posting to G+ would “count.” And “Google has confirmed that any activity including that of a manager is enough to keep the page from going into “default”.

Coming soon: Buyable Pins! https://business.pinterest.com/en/blog/coming-soon-buyable-pins Why is this of interest? Because if innkeepers have an inn gift shop including inn cook books, uploading good photos of products can push sales. Inns Associations can also take advantage of this if they have produced an Association cook book. Keep in mind, the images in Pinterest can be recipe photos from the cookbook, not just an image of the cookbook itself. Businesses can get on the waitlist for buyable pins at https://business.pinterest.com/en/get-list-buyable-pins. You can currently create Pins directing people to your availability link url directly from a photo and promote them as well but the Buyable Pin option (from what I understand) are Pins you can mark as purchasable (there is no layout of funds like Promoted Pins) and they will show up within your Pin boards.

Instagram Adds Call-to-Action Buttons, More Relevant Ad Targeting http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/instagram-adds-call-to-action-buttons-more-relevant-ad-targeting Because Facebook owns Instagram, and it’s ad platform is integrated with it, this could be a huge plus for inns wanting to cater to the Millennial market. They have not yet rolled it out, and while it says buttons will offer “buy now”, “app install” and “sign up” options, I lean towards thinking it will also offer a book now option as well. Even if it does not, the “buy now” button could be redirected to a booking link, and a “sign up” could potentially boost an email distribution list. Caveat, similar to Facebook’s current Book Now option, if your reservation system is not mobile friendly, even though your website is, and Facebook is, expect a high bounce rate and an even higher abandonment rate from a potential booker.

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Facebook Beacons, Places Tips and Mobile Checkins Page, should Innkeepers care?

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Facebook has just started asking businesses if they would like a Facebook Beacon mailed to them, I just got a notification of 3 of my businesses that I have admin rights to asking if they would like one. (How do Facebook Bluetooth® Beacons work? Using Bluetooth® technology, these beacons send a one-way signal to the Facebook app on your customers’ phones to help us show them the right information about your business during their visit. They don’t collect any information from people or their phones or change the kind of location information Facebook receives.) You can request your beacon here https://www.facebook.com/business/a/facebook-bluetooth-beacons

Should innkeepers get excited about this? Yes and No.

Yes, because it has the potential to be very interesting, and have some interesting capabilities, No, because like everything Facebook does when it implements changes, they don’t let people know all the details, and the changes that a business page owner will have to navigate when the changes and new options roll out.

One of the changes a page owner might see is a new option in their about section, called “Welcome Note”. I found a preview of this option months and months ago on one sole page, but it looks like it’s rolled out across the board for any business that has the “Local Business” category selected for their page. I suspect that the rollout and availability of the beacons, and the same day appearance of the mobile welcome tab are going to tie together further at some point in the future, if and when beacons take off.

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By default, the Welcome tab will pick up the header image from your business page unless you select another. With only 155 Characters to use for your descriptive welcome (or it possibly is meant to be a tip? Or a special offer?) You need to think of something short, sweet and pointed to say in this area.

The interesting thing is that while Facebook lets you edit this option (as of today), the preview and tab does not seem to be actually rolled out as of yet to mobile check-in users.

There hasn’t been much of an announcement yet about the beacons rollout other then an Entrepreneur article about an hour ago http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/247081  , and this announcement in January, http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2015/01/29/facebook-tests-bluetooth-beacons-to-feed-users-local-content/  .

Places tips in itself (http://newsroom.fb.com/news/2015/01/introducing-place-tips-in-news-feed/ integrated with Facebook beacons) could be a huge boon to innkeepers in tourist driven or more populated areas where the chance to reach passersby perhaps looking for a place to stay would be large, especially for the last minute bookers, but there are also concerns the application could be intrusive and people will turn off the notifications, rendering any benefit useless.

I would suggest Innkeepers keep this on their radar as I predict it will make page owners make some changes to both content and the type of information that is posted on their business page.

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Buffer and the new Pinterest Integration for Innkeepers, Is it worth a look?

Pin1In my opinion Pinterest is still one of the fastest growing social media networks that Innkeepers should have a presence on, and Buffer (Bufferapp.com) one of my favorite pre-scheduling tools out there. I am a big fan of the free version, up to 3 social media accounts and up to 10 pre scheduled posts. I have been on the fence for awhile about upgrading to the awesome plan (12 social media profiles and pre-scheduling up to 200 posts at a time). The Pinterest/Buffer integration may just put me over the edge where I decide to upgrade ($10.00 a month).

Buffer is letting people sign up for the Pinterest access for a free 7 day trial (no credit card required) to test it out. I’ve found some pros and cons, but mostly pros so far in playing with the trial.

Why do I think this would be of interest to Innkeepers? Pinterest is fantastic for search engine optimization, boards can be brought in to a Facebook page using free apps, plus Pinterest boards can have widgets added to both websites and blogs enhancing visual appeal, plus visual is what “sells”.

Plus Pinterest is super easy to use, one of the easiest to learn (and also the most addictive). Using Buffer to preschedule images to Pinterest will A. save valuable time for innkeepers as it will give the ability to space out posts and B. they then won’t have to login to Pinterest and get distracted tracking down that delish bacon recipe or getting sidetracked seeing cool new renovation ideas for storage in guest rooms (and I am not being sarcastic, Pinterest can be a time sucker and it’s super easy to get distracted). This will allow innkeepers to better spend that time on actual marketing.

Cons, I have not found a way to easily post a photo from an exterior page using the Buffer toolbar button. So using Bufferapp to pin photos from your website may not be an option at this time.

Pros, You can upload your photos, put in your descriptions and set what exterior links the photo will link to in less time then it takes to upload and do within Pinterest itself (The photo uploader in Buffer seems to be at least 50% faster than the Pinterest uploader especially with higher resolution photos) AND it gives you the ability to repin photos from within Pinterest itself, and send them into your pre scheduling queue, much better for marketing for both things, as it spaces your posts out more so you have more of a potential of more eyeballs seeing your posts at different times.

I would recommend if you have a business Pinterest account, taking a look at your analytics and then pre-scheduling not more than 3 posts per peak time period.

Tip: when pre-scheduling Pinterest posts, go into your Buffer dashboard to schedule, using the Bufferapp toolbar button to open a new scheduled post tends to glitch.

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