Social Media

The Importance of Ecosystems

Taking a chapter out of Apple's fully integrated "system", the others (Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.) are now in a full throttle war to get you to buy-in to their ecosystem. It's a simple much of your on-line experience stays in one portal? In order to secure more of your attention (translates into sales), each of these organizations must build both physical and on-line systems to make you feel completely comfortable. It needs to appeal to your tastes and be really, really simple and intuitive...a la Apple. Google isn't adding YouTube movies to sell movies per se. It's another reason for you to stay at home on the Google ecosystem. Why go to Netflix?

Kindle Fire, Nook, iPad...designed to keep you in the system.

Not so long ago, the measuring stick was which site you had your browser home page set to. Now, it's which ecosystem do you spend most of your time in.

There's a Sucker Born Every Minute

Not anymore. In fact, there never was. People have never been dumb. Most just weren't motivated to seek an alternative, especially about things that didn't originate in their own town. You knew if farmer John's milk was could ask a neighbor. It was much harder to know if the Sears catalog was lying to you. The problem wasn't smarts. There just wasn't a reliable way to learn. Enter ubiquitous high-speed's internet. It changed everything, especially the rules about keeping people in the dark.

Last week a company tried to sell me spark plugs and spark plug wires for more than five hundred dollars. The same products were available outside the shop for under a hundred. The jig wasn't hard to figure out. When I asked them about it, no problem..."just bring in your own parts". A sucker punch. Here's a national, well recognized brand, categorically ignoring all the new rules of customer care and marketing hoping to pull a fast one on people. What do they really hope to gain? Makes you wonder.

Most trickery is more subtle. An ad campaign that promises the best meal while the restaurant is consistently empty. A website that boasts fabulous customer service while overbooking practices drive people mad.

Try covering up your lousy restaurant.
Try hiding the fact that your hotel is dirty.
Try fooling people to pay more for an airline seat.
Try keeping people from talking with each other about your service.

You can't do it.

On the flip side, try hiding the passion and enthusiasm of your best people.
And, try keeping your secret sauce a secret.
Or, try keeping people from spreading your fabulous idea.

You can't do that either.

So, are you going to do average work, spending time to keep people in the dark, hoping to find a few suckers? Or, are you going to get busy doing things you want people to talk about.

Unfortunately, you have to decide.

Micro Learning

Monika gets it. Learning isn't about how much and how fast you can cram into people's brains. Rather, the best learning occurs when you pair a student with someone with a perfectly matched skillset tailored just to them.  Better yet, the process occurs at the micro on one or small groups.

We call this tutoring. Previously, your search for an algebra expert or guitar master was limited to finding someone nearby. Not any more...

In Search of Expert Individual Tutors

Your project can work the same way. Why limit solving problems to those around you when there's a better way?

It's a Remarkable Time

Fooling people used to work. Creating something average and telling people it was better than it actually was...worked. The majority of your time, cost and resources were spent on the message, finding enough customers, and the sale. Unless you were building a new plane or telescope, something requiring intense engineering, the big cost of delivery was in the lie.

Now, fibbing is easy and cheap. Websites are better and cost way less, finding and connecting with audiences is a click away and keeping in touch with customers is virtually free. So, what's the hold up?

There's still a hard part. In fact, it's gotten harder. With so many new ideas flooding the market, creating a remarkable experience, a story that's authentic and rises above the clutter, is now much more challenging. Not because it costs more or requires additional skill to create. The hard part is commitment...commitment to getting started and to doing it right. You can't win unless you do both. Get started with something that's significantly flawed or perceived as a gimmick and you fail. Wait until it's perfect and you lose out to someone else. The new skill requirement is knowing when...when to fire, when to release the next version...and when not to.

Develop a reasonably creative that solves a problem and is worth talking about. Make it better than average...something that has meaning and a soul. Show people you care by improving (or abandoning) it. And, don't waste people's time...sell it to someone who wants it. No embellishment, no bait and switch, no forcing the issue. If it's a remarkable story, it works. The only question is whether there's a big enough audience to support it. That's hard to figure out...called risk.

Fear is probably the only thing holding you back. Better move past that...someone else has.

How to Reach Out and Join a Conversation

One of the many benefits of internet technology is the ability to see and join interact with people who have a demonstrated interest in what you're doing, and to show them that you care. This is especially important to people who have a passion for making themselves and their companies better...those humble enough to know that customers are often smarter about what's right and wrong with their business. Here are four keys to joining the social community...

Tune in- be good at sniffing and snooping to see what's being said, typed, photographed or in some way digitally memorialized. There are a host of companies who will do this on your behalf. Google Alerts is a good first step if you're constrained by budget, boss or both. And, if you have an iPhone, try the Exposure app. It has an option to search for photo's uploaded to Flickr which are near your current position (requires 3g iPhone gps). I stood in the lobby of a hotel today and showed the concierge a photo that had been taken of her giving a prospective guest a tour...scary isn't it.

Reach Out and Ask- Once you've sniffed out something interesting, a rant or rave, make contact and ask for permission to join. Don't leave drive by comments , initiate rebuttal or make sarcastic remarks. Do politely engage and ask if you can help.

Meaningful, genuine dialog-  No form letters or canned responses allowed. Be personal, polite, apologetic (if applicable) and provide whatever information or action is requested. If you don't have the answer, find someone who does. Offer to follow-up. But, don't pester people.

No Control- Don't do anything that gives the impression you want to control the outcome of your exchange. If you do, you lose trust and probably a customer, ten, or maybe a thousand. Remember, you're on a stage, and it's not yours.

Today, I experienced a perfect example of how to reach out and join a conversation. It follows on the heels of my rant earlier this week about a less than stellar experience with the Wilife call center.

It turns out the customer service folks at Logitech (they own Wilife) do a nice job of keeping their ear to the ground for stories like mine. Yesterday, I received an email from Jon Mitchell, Director of Worldwide Customer Support for Logitech. The note was personal, genuinely written, asked for additional details of my encounter and included an offer to follow up by phone. We spoke today, where he and Brad, a call center manager, listened to my story, apologized, told me what happened, offered some recourse and most importantly did not ask me to write a follow-up to my original post. Bravo...nice recovery.

Hospitality 2.0

Just read this quite interesting and comprehensive article about hotel internet marketing...A Hotelier's Guide to Budget Planning in '08 (Max Starkov and Jason Price). It's aimed at getting you to think about shifting more resources to your own website and directly engaging with your audience as opposed to print, third party deals, etc.

My brief thoughts on what to do with your it Hospitality 2.0:

  1. Experience Harmony- Just as the initial impression with your PBX or reservations agent is so important, your website must be aligned with the other aspects of the guest visit. I've seen too many four-star hotels with a two or three-star web experience.
  2. Easy- The right audience should be able to easily find your site as well as the information they are looking for. If you can't begin the reservation process, find a menu or a read a guest comment within one click, the site needs work.  Also, don't get stuck with the idea that everyone should come to the "home" page. This is one of the biggest mis-steps I see. Try using multiple landing pages for different audiences looking to do different things.
  3. Trust- Everything on the site should have a common move the guest relationship close the sale. And, building relationships is based on trust. So, remove anything that erodes trust (opt-out e-mail campaigns, advertising-like text that attempts to convince someone to buy, anything that risks over promising and under delivery, etc.), and add things that make you more transparent (guest commentary, employee blogs, etc.).

Vibe Hotels Is Stuck in 1.0

Vibe Hotels announced their new website today and claims..."The new website is peppered with exciting features to extend the personality of the brand into the online arena and has been designed to promote interactivity with our guests." However, I don't see much evidence of that...absolutely no guest generated content on the site, or any way to interact with anyone, other than the traditional "contact us" link. As far as I can tell, this website is stuck in 1.0. Too looks great though.

Negative Feedback...What To Do?

Comment cards are dying. So are letters to the GM or corporate office. People don't have faith in that system anymore, mainly because they don't trust anything will happen...that no good will come of it. On-line is where it's at. Guests are turning to sites like Tripadvisor, VibeAgent, epinions, etc., to air their issues and concerns. It makes perfect's immediate and unfiltered (no interference from the hotel or restaurant). Tripadvisor allows hoteliers to post a public response to reviews. But, this can be very dangerous because there's a natural tendency to defend the actions and offer "reasons"  for problems in order to control the damage. And, that's bad. A better strategy is to reach out to individuals personally, apologize and solve the problem. Hopefully, trust is regained and with any luck, the offended party becomes a loyal fan. They might even add a follow-up review describing your turnaround. If you're compelled to post a public reply, keep it focused on an apology, your appreciation for feedback and your efforts to reach the party personally. And, as I've mentioned before, add some links to these reviews on your website to demonstrate how important they are to you...both good and bad.

Another option is for the hotelier to create a separate conversation and invite these guests to join-in and offer their comments and perhaps even share in the corrective process. Vibeagent's Adam Healey discusses this very scenario in an exchange on Chris Clarke's Vacant Ready blog. Looks like VibeAgent is heading in the right direction by encouraging hoteliers to use this platform. 

Diva Marketing Talks

This week's indieHotelier podcast is up...Toby Bloomberg, president of Atlanta-based Bloomberg Marketing and author of the Diva Marketing Blog, gives us further insight into the world of social media. Some of the subjects we explored in this episode....

  1. Trends...use of video, reviews and other user generated content as marketing tools. How important is this...and why?
  2. How do we measure social networking results? Justification, ROI and the use of traditional metrics and measurement systems.
  3. How can a hotelier monitor social networks?

Click on the logo to go to the indieHotelier website. Or, on the podcast button to download the MP3 and listen now.



VibeAgent Picking Up steam

VibeAgent (we interviewed Adam Healey, the founder, on indieHotelier #36) seems to be picking up steam in the world of travel sites. They're now the the 5th largest hotel site online in terms of bookable inventory. TechCrunch recently dubbed them..TripAdvisor 2.0. And, I hear they're about to launch a spiffy new map application. You might want to check them out if you haven't already.

Leveraging UGC

Very few hotels exploit the recent explosion of user generated content and social networking...not sure why.  I've talked about this quite a bit on recent indieHotelier shows. Why not put links to your Tripadvisor reviews, Flickr photo's, etc., right on your home page, or the reservations page? It does two things...demonstrates transparency (important in earning trust) and starts/perpetuates conversations. You need both to do well.

indieHotelier Features Diva Marketing Tomorrow


Toby Bloomberg, president of Atlanta-based Bloomberg Marketing and author of the Diva Marketing Blog, joins us on the show tomorrow for perspective and comment on what's brewing in the hospitality world of social media and marketing.

Join us for the live show on Talkshoe at 11 AM EDT.

Sheep and Chicks

Last Friday's indieHotelier show with Patricia Brusha, A Couple of Chicks Marketing, turned out to be quite lively. She did a terrific job leading us through various social media topics including blogging, Facebook and the importance of conversations and two-way interaction with your guests. Her partner, Alicia Whalen, captured the program quite well in her blog (better than the show notes).

Click on the logo to go to the indieHotelier website. Or, on the podcast button to download or listen to the show now.



Podcast Recap

Alicia Whalen did a great job of blogging a recap of yesterday's live indieHotelier show with special guest Patricia Brusha. We had a great time discussing the finer points of social media, blogging, etc.,and what hotels are doing (or should be doing) to engage with their guests. I'll release the show by Monday. But, in the meantime, you should definitely check-out Alicia's post.

Oh, and as always, if you can't wait for can listen to the raw version of the show on Talkshoe.

More Social Media on indieHotelier Tomorrow...

Chicks1 Pat2

We continue our social media journey with special guest, Patricia Brusha, Co-Founder and COO of A Couple of Chicks, an internet marketing firm specializing in the hospitality industry. Patricia recently authored two fantastic articles on this subject, Sheep 2.0 and How Facebook will Impact The Summer Tourism Season. So, we'll start there...and see where it takes us.

Join the live show on Friday, July 27th, 11 AM EDT via Talkshoe.



This week's indieHotelier is up. Warren Dehan and Shelly Edwards of Northwind Maestro lead us in a stimulating conversation about the impact of social media, web 2.0 and the increasing use of the internet on hotels and their guests. We cover some interesting ground including the future of call centers and travel agent services and how hotels are challenged to maintain price integrity with so many distribution channels.

Click on the logo to go to the indieHotelier website. Or, on the podcast button to download the MP3 and listen right now.





A new indieHotelier show is up.

This week's program features Thomas Owadenko, founder and CEO of the world's first video guide for hotels, Trivop. He gives us a behind the scenes look, including the history and inspiration behind this new new travel service.

Click on the logo to go to the indieHotelier website. Or, on the podcast button to download the MP3 and listen now.



Wiki Power

If you don't know what a wiki the video below for a really simple and fun explanation. Then, go to Chrispitality for a great hospitality example. Here's another one listing all of the things to do in different cities around the world if you only have 2 days to see the sights.

Here are just a few ways, hospitality professionals could make use of a wiki...

  • Community Recruiting- Build a site for your town, county or island with all of the hospitality jobs available. Totally fluid and up to date.
  • Workforce Resources- Again...for the benefit of your local hospitality workforce...everything they need to know from training, certifications, education, social gatherings, what to do after work, room mate searches, etc.
  • Committee Projects- Safety, Employee Picnics or virtually any collaborative projects within your organization.

Oh, and all of this is pretty inexpensive. Here's a free wiki website maker called wetpaint.