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December 2, 2015

Is Social a Waste of Time for Hotel Marketers? (Travel Tuesday)

December 2, 2015 | By | No Comments

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Is social marketing a waste of time for hotel marketers? No.

Is social media marketing a waste of time for hotel marketers? That’s the conclusion of a report Travolution just covered about a study from booking provider eviivo that offers independent hotels and B&B’s pretty terrible advice. Their claim? Quoting Travolution here, “social media has negligible impact on hotel bookings.” And someone’s done the research, so it must be true, right?

Wrong. Dead wrong in fact.

We do distribution analyses for hotels all the time, using hotels’ actual data and generating an ROI for each channel, increasingly including detailed attribution models. And, from what we’ve learned over the years, I’m not “anti-OTA.” Far from it. In fact, I strongly believe OTA’s play an important role in a fair and balanced distribution strategy. I also have seen, again and again, that OTA’s and other intermediaries increase your costs over time
. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them, only that you need to use them appropriately.

But let’s talk about why social plays an important role for hotels and how it fits into your distribution strategy a bit.

Making Social ROI-Positive for Hotel Marketers

First, you shouldn’t use any channel that isn’t ROI positive. So how can hotel marketers make social ROI positive? Your typical marketing manager at a hotel, using data from the eviivo study, probably spends around 2-3 hours per week on social (the report says that 36% spend more than five hours, which means that most spend fewer than that). Assuming annual salaries of $35,000-$40,000 for your marketing personnel, that means their time costs you between $17.50 and $20 per hour or, roughly $35-$60 per week on social activities. So think about it. How many bookings do you need to make up 60 bucks?

The study also doesn’t state how many of those hours include managing and replying to reviews on TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other social platforms, which remains the single most effective way to improve your brand’s digital marketing performance. I’ll assume “zero” to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I suspect it’s higher than that.

Also don’t forget the sunk cost of labor. Even if your marketing managers spend 5 hours a week on social, they’re clearly doing something with their other 30-35 (or who are we kidding, 50-60) hours per week. So it’s not like the cost of the employee goes away. If you can make social ROI-positive, which you definitely can, it’s often beneficial until/unless you find a better channel to occupy their time.

In my experience, social tends to convert at anywhere between one-half and a couple of percentage points. I’m going to use 0.75% as an “industry average,” but want to note that your mileage may vary based on any number of factors. Still, that means it takes roughly 133 clicks to get 1 reservation. Given $40/week for your marketing manager’s time (and assuming only 1 reservation per week), that means you’re spending—at most—about $0.30 per click (and $40) to drive one reservation from social channels. By contrast, you’re likely paying OTA’s a 20% margin for that same reservation. Depending on your ADR, that’s probably a break-even proposition.

For example, if you’re running a $100 ADR and 2 night average length of stay, one OTA reservation also costs you $40 ($100 ADR x 2 night stay x 20% margin = $40 cost of reservation). Here’s what a simple distribution analysis looks like for a 75-room, upper-midscale independent hotel (I’ve included search to provide a comparison with/alternative to social and OTA):

Upper midscale hotel social distribution analysis

As your ADR increases, the numbers get even better for social. For instance, here’s an upscale property’s distribution analysis:


upscale hotel social distribution analysis

And here’s a luxury property (I’ve reduced the room count here to reflect the smaller room counts common among luxury properties):


luxury hotel social distribution analysis

Obviously, the more rooms you have and/or the higher your ADR, the better these numbers get in favor of social and, for that matter, search. And, yes, if you can negotiate a better margin, that pushes the numbers in the OTA’s favor. And, yes it’s undoubtedly true OTA’s drive volume. That’s a Good Thing™. But other channels usually drive more profitable business.

Of course, an actual distribution analysis should look at each channel within social, search, referral, OTA, and the like independently so you can focus your efforts appropriately. But the point remains, social can often represent a solid channel that’s at least as ROI-positive as any OTA and frequently more so.

Still, not to bury the lead, none of those points represent the biggest problem with the study’s conclusions. So, what does? I’m glad you asked.

You Shouldn’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

The study Travolution references almost makes it sound like social’s a waste of time (search, too, for that matter) and that you should give over your sales and marketing efforts to third-parties. This, bluntly, is a terrible idea.

First, what happens when the market turns? Right now, OTA’s face competitive pressures that have reduced their margins, pressures they’re fighting through increased consolidation. However, when demand falls, their huge traffic numbers and vast array of booking alternatives for guests increases their bargaining power and will drive margins up again (a bad thing, from your point of view). It happened in 2001-2002. It happened in 2008-2009. And it will almost certainly happen the next time the economy falters. It just makes good business sense for the intermediaries to do that. Why increase their leverage by relying on them as your primary (or worse, only) source of business? That makes no sense.

Oh, it’s probably worth mentioning that eviivo sells distribution services for B&B’s and hotels to Expedia, Booking.com, and their counterparts. So there’s that.

Even more important, it doesn’t actually work to rely exclusively on OTA’s anyway. Even hotels that depend heavily on OTA’s can’t fill 100% of their occupancy via intermediaries most of the time. There simply isn’t enough demand in most markets to fill all your rooms that way (and if there were, you should expect to see huge increases in developers opening more properties). When demand goes up, guests choose from the available options and seek loads of information to make a good choice. OTA’s commoditize properties and seek to present each property similarly—or will charge you more for featured placements and improved merchandising further inflating your costs. Why not put your effort into answering guest questions on channels where you have more control? And shouldn’t you work to get better at doing that before you’ll need to? That just seems like common sense.

Finally, none of this discussion considers the higher brand value you receive from social and direct websites or the amount of time guests now spend using social sites in their day-to-day lives. But it’s worth remembering that the more places guests can see your property, the more likely it is they’ll think of you when they’re ready to book.

Conclusion

As I’ve said many times, OTA’s aren’t evil. They’re simply one option of many to increase your reach, drive greater consideration, and fill rooms at a reasonable cost—as long as you actually manage those costs effectively.

The same holds true for social. It’s not a magic bullet. But it’s ammunition you can use to increase your reach, drive greater consideration, and fill your rooms at a reasonable cost. As long as you actually manage it effectively too. 😉

Distribution and marketing require thought and analysis. But one thing that remains true is that putting all your eggs in one basket surrenders total control to the folks who own that basket. Make sure you choose a variety of channels that keep you in control of your pricing and inventory and that make it easy for guests to find you where they are.

Social media marketing is not a waste of time for hotel marketers when you do it correctly. Neither are OTA’s. Or search. Or email. Or… well, you get the point. They each play a role to help your guest choose your property when they’re ready to book. When you choose your channels appropriately and manage your resources effectively you’ll find that you rarely waste time. And that your business performs well, too.

If you’re looking to learn even more about how changing guest behavior shapes hospitality marketing, e-commerce, and distribution, be sure an register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also want to take a moment to review the slides from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions 2016: The Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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August 26, 2015

Is Social Media Marketing Dead? Thinks Out Loud Episode 135

August 26, 2015 | By | No Comments

Is social media marketing dead? Probably not.

Is Social Media Marketing Dead? – Headlines and Show Notes

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about how to lead mobile-focused digital transformation within large organizations (a topic we’ve been talking about a fair bit lately). Here are the slides for your reference:

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Technical details: Recorded using an Audio-Technica AT2035 studio condenser microphone through a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 16m 54s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], subscribe via our dedicated podcast RSS feed (or better yet, given that Google has now killed Reader, sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player below:

Tim Peter

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March 27, 2015

8 Amazing Social, Mobile, Millennial Marketing and E-Commerce Posts

March 27, 2015 | By | No Comments

Social, mobile, Millennial marketing and e-commerceAnother busy week, Big Thinkers, so we’re going to get right to the list with this round-up of 8 amazing social, mobile, Millennial marketing and e-commerce posts. Enjoy:

  1. Leading off, eMarketer tells us that mobile will account for 72% of US digital ad spend by 2019. Um… that’s a lot. Of course, when you consider that, no, Millennials never put down their phones and that the path to purchase starts and ends on smartphones for UK Millennials (and probably most others, too), it’s not terribly surprising.
  2. All of the above highlights why I believe mobile will disrupt your industry and offer 3 ways to protect your business. With the number of mobile and Millennial milestones we keep reaching, it’s happening incredibly fast, too.
  3. One of the biggest disruptions ahead is coming in the form of Google’s new “mobile-friendly” algorithm. As Search Engine Land notes, Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm is bigger than Panda or Penguin and the company has also clarified that the mobile-friendly algorithm will roll out over a week, be a yes/no response & more.
  4. GetElastic also helps you get ready for your mobile-heavy customers, with a look at mobile content in context: rules of responsive experience and these 7 tips for targeting the mobile-only shopper. Outstanding stuff there.
  5. Further underscoring the importance of mobile, TechCrunch notes that Yelp hooks up with startups to offer a larger selection of e-commerce bookings. That also underscores my “predication” about why Apple might choose Yelp as its go-to search engine.
  6. And this boom in mobile e-commerce is the reason eMarketer advises you to make way for the digital, deal-seeking Millennial mother. Good read.
  7. Shifting to social, Marketing Charts asks, “Why Do Millennials Use Facebook and Twitter?” and BuzzFeed News says that Facebook is eating the Internet. What you really want to do, of course, it tie Millennials, mobile, marketing, social and e-commerce together, which is the point of my recent presentation, “Social Media Integration: All Marketing is Social.”
  8. And while we’re on the topic of “putting it all together,” take a few minutes to review another recent presentation, “Putting Digital to Work: 4 Key Actions to Drive Digital Transformation,”, read the 4 keys to executing on digital or listen to a recent podcast that explains why, in in digital marketing, the money is in the list.

Hope you enjoyed this look at 8 amazing social, mobile, Millennial marketing and e-commerce posts. If you’re looking for even more good stuff, don’t miss this “Baker’s Dozen of the Best Mobile, E-Commerce, and Digital Marketing Writings This Week,” these “10 Hugely Important Digital, Mobile, and E-Commerce Observations from the Past Week”, the “8 Must-Read Posts Connecting Content, Search and Mobile Commerce”, our monthly best of round-up “10 Can’t Miss Mobile Commerce and Marketing Columns: The Top Posts from February 2015” or the rest of our E-commerce Link Digest series.

And if you want to learn even more about how customers changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing, be sure an register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You can also check out these slides and video from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions: Three Key Trends Driving Your Marketing Next Year”:

And, finally, you might want to take a look at some of our past coverage of the e-commerce, mobile commerce, and digital marketing overall, including:

Travel

  1. Why Apple Might Choose Yelp as Its Go-To Search Engine (Travel Tuesday)
  2. Among America’s millennials who travel, half have spouses and children – Tnooz
  3. Huge List of Lessons Learned at HSMAI’s Digital Marketing Strategy Conference – Travel Tuesday
  4. Expedia extends mobile dominance
  5. 7 Hot Hotel Marketing Insights: Hospitality Marketing Link Digest
  6. 5 Top Mobile Marketing Tips from Travel and Hospitality Industry Leaders | Adobe
  7. Huge List of Lessons Learned at HSMAI’s Digital Marketing Strategy Conference – Travel Tuesday
Tim Peter

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March 26, 2015

Social Media Integration: All Marketing is Social [Presentation]

March 26, 2015 | By | No Comments

Social media integration: All marketing is social

Developing an effective digital marketing strategy is critically important for businesses today. But, equally important, you’ve got to be able to execute that strategy, put it in practice, make it work. Lately, I’ve been doing more and more speaking engagements where the topic has focused not just on strategy but also on real-world examples and case studies that demonstrate how leading companies have put digital to work in their organizations (including many of my own clients’ stories).

I shared the slides from my “Putting Digital to Work” talk the other day to provide insights into how many companies have succeeded in making digital work for their organizations. Today, I thought you might enjoy these slides from a talk I’ve just given called “Social Media Integration: All Marketing is Social,” which looks at how you can build social into your overall customer experience. This isn’t just about gaining friends and fans and followers; it’s about listening to and learning from your customers, and making your marketing work most effectively by getting your customers to tell your brand story for you. In short, it’s about results.

Here are the slides for your reference:

If you want to learn even more about how customers changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing, be sure an register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

And, finally, you might want to take a look at some of our past coverage of the e-commerce, mobile commerce, and digital marketing overall, including:

Tim Peter

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September 22, 2014

Is Google+ Dead, Dying, or Something Else Altogether?

September 22, 2014 | By | 3 Comments

Is Google+ dead?Larry Kim writes on Wordstream’s blog that Google has dropped its mandatory Gmail integration, which used to require users to create a Google+ account when they signed up for Gmail (and some other services, too). Kim notes:

“Rumors of the decoupling of Google+ and Gmail first surfaced in the spring. Google, unsurprisingly, hasn’t exactly gone out of its way to shout about the change from the rooftops, instead choosing to quietly shelve the mandatory integration.

Although the change means that new Gmail users will no longer be forced to sign up for Google+, they’ll still have the option to do so, as you can see in the image above.”

Loads of folks have wondered for some time whether Google might be killing off its social network, especially since the departure of former head Vic Gundotra. Let me be clear: Google+ isn’t dead… but it may be dying. Despite its popularity among a focused, passionate user group (photographers, for one, seem to love the service), it’s never really caught on as a mainstream alternative to Facebook. But that’s not the important part. No, the real question, though, is whether Google+ is dying for your business.

And the answer is, for many businesses, probably not. Google continues to emphasize Google+ in its Google My Business and Google+ Brands offerings. And evidence suggests the search giant increasingly values brands in its search results. Claiming your brand’s identity within Google+ should only continue to benefit you in the near-to-mid term.

Now, does that mean that Google+ is the perfect social channel for your brand and your business? Of course not. But, to be fair, no “perfect” channel exists. Instead, use Google+ for the benefits it offers — simple content posting, clear profile for Maps and search, some favorability for search rankings. It doesn’t matter whether Google+ is dead, dying, or (most likely), evolving into something else altogether (for example, many business’s direct access to Google’s back-end directory). What matters is that you use it correctly and get the benefits you deserve.

Curious about the marketing and e-commerce trends that will drive your business in 2015? Check out the slides and video from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions: Three Key Trends Driving Your Marketing Next Year”:

And, if you’re interested in learning even more about how customers changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

Finally, you might also want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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July 15, 2014

3 Reputation Management Secrets Every Hotel Marketer Should Know (Travel Tuesday)

July 15, 2014 | By | No Comments

Couple reading reviews on tabletBright Local has new research highlighting what your guests think about the overall consumer review landscape. Fascinating reading and well-worth your time. But, since I know many of you don’t have what you’d call “copious free time” these days, here are the key points worth reviewing:

  1. Customers trust reviews significantly more than they did last year. There’s been a huge drop in the number of people who answer “No” to the question of whether they trust reviews as much as personal recommendations, 13% this year down from 21% last year (and 33% in 2011). That’s huge. And further proof of how important reputation management is to your overall marketing.
  2. Quantity matters (and so does quality). Two-thirds of respondents trust user reviews more when there are 4 or more reviews to read. But equally important, the gap between 3-star ratings and 2-star ratings is huge. Only 27% of guests will use a business with a 2-star rating, while 72% will use a business with a 3-star rating, proving yet again that your customers have as much say in how others perceive your brand as you do.
  3. Guests remember how you made them feel, not what you said. This came up a fair bit at this year’s HSMAI Digital Marketing Strategy Conference (see item #3 on this list). According to Bright Local, guests value reliability, expertise, and professionalism above all else. Sure, they’ll remember what you said, but only if you actually deliver on that promise.

Again, the whole report is well-worth reading (and you can find it here). But, it’s striking to me how many of these points line up with the big items in this list of key resources for hotel marketers. It’s pretty clear the state of hotel reputation management continues to evolve as guests gain increasing familiarity with reading reviews when making a booking decision — to say nothing of their increasing comfort with creating reviews of their own while during and after their stay. That’s one of the reasons why Expedia is investing heavily in enabling real-time review creation tools for travelers.

For better or worse, reputation management — reading and responding to reviews, as well as taking action to address guest concerns — represents a key component of your hotel’s sales, marketing, and distribution activities. Treating it as anything less ignores your guest’s reality. And risks your hotel’s success today and in the future.

(H/T: Tnooz)

Interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web? Register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

And, if you’re curious about other trends shaping travel marketing, take a look at my recent presentation, called, aptly enough, “Digital Marketing Directions – Exploit the Trends that Shape Travel Marketing”:

Finally, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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March 18, 2014

The 4 Rules of Social Marketing for Hotel Marketers (Travel Tuesday)

March 18, 2014 | By | No Comments

Couple by pool sharing their stayA hotel group recently invited me to talk about how they could use social media more effectively for marketing. Their key question was: “What rules exist in social media for hotel marketers?” I thought you might enjoy finding out some more about that, too.

Based on my experience, 4 rules exist when it comes to social marketing in the hospitality industry (and in most other industries, too). They are:

  1. Social is people. Your guests (or clients, customers, members, or whatever you prefer to call them), have individual needs and concerns. They’re busy folks on a mission to solve their problem, not spend a lot of time listening to you. “Social” isn’t a channel that you can use to simply shout about yourself. Well, you can. But you won’t see any positive results. Instead, you need to listen, understand, and engage with customers in social on their terms. That is, as human beings.
  2. All marketing is social. Broadly, the role of marketing is to connect customers with a solution. And since customers are social by definition, your marketing must be social, too. More specifically, you’ve probably noticed the increase in ratings and reviews in search results, and the way your competitors make it easy for their guests to share information with their friends and family and fans and followers on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and all the rest. Have you made it easy for your guests to do the same?
  3. Your brand = What you say + what guests experience. Every single guest in your hotel is now, effectively, a professional reviewer. And, as you’re likely aware, they’re more than happy to share their experiences with those friends and family and fans and followers I just mentioned. As I’ve noted before, working to increase the quality and quantity of your property’s reviews and ratings represents the single most effective way to improve your online marketing.
  4. There are no rules. As Barbossa memorably notes in Pirates of the Caribbean, these are “…more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.” Social media continues to evolve. And your guests’ use of social evolves along with it. The “rules” that “everybody knows” today may turn out to be different tomorrow (in fact, I’d bet on it). So, instead, you’re best bet is to test and see what works for you to drive the results you need.

Anyway, that’s a quick look at what works today. When you get a moment, you can check out the whole presentation here:

If you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

And you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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December 5, 2013

Top 5 Social Media Trends for 2014

December 5, 2013 | By | No Comments

2014 social trendsEvery year, social media marketing becomes a more important component of online strategies. The biggest social networks are still the best and fastest ways for any business to spread marketing messages. But of course, as with every online strategy and the tech world as a whole, the rules keep changing.

What will 2014 bring to the social media table? Here are five trends for marketers to watch as we enter a new year of brand building and share-focused campaigns.

Companies Will Embrace User-Generated Content

By now, every marketer understands that the biggest key to successful social media campaigns is emphasizing the social aspect—the part that encourages participation and sharing. In 2014, more businesses will get on board with the idea of user-generated content.
This is already a popular strategy on a small scale. It’s been demonstrated that social media posts that ask a question receive better responses, more traction, and higher engagement. Now, many companies will take it a step further by inviting users to submit content related to their business—photos, videos, even personal stories or testimonials.

Inviting user-generated content not only increases engagement, but also lets companies measure ROI, a constant challenge for social media marketers.

Social Media Marketers Will Need to Diversify

In less than a decade, social media networks have exploded from just a few main players to a multitude of sites. While Facebook and Twitter still reign supreme, there are plenty of other networks producing results for businesses: Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumbler, Vine, and Instagram, to name a few.

Next year, more companies will experiment with multiple networks. It’s important to find the social media networks that work best for your type of business, but maintaining more than one will increase your cross-channel exposure and let you introduce different types of content into the mix.

Google+ Will Become a Must

Speaking of diversity, many social media marketers will discover that Google+ simply can’t be ignored any longer. The search engine giant’s social network is steadily invading more channels. For example, the Google-owned YouTube recently launched a comment section redesign that requires either a YouTube channel or a Google+ account in order to leave a comment.

More importantly, Google’s most recent statistics reflect more than 300 million active monthly users on the Google+ network. It’s a more visual platform than either Facebook or Twitter, and comes with greater opportunities for businesses to improve their SEO through an active Google+ account.

Businesses Will Get Better at Monetizing Social
Every business wants to turn a profit. In fact, an initial stumbling block for entering the arena of social media was the big question, “But how will it make money?” Since the answer seemed to be “it won’t,” a lot of companies avoided making social media a major part of their online marketing strategy.

Facebook and Twitter both failed to generate a profit in the beginning. However, Facebook has been consistently beating revenue expectations quarter after quarter, and Twitter isn’t far behind with the recent announcement that it’s filed the paperwork for an IPO. In 2014, expect more opportunities for revenue streams to begin surfacing among social platforms.

Marketers Will Spend More on Social Media

A survey from Decipher, conducted on behalf of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and the American Marketing Association (AMA), found that seven out of 10 marketers expect to increase social media spending in 2014.

That’s 70 percent of businesses putting more into social, compared to the 53 percent who will invest more in email marketing and the mere 16 percent who will increase print marketing spending.

Another report deals with the overall spending increase for this channel. ZenithOptimedia released a combined report and forecast that estimated social media advertising spending of $4.6 billion for 2013—up more than a billion from 2012’s $3.4 billion. And by 2015, the forecast estimates that social spending will reach around $8 billion.

Where do you see your company on the social media landscape for 2014? Let us know in the comments!

Interested in learning more about the future of marketing in a multiscreen world? Register to receive a special report Tim produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

And, if all that’s not enough, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the trends shaping the social, local, mobile web and what they mean for your business, including:

About the Author:
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

Image credit: Image courtesy of falco.

Tim Peter

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September 24, 2013

The Single Most Effective Way to Improve Your Brand's Digital Marketing (Travel Tuesday)

September 24, 2013 | By | No Comments

Ecommerce satisfaction cycleOK, Big Thinkers, it’s pop quiz time: If you’re a hotel, resort, or restaurant, what’s the single most effective way you can improve the value of your marketing? More to the point, what will kill your other marketing efforts if you don’t take care of it.

Now before those of you outside these industries run off— and before I answer the question— stick around for minute. For many industries, the same tactic matters just as much.

I’ll give you a few hints:

  • It’s not SEO.
  • It’s not paid search.
  • It’s not social media (at least not in the sense most people think of it).

So, what is this “magic” tactic?

It’s managing your online reviews.

Seriously.

Think about all the places your guests and customers encounter reviews and ratings for your business:

  • TripAdvisor
  • Yelp
  • Traditional search engines, like Google and Bing
  • Map sites like Google Maps, Mapquest, Waze, and Apple Maps (you can read more about the business implications of the integration of search and maps here)
  • Online travel agencies like Expedia, Travelocity, and Hipmunk
  • Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — with many customers using the cameras and connectivity on their mobile phones to post pictures, ratings, and reviews while they’re in the middle of their stay
  • Travel and food blogs
  • Even brand websites for many hotel chains now feature ratings and reviews of their properties

In fact, just about every interaction a potential customer has with your brand online provides insights into what they can and should expect.

If you’re not a hotel, resort, or restaurant, don’t think you’re out of the woods. Plenty of dedicated sites exist across a variety of industries, while the non-industry specific sites (search engines, social networks, mapping tools and the like), often provide the same picture of your brand to customers.

So why are review sites such a big deal?

One word: Money.

Studies from Chris Anderson at the Cornell University Center for Hospitality Research and Michael Luca at Harvard Business School [PDF link] show revenue gains of around 5% to 11% for each increase in star rating across popular review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp (this data supports the findings from my own research behind the P’s & Q’s model I talked about a couple of weeks ago).

Now, review sites aren’t perfect. For one thing, recent data from Maritz Research [PDF downloads of part 1 and part 2 here), suggests that roughly 45%-60% of users trust the data (it varies by site and demographic group) and that only a small percentage of users actually write any reviews at all. (H/T to Tnooz for the link to the study).

One of the main reasons for that lack of trust stems from the frequency of false reviews from businesses either trying to promote their own brand or, worse, downgrade their competition. Happily, states have begun to crack down, with New York recently charging some businesses with false advertising for trying to game review sites. While a small step, it undoubtably signals a positive direction for businesses overall.

Or at least those focused on improving their review scores.

Conclusion

Your brand is not some mystical, intangible thing; instead a brand is the sum of all the experiences your customers have with your business. Not just what you tell guests about yourselves, but what they experience, every step of the way. Your customers travel through myriad steps prior to making a purchase decision and each step informs them a bit more about who you are and what value you provide. And, increasingly, reviews communicate your brand more effectively and more efficiently than any other marketing activity you undertake—whether it’s the brand story you want your guests to hear or not.

Yes, fake reviews are a problem. But that’s beginning to work itself out.

And, yes, improving your ratings and reviews takes effort. But not working to improve your customers perception of your brand and business costs you money, every day. I didn’t say it’s the easiest way to improve your marketing’s value. I simply said that it’s the most effective way. So, before you start another marketing campaign, take a look at what your customers say about your business and your brand, then ask yourself, what can I do to improve what they say about me.

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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September 18, 2013

Making the Most of Key Influencers in Social Media

September 18, 2013 | By | No Comments

Do you know what a Key Influencer is? Do you want to?

Of course you do.

Key Influencers are those well-regarded and widely respected folks who help promote your content , brand, and business to their friends, family, fans, and followers on social media channels.

But how do you get them to do that?

Well, that’s the topic of my latest Biznology post, “Content Marketing for Fun and Profit”. Check it out if you get the chance.

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of marketing on the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including: