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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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July 16, 2015

Three Quick Business-Building Tips That Don’t Involve Google

July 16, 2015 | By | No Comments

Three tips to grow your business that don't involve GoogleWhat do email, social, and channel partner apps all have in common? They’re among the best ways you can grow your traffic—and your business— without Google, as I point out in my latest Biznology post. Here’s a quick excerpt:

“I debated whether to include channel partners in this list at all. For one thing, you use search, social, and email specifically to avoid using channel partners. And, let’s be fair, not all “partners” always actively work in your best interest.

That said, many channel partners have had great success in driving app adoption amongst customers, and may prove a valuable way to drive revenues and sales for your business. Just be sure that the ones you’re choosing work as a true partner and not in competition with your own direct efforts.

The best way to distribute your products or services via a channel partners’ app is an exceedingly complicated topic, well beyond the scope of this simple post. However, there are a few questions you should consider to help select appropriate partners to work with. Ask yourself:

  1. Can this partner reach a customer I can’t?
  2. Can they do that at a reasonable cost?
  3. Do they provide access to the end-consumer’s data? (So you can continue to build your list and decrease your dependence on partners overall)”

I think you’ll really enjoy the whole post, including entries on email and social—as well as a special bonus tip, too—so be sure to check it out on Biznology today.

And if you want learn even more about how your 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:

Tim Peter

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September 9, 2013

Facebook Etiquette: 4 Social Media Marketing Mistakes to Avoid by Megan Totka

September 9, 2013 | By | No Comments

Facebook marketing etiquetteFacebook marketing can be a tricky beast. As a business, you want Facebook engagement to translate to sales—but you don’t want to come off as pushy. There’s also the social aspect to consider, the need to be approachable and personal.

While there’s no magic formula for the right approach to Facebook marketing, remember two things:

  1. There are a number of mistakes you must avoid in any marketing channel
  2. Proper Facebook etiquette tips will help you boost engagement by not turning people off about your Facebook page, your message, or your entire brand

What is “proper Facebook etiquette”? Glad you asked.

Don’t Ask For “Likes” on Your Posts

The Facebook “Like” button has become something of a holy grail for some marketers. Get enough “likes” on your post, the idea seems to be, and you’ll magically go viral. Your fan base will explode. Money will start pouring in. That’s why you’ll find plenty of social media marketing advice out there telling you to ask for the like.

The problem with this strategy is that everyone knows it’s a strategy. There are massive numbers of posts on business Facebook pages out there starting with, “Like this post if you…” And while your likes may start to add up, those numbers aren’t going to convert to dollars.

It’s better to write fantastic content that people “Like” because… well, they actually like it. You may end up with smaller numbers next to your thumbs-up, but they’ll reflect a true, organic level of engagement that’s more likely to go viral because people are actually interested in what you have to say.

Don’t Clog Up Your Fans’ News Feeds

There’s a difference between actively posting and over-posting. You want to maintain a social media presence, but you don’t want to post so often that people see nothing but your company in their news feeds. That’s a fast way to get your page un-liked.

Instead, opt for quality posts over quantity. Make sure that when you post something to Facebook, it will add value for your followers in some way. The same advice applies for when you’re using hashtags on Facebook—post them strategically and sparingly.

Don’t Patronize Your Audience

Talking down to your Facebook followers is a sure path to disengagement. For some great examples on what not to do, check out the Condescending Corporate Brand Page, a parody Facebook business page that gathers, posts, and comments (sarcastically) on social media blunders from big corporations.

Along the same lines, avoid the appearance of capitalizing on national or global tragedies by not posting about your “sympathy” or “thoughts and prayers” on Facebook. It’s better to either completely avoid the mention on your business page (save it for your personal page), or instead of thin sentiments of sympathy, post a link that gives your audience a way to help, such as donations or official support websites.

Don’t Say “Thanks”

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t show gratitude to your audience for engaging with you. Rather, it means that when people take the time to offer thoughtful comments or suggestions, it’s dismissive and rude to respond with a single word. Just saying “thanks” makes it seem like you’re too important to bother thinking about their comment.

When you take the few extra seconds to offer a personal response to commenters on your Facebook page, you’re creating fans for life. So don’t simply go down the list and click “Like” next to your comments, or add “thanks, everyone” at the end—engage your audience, and keep them coming back for more.

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:

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 birgerking via Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Tim Peter

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July 31, 2013

How Connected are Social and Mobile?

July 31, 2013 | By | No Comments

I spend a lot of time talking and writing about the social, local, mobile web. One reason is due to how connected the two trends are. A chart offered on Business Insider today illustrates the connection clearly:

Social is mobile and vice versa

You can check out the whole article on Business Insider.

And 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:

Tim Peter

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July 29, 2013

Which Social Networks Should Marketers Be Worried About?

July 29, 2013 | By | No Comments

Are Pinterest and Foursquare in trouble?

Consider the following social media services:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • TripAdvisor
  • Yelp
  • Tumblr
  • Pinterest
  • Goodreads
  • Instagram
  • Foursquare

One of these things is not like the other.

Well, two, actually.

At least two of these sites likely are on the decline. And that definitely affects your marketing for next year.

Which two? And why?

Well, let’s take a look. Most of the major social players have either expanded their services (LinkedIn added significant content, Twitter now allows users to post videos and images, TripAdvisor and Yelp recently added functionality to let you book hotels and make restaurant reservations, respectively), been acquired by one of the major AGFAM players (Instagram by Facebook, Goodreads by Amazon), or both (Tumblr and, yes, Yahoo’s looking to join the AGFAM-ily). And while I’m not terribly bullish on Google+, I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.

By contrast, it’s pretty clear to me that Pinterest and Foursquare don’t fit this pattern. When you get right down to it, they’re not companies. They’re features. One lets you collect images and share them with other people. The other lets you tell your friends where you are.

I realize I may be giving these two somewhat short-shrift here. They offer somewhat more functionality than just that. Their problem stems from the fact that, in both cases, it’s only “somewhat.” According to comScore data, Pinterest’s monthly traffic growth has fallen since January and lags the trends seen by Twitter, Tumblr, Yelp, and LinkedIn over the same period. (January and June data available here).

As you begin planning your social media strategies for 2014, take a look at where your customers increasingly spend their time. And look at where you spend yours. While I don’t recommend trying to pick winners and losers ahead of time very often, I do recommend you look at which activities continue to drive results for you. And I suspect you’ll find Foursquare and Pinterest falling from that list.

Interested in learning more about the future of 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.

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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May 15, 2013

The Truth: How the Social, Local, Mobile Web Affects Sales Online and Offline

May 15, 2013 | By | 2 Comments

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to the New Jersey Chapter of MENG (Marketing Executives Networking Group). They were a fantastic audience, offering great questions and a lively dialog. The talk highlighted companies like W Hotels, Nike, Tesco and other companies who get what the transition to social, local, and mobile means for their customers (like those I highlighted yesterday). If you’d like to take a look at the slides, they’re linked below:

I also recorded a brief video with NJ MENG Chapter president Monique de Maio on omnichannel marketing and how it pays off for brands:

As ever, I’m available to speak to your group, too. You can get all the details here.

You can also register to receive a free copy of my new special report, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World,” produced in conjunction with Vizergy, here. While it’s targeted to the hospitality industry specifically, most of the lessons apply across verticals. And, if that’s not enough, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web, including:

Tim Peter

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April 23, 2013

The Key to Social Media Success

April 23, 2013 | By | One Comment

Social media successFew businesses have faced as much competitive pressure over the last decade as travel agents. Those who’ve survived have done so by connecting effectively with their customers, addressing real needs, and providing excellent service.

But the growth of social media has introduced a new variable to travel agents’ relationships with their clients, one that many struggle to navigate. The latest issue of Travel Agent Magazine features a cover story, “Social Media Tips From the Experts,” all about how travel agents — and anyone in the travel space, really — can use social media to connect with their clients in ever more effective ways. The piece features tips from a number of leading social media marketing experts, including our own Tim Peter.

Among the tips Tim shared with the magazine was this advice:

“Think about what’s of value to your customers,” Peter says. “Travel agents should be better at this than a lot of other people because you talk to customers every day. What are the things your clients ask you all the time? That’s great info to share.”

Content marketing — itself core to any social media marketing efforts — challenges marketers to continually generate new content. But any business person, travel agent or otherwise, who talks to customers regularly knows what really matters to those customers. Or should.

Creating deep relationships with customers depends on first listening to what your customers say and working to understand what customers actually need. Of course, the understanding is as important as the listening. Henry Ford famously said, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Ford translated “faster horses” into serving a real need: providing reliable, inexpensive, and, yes, faster transportation.

Your social media efforts should aim for the same goal. First, listen to what your customers and clients say, on social channels as well as offline. Then understand what those customers need. Then, finally, engage with customers to address those needs.

By the way, the article as a whole is filled with a ton of tips you can use, regardless of your industry or occupation. Check it out if you get the chance.

And, if you’re interested in more, sign up for our free newsletter to get more information on how to build your social, local, mobile marketing strategy. You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of social, including:

Tim Peter

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April 23, 2013

The Key to Social Media Success (Travel Tuesday)

April 23, 2013 | By | No Comments

Social media marketing smallThis week’s Travel Tuesday post over on TravelStuff highlights The Key to Social Media Success including a number of tips from me and others in this month’s Travel Agent Magazine. As I note in the piece, travel agents face enormous competitive pressures due to the growth of online travel.

But those who’ve survived and thrived in this environment have done so by paying close attention to the needs of their customers. Which, as it happens, is a big part of what social’s all about.

So, check it out if you get the chance.

Oh, and if you’re interested in more, sign up for our free newsletter to get more information on how to build your social, local, mobile marketing strategy. You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of social, including:

Tim Peter

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April 2, 2013

Tweeting for Results: 3 Tips for Using Twitter Effectively for Your Small Business by Megan Totka

April 2, 2013 | By | No Comments

Tweeting for resultsSocial media marketing can be a powerful tool, or a waste of your time. It all depends on how you use it. Twitter is one of the fastest moving and most influential social media platforms out there—but unfortunately, it’s also misunderstood by many businesses.

Neither occasional, random tweeting nor a constant barrage of promotional messages is an effective use of Twitter. You need to find a middle ground that mixes business with social interaction, yet doesn’t force you to spend hours combing feeds for relevant information or reply to tweets nonstop. While this may seem like a headache, your twitter strategy is actually easier than you think.

Here are three tips to help you make the most of this popular platform.

Give Them Something to Tweet About

Twitter is all about sharing. Mention something that is cool, different, brand-new, entertaining, or engaging, and people will be interested enough to follow you. Since you only get 140 characters to grab attention, you should be tweeting more links than straight messages.

However, make sure the links aren’t all about your business. It’s great to tweet a link to your latest blog post—but if that’s all you ever talk about, people are going to unfollow you pretty fast. Share relevant content from a variety of sources—and, of course, make sure to credit the source. If your credit includes a Twitter handle, the source will probably see your tweet and follow you to reciprocate for the mention.

If You Follow, They Will Tweet

Getting a wide distribution on the Twitter network isn’t so much about tweeting, as it is about retweeting. A retweet, or RT, sends your message to a whole list of people who wouldn’t otherwise see it. And if they like what they see, they’ll probably follow you.

How can you get more RTs? To better your chances of a RT, increase the number of people you follow. Of course, it’s important to follow customers and potential customers—but you should also follow industry leaders, many of whom have large followings of their own. When you start joining in their conversations and retweeting their messages, they’ll likely reciprocate with RTs for you.

Tweet Smarter, Not Harder

It’s important to make sure you’re working smarter in digital marketing. You can do this on Twitter by automating some (but not all) of your tweets, and organizing your conversations.

If you use an automated tweet service like Tweetdeck or the Tweet Old Post plugin for WordPress-based sites, make sure you’re scheduling them sparsely, and tweeting live in between. It’s easy for experienced Twitter users to spot an account that is entirely automated, and one of the fastest ways to lose followers.

An effective Twitter account follows a lot of people. However, this makes it hard to keep up with your home feed, as tweets can amass by the second. To make sure you’re not missing important tweets, create lists within your Twitter account and sort people into them as you follow them. For example, you might make lists for Customers, Prospects, Industry Leaders, Competitors, and Media Sources. Concentrate on scanning one list every time you log into Twitter, and respond to the most relevant tweets.

Follow these tips, and you’ll be tweeting like a pro in no time.

Interested in learning more? Register to receive a free copy of my new special report, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World,” produced in conjunction with Vizergy, here. While it’s targeted to the hospitality industry specifically, most of the lessons apply across verticals. And, if that’s not enough, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web, including:

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.(Photo Source)

Tim Peter

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March 1, 2013

Your 10 Favorite Topics This Month (February 2013)

March 1, 2013 | By | One Comment

Top Thinks content for February 2013Just like last month, we’re rounding up your top 10 topics for the month of February. Here’s what you liked the most:

  1. The hands-down winner was our roundup of agile marketing in real-time where Oreo showed how it’s done during the Super Bowl.
  2. You also really liked our look at how to improve your sites bounce rate in 15 minutes.
  3. Our weekly podcast, Thinks Out Loud, remains popular. Especially “Episode 19: What Teens Teach Us About Marketing.”
  4. Even though it was posted late in the month (day before yesterday, in fact), you really seemed to enjoy this look at 4 secrets about remote workers every marketer should know.
  5. Another popular post examined who you’ll sell to in the future and today.
  6. You also spent a fair bit of time reviewing the big mistake in social media marketing.
  7. The SuperBowl wasn’t the only big real-time marketing event of the month. Nope, the State of the Union offered a lesson in how to pwn social media like Marco Rubio and Poland Spring.
  8. You consistently like trend posts, which is why you enjoyed our thoughts about why the future is already here.
  9. Readers spent a considerable amount of time at the answer to the question, “can Facebook deliver sales?”
  10. And, finally, you closed out the list with another episode of Thinks Out Loud: “What’s Wrong With Google’s Enhanced AdWords Campaigns?”

Interested in more? Sign up for our free newsletter and get more information on how to build your social, local, mobile marketing strategy. And check out our past coverage of these popular trends: