How Social Media Levels the Playing Field

Marketing intelligence can be gleaned from social media, a fact well documented. From recommendations to general opinions shared online, hotels gain great insight into the relevance and effectiveness of their marketing messages. But there is another important aspect to this powerful force: Social media is leveling the operating playing field for businesses of all sizes. If you’re carrying a well-known flag on your property, chances are you feel a majority of your reputation and awareness is tied to your brand’s marketing efficacy. Contrary to general perception, however, there has been a dramatic shift in how and where customers are accessing information to assist with their booking decisions. What do customers typically do when they think about where to stay? They go online to read reviews, which are now widely considered the top influencer of purchase decisions. Recommendations from personal acquaintances or perspectives posted by consumers online are the most-trusted forms of advertising, according to the latest Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey of over 25,000 Internet consumers from 50 countries. Not too long ago, customer feedback was contained inside the business, used internally to pinpoint service pitfalls and other areas in need of operational improvement. With social media, however, this feedback has shifted outside for any and all to see. Visitors to your hotel are now increasingly tweeting, posting and commenting on their experience—both the good and not so good—for the world to see. And their reach is vast and growing. According to recent estimates, 250 million tweets are sent each day. Mashable, an independent online news site, reports Yelp had 22 million reviews on its network in September 2011, an increase of 66% over the comparable period in 2010. And, Foursquare, the location-based social networking website, boasts 1.5 billion check-ins as of January 2012. The dramatic shift in feedback online and its vast exposure is leveling the operating playing field despite disparities in marketing between brands. No matter the size of your hotel, your customers (and competitors!) know about the previous experiences of your guests. More than ever before, people staying at your hotel because of the quality of the experience. Operations in the Spotlight The top priority for hotels has always been to provide a great guest experience. Delivering on this goal is even more critical in today’s “everyone-knows-everything” online environment. From valet and check-in to housekeeping and foodservice, a hotel’s operations team must be tightly focused because many guest experiences are shared online. There’s no place to hide mediocre fb or …..

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