This probably should have been multiple posts. Sorry.

Google PLACES (or where did my Local Business Center shove off to?)

One of my favorite developments in the last few weeks, aside from Google’s experimentation with populating rates of hotels into it’s maps, is Google “Places”.  The blogosphere is abuzz with gentle, quiet speculation on what in the heck is going on here.  It’s obvious repositioning to compete with the likes of Yelp and Foursquare.  But Google is rolling some of the features attached to the new name a bit slow, and we will see how it reshapes our mobile experience.  I, for one, really trust Google’s methodical approach to entering this space… and when they unroll their entire suite, I think it will challenge Yelp to Expedia and other OTA’s.  If you can advert with Places in your market… let me know how it goes!

As Google positions, Tripadvisor works to get ads going in the first place

Tripadvisor toils in it’s monetization attempts… First hotels, now tourist boards.  You know how I feel about paying for your hotel to be listed with information on TA… DO IT!  Think about what percentage of your traffic comes from OTA’s, then start figuring out depending on your market and rank on TA how much of that traffic jumps to Expedia or others straight from Tripadvisor.  That 25% markup those OTA’s are stealing from you will come back, and likely quickly pay for the Tripadvisor listing fee.  It’s a smart move, and a cheap experiment.

Something else that might be a costly experiment in regards to Tripadvisor is losing you reservations to Expedia, and hurting your SEO.  Tripadvisor badges or widgets that aren’t actively blocking search engines are likely bad for business.  I posted (the below) article about how it hurts your hotel site’s SEO, but bolsters Tripadvisor’s.  What I didn’t realize was this – if people link from your website and booking engine to Tripadvisor via that widget – and like what they see on Tripadvisor – they are usually sent to EXPEDIA to book their room.  You just linked your guest to a page that will make you pay a 25% commission.  I don’t have all the answers, but in the comments section of *THIS ARTICLE*, the gent describes a fancy way to blind the widget.  I have also seen hotel sites that simply copy and paste the review from Tripadvisor or Yelp into different parts of their website – thus stuffing a page full of relevant keywords that can also help the guest decide to book… while continually mingling with your booking engine the whole time, never chancing lost control of your inventory.

MORE SOCIAL TOOLS, INFO, & Tech Talk

Unique and fairly intelligent ways to leverage twitter… a non hotel article to get you thinking about what twitter is, and how you can leverage it to benefit your property.

A brief link, but a good question – who do you use for hotel videos? Hired actors? Regular line staff? It’s important to consider how you want to represent your hotel, and how people will receive the information.  Honestly, I think the manipulated, high gloss marketing message is in shambles, and when it looks too slick, people will immediately not trust it or find it disingenuous.   Whatever the case, this is all about having a plan and understanding as you tackle new media…. if you don’t these things come out of left field and surprise you.

Design Hotels launches a Facebook Booking Engine…. (call it an F.B.E. for short!).  This will, once and for all, solve the problem of wondering whether people are on Facebook to proselytize and chatter about brands as a showy display of feathers (I LIKE THIS BRAND! It means I am AWESOME!), or is it a place to commune, share, and ultimately – BOOK?  Just checking it out, it seems fairly confusing.  I enter my dates, and then I mysteriously land on an unassociated page without it transmitting the choices I made.  Seems like FB booking has a way to go.

I for one am a) sick of hearing about the IPAD, b) sick about the marketing reinventing history as if Apple invented the tablet, and c) sick of hearing about all the giddy fanboys trying to adopt slick but inherently flawed tech as nothing more than a marketing gimmick.  HOWEVER…. this article, IPAD: Hotel Hype, or Help?,  says it is making Intercontinental’s concierge more personable & functional (not to mention cool like they are from Star Trek), and it isn’t just hype.  I know the tablet will be the future or consumers and content ingestors…. but I just think we are a bit of a way off from it being functional for content generators.  This is simply a machine to advertise to consumers, no more, no less.  Playing a game or reading the paper is incidental.

HOTEL TALK!

RevPar laws basically state – Trading Rate for Occupancy isn’t that smart of a move (Labor, among other operating costs, rise significantly, and the added dollars don’t always even out on the bottom line).  So why is the “Name your own price” phenomena rearing it’s ugly head?  Phocuswright tries to explain here.

Not to mention… most of us still think it is perceived value that has a big part in selling hotels… and not handing back money to someone who would have paid the higher rate you just tanked, anyway.

Do you think modern marketing for hospitality is at a crossroads?  I do.  But then again, maybe I think the doormen are more about the hallmark of our industry – hospitable, friendly customer service – than marketing.  When marketers start calling normal operations “marketing”, you know they are scrambling to make sense of the confusing new world of social media.

TIG shares their wealth of knowledge with hoteliers, and more!

TIG releases more reports, further exemplifying why people want to work with Thayer.  Wow.  The reports are on Microsites, Mobile, & Apps, as well as a 2 part on Social Media & the DMO Marketer. Double Wow equals video leveraging of insider’s tips…. Quick, simple, instructional videos from TIG on internet marketing, hotel SEO, and more!  If you ever have the budget to work with these guys, there is only one answer about whether you should…. YES. You should.

MOBILE IS A POINT OF SALE, but remember it isn’t all or nothing!

This one is a slam dunk, because Mobile Marketing is Good News for Hotels! Beyond that article, what you really want are actual tips – not just on energizing your comprehension of mobile marketing – but getting into it and doing it right.  Some have deemed it the “new point of sale” – and Mashable helps you figure out how to work with it.  Mashable is sometimes a bit vacuous with mindless social media fandom…. but these *9 tips about location based marketing* are winners.  If you need some help finding the business page in Foursquare.. well.. it’s right here.  If you are trying to figure out more, and it’s over your head… you might want to consider EYE FOR TRAVEL’s conference on Mobile in Travel & Hospitality in London, early June. I linked the agenda back there, and if it doesn’t get you excited about the potential of mobile (or kinetic energy at this point), nothing will.  Social Mobile is the ROI everyone has been salivating for.  Pay attention to it.

But remember… as mobile burgeons, traditional channels still provide results.  Not only do those channels hold tight, so does email marketing (something Hotel Marketing Strategies has been a big supporter of)… as you can see with some surprising information he put together on a recent post.

COFFEE TALK, or *PHEW* I am sort of getting overwhelmed because I am a hotelier, not a tech guru or social geek!

I think it’s important to take all these rapid changes with gentle aplomb, some furrowed brows, but a lot of thoughtful shoulder shrugging too.  It’s important to be a fence sitter sometimes… accumulate as much data as possible before making any decision.  I am not saying delaying action, but I am suggesting to be thoughtful.  Don’t automatically become a convert to this new world, because no one really understands it yet.  *NO ONE*.  I think Dick Feynman (a hero of mine) could have said it best:

“in any organization there ought to be the possibility of discussion… fence sitting is an art, and it’s difficult, and it’s important to do, rather than to go headlong in one direction or the other. It’s just better to have action, isn’t it than to sit on the fence? Not if you’re not sure which way to go, it isn’t.”

Everyone expected the telegraph to kill newspapers (you need to be a paid Economist subscriber to read that fantastic article), the TV to kill the radio, social media to kill traditional methods of marketing… but we all know that “sky is falling” nonsense is just about capturing attention to headlines, and the future will be a mish mash of everything.  Don’t panic…. just try to comprehend.  And if you still need a basic review of how to engage in social media, here is a fairly competent and quick article about how to do it well.


BUT THAT’S JUST CONSERVATIVE HESITATION, because the future is now….

That warning being said, here’s something that I call jaw dropping, and possibly a slight peak at the future of a semantic web (as they keep saying.  It’s the new “mobile is here! 2006, Mobile is here 2007, mobile is here.. maybe 2008, mobile is coming… 2009, MOBILE IS TOTALLY FREAKING HERE 2010!) -

SPEED MATTERS…. This is where the start of today’s post gets somewhat scary.  Did you just finish a website re-design, or pump endless cash for years into internet marketing branding and design?  Well… those flash laden pages that are pretty when they finally do load are a drain on your Google ranking… and your SEO suffers the more bulky or content laden your sites are.  GOOGLE ANNOUNCES SPEED IS NOW TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT IN REGARDS TO INDEXING. In fact, Hotelmarketing.com has a good suggestion… if you use flash, you might want to take a peak at your own speed…. and see where you stand.

Which leads us to Adtech SF, and some interesting tweets that I am commenting on in regards to the concept of the dying brand website.

Apparently the brand website is dead (or committed to an iron lung), and you don’t need it anymore.

At a fairly important conference about the advertising & the internet, they basically said that a brand’s website is dead.  They are dealing with some fairly complex issues of sustainability for business in online competition, coupled with the need to have accessibility to how your brand exists online.  I am extrapolating off the conversation I heard, but it’s basically the following:

Basically, a website should be for a booking engine, and directions, but anything else might not work, especially as google is starting to improve rankings based off of load time and speed of website.  The idea is that the way the internet is headed into a more communal area where it is about niches of relevant interests, and it will be nearly impossible to leverage a small brand website versus all the community based chatter in regards to certain topics.  In addition to this, it isn’t in the best interest of ANY of these communities to lose the potential power of consumer dollars spent through their portal, so why should they happily direct people to you in the first place?  In this, your website is moot because everyone is forming their opinions in conversations with user generated pictures, stories, etc.  The way search is changing, even booking engines will exist within social platforms (IE Facebook), and people will slowly stop visiting your site, and ultimately, no one will be going to them all together.  Also… the SEO era is moving into a “semantic” era where search engines will be reading user generated photos and videos, whether they are tagged or not -

Meaning there is *your* contribution.. a couple expensive photos, an expensive site – but the internet community members with keywords and chatter alone will overwhelm any input you have.  You won’t be able to compete with the niche communities that are actively owning *your* brand, vs making your site relevant or even noticeable in return.  Therefore, your site will be less relevant, be pushed down overall, and even the anciengt codger who won’t give up the old fashioned way of booking through the hotel’s site – well – it’s going to be even harder to find.

Scary stuff.  And not that far off.  It’s fairly interesting too, but…..

Time for me to retire. haha.

No – seriously.  Anyone have an island they could lend?

If those well researched and thoughtful representations of how things will be changing isn’t far enough in the future, let’s move a decade down the road… to 2012 (haha).  These sanguine and cogent predictions aren’t the typical crazy, wide eyed guru’s ramblings.  These are smart… and likely.  Marketing Times has 11 Predictions for social media in 2012… and they might interest you.

It sure as hell interests me.

About Michael

6 Responses to “Mobile is new point of sale, branded websites in demise, Speed matters, and other Hospitality thoughts about current social media headlines.”

  1. Michael Hraba

    My friend, a incredibly savvy and intelligent marketing and PR guy asked this question:

    “So you’re saying that all subscription media and news sites will all need to be more mobile based? What about service sites like our own for informational purposes? What about winery sites? All need mobile applications?”
    ——————–
    My response was rambly enough to be relevant here:

    I am not sure that’s the point….

    1) the people in the know with the web based info basically say that whatever you consider the web, and what it looks like today will not be recognizable in the next 5-7 years.

    2) mobile is a point of sale in that people will be using every sort of site… yelp, tripadvisor, google local to make decisions. Eventually we will need to have functional booking engines on all these sites….. or at least lead to a flat/boring mobile page to facilitate that. We definitely don’t want the power of these networks help lose our booking engine relevancy by having them automatically end up at Expedia, etc. The way google maps is mashing up aggregated prices into their search results suggests that it will be some sort of online OTA inventory listed…. and we will want to help get our industry away from ota’s any way we can and save on that 25% markup.

    3) I don’t sub and news services will be “mobile based” so much as that the whole direction is going to an “APP” market…. whether you are at home on a flatscreen tablet, a laptop hybrid, or on the go… it will all be app based cloud computing.

    4) but in the end… with winery sites, or brands to consumers or business to business…. you will need to be aware of the important of mobile. For example, I rather catch up on your words and website while in between lunch and a new appointment, while on public transportation, or waiting in line somewhere…. rather than have to be at work or home to view that info and cut into my work or private life? I note the way I use mobile is to catch up and filter a lot of the reading or clutter I need to clear out to do real work.

    These are all so new… and just thoughts. It’s all really exciting in a frightening way, to be sure. But the main point is that everyone expects one thing to take over and wipe out the old thing, and that just isn’t the case…. fact is all these styles of communication and marketing are going to have to find synch or a happy place sometime soon.

  2. Brian Hayashi

    This dovetails with a conversation I had recently with futurist Michael Tchong. “What is globalism?” It’s the notion that for any given task/function/service, there are 3 billion capitalists out there, and some fraction that are willing to do a little bit more than you at just about anything, whether it’s staying open an extra hour, being willing to take questions via email, or do a better job with their website.

    Mitch Albom, Detroit native and author of “Tuesdays With Morrie”, recently made the point that the situation in Detroit is just the first wave of what will inevitably happen to other cities as true globalism kicks in. His question of whether we will resort to protectionism or whether we will find an extra gear with which to work is especially poignant in light of many of the marches protesting Arizona in the past few days.

    The fact is, there is much “conventional wisdom” that is in need of retooling, and this post is a fantastic place to start, especially with the myriad links to fantastic support material.

    As Jeff Jarvis has said, “Do what you do best and link to the rest…”

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