It’s time to think outside of the TripAdvisor box with Facebook, GooglePlus and Pinterest Reviews –and guest interaction on YOUR WEBSITE. Oh, we all know how important TA is –and its an easy review mechanism. BUT! Did you know that asking guests to leave a review on TripAdvisor is leaving your lodging property vulnerable? If you continue to keep all of your eggs in the TripAdvisor basket, you give them undue power, pay more and more each year, and are not capitalizing on the opportunities of social media. If you’re sending guests only to TripAdvisor for reviews, then it’s time to rethink your guest review strategy.
Start with your Website. Independent Resorts, Inns, B&B,s -you KNOW your guests, they know you. Begin a strategy that encourages interaction between your guests and yourself -using your property’s website as the platform. Build and reinforce their positive experiences from their stay. Build a greater nurturing experience for them, encourage future visits and bring them further into your fold.
You’ve done the hard part. Why let TripAdvisor control and benefit from that relationship? Over the years, they have trained lodging owners and managers to use and consider TripAdvisor, like it’s a benevolent service, but don’t be fooled; they are a FOR PROFIT company and a big one at that. Why are you sending your hard-earned relationships to them? Its time to involve your past guests online with your business and at a far higher, more personally rewarding level than can be done with TripAdvisor.
Create a strategy, similar to Sterling Ridge Resort in Vermont, that pulls guests into your fully owned online presence, your own website. Ask for comments about your guests’ stay that will be posted exclusively on your website. Ask them to write a guest blog of their vacation (or an activity, dinner, etc.) or email you a favorite photo from their trip. You’ll want to offer a couple of involvement levels and ‘assists’ depending on the degree your various guests will choose to be involved. Be sure to make a super easy, enticing option for those that might resist. Make it fun and run a campaign from time to time giving something away. Over time, this single tactic has the potential to provide the best return –no exceptions.
Google Plus is one of the most important places for guest reviews. Aside from the growing audience with Google+, its direct connection to your Google Local (Places) account is priceless for conversions and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) aka Getting Found on Google. Having reviews for guests to read will pull them closer to your webpage, where you can actually make the conversion commission free; sidestepping the “Book Now” buttons that are populated everywhere (including your Google Places/local account) that try to persuade people to book with the many OTAs. Oh you’re not on an OTA? Oops! Then they’re using your ‘juice’ to sell to these shoppers to your competition!
Recently, Facebook revamped how Guest Reviews appear on lodging pages. Here is a screenshot of it in action on Posada Yum Kin’s Facebook page. This seems much more directed and appealing than the ‘app’ they had before. It shows how Facebook is embracing the travel space with solid effort. Sure, they might not take over TripAdvisor, but their reviews WILL be valuable in converting fans to guests.
Though its not technically a review, a picture is still worth a thousand words. Do your guests have a Pinterest page? Ask them. Connect. Follow them. If they plan to share their travel pictures on a board, let them know you’re excited to repin their pics to your properties’ board. This is a natural exchange for Pinterest users and hits a great female demographic and leisure travel decision-makers.
There are many social media networks that are important for travel, general and travel-specific, but lodging professionals are a very busy group. My advice is to get the ones noted above under control and moving before you spread yourself too thinly. Always make sure your basecamp is secure!