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Rolling Out TripAdvisor Connect

TripAdvisor will be rolling out a new service this fall for their Business Listing subscribers called TripAdvisor Connect. It is essentially a CPC (cost per click) program in which lodging operators can sign up. It provides a “Show Prices” button on the Trip Advisor Business Listing page that forwards potential guests directly to their branded website.TripAdvisor-Hotel-example

Currently, Business Listing subscribers may only add a phone number and web address for contact information. This appears at the top of their listing in small non-descript formatting next to a small computer icon. In the past, the  large and attention getting TripAdvisor “Show Prices” buttons have been linked directly to hotel chains and OTAs, like Expedia and Hotels.com. It is speculated and the FAQ suggests that they will roll out an extension of this same program with TripAdvisor Connect, but keep in mind that it could be quite different. If it is, we’ll cover the update on this blog as well.

Could Trip Advisor Connect work for your property?

Careful what you wish for is one of my favorite sayings. A year or so ago, I asked one of my TripAdvisor contacts why hotels couldn’t have a button on their TripAdvisor page like the ones that Expedia had. They told me that it just wasn’t feasible. That it was way too complex of an idea.  Well, I guess they’ve found a way to make it work though not exactly how I envisioned it. In theory, their new program will have hoteliers essentially competing against the OTAs for sales of their own hotel rooms. Once the ‘new program’ smell is gone, I think lodging owners will find it is really pretty stinky.

What you will need for TripAdvisor Connect

According to TripAdvisor, the prerequisites for TripAdvisor Connect are: a website integrated to an Internet Booking Engine, a TripAdvisor verified-account, TripAdvisor Business Listing subscription and a good-sized budget for the CPC campaign (Connect) itself.

Today, hotel and lodging websites that allow potential guests to book directly online are becoming a standard part of any lodging marketing mix, but the ROI of TripAdvisor Business Listings, starting at about $1000 annually, has long been debated by lodging professionals and advisors.

The logic of spending an even larger amount of money on a CPC campaign to attract potential guests that you’re likely to get anyway, even if through OTAs, is questionable. Why not use those marketing monies to attract guests that would not find you otherwise? Like a CPC campaign on Google, for example, that reaches into specific markets that match your property demographic?

What you can expect from TripAdvisor Connect

On the up-side, leads from the TripAdvisor Business Listing are considered conversion-ready. These are from Internet users that are ready to make a reservation. When a user lands on your TripAdvisor detail page, he or she will see your call-to-action button, click on the button and be moved to your website for direct booking. Sounds easy, right?

The downside is that the direct link button will only appear when your bid meets the ‘minimum requirement’ for your property. What does that mean? It means that your ‘live’ direct link will only be shown if you are the highest bidder. You are essentially paying each time a person clicks on your link. If you don’t pay, the link goes to someone else like Expedia or Booking.com, who can afford to pay the price. I’m not sure many hoteliers will catch the fact that the direct link feature is not always there and those with deepest pockets will win.

This is the first of a four-part series on Trip Advisor Connect brought to you by Social Energizer, Independent Hotel & Lodging Marketing and Operations Integration Advisors. There’s a lot to navigate in today’s online hotel and lodging world, let us help you plan your course!

Give us a call today for a free consultation!

 

The Social Media grade for the Packer Concert for NFL Season Opener

A few weeks ago my contest-loving, contest-winning hubby ‘won’ a contest on 1iota.com for the Green Bay Packer Pre-Game Kickoff Concert for the NFL Season Opening tickets! Yeah! Right?

You KNOW I’m a Packer Fan AND a country music fan. Yes, it was great fun. Saying he ‘won’ them though is a bit of a stretch. As we’re both Facebook fans of Green Bay Packers, Tom found a post that let us enter a contest for VIP Priority seats.

The only stipulation? You needed to be among the first of 3,000 people to sign up. So of course, he entered and immediately won. He could only sign up for up to 3, so he got 2 spots. Hmm, I said, “show me how you did it, I’ll get 2 more”. Simple, right? Then I learned… I simply don’t know how he found it! It took us at least 5 minutes to navigate to the same exact spot on 1iota’s very complicated website. It certainly was not intuitive –maybe it was a test instead of a contest? But we ‘won’ a second set of tickets -under my name, then found another couple to go with. Good to go. Social Media and Facebook, the new way to get free stuff!

As we came closer to this one-time event, you could tell that the promoters were planning it ‘on the fly’. The information that came out from 1iota.com, the Packers, and the media was usually unclear and conflicting. From the contest ticket information, we were told to pick up wristbands at noon, be back about 2-2:30pm, and that we’d leave the staging area to the concert about ‘3-ish’. Didn’t work that way.

We got there at 11:30am and were told that we needed to stay in ‘the pen’ or have someone save ‘our spot’. Here’s a video that shows exactly what that was like and the looong line of 3,000 people. (this footage is out of sequence)

Finally, it was time for wristbands -12:45pm! Yep, 45 minutes later than was posted online. The good news? Water was abundant and free and so were the bathrooms (porta-pottys, but clean). The bad news? Tell you later…

Social media tools are key with concert organization today

Each of our tickets had a ‘QR code’ on them and the staff from 1iota, merely scanned each code and verified each ticket holder. Easy peasy. QR codes are kind of like UPC codes for people. If you haven’t seen a QR code, you will. They are the square black and white boxes that take you to special pages, often promotional, online. This one was for concert check-in. This will offer many like opportunities for small businesses. Implementing this in the right scenario is a reasonably low-cost option.

Video of scanning QR codes here:

Video of wristbands:

Here are some of the videos that I took on Thursday. Word of warning, I’m just trying out my new, lower-end Toshiba hand-held video camera, so please forgive me for some of the juggling. I also learned it’s difficult to hold a camera over your head for 2plus hours.

The concert started with Maroon 5, singing Wake Up Call. Just for fun, go here for the lyrics. It’s funny, but if you compare as we did to the actual video of Network TV, the acts do not line up at all. ‘Live’ TV apparently isn’t so live after all.

Here is Adam Levine, getting the crowd going. One more self-proclaimed Packer Fan!

Kid Rock came on stage with his usual swagger and roar. He earned many new fans in Northeast Wisconsin at this concert.

Between performances the local TV and radio personalities, who mc’d the event, interviewed past NFL football players. Here was the best interview with Ahman Green and Antonio Freeman.

Lady Antebellum, the crowd favorite, came on toward the end of the concert. They were strategically scheduled here to finish up with a ‘live’ spot to launch the NFL football season.

I’d say the whole day was ‘a mixed bag’. Much of what people said on the 1iota.com discussion boards about the priority ‘VIP’ seating is true and I doubt that I’d do it again. That said, THE CONCERT ROCKED! And it will be one of those ‘one-of-a-kind’ events that I’ll always remember.

Finally, what was the bad news I mentioned earlier? When we went into the concert area at 3pm, 1iota, our keepers, offered us bottles of water (yep, no beer within these gates). And… BUT if you needed to use the bathroom, you had to forfeit your ‘place’ within the concert and you could not even get close again -splitting up many groups and families, including ours.

Was it worth it?

THE CONCERT WAS WORTH IT, but next time we’ll forego the 1iota thing. It was very much a bait and switch type of farce. The VIP ‘prize’ ended up being a total of 8 raffled prizes among 3,000 people. That’s it! For the many hours of waiting in a stale, hot, boring line – on a historic, activity-filled day in Lambeau, where there were so many things to see -what a waste in hindsight. If we had stood in the line for the general public even starting at any time after 2pm or so, we would have ended up with a similar or better ‘place’ within a more care-free crowd. Being a Kid Rock groupie, after all, is not as easy as it first seems.

This has been Social Energizer’s Saturday Morning Post, a less business oriented, more personally related edition than our blog that is offered during the week. Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

We invite you to comment and rate each blog, so we can ever improve our offerings to you. Are you venturing into online marketing? Give us a call!

The World Media Awards: Why YOU Must Enroll

World Media Awards Logo

I was recently asked by Murray Newlands to support the World Media Awards coming up February 25, 2012 in San Francisco. I am often quite a skeptic and I try to look things over carefully (maybe it’s my german heritage upbringing and living in conservative Appleton, WI. And getting spam-scammed online recently). So I took a good look at the whole project and the people involved. All I can say is, the more I look things over on this subject the more excited I get. This is going to be BIG!

Here’s what Murray had to say about the upcoming Media Awards:

There are lots of remarkable bloggers and publishers doing outstanding work, and those who stand out deserve to have their hard work recognized, associate with each other, and see their readerships grow. That’s why the World Media Awards exist- to recognize and reward great contributions to media from bloggers and publishers.   In my own career, I’ve learned and benefited so much from others that I wanted to help establish some way to give back to an industry I love and show appreciation to the up-and-coming leaders. The World Media Awards will culminate in a one day event in San Francisco that will celebrate the best in blogging, forums, publishing and media from around the world.

So if you are a first class blogger, why should you enter?

1. Get Recognized- You Deserve ItWorld's Best Tile

You put a lot of effort into making your blog amazing. You know it and your readers know it. The World Media Awards is a way for you to get authoritative credit from other bloggers and industry experts. That recognition will help you develop your readership, make new collaborative connections, and hopefully have a few warm fuzzy moments that make all the late nights even more rewarding.

2. Meet Other Bloggers Who Care

Blogging, forums and most other online media is about conversation and interaction, but sometimes it’s easy to end up pecking away behind a monitor in your office or home all alone. Meeting other bloggers and publishers keeps the fire lit and the conversation going. When you enter the World Media Awards, you’ll be listed alongside other bloggers and publishers who put the same level of pleasure, attention and effort into making their blog top notch.

3. Expose Yourself to New Partners

If your blog or forum is part of your business, being part of the World Media Awards will increase your exposure by putting your name in front of countless visitors to our site and the award ceremony. That means you can find out who else is doing very good work, strut your own stuff, and expand your network of contacts and collaborators.

4. Make Yourself Irresistible to Clients

What helps your chances at winning that next pitch more than extending your network? Telling that network that you are the winner of a World Media Award. Winning an award shines a light on your success, and it serves as an example of the commitment, engagement and exacting standards you apply to your work.

5. Be Part of the Beginning of Something Big

Because 2012 is the first year for these awards, you have the one-time chance to be the inaugural winner and set the standard for the World Media Awards in your category. Getting in on the ground floor of these awards will open doors for you as a blogger and a publisher.   The bottom line is, the World Media Awards will shine a spotlight on the year’s most successful bloggers and publishers, and on the businesses that serve and interact with them.

Now is your chance to be one of them.

Twitter hashtag #wmads

The sponsors include GrowmapPace LattinVigLink and Trancos. World Media Award judges include Steve Hall, Sarah Austin, Chang Kim, Julie Wohlberg, Pierre Zarokian, Ivka Adam, Cheryl Contee, Krystyl Baldwin, Adrian Harris, Jeremy Wright, Rob Bloggeries, Dave Duarte, Tanya Alvarez, Dana Oshiro, Tom Foremski, and Judith Lewis.

Media partners include Adrants, Bloggeries, MediaVision, The Affiliate Marketing Awards, Read Write Web, My Blog Guest, Web Traffic Control and FeedBlitz. Murray Newlands is author of How to Make a Blog Book and Online Marketing; a User Guide. He is also founder of the Affiliate Marketing Awards. Born in the UK, he now spends his time in San Francisco and New York. Murray works for Audience Mindshare and consults for Trancos Ins as well as being an advisor for VigLink. Actually he is working on his new book: The Email Marketing Book.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

Who Should Be Your Next ‘Go To’ Employee?

“So I have a website –now what?” That is the question I often get when a client is asking why the website they either made themselves or ‘had a friend’ design isn’t getting any results. And I mean it –ANY RESULTS. So many small business owners are not getting the point. A website is only one piece of the online marketing puzzle but its potential to help your business is the secret to solving that puzzle. Your website is not the place to CHEAP OUT.
INTERNETS: ON/OFFphoto © 2005 mikael altemark | more info (via: Wylio)

Many entrepreneurial business people consider a website an afterthought and as not really that important to the success of their company. They are quickly being proven wrong. Inbound marketing which starts with having a website, is the most affordable method of marketing your business and is most likely to get you the best results. Using a pull strategy in Inbound, a.k.a. Online Marketing, you interact with people through many social media networks, then pull them into your online business realm via a website or social media platform specific to your business.

What a website isn’t

It should not be a static online brochure, a website that after you’ve given people your web address they can pull it up and… what? Gawk at it? Exclaim of its beauty? See all the ‘stuff’ you’re trying to sell? It should DO more than that.

So what should a website do for a business?

Kirt is beaming with new careerphoto © 2011 www.lancashire.gov.uk | more info (via: Wylio)

Every smart or lucky business has a ‘go to’ employee. Someone that takes on every challenge, is your best advocate, is the warehouse of much of your companys’ knowledge. That ‘go to’ employee, in this case, is your website and it’s vital that you prepare it for the challenge it is about to face. It will provide a foundation that you can use to venture into the social media network. This foundation should have SEO capabilities for every single thing that you publish. It should have reporting capabilities both short term and long term. It should nurture your leads or in other words help you convince consumers to buy or at least engage with your business. It should allow you to work the way you want to –either on a day-to-day basis or with scheduling far into the future. It should allow you and your business to grow.

What are the other pieces of this Internet puzzle?

“Build it and they will come” strategy may work for big brands like Disney, but if you have a small business, how are people going to find you? You need to chart out ‘how’ that is going to happen. Where are your potential customers now –online or off? What would make them visit you online –and keep them coming back? What would entice them into buying your offering?

Social Media sites

Sure, there is Facebook and it is not to be overlooked. But more specifically, there are social media sites that let you, as a small business owner, narrow your efforts to get closer to your niche. If you’re selling craft or gift items, then Esty.com may allow you the larger, targeted audience your business needs to sell successfully. For service companies, like automotive service or beauty salons, I like Yelp! Yelp! Is a review site for professional services offered in your area. Let your customers do the talking for you. That is far more powerful than tooting your own horn. For the travel industry, Trip Advisor is fast becoming the most respected of online travel sources because of the use of customer reviews.

Don’t forget email

internet explorerphoto © 2010 Sean MacEntee | more info (via: Wylio)

It’s not really glamorous, but small business owners should not forget email. Email offers a one-to-one relationship with your client and is of high value in the world of marketing, do not under-estimate its power. Plus, it’s affordable. Have you been collecting business cards for years and just use them to draw for a free dinner? It’s time to up the ante. Keep collecting those cards, but then start an email campaign that first gets them to ‘approve’ of you sending them these email messages from time to time. This would be called the ‘opt-in’. Then provides them periodic updates and offers to keep them interested and directly relating to your business over a period of time. Include links to your website that provides even more incentives and more info. An extra reason for keeping a solid email list is that it is an actual business asset. Think of it as an investment into your businesses future. –One more thing about email. Do you have your website address and social media handles at the bottom of your email signature? No? Do it today! It is a vital part of branding your business and should not be overlooked.

Integrate it!

With today’s popular mantra of “online marketing is where marketing is at”, one thing that seems to get overlooked, and is critical, is the integration of ALL your marketing efforts. On –AND Off line. Integration helps you get every bang for every buck. TV Advertising? Add in your web page. If you are planning on having a booth at a local farm market, be sure you have a brochure or business card that has your website on it –and maybe even add in how people may find extra value by looking your business up online.

Better yet, design a campaign that integrates some of the traditional advertising that you have done in the past and uses the website as a critical piece that drives excitement. Maybe it’s a TV campaign for a free prize that takes entries via your Facebook page, thus resulting in a large audience that ‘likes’ your site.

There are so many options and some, frankly, work better than others. Give us a call today, we’ll help you hone in on the audience you need and plan a strategy that will pull them to your business.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their conversion rates by adding proven online marketing techniques to their marketing mix.

In addition to building great dynamic websites, we do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

The Secret is in Breaking the Chicken and Egg Problem

I found this BNET blog article interesting. BNET interviewed Ceriac Roeding of Shopkick and he discussed the ‘Catch 22’ facing many entrepreneurs. How do you establish that first base of business? Credibility struggles with success. You have to make someone actually BELIEVE. He cited examples he learned through his startup, Shopkick. These examples are transferable to many small business situations. They will even help me as I continue to establish my first year’s ‘base of business clients’ and as I help some of my small business clients address this same issue. I think its good stuff and I hope you like it.

Here is the BNET article below, visit BNET for more depth on this article:

“Too many entrepreneurs get caught in the age-old chicken and egg problem.”

“If you had consumers using your app, then you could get the first retail partner. If you had retail partners, Cyriac Rodeing of Shopkickthen you could get consumers to use your app. If you had funding, you could build a team and breakthrough technology. If you had a team and breakthrough technology, then you could get funding.  And so on, and so on forever, at every critical moment. The art of the entrepreneur is to break through that – to find ways to “crack” the chicken and egg problem.

Never believe someone who says one depends on the other. As an entrepreneur, you have to believe so fully in your vision that you can convince others to agree. Find a way through, get the first hook, find a few consumers or find a way to the top of a partner and convince them the world is changing, and you can help them change with it.

Seem like too much, too quickly? Select the one piece that would set off the domino effect in the fastest and most furious way, and focus on that.  Even if it is the hardest piece to get.

With Shopkick, that was getting the first retail partner. With a large retailer, funding from a top VC would follow, and from that, a team, and from that, technology. How to get that first piece? Find ways to get to the very top of the partner quickly, and explain how your idea can address their major challenges. It must be so compelling, have so little downside, and so much upside that there is no other option but to say yes.

And then you go in parallel and try that at 10 potential partners, not one, and create a “rush” effect. And then hold on, because things go big very quickly once you crack that problem.”

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their conversion rates by adding proven online marketing techniques to their marketing mix.

In addition to building great active websites, we do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Dynamic Websites and What They Mean For Your Small Business

There are a lot of people out there suggesting that a small business owner can create their website overnight. And you can. But will it do what you want it to do?
A is for Accessphoto © 2007 Ben Zvan | more info (via: Wylio)

What exactly do you want it to do? Are you happy with a simple online brochure, one that can be visited by existing customers to find what you offer and where you are located? What do your customers expect?

Or do you want it to open doors? Maybe to attract new customers with a site that gets attention and keeps it? Get customers to visit it regularly? Should they understand your business, in part, because they have interacted with your website and have struck up a bond of familiarity? That is the difference between basic brochure websites and today’s dynamic websites. Dynamic websites can do a lot of the customer acquisition steps for you …and at about the same cost!

Dynamic Website Structure

A dynamic website requires an integrated strategy and platform. One which may include blogging, lead generation, SEO (search engine optimization), social media, web-blog-CMS integration, analytics, plus may add in some key traditional marketing techniques that can really optimize your reach. What’s behind the site is as important as what is seen by its viewers. When done well, this package helps drive customers to your business and allows you to successfully reach your goals. The first step is to create a dynamic website that supports and is integrated with some of the tactics listed above.  Does your site do this? Can it do this?

Have I scared you? That’s a lot to take in and it takes a different approach than was used to create websites of days gone by. Dynamic websites should be thought of more as a process (that you, the business owner, are a part of) than a project that you can check off your to do list. Today’s websites should be the center of your marketing activities and should support those activities. The benefit? Less guesswork, better measurement, better realization of where your marketing efforts and monies are going; all getting you to your goal faster.

Scalability to Fit Your Needs

Scalability is important to small business owners. A 3-5 page website is fine for some, where a 20 page website is needed for others. For some, blogging is the way to go, and for others maybe an online service that produces the same results is the answer. A dynamic website can offer many integrated features no matter the scale. Choice is the key. It can be scaled to fit the small business owners’ goals, and by implementing the right choices, also fit into their busy time schedules. Do you only have an hour a week to spend? There are many options to support the time crunch, which will also get you great results.

I can help you make the choices that make the most sense for you and your business. Call today for a free consultation. You really won’t know the possibilities until you check out your options, will you?

Where are you going? …with your Inbound Marketing efforts

attracting customersInbound Marketing refers to attracting customers to your lodging property through a variety of social media and content distribution and interacting with readers, rather than the older means of buying attention through disruptive advertising and other devices. Simply put, Inbound Marketing employs a ‘pull’ strategy, rather than the ‘push’ strategy employed by traditional marketing techniques. With the sophistication of the Internet, the opportunity for distributing content and building communities make Inbound Marketing the best chance for small businesses to get noticed in this overly messaged world. Engagement and differentiation is where small businesses have the advantage. So where are you taking your business?

What are you doing now to get found?

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blog and your website are all set up. You have them cross-referenced to interact with each other. They all hold a consistent brand message. You have clients that are interacting with you online. Life is good, right? Everyone should beat a path to your door, right?

Well, not exactly.

Where the problem lies for many businesses is in getting ENOUGH people to VISIT and then TAKE ACTION. That’s where you’ll need a good plan (and maybe some help). One that includes developing a content strategy, sound social media execution and personalized, genuine follow-up. How many visitors will you need each day to convert ENOUGH people into TAKING ACTION?

Feeling overwhelmed? Make no mistake there is a huge amount of effort that goes into leveraging SEO, blogging and social media to increase website traffic. Face it, now may be the time to invest some time and money into this endeavor. A certified and experienced Inbound Marketing professional can help you with a detailed analysis of your business and the competitive landscape. And help you set and achieve your online marketing goals. To get started on your detailed plan, determine your goals, and get people to TAKE ACTION, give us a call. Don’t worry, the first visit is always free.

“Goals without plans are meaningless. Plans without deadlines and measurements are wishes.” –Unknown

Note- First published Nov 2010 and republished Dec 2014