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!
https://socialenergizer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/SRR-Comments.png8251204Lynnhttps://socialenergizer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/SE-logo-type-web.pngLynn2014-05-06 17:54:432015-09-15 03:36:41Rethink Your Guest Review Strategy
Real help for Hotel Reputation Management, Trip Advisor Blackmail Tool for Lodging, Hotels, Inns and B&Bs
Ever have a guest tell you that if you don’t do ‘x, y or z’ that they will write a bad review about you or your property? Now there is help for hoteliers, it’s the Trip Advisor Blackmail Tool for lodging owners and managers! While helping small hotels manage their online reviews, this question has been asked more than once during Social Energizer’s lodging-specific social media coaching sessions. Trip Advisor is finally addressing these concerns of property owners by providing a proactive means of reporting them –smart idea! We applaud Trip Advisor for taking action on what can easily be the downside of living in this review dependent world.
The power of Trip Advisor is obvious. Travelers now read on online reviews 81% of the time while planning travel. This trend is growing every day. With Facebook now entering the travel review arena, this percentage is likely to increase even more.
Here is what Trip Advisor had to say about their new tool, “We hear from owners that potential “blackmail” –when a guest threatens to write a negative review unless a demand for a refund, upgrade, or other request is met – is an occasional concern. We now have a way for you to proactively report these threats more easily, before a corresponding review is potentially submitted. Immediate reporting of blackmail threats can supplement our investigative procedure and help us keep blackmail reviews from ever reaching the site.”
Trip Advisor says that blackmail threats are taken seriously and in some countries may be illegal. The process for reporting a potential blackmail threat is to log in to your property’s Management Center. Go to “Manage your reviews” and click on the link under “Dispute a review”. Use the drop down where it says, “Please tell us what the issue is:” and select “Report blackmail”. This brings up a form that allows you to provide the following: Reviewers Name (potential blackmailer), Email, Origin, Stay dates (month & year), and a Comment with as many details as possible about the incident.
The trick is to report this as soon as the blackmail type remarks are made. Be very proactive. That way Trip Advisor will have it on file and it will match to any subsequent review before it is posted online. Trip Advisor may follow up with you for further information, so you should keep all documentation and notes in regard to the incident.
If a review is posted before you can report it, then the procedure is a little different, and likely may be less successful. Instead of selecting “Report Blackmail” from the drop down, you will need to select “Report a problem with a review” and “Review is Suspicious” as the problem, add the details to the “Other” section.
In neither case, does Trip Advisor guarantee a removal of the review. They put them under review, with the more proactive “report blackmail” claim having more credibility. While under review, they suggest you post a response using their tips and videos for guidance.
I found this a bit ominous. “Please note: property managers who abuse this new tool will be penalized.” It’s Trip Advisors’ warning at the bottom of their policy page, but I wonder what penalty could be worse than getting a poor, undeserved review? Nevermind, I really don’t want to find out. Do you?
Drastically increase reservations by making the most of your Hotel Facebook Page. Using a few of these ‘secrets’, focus your Facebook Page efforts to relate better with potential guests and ultimately produce more bookings.
Use Facebook’s new timeline for businesses to get better exposure, more interaction and increased bookings
Add an Online Booking Engine to directly and easily convert FB visitors into reservations
Use some age-old marketing tactics to grab attention. What worked well for you offline? Convert that type of promo into an online Facebook version.
Learn when to post and how to track your progress
Still not convinced that time spent on Facebook is worthwhile? Or that you are doing it right?
Here are some facts about posting:
Brands that post one or two times per day see 19% higher interaction rates
Pages that post more than seven times per week actually see a 25% decrease in interaction rates
Interaction rates for weekends posts are 14.5% higher that ones done during on weekday s, yet only 14% of posts are published on weekends.
Posting at night gives 14% better results than during the day.
Yes, you really can get bookings from Facebook! These steps are just a few of the things you can do to make the most of your Facebook Page. Just like any promotional channel, the more you put into it the more you will get out. Unlike a simple ‘promotional channel’ however this social media network allows you to let your potential guest get to know you better. Interaction is the key. Yes, it takes a bit of time, but by engaging with guests before check-in you are setting their expectations and providing valuable information to them for their stay. Think of it as your virtual Front Desk.
Using Facebook is an affordable and vital way of getting new business. We can help you navigate (and ROCK!) these steps. We’ll show you how to begin to actually book business on Facebook and automate many of your social media functions. What are you waiting for? Are you doing these steps well enough to actually see the pay off? Let’s get to work and make this a solid part of your marketing mix.
https://socialenergizer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/SE-logo-type-web.png00Lynnhttps://socialenergizer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/SE-logo-type-web.pngLynn2013-01-22 05:32:402014-10-31 18:28:03Make The Most of Your Hotel Facebook Page
With about one out of four Facebook users worldwide tagging at least one of their posts each month by location, the now two-year old ability to share your mobile check-in with others has clearly reached a critical mass. With half of Nearby visits coming from mobile users, Facebook has additionally overhauled the Places Pages design for mobile as well, which means more changes to pay attention to that have direct hospitality implications. Accordingly, here are some action items to tick off when conducting your audit of your hotel or restaurant’s Facebook Places page.
Update Your About Section: For hotels, this section must include all of your basic information (phone number, physical address, email address, description of your property and general facility information) as well as the all important website link. Be sure that this website link direct users to your mobilly-optimized website so that you don’t miss the opportunity to capture more mobile traffic to your site. For restaurants, the same basic information from above applies, as well as ensuring hours of operation, price range, specialties, attire, services, and payment options are all up-to-date. While these categories do not differ from your desktop-accessible Facebook Business Page, they’re important to review as the likelihood of receiving a positive rating may be contingent on these basic pieces of information.
Update Your Category: This may sound self-explanatory, but particularly in the case of restauranteurs, categorizing your business can have a huge impact on the foot-traffic your dining establishment may receive. With over 20 subcategory options to choose from, make sure you’re accurately representing the restaurant cuisine experience so not to disappoint the customer.
Encourage Ratings & Reviews: As is the case with every social media and online reputation management practice, the best way to generate more interest in your business is simply by asking. Don’t shy away from encouraging your consumers to like, check into, rate, and recommend your place. Like Yelp, these ratings can have a significant impact on the consumer’s likelihood to visit your establishment, as they are prominently displayed directly on the landing page of the business listing.
https://socialenergizer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/SE-logo-type-web.png00Lynnhttps://socialenergizer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/SE-logo-type-web.pngLynn2012-12-21 20:41:232014-10-31 18:28:03Is Your Hotel Facebook Nearby Ready?
“A branded hotel can take three specific steps to capitalise on this opportunity:
First, conduct research to identify specific brands of other products and services that appeal to their guests, for example, one such brand could be a particular type of flat-screen television whose design and price tag has been targeted to a specific type of customer.
Second, explain to the companies identified the benefits of gaining access to their guests; the hotel could build guest market profiles to support the claims that its guests fit the profile of the flat-screen television’s target audience.
Third, find inconspicuous ways to grant these companies access to the guests, for example, the hotel could agree to display the flat-screen televisions in its rooms so that the guests interact freely with the product, without ever feeling part of a marketing campaign.”
Just like pro-fisherman and Nascar racers, who rely heavily on sponsorships, hotels are in the position to heighten the visibility of certain branded products that they use. Presenting an even better opportunity, is the ability to actually put that brand in a potential customer’s hands. Need a new mattress? Try it out at a sponsored hotel. Love the sheets? Buy them directly from the hotel.
Some of the larger hotel chains, like Hampton Inns, have been selling their bedding for a while now. How could this work for small to medium-sized hotels? Is anyone doing this now?
Here’s a shout out to brands that supply hotels -is this an attractive proposition for you? What would a hotel need to do to begin this partnership? I’m thinking that for a brand there is great potential here for some very valuable social media interaction.
Find the full article at Cain, a Strategy and Innovation Agency located in the United Arab Emirates.
https://socialenergizer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/SE-logo-type-web.png00Lynnhttps://socialenergizer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/SE-logo-type-web.pngLynn2012-12-21 10:00:342014-10-31 18:28:03Additional Revenue Model for Hotels
Ever wonder where Road to Success really is? I’ve been working a lot lately with people that I like and respect. It’s actually a choice I made a couple of years ago and at times I have questioned that decision, as I walked away from certain business opportunities, because of the people connected to them. I’ve learned that when you get those certain warning sounds going off in your head to TRUST IT and walk away.
So when I read Seth’s blog, added in full below, it struck a chord. It’s not as much about getting those people to do what you want, but about working in tandem -not having to discuss and contest every decision because both viewpoints come from the same basic goal and value set. Put those difficulties aside and you can just get busy -improving and promoting the business.
From Seth Godin’s blog-
The easiest way to get people to do what you want them to do…
is to start with people who want what you want.
Identify, organize and excite people who are already predisposed to achieve what you had in mind and you’re much more likely to have the outcome you seek. It’s far easier (but less compelling) than turning strangers or enemies into customers/voters/supporters/colleagues. Over time, an engaged and motivated base of followers is the single best way to earn more followers.
You used to be stuck with whoever walked in the door or opened your mail. Today, you change minds indirectly, by building a tribe that influences via connections to others.
When I was young, my grandmother and grandfather owned and ran a small resort in Northern Wisconsin. I remember her notifying the nearby Visitor’s Information Center on Friday evenings when they had open, unsold cottages. It was a friendly conversation that was often repeated just before the cottages ‘turned-over’ for the next weekly rentals. These phone calls often resulted in new guests and increased occupancy for the resort.
The days of putting up a sign and then advising the local Visitor’s Center of your hotel’s availability just isn’t enough anymore. To survive you’ll need to realize that hotel marketing has changed. Influences such as social media networks and the global marketplace can make your new sales world seem like you are the smallest of fish in a very large ocean. Sometimes it can even seem like there is a minefield in that ocean, just waiting for you. BUT, it doesn’t have to be THE END. Independent hotels and resorts, yes, even the small- and medium-sized ones, that invest in technology to streamline operations, sell globally, and enhance the guest experience can navigate through successfully.
Today, selecting an outstanding hotel property management system (PMS) is the essential element to maximizing occupancy rates and increasing profitability. As online systems’ integration and the influence of a global marketplace become more and more important to hotel sales, selection of the right property management system, your hotel’s core business tool, is the most critical component to success. Choosing one that easily and efficiently manages and organizes hotel inventory and tasks, while seamlessly coordinating marketing channels to maximize occupancy is the key to a successful implementation.
How do you find a PMS that can do all this? Here are a few steps to get you on your way:
Form a Plan
Form a Team
Unless you’re a small ‘mom & pop’ hotel, where the owners are the team, the first step in selecting a property management system is to form an integration team that includes managers and staff. It’s important to do this to make sure the property management system addresses most of the needs throughout the hotel and is evaluated through various viewpoints. It also helps to get the ‘buy-in’ of the eventual users. For small lodging professionals, the ‘moms & pops’, sit down and discuss this throughly. Treat it as the important decision it is. Don’t let the day to day operations push this decision aside. It WILL make your life easier -and allow your property to make you more money.
Conduct a Needs Assessment
It’s important to clarify all the property’s business processes, beginning with guest inquiries, moving to reservations and then ending with check-out and ‘thank you’ letters.
Also gather a list of the numerous functions that, depending on the size of your property and the amenities it offers, can include anything from room service to bicycle rentals.
Consider how and who you want to partner with. Integrating with the many online sales channels today will provide the highest occupancy levels, but not without significant cost. Choosing the ones that best match your guest demographics is the key.
What type of support will be important to you and your team? Typically, most hoteliers’ first choice is 24/7 support with a support team based in the same country.
Prioritize the list of features
Create a list of basic requirements that must be included to create a platform suitable to your hotels’ operational and marketing needs. Then evaluate the ‘nice to have’ items and determine implications like ROI and guest happiness and add those top features to the list as well.
Determine your budget
Typically today, a cloud-based system will end up costing you less, provide unlimited software updates, and relieve you of the problem of having the system go down without the right personnel to fix it. In-place systems are usually a better fit for the large hotel chains that have enterprise-level demands and deeper pockets.
Evaluate the Options
Find the most cutting-edge, hospitality approved PMS systems. Ask for recommendations from colleagues at similar-sized properties, your local hotel and lodging association and staff. They have likely used a variety of systems over the years and can offer suggestions and warnings about the available PMS systems on the market. Create a comparison chart to capture the myriad pieces of information.
Common considerations for choosing a property management system are:
1. Functional design. The level of design may be a clue to finding the technology right for your hotel. A clunky, out-of-date interface should give cause for concern; the technology underlying it is probably no better. Look for a system that has a intuitive interface, is easy to navigate and organized logically. Tip- Count how many mouse ‘clicks’ it takes to complete routine functions.
2. Robust Property ManagementFunctions. Fully-integrated front- and back-office operations, detailed guest profiles, management of guest folios and charge routing, housekeeping, special request management and task lists are all required of your multi-functional team and should be part of a basic PMS. Automation of routine communications should be embedded as part of the reservation process allowing your staff to interact with guests, while tracking the information.
3. Sell via new marketing channels. Today, hotels need to be able to directly access the global marketplace. This means systematic support for selling via your website, global distribution systems and social networks. The importance of social media in hospitality sales is now proven. Watch for trendsetting PMS vendors to capture and add guest social profiles to their CRM (customer relationship management) systems and add features for interacting in these new ways.
4. Integration with other systems. Your PMS should interface with your online services and marketing channels. Complex components like the online booking engine of your website, merchant accounts for credit processing, and linking of global distribution systems that will enable you to sell on Expedia, Booking.com, etc. should all be integrated into one easy-to-use interface. Your property management system will be the common control system and should be therefore be the easiest and most robust of all. Automatic synchronization is the key to successfully implementing these various functions.
5. Flexible reporting. Your system should be able to generate custom reports and queries. This will enable you to track your marketing efforts, predict opportunities and determine the partners that provide the best ROI. Do not overlook the importance of your accounting backend. Can you easily track all transactions as they process into your bank? Your PMS should either exist as a full accounting package, export in ready-to-use formats like Excel or .cvs OR both.
6. Positioned for growth. Select a property management system that accommodates future trends and growth. Look for a system with a structure that enables you to add services and functions as your needs evolve.
Narrow the list, based on the data in the chart, to 3-5 property management systems. Then arrange testing and more research for each of the systems. Arrange for system demonstrations with the vendors. Provide each vendor a detailed list of needs. This will ensure that your concerns are addressed and allow you control over the sales conversation.
It’s most likely that vendors will demo their property management system through an online demonstration where you will be able to see the software in action and ask questions about the system. Sometimes, vendors will give you a temporary account, where you can actually add info and test the system with little guidance.
This is also the time to firm up your budget. Request quotes as you evaluate the systems. Obtain references.
Before You Sign
1. Dig into the Real Costs. What is included in the final costs? Does this integration include all the items on your ‘must have’ list? Is the design and implementation of your online booking engine included fee-free? How is the global distribution (gds) set up? Are there additional costs? Are there 3rd party set-up charges that need to be paid? What commissions and transaction fees will you pay and to whom? I.e. Expedia and Booking.com have pass-through commission fees and some PMS vendors add on their own additional transaction fees, as well. Pay attention to vendors that are forthright and transparent in the costs you pay. Watch for warning signs from vendors that are not forthcoming with the costs you will pay (gds integration, etc.) and who will perform the integrations. As a rule, the more people involved in the middle, the more control is lost and the more time is involved for the integration.
2. Agree Upon A Timeline. After you’ve agreed on your ‘must have’ list with the chosen vendor, set up a delivery timeline. Determine key milestone’s and related delivery dates. Sometimes there are actions that are out of control of a vendor and depend on 3rd party implementation; these should be clearly defined and best case/worse case scenarios should be given.
3. Technology Partner. As you make your final selection, keep in mind that this choice will become a vital component in your technology requirements. Be sure that the services offered are encompassing enough to support your needs and skill-level. If not, then consider a 3rd party project manager, that can help with implementation, can fill in the technology gaps and will advocate for you to the many vendors that are in your global circle.
4. Additional Things to Ask.
• How is training implemented? One-on-one? Group? In-person?
• Is there an appointed account manager/trainer?
• System documentation, how to videos and updates should be up-to-date as the software changes.
• Support times (i.e 24/7)
• Guaranteed turnaround times for phone calls and emails.
• Country of Origin of the support team. Will language issues be a barrier? Can you wait several days for a resolution to a problem?
• How does the support team track and manage your requests? Do they have a robust support system for supporting their clients?
• How does your info export? Can you perform the export? Does it come out in usable MSExcel-ready files?
The hospitality environment is ever more competitive and challenging everyday. Selecting the right advisors and vendors to fully-integrate software systems to maximize occupancy, serve your guests well, and ease staff workload is the key to your hotel’s future success.
As an e-business advisor to the hospitality and leisure industry, Social Energizer helps with the selection, integration and implementation of property management systems, online sales channels and social media networks with a special focus on independent hotels, inns, resorts, and campgrounds.
https://socialenergizer.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/BowlesPikePoint_Del.jpg9001203Lynnhttps://socialenergizer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/SE-logo-type-web.pngLynn2012-08-07 11:43:302017-12-28 09:26:28Your Guide to Selecting a Hotel Property Management System
It’s been a little over a week since returning from Mexico where Chris from Design4Real.net and I worked at Posada Yum Kin Hotel in Tulum, Mexico on a fun little website update. It feels like a lifetime ago and in some ways it has been for me. This is kind of a weird story for me to write and you’ll find that it is unlike my other posts, being personal in nature. The lesson is simple, life is a balancing act.
For those of us engaging in social media promotion the pressure is on to openly share so many details of our lives, so we can better ‘connect’ with our community. How do we do that and remain true to ourselves? How do we reserve any element of privacy? I’m not a ‘dramatic’ person, how can I keep life’s speedbumps from sounding overly dramatic if I write about it online? Increasingly, we are challenged with what to ‘share’ and what to keep private. Recently, the Zuckerberg’s (of Facebook) faced this challenge on their honeymoon. As a case in point, I am facing this challenge now, as I decide how and what to communicate. My goal? To keep it balanced.
Many of you have been asking about our trip and, for that, I think this little ‘news’ report will be helpful, mainly because I won’t have to retell the story several times which suits me just fine. This post started as a ‘live’ case study about our business project, but on this trip it became, oh, so much more personal.
We had a great time working hard and getting things done. Read about our week at Keeping Your Website Real. But, this story on findng the ‘balance’ actually begins as we headed on our way home. Little did I know that while we were getting things done on our ‘to do’ list and spending a little time at the beach that I had something BIG working against me.
Unknowingly, in the weeks before going to Mexico, I had contracted a bacterial infection. As spring brings in allergies, I believed I was just battling a recurring eye-allergy. Using over-the-counter-meds, I thought it was under control and put the whole matter to the back of my mind.
While we were in Tulum and as we became more active, I became very dehydrated. I struggled to keep up with our quick pace, but just put it off to our irregular schedule. As we traveled home, I was so thirsty; I drank anything I could get my hands on. Since I was dehydrated, I sought out highly caloric beverages with lots of electrolytes, etc. As we had started our travel day at about 2:30am, I believed that I merely had jet lag and dehydration and, once home, would feel better quickly. After I got home, I proceeded to sleep for about 24-48 hours straight through. Lucky for me, mom and my hubby, Tom, took matters into their hands and insisted that I go to the doctor.
What the doc found was 1- the infection, 2- dehydration, and 3- a life-changing diagnosis of Diabetes. Drinking the ‘rehydrating’ beverages had driven my blood sugar levels as high as 636. That’s close to the point of having some serious damage and I can tell you first hand that I have never felt so disoriented and simple-minded. Long story short, it took 4 agonizing days in the hospital to rehydrate and get my blood sugar count in line. Now, it has been another 4 days just to learn how to balance my blood levels.
I was diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis, which my doctor tells me means that my body had some type of virus in the last month or two and signaled to my brain that something was wrong. My body ‘killed’ off the ability for my pancreas to create insulin. I understand I am now termed a ‘Type 1 1/2 diabetic’ and will probably need insulin the rest of my life to balance my blood sugar levels.
As everyone says, “this is a life-changing event”. I’m hearing that refrain a lot these days. I feel caught between two country music songs. Toby Keith’s “It’s about me”, set against the track of Tim McGraw’s “My next 30 years”. It’ll take a bit of time to find my ‘new normal’, but I’m getting there.
Things I took for granted, the automatic adjustment of my blood sugars, now require routine monitoring and adjustment. Learning to balance things better. That’s my goal. Sometimes it’s your health, sometimes it’s your relationships -both on and offline. In the end, taking the time to balance it all out, will be for the better.
Life is indeed a balancing act.
https://socialenergizer.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/BalancingAct.jpg24901770Lynnhttps://socialenergizer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/SE-logo-type-web.pngLynn2012-06-04 23:31:562012-09-11 03:02:59Life is a Balancing Act
Travel sites like Trip Advisor, have become one of the most essential social networking and travel planning sites for travelers and for businesses in travel, leisure, and restaurant industries. Monitoring and participating to keep Trip Advisor reputations as favorable as possible may be the most vital online function any travel and leisure-based business can practice. Smart businesses tap into what their customers are telling them to improve their product and neutralize negative experiences. Stay Tuned! In a future blog, I’ll review how businesses can use Trip Advisor to make their business soar, but let’s start today with simply planning a trip.
For me, even the trip planning is one of the most fun parts of a vacation. Researching and learning of places you will visit builds anticipation and can stretch that vacation from a one-week stint to a months long, live-your-dreams extravaganza! Or for many, it can just be a pain–in-the-ass task that you want to finish as quickly as possible. Either way, sites like Trip Advisor can help. Their social networking aspect and traveler reviews are well known and have quickly become the ‘go to’ sites for direction on deciding among travel choices.
Started in 2000, TripAdvisor.com is now the most popular travel advisory website and is used by millions of travelers around the world. It has given consumers a voice, and potential guests an educated choice when making decisions on where to go, stay, eat and what to do once they arrive. This method of travel planning is so much better than methods used in the past of choosing based only on online face value and promotional pushes from the destinations and properties. This new transparency has simply changed the way the travel and leisure industry works.
Looking closely at Trip Advisor, the potential vacationer can scan countless areas of the world or zoom in to very specific and often, virtually unknown spots. It has become a vital resource for those wanting to ‘travel off of the beaten path’.
The real power of TripAdvisor.com comes with the great tools available upon joining the site. Joining is free, although you’ll need to part with your personal info.
Don’t even know a destination that you want to visit? Start out with ‘Travel Inspiration’. Find it under the ‘More’ section of the main page menu, then the drop-down selection of ‘Trip Ideas’. Here you’ll find a smart search engine that allows you to narrow your search to what you like. Well, theoretically anyway. First, select the type of vacation that suits you and your traveling companions. Then pick a general destination you’d like to visit. I tested this to see if it would find a destination that I know very well, Tulum, Mexico. I entered ‘Beaches & Sun’, then ‘Mexico, Central & South America’. Guess what? It didn’t even bring Tulum up as a top five choice, which it should have. I found that very disappointing, as Tulum beaches were just rated by Trip Advisor last spring as one of The Top 5 Beaches of the World! That aside, most people will find this a valuable travel planning tool.
Still don’t know where you want to go? Check out the other headings under the ‘More’ section, particularly the forum and the guides. You can get broad information from the guides and then go to the forum for first hand knowledge and answers to specific questions.
After you’ve picked out a city or area to visit, you will see a new menu drop-down, second from the left, specifically about your destinatin choice. It is also located in the left-hand column in a slightly different format.
Hotels, Flights and Restaurants -Time to explore, shop and plan.
With Trip Advisor’s search tools you will be able to locate hotels by time, date, amenities and other criteria based on traveler experience.
Read the guest reviews. This is the real ‘meat and potatoes’ of Trip Advisor. Select any hotel and read randomly through the reviews. My favorite method is to pick some top-rated and some of the lower-rated reviews. The key with reading the lower-rated reviews is to see if the factors that created poor reviews resonate with you and your travel needs. Is it someone that is complaining needlessly? Is it out of line with common expectiations? Is it someone exercising a grudge? As you read through lower-rated reviews, it usually becomes apparent if they are legitimate or not. The same can be said of the ‘glowing’ reviews. Do they really appear to be written by a guest? Or maybe the owner is behind the overly generous review? Things like that do happen, even though Trip Advisor tries to vet each review.
Search tools for flights can help you compare prices on different travel booking sites like Expedia, Orbitz and Priceline. You don’t book on Trip Advisor you will link to these other sites for the actual booking. My favorite feature in Trip Advisor for flights is the Trip Alert feature that you can set up that sends you an email when fares dip between airports you specify.
The reviews for restaurants are a foodie’s dream. Watch what local establishment is trending in an area. Choose among the countless ethnic choices, by location or by rating. If that’s not enough you can also pick by price, options and based on their strength of obscure things like ‘good place to do business’ or ‘outdoor seating’. The google map let’s you see exactly where the restaurant is and pops up details as you hover over the map icon.
Earn a Badge
Similar to becoming a ‘mayor’ on Foursquare, Trip Advisor contributors earn badges for their reviews. Your badge level is determined based on the number of reviews you have, plus the rating your review receives by readers. Looking for badges is also a way of determinng the amateur travel advisors’ experience.
As you can see, Trip Advisor is a must have for travelers. Check out their mobile apps and ‘save a trip’ so that you can access this information, as you need it, while traveling. After all, finding your way around smoothly helps you live that dream well.
Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.
https://socialenergizer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/SE-logo-type-web.png00Lynnhttps://socialenergizer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/SE-logo-type-web.pngLynn2011-12-07 17:10:272012-10-26 20:10:26Tips for Planning a Vacation via Trip Advisor
As a guest writer, Technorati published my first article last week, which is shown below. I found it a great compliment to be asked to write for Tehnorati. After all, Technorati, the very first search engine for blogs, is considered the gold standard, with an index of more than one million blogs. Let me know what you think…
I always get excited about finding cool new ways to help small and medium-sized businesses solve one of their greatest challenges – lack of resources. Introducing… StringHub.
StringHub is attempting to tackle this resource challenge by linking instructors and professors with businesses via student projects. In fact, this equation promises to help everyone including our sagging economy. Businesses will receive valuable help they need from inspiring artists and professionals and students will receive the opportunity to take part in ‘real-life’ business situations.
I recently met Adam Hoeksema, co-founder of StringHub, online and found his passion and insights to be inspiring. Adam’s innovative thinking promises to drive educational institutions everywhere to adapting Internet technologies to create a more meaningful, far-reaching impact, while introducing their students to the art of entrepreneurship. The concept was Adam’s brainchild, but taking it online required a team effort. Adam is the business, marketing and finance guy in this partnership. The Internet technology, namely their website StringHub.com, was created by his brother and co-founder, Brandon, who is actually still in high school. A self-taught programmer, Brandon has done a remarkable job with the website. It’s a simple, clean interface that allows educators to submit class projects to be matched with businesses in need.
I asked Adam about the background and details surrounding StringHub.com and here’s what he had to say:
Adam, how and why did the idea of StringHub.com occur to you?
“I graduated from Taylor University in May of 2010 with a degree in accounting. In June, I started as Client Services Manager at the Flagship Enterprise Center, a business incubator in Anderson, Indiana. As I worked with our clients at the Flagship Enterprise Center, I realized that startup companies need a lot of help. They need help with graphic and web design, social media, video production, public relations, web application development, and the list could go on. There are college students working on class projects in all of these areas, but typically the projects have no real world application. The projects simply go to waste; they are just for practice. We thought if we could unlock the real world value of student class projects we could create a win-win situation for both businesses and students.”
What is StringHub’s mission?
“I want StringHub to fundamentally change the way that college and university class projects work. I believe that the best way for students to learn something is to try and fail in the real world. You can’t do that through case studies, or projects for imaginary businesses. So first and foremost we want to help improve the educational experience for students. At the same time, we want to help small businesses flourish, add jobs, and create wealth. Those are lofty goals, but we believe it is possible.”
What type of projects would StringHub.com participate in?
“Currently there are millions of student class projects in areas like:
▪ Public Relations
▪ Business Management
▪ Graphic Design
▪ Web Development
▪ Social Media
And many more subjects
Typically these projects just go to waste. They are ‘practice.’ http://stringhub.com is attempting to create a platform that unlocks the real world value of these student class projects in order to help support entrepreneurs.
Many of these class projects could be free to the entrepreneur. We believe that a focused approach can really accelerate a startup. Imagine an army of students all supporting an innovative, world changing startup company.”
What do students gain from this?
By connecting student projects with real world applications students are gaining:
▪ Real world experience
▪ A professional portfolio of completed work
▪ Relationships with a network of potential employers
For example, Adam refers to an integrated marketing plan created for HeatMax, Inc. at the University of Arizona. Four University of Arizona students helped to create a new product line called Toastie Toes that helps women keep their feet warm in cold weather. Their professor, Hope Jensen Schau matches student teams with companies to work on projects like packaging, distribution, advertising and public relations. The four students in question have earned local fame and have also been contracted to continue their work with HeatMax, Inc.
Overall, the University of Arizona example is the same model that StringHub.com will employ. It is a web-based platform that allows tech schools, colleges and universities to unlock the real world value of student class projects, by connecting student projects with opportunities, and managing the entire project through an online workroom.
Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.
https://socialenergizer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/SE-logo-type-web.png00Lynnhttps://socialenergizer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/SE-logo-type-web.pngLynn2011-11-09 06:56:402011-11-09 03:31:51StringHub –Where Educators, Students and Startups Meet