Word-of-Mouth 2.0: Social Networking Builds Guest Booking Confidence

By Rodrigo Machaz, General Manager, Memmo Baleeira Hotel | October 05, 2010

Over the last few years, the Internet has become the main search channel for travelers. No matter the type of accommodation they are looking for, their search always begins online, and travelers decide almost uniquely on properties that have a strong online presence. This consumer change makes it critical for properties to have a professional online presence that will capitalize on these new search patterns.

It is of utmost importance for independent properties to have a strong online presence in order to build customer confidence. Social networks can open up a world of opportunities to a property, but if a hotel is not armed with the proper tools, such as a professional website and a modern reservations system, it will never achieve the necessary trust from customers to book directly online.

Word-of-mouth 2.0
It is undeniable that social networks are a good way for hotels to connect and stay connected with guests; they are excellent channels that contribute to the increase of brand exposure without being intrusive. At Memmo Baleeira, five percent of guests who shop for offers on the hotel's website share that information with their friends via e-mail, Twitter or Facebook.

This viral behavior gives the hotel the opportunity to reach millions of people directly without being considered to be spam. It was a big surprise for Memmo Baleeira to discover that people are not only sharing information about their reservations, but they are also sharing the special promotions and sending messages like, "Let's start planning our New Year's trip. Take a look at this hotel and their special offers."

When guests share information related to a property via social networking, this builds confidence among potential guests to book because the information that they are reviewing comes from friends or co-workers, as opposed to the property itself. This creates great opportunities to generate new customers from a market segment that probably could have never been reached by the property.

Therefore it is important for any property to ensure that their customers have the necessary tools to simplify the process of sharing their reservations or other valuable information about the hotel. Memmo Baleeira encourages word of mouth referrals through the use of innovative technologies. For instance, Memmo Baleeira's website features a booking engine that, in one click, enables visitors to share a specific promotion or information based on selected dates/rooms with their friends. This new strategy allows the hotel to easily reach customers that the company would not have been able to reach under other circumstances.

Reversing bad experiences
Just as social media can take a brand to the top it can just as quickly take it to the bottom of the pile. Social media can cause great damage to a hotel brand, and this is why hoteliers must stay on top of their social networking game. It is extremely important to constantly monitor and engage these discussions by paying particular attention to unsatisfied guests -- ensuring that their complaints are readily addressed and corrected if possible. TripAdvisor estimates that less than three percent of hotels reply to bad reviews. However, those companies who do choose to respond are positioned to differentiate and show that they care about the customer's experience. For a property like Memmo Baleeira it is important to have a tool that monitors what is being said about the property, and one that provides hotel staff with an easy way to reply.
 
Twitter or Facebook? Why not both?
When it comes to a hotel's social networking initiatives, there is no need to choose one social networking platform over another because both provide hoteliers with access to millions of users and are excellent distribution and marketing channels. The key is to identify how to best use these platforms to engage guests. For instance, due to the structure of Twitter postings (postings are limited to 140 characters or less), hoteliers can best leverage this platform to more directly engage customers with precise information to attract their attention or to defuse a bad experience. Facebook can serve as an extension of a hotel's website by providing visitors with more information about the property to increase booking probabilities. This can include additional photos of the property, event updates and more.

Memmo Baleeira uses both Facebook and Twitter to promote a variety of offers and activities in the area, but it also promotes exclusive offers to Twitter and Facebook followers. These reservations account for 10 percent of the hotel's overall reservations.

Rodrigo Machaz is the general manager of Memmo Baleeira Hotel in Sagres, Portugal. Rodrigo holds a bachelors degree in business administration and a masters in hotel management from Cornell University. Prior to Memmo Baleeira Hotels, Machaz worked as head of the European business development for Swisscom, and worked closely with chain hotels like NH and Hilton. For many years he worked with the Four Seasons Hotel & Resorts in Vancouver, San Diego and Lisbon.

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