What can I write in front of all those eyeballs?

25 August 2010

When someone is watching what you are doing it’s often more difficult to get a task done and in a way social media feels a bit like this. You know you should respond but when you know the world is watching you don’t know quite what to say, especially if it’s an unhappy customer, so you decide to ignore the post. This has happened a lot in the hotel industry where customers have boldly revealed all in places like Trip Advisor about their hotel stay and their reviews have largely gone without a response. In fact according to Revinate[1], only 4% of negative hotel reviews on Trip Advisor actually got a response. Whilst some hotel review sites allow hotels to respond, others currently do not, but this is likely to change.
When responding to social media reviews you need to take a hard look at your current processes and determine how social media is likely to change them. Speed of response is likely to be a big change followed by style. If you are accustomed to getting all customers to write in, you will want to make your posts more informal, as if you are writing an email. It’s best to first show some empathy and then advise the customer what you have put right.
When writing your social media guidelines for staff it’s best to give concrete examples of good and bad practice so people have something to work with. For example in the case of a bad review it’s best not to be defensive but to show empathy with the customer and explain what you have done to correct any issues raised. If it’s not apparent in the review it’s also best to check if they have already raised their issue with your guest relations team so that they have had an opportunity to put things right.
It’s not always easy to match customer posts with their real identity given that many customers use a screen name but you can use a site like Trip Advisor to check their profile and location and you can sign up as the owner or manager of the property so you can be advised of any posts relating to your property. You can also sign up to free alerts like Google Alerts to check what customers are saying about your brand online, although it will not pick up everything. You can also register for one of the many social media monitoring tools which will pick up more posts and tweets across the web and help you with the workflow and tracking and resolution of customer posts.
When you look at the huge growth of Trip Advisor with 58% growth over the last 12 months[2] you can see that the number of eyeballs influenced by the reviews has grown considerably. In fact I was astounded to read that already visits to social media sites have overtaken search engines, as of May 2010 according to Hitwise, so travel  players cannot ignore this trend. In addition consumers are now using more hotel related review terms than ever before so they are making a review site one of their first ports of calls when booking hotels.

[1] Revinate – a hospitality social media tracking solution
[2] Hitwise – Using Hitwise to plan your online travel strategy August 2010
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