The Increasing Influence of Social Media and Review Websites…

Social Media In past posts on The Elite Hotelier we have discussed the importance of paying attention to reviews on social media and the major review websites. It is a well-trodden path and much written about subject and apparently everyone understands the increasing power of these sites and the importance to correctly manage the social media presence to ensure a positive impression.

On a recent overseas trip to Europe I realised personally, from a customer perspective, how much we increasingly rely on these resources and the impact they have on buying decisions.

Although I have visited much of Europe, for some unknown reason I had never been to many parts of southern and central Italy. I had a basic knowledge of the country and what I wanted to do and so for the week or so of my visit I set about making my plans. Once my destinations were in my head I began the task of selecting my hotels.

It was at this point I realised that my behaviour had changed.

In the past I would have first selected the location, then looked for a hotel by star rating, price and facilities – often a familiar brand or chain would be a safe choice rather than some unknown name.

However, now I searched a couple of travel review websites (such as TripAdvisor or Booking.com) entered my destination and then went straight to the hotel reviews section. I sorted through and viewed the top 10 or 20 properties and only then did I apply my other filters such as location and facilities. More surprisingly (particularly to myself :)) price was a much later consideration.

I proceeded to make my choices and realised i was heavily influenced by the reviews I read. In fact, my hotel choice in Florence was in an area I would have previously considered much too far away, but the positive reviews led to the choice of hotel and I was not disappointed despite a fairly long walk to the city centre.

Increasingly this is the way customers make purchase decisions. We all want good service and suitable facilities and hate to think we have made a poor choice or somehow been cheated.

On review sites you often see properties with no brand (or well-known name) sitting next to, or higher, than world class companies and brands. These sites provide something closer to a level playing field for small and independent properties without the large budgets of the multi-nationals. This is particularly true if they are social media savvy and encourage guests to relay positive experiences.

I am still surprised that so many hotels fail to handle these review sites with adequate reverence. So many either seem to ignore them or pay lip service to the process – some even offering excuses or blaming the customers for their negative experiences. Well-known chains cannot just rely on the brand power that once delivered above average RevPAR, and small and independent properties must learn quickly to utilise this opportunity.

It’s true that the customer is not always right but hotels need to understand the power of a few negative reviews and ensure the correct management of the social media process.

For a few ideas on how NOT to handle social media see our previous post on the subject here

About the Author

rsz_tim_johns_cc1Tim Johns is a former Hotelier and Managing Partner with Elite Search – a leading hospitality recruitment firm. For more information about Tim and Elite Search visit http://www.elitesearch.com.au and The Elite Hotelier http://www.elitehotelier.net

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