Digital Trends Driving Hotel Marketing In 2014

With people turning increasingly to their smart phones to conduct all manner of business, it comes as no surprise that the hospitality industry is getting its share of mobile e-commerce traffic. Here are some of the hot digital trends for hotel marketing in 2014.

Time to combine the elegance of yesteryear with the digital trends of today

Social Media
Whether it’s Facebook, GooglePlus, Twitter, or any of the other platforms out there, there’s little argument that many people out there have some association with social media. This is a good time to focus some marketing efforts at social media, and that includes creating profile pages for hotels.

More Video
A picture is worth a thousand words, and a video enhances that value. According to one source, 81% of online travel bookers checked out videos before committing to a purchase. Fact is, if you have a good product, video shows it off better (think walk-through tours!), and makes potential customers more inclined to buy.

Mobile Usage Trends Upward
Daily Travel News predicts that by 2017 half of direct online bookings will be done by mobile devices such as smart phones. Strong growth is predicted for 2014 as smart phones and tablets supplant the PC has the go-to way of accessing the Internet.

Website Load Speeds
Google is using load speeds as one way of determining search rank results, and it’s in your best interest to have your hotel’s website show up at the top of the page. Furthermore, visitors expect faster load times, and if your website can’t keep up, they will simply leave and find one that is faster.

While some critics say that GooglePlus’ rollout has not snared as many people away from other social sites as expected, it’s a cold hard fact that Google favors GooglePlus when it comes to search engine results. Therefore, expect GooglePlus’ role in SEO to increase in 2014. If your hospitality business doesn’t have a page there yet, you’d better get moving.

The Importance of Remarketing
Remarketing is the process of targeting those people who visit a website without converting into a sale, and bringing them back. It’s a staggering truth that 96% of people who visit a website leave without buying anything. This includes featuring ads that people would see when they conduct a search or use mobile apps.

A Lot More Not Provided Keywords
A not provided keyword means that Google is not sharing some search information with you, namely the key words or phrases that the searcher used to find you in the first place. This is being done to protect the users’ privacy, but it also puts a big dent if your analytics are based on keywords. As it stands now, about 80% of Google searches come back as “keyword not provided”. Expect this to reach one hundred percent by the end of Q1.

Direct Bookings Over Online Travel Agencies
The travel industry has sure changed from the days of schlepping down to the local travel agent and booking a trip. With the explosion of the Internet, agencies brought their act online as a means of evolving, but even this measure may not be enough as meta-searches, strongly branded websites, and social media make it easier to simply do direct bookings.

The Rise of Meta Search
Metasearches allow users to search over multiple search engines at once. Hotels that want to take advantage of this function need to adjust their marketing to work with meta searches, therefore pulling traffic away from OTAs and bringing visitors directly to their sites.

This one’s a natural for the hospitality industry. With geo-targeting, you determine the location of a website visitor and offer them content and deals that are tailor-made for their particular locale. For instance, if someone is in Detroit and they are traveling to Boston, having a deal for Red Sox tickets or duckboat tours would be a valuable asset, whereas it would be totally useless to a customer who’s in Seattle and is traveling to San Francisco. Geo-targeting lets you focus your ads on the right demographic, and prevents time (and money) wasting mistakes.

There are other trends to keep in mind of, but the above list is a good start. With the continued hotness of mobile computing, 2014 should prove to be an interesting year full of change. Those businesses that stay on top of those changes will be the ones that emerge successful.

This post was contributed by John Terra, who has been a freelance writer since 1985. He writes about everything from SEO tips to smart phones. He’s fond of checking out content on sites like

Photo Credit: marcp_dmoz

Brands Already Using Instagram Direct for Marketing

Instagram Direct just arrived, and brands are already seizing the opportunity to create special connections with customers.

Just a few hours into Instagram’s new version which includes private messages, four brands have already managed to catch our attention with it.

Today, the Nitrogram team received this Christmas greeting card on Instagram.

Forget the so-called personalized emails sent en masse to clients! Instagram Direct makes for a truly personal message.

What’s more: the inclusion of Hyatt’s holiday hashtag and its official Instagram account in the post got us scrolling though their branded content as well: an invitation for us to come and taste the Holiday spirit with Hyatt on Instagram.

Gap posted this photo, accompanied with the following caption:

Join our #WIWT @Instagram Direct challenge: first 15 people to comment below will get a message from us to participate!

GAP was the first brand to get international coverage in the press for a marketing initiative using Instagram Direct. With this simple call to actions and reward (a free macbook satchel from the brand for the first 15 people who commented), GAP managed to get people excited and got our undivided attention.

Fashionista reported on the story’s development, showing the photo that was shared with the 15 people.

Repost and hashtag #KKDIRECT — we will share an exclusive pic with 15 followers!

The Kardashian’s fashion brand used the same method to get people excited about #KKDirect: the hashtag was used in 4,400 Instagram posts in the past 19 hours (yes, it means that this number doesn’t include the 600+ comments left on the Kollection’s original post). An impressive adoption rate and engagement.

What differs with GAP is how Kardashian Kollection turned its most avid followers into insiders by giving them the opportunity to share the freshest news about the brand with their followers.

The brand then delivered on its promise, sending out the picture and Instagramming a glimpse of the Instagram Direct.

An early gift from @Instagram! The first 50 people to post a pic and tag it #MKDirect will get a special message from Michael Kors tomorrow.

Michael Kors is taking it slower, and bets on this extended timeline to let the buzz build itself. By announcing a gift delivery to 50 people tomorrow, they’re making sure to get mentioned a lot beforehand. Sending a message only to a few doesn’t mean it won’t reach many people by getting reposted.

It’s actually what social media author Gary Vaynerchuk experienced: one day, he shared a Snapchat photo with a handful of his fans. The event was so unusual that many of these receivers shared a screenshot on Twitter, which got Gary trending for the first time, even though he has 1 million followers there.

What about you? Have you seen other brands doing one-to-one marketing with Instagram Direct? Let us know in the comments!

This post was contributed by Thibaut Davoult. Thibault is managing content and community around Nitrogram. If your brand or company is on Instagram, he’s probably following it already.

HootSuite Now Monitors Yelp, Google+ Local, TripAdvisor

Effective this week, HootSuite can now monitor reviews on all major review sites.  The review feed in HootSuite will be powered by a new app called Reputology.

Built by a startup run by MIT grads, the Reputology app not only monitors reviews on all the major business directories, but it will also track industry specific review sites in hospitality, restaurants, retail, health/medicine, auto dealers, weddings and career/workplace.

If you represent a multi-location organization, Reputology lets you monitor activity for all your locations.  The economy hotel Red Roof Inn, for example, monitors about 350 locations nationwide using Reputology.

You can customize each stream by rating, review site, location or status. The status is something the user assigns to a review as a way to keep tabs on how a review is being followed up on. NOTE the list of directories displayed in that screenshot is not a comprehensive list of all the sites Reputology monitors.

The reason businesses should monitor their reviews is that they impact sales and even SEO.  Studies at Harvard and UC Berkeley have shown that reviews can impact sales by as much as 9%.  And just a couple weeks ago, a new study found that Google’s search algorithm weighs review volume and rating over other factors.  In other words, reviews play a significant role in how high a business will rank when someone does a Google search.

But by monitoring reviews, businesses have the chance to respond quickly and even reverse a reviewer’s opinion.  Reputology users have said they can get unhappy reviewers to change their mind about 70% of the time.

If you run multiple locations, you can create a stream for each one. Or if you are a consultant with many clients, you can create a stream for each client. Or you can aggregate everything into one stream.

Here are some links that allow you to monitor reviews in HootSuite:

  • Already a HootSuite user?  Use this link to Install Reputology now.
  • If you don’t have HootSuite account, sign up here to install Reputology.

Let us know what you think of the new app once you try it!



When In Hospitality, Do As Retailers Do

Hotel receptionAs more and more Americans climb out of the recession, latch onto more profitable careers, and have extra time and cash for vacations, no industry will feel the boom like hotels and motels.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association suggests the good times have already hit, with 2012 showing a 14% growth in income compared to the prior year. For a hotel owner, however, every empty room represents a loss.

How can the hospitality industry learn from retail’s successes of social media?

Optimize Social Standards

The raw numbers of social media and hospitality e-business paint a promising picture for the hospitality industry. Hotel owners save money, reports Buuteeq, whenever they get a booking from a website rather than a travel agent.

Mobile bookings provide the highest profit margin, and hotels with an active social presence get more online bookings than those that go without. Retailers have long since made their operations social-savvy by creating Web content specifically for social platforms. They have even gone so far as to build apps for mobile devices.

Create Content To Be Shared

The greatest value in social media comes from followers sharing and re-Tweeting. Yet you need to frame updates, posts, polls, or questions carefully to encourage sharing.

Constant Contact recommends taking at least one of three angles for every update you want to be shared: make it funny, make it interesting, or make it agreeable — these three metrics by and large determine a post’s share rate.

Promote E-Coupons

Whenever a customer logs onto Facebook and sees an offer that saves them money, they are not only a potential sale but also a surefire way to connect to new networks for hotel managers. Knowledge Network reports that digital coupons bring in new customers at a 33 percent higher rate than their paper predecessors.

Take a page from Black Friday-focused retailers like Macy’s that offer customers and followers a better deal on their favorites in exchange for liking a page or sharing a post. Retailers promote coupons on the busiest shopping days of the year to boost customer satisfaction, so consider giving out coupons during the heights of tourist season to enhance your hotel’s reputation.

Show Off Your Scenery

Remember that social media encompasses more than just the 140 characters on Twitter. The rise of micro-video, suggests Forbes Magazine, will dominate and perhaps even replace short updates as users can put a lot more information into a 6-second Vine video than they could in a status update.

Hotels can capitalize on short video updates by showing individual rooms, views of a beach from the window, or showcase a chef in the kitchen. Remember that short videos work better for promotions, since attention span wanes quickly in the digital age.


Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Launches Its First Food Truck

With eight destinations, three states and more than 1,000 miles to cover, the first official Four Seasons Food Truck hit the road on September 16, 2013. Known as the FS Taste Truck, the vehicle and its tour provides a new, mobile stage for the brand’s culinary talent to connect with their local communities.


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“Food is a passion for us at Four Seasonsand we are always seeking to share that in inspiring and exciting ways, whether it’s through a Michelin-star dining experience or the perfect beer and burger pairing at one of our gastropubs,” says Guy Rigby, vice president of food & beverage in the Americas. “We want to keep our chefs engaged in something that is very relevant and the food truck movement fits the bill.  It’s fun, unexpected and will foster the notion that Four Seasons does things differently.”


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From Palo Alto, California to Santa Fe, New Mexico, the truck’s route will cover a total of seven cities with eight Four Seasons hotels and resorts playing host in each location. The participating properties will take over the truck in their respective destinations for one week, executing an exciting, mouth-watering series of events as well as mobile menus inspired by their cities.

From popup parking-lot parties to stops at prominent landmarks and chef competitions that celebrate regional cuisines, the food truck’s journey will provide an entertaining, moveable feast for all to enjoy.  Examples of events include:

  • Prost! – The FS Taste Truck will stop in Santa Barbara’s popular “Funk Zone” rolling up on October 4 to Telegraph Brewing Company for the ultimate Oktoberfest. Guests will taste fare including pork bratwurst, Polish sausage with sauerkraut, beef goulash, chicken schnitzel, steak frites and, for dessert, a German triple-chocolate cake. On tap at Telegraph to complement the menu will be the 1927 Ale, which is brewed exclusively for Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. 
  • Tales of the Chile Pepper – An ingredient-driven “passing of the keys” will take place during the final leg of the journey between Executive Chef Mel Mecinas of Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North and Executive Chef Andrew Cooper of Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe.  The two chefs will serve multiple dishes featuring chile peppers, a staple of Southwestern cuisine, and fans will be invited to vote for their favourite by posting images to Instagram.  The winning dishes will be featured on the menu at Terra Bar at the Santa Fe property for the final week of the tour.

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In addition to providing an exceptional culinary experience, the FS Taste Truck tour benefits a good cause. Following its completion, a portion of the total proceeds of the tour will be donated to Chefs to End Hunger, a charity that works with hotels, restaurants, and food service operations across the country to redistribute excess prepared food to those in need.

The FS Taste Truck will be rolling into the following cities throughout the fall:

  • September 16-22 – Palo Alto, California
  • September 23-29  – San Francisco, California
  • September 30 – October 6 – Santa Barbara, California
  • October 7-13 – Beverly Hills, California
  • October 14-20 – Los Angeles, California
  • October 21-27 – Westlake Village, California
  • October 28 – November 3 – Scottsdale, Arizona
  • November 4-10 – Santa Fe, New Mexico

My friend Ted Nguyen recently visited the Four Seasons truck in Beverly Hills and wrote a fantastic recap along with interviews of members of the Four Seasons staff.

Follow the tour at Taste by Four Seasons or by searching #FSTasteTruck on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Plus, share Four SeasonsTaste Truck photos on Instagram to receive a special treat at the host Four Seasons hotel. Learn about how to Snap, Share & Savor here.

5 Minutes with a Hotel Marketing Guru

With all the advice and suggestions out there for your website, how are you supposed to know the best way to market your hotel? Long gone are the days where commercials and a clever billboard were all you needed to successfully advertise. Today, you have the perfect balance and combination of traditional and digital marketing.

Below is an interview with Randy Steinbeck, Vice President of staySky Resort Management, a Florida-based leader in the hospitality industry specializing in complete hotel, resort and condominium hotel management.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a hotel marketer today?

First – convincing General Managers and C-suite corporate executives to move scarce marketing dollars from traditional media (brochures, print ads, trade shows) to digital initiatives (websites, SEO, Search Engine Advertising, Social Media Networks). Second – finding gifted talent in the digital marketing space that understand the unique nuances of the hotel industry. Third – keeping up to date with the most effective marketing tools and media that deliver a genuine ROI.

How do those challenges compare with the challenges you faced 10 and 20 years ago?

It was way different – the sheer pace of change today and the impact of the internet on what was the traditional linear distribution model – wholesaler, travel agent, guest – and the need to active rate and inventory management on an almost instant basis.

 What aspect of hotel marketing has stayed consistent over the last 10 and 20 years?

Well, it should be branding and the associated value that a brand demonstrates, but our industry has not done a great job of maintaining a clear understanding of what a particular brand represents. Client relationships remain important, but they are more fragile and there is less and less loyalty.  A lot of this has to do with the introduction of Social Media and the profound impact the online opinions will have – for better or worse.

 Do you believe social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have a direct effect on sales?

Yes and no – in terms of raising visibility and gaining valuable endorsement via blogger articles and reviews there is discernible value, but only in relative context to your overall branding and marketing strategies.  However,  in terms of measurable ROI, it is very time intensive and we are not “there” yet in determining how best to allocate our scarce time resources.

 If you could mentor yourself 20 years ago, what would you say?

I suppose I would say to follow marketing trends but, don’t be afraid to look at new and different opportunities to succeed.   Also I would tell myself to get on that “technology bandwagon” (this would be almost pre-internet) because it is a complete game changer – you better get to know how these computer things work.

How is the true value of a hotel measured?

Capital Value and bottom line – period. A hotel is the same as any other property investment and the EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Tax) is the driver of the valuation placed on the asset.

Should the success of a hotel marketing plan be directly measured by revenue?

Today, yes, as well as bottom line performance. But not just in terms of today’s revenue – marketing dollars invested today must look forward to next quarter and next year and beyond – they are an investment in the hotel’s future and that needs to be taken into consideration.

What do you see as the future of hotel marketing?

Gone are the days of 20 years ago where deals were done through “connections” and marketing was just a euphemism for a long lunch. It will continue to become more sophisticated and closer to mainstream FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) marketing with discipline and strategies to match. Traditional sales resources will be refocused or repurposed into the digital arena, still requiring savvy deal makers, but in a cyber-world. Hotel marketing will finally overcome the perception that finance and operations are the only major drivers of a hotels success.

This interview was contributed by Gina Withey. Gina is currently Regional Director Sales and Marketing and oversees staySky Resort Management’s marketing and advertising for staySky Hotels & Resorts and sits on the Global Marketing Committee for Visit Orlando.

How Facebook Pages Communicate with Fans

One of the most important factors for success on Facebook is a two-way communication – especially if fans post on a page’s wall. But how do pages handle this kind of attention? To answer this question, Fanpage Karma analyzed about 60,000 pages with over 2,700,000 fan posts for the time period of three months.

The results:

  • The great majority allows comments on their wall, just 17% do not
  • Only 28% of all fan posts get a reaction by the page. The rest stays ignored

The following analysis just refers to those pages which allow fan posts on their wall.

Response time

A lot of reactions are happening within one day: 71% of all posts are commented, liked or deleted in 24 hours; 20% even in less than two hours.

Service level

The service level shows in percent value how many posts get a reaction in relation to all posts the page gets. The higher, the better. The median of all pages who allow posts is at 25% service level. More than one third doesn’t react at all.


The more posts a page gets the quicker it responds. That means: The median of the response time drops when the amount of posts grows. An answer to this could be that pages are more professional and interested in a two-way communication when they get more than 50 posts a week. On the other hand, it might be possible that the users learn from the past and post more often when they know they’ll get a quick reply.

With more posts the answer comes faster, but the amount of replies gets less though. Half of all pages react on 4% tops if they get more than 70 posts per week. If they get more than 100 posts a week, the median service level is even at 0%. But you have to consider with this amount of posts there will be a lot of content that doesn’t need an answer at all.

Increasing service level means more growth of the page as well. The median shows that pages with higher service level have almost twice the growth rates than pages with a low service level. A page that interacts with its fans a lot, looks to be more alive and that is an important fact for more growth.

facebook pages communicating with fans

Why the Hospitality Industry Must Be on Google+

The hospitality industry has realized the value of social media marketing, and the majority of companies are active on Facebook or Twitter, or both. However, it appears that many have been more apprehensive or oblivious to getting involved with Google+. While Google+ has not been around as long as Twitter or Facebook, it can still provide tremendous value to businesses in the hospitality industry.

Google+ Business Pages 

Creating a Google+ business page has become essential for a variety of reasons. Although similar to a company Facebook page, Google+ pages offer some unique features not available on Facebook.

Smaller local businesses can take advantage of the cover photo to include a large Google map showing their location. The feature that differentiates Google+ business pages from company Facebook pages is the “Circles” feature. This feature makes it easy to separate different groups of people or pages on Google+ to conveniently and easily organize everything.

This can be especially useful in the hospitality industry where it can be helpful to engage with other local businesses for mutual benefit. A recent article on Maximize Social Business also addresses this trend for the hospitality industry.

If you’re a restaurant, you would also want to circle various local businesses, as well as other food sites, such as popular food magazines, TV shows, chefs, etc. From there you can +1 (the G+ equivalent of “liking” something on Facebook) their posts or leave comments on them.

This is beneficial for several reasons:

  • It shows support for other businesses. And if you scratch their back, when it comes time, they’ll scratch yours in return. If you come across information you find useful, acknowledge that to its provider. Everyone enjoys knowing they’ve helped out someone else.
  • It spreads the word about YOUR page. I’ll use Windmill Networking (WMN) as an example. Say you go and +1 WMN’s post. Just as with Facebook, visitors to WMNs page will now see your name on the post in which you +1ed or commented. You’ve just subtly, and inadvertently in a way, advertised yourself, and your presence on Google+.
  • It shows that you’re active; that you “get it”. There are many companies that set up pages and then simply stream autofeeds, robot posts or traditional, spammy information solely about their brand and nothing else. This is not social marketing. Actual social media marketing practices involve being social.”

By utilizing the circles feature you can keep everything organized and it makes it easy to keep up on what is happening in your niche.

Social Engagement

Through a Google+ business page, a company can share current deals or promotions as well as helpful information related to their particular niche. Producing and sharing interesting content on a business page will attract followers and help get the page into more people’s circles. This type of customer interaction is great way to attract new customers as well as build loyalty with existing customers.

The circles feature can be applied effectively here as well. By separating and segmenting customers into various circles, a business can decide which circles will see what content. This allows for targeted and powerful messages specifically tailored for a particular audience. This creates a level of personal interaction that simply isn’t achievable through Facebook or Twitter.

SEO Implications

The benefits of being on Google+ extend into the SEO realm as well. As Google moves towards integrating social sharing into their ranking algorithm, it is clear that businesses and websites must take social media into account in regard to SEO.

Being active and engaged on these social media platforms helps encourage this social sharing. It would be safe to assume that the social network created by Google itself would be a good place to start. This may become especially true as some are projecting that Google+ will overtake Facebook in social sharing by 2016.

Along with its integration into the ranking algorithm, social sharing has other SEO implications. Social sharing gives your content a farther reach – It syndicates your content into places where it would not be otherwise and this produces extra, bonus traffic and views for that content. Not only will this make your content more powerful, but the extra traffic will increase the strength of any links you have attached to the content, which will increase the effectiveness of any link building strategies you may be employing.

Although Google+ has not been around as long as more established social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, it still provides incredible potential as a tool for large and small businesses marketing in the hospitality industry.

The opportunities for social engagement presented by Google+ business pages offer great value to companies in an industry that relies so heavily on customer perception.

This post was contributed by Paul Richardson. Paul is content marketing professional with years of experience in the industry. He particularly specializes in small business seo and small business marketing. When Paul is not providing insight on the importance of Google+ he enjoys getting some exercise by taking long rides on his bike.

Ten Ways to Increase Revenue with Social Media

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve just opened your first restaurant or you’re celebrating your 20th anniversary: you can’t afford to neglect social media nowadays. Facebook has over a billion active users, and Twitter has a little over half of that number. Restaurant owners can’t afford to miss out on this valuable revenue-boosting tool. Here are ten ways to earn more money for your business by using social media.

Create Social Media Profiles

Create a Social Media ProfilePhoto credit: mkhmarketing via Compfight cc

Aaron Allen, a restaurant consultant, advises restaurant owners to establish a presence on social media. Open accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, if you haven’t already done so. Display links to your social media profiles in a prominent place on your website, so visitors will not need to hunt for them. Allen also recommends adding feeds from these profiles to your site; these feeds can show people engaging with your brand, which will encourage others to try out your restaurant.

Sign Up for Foursquare

Foursquare for RestaurantsPhoto credit: dpstyles™ via Compfight cc

Foursquare is a popular mobile device application that people use to find where to hang out based on recommendations from friends and experts. They check in at locations registered with Foursquare and share that information through their social media feeds. It’s free to register your restaurant on Foursquare, and once you’ve signed up, you can promote your business by posting special events and discounts. Customers can also earn badges through Foursquare, which spurs people to visit your restaurant.

Create a Mobile Application or Website

mobile apps for restaurantsPhoto credit: paterjt via Compfight cc

Mobile device applications are programs designed specifically for smartphones and tablets. They can be an important marketing tool in today’s hyper-connected world. Your mobile application could let customers make a reservation or order takeout. It could also alert your client base to discounts or menu changes. The app could also let them “check in” virtually to Foursquare, post pictures on Instagram, or share comments on Twitter or Facebook.

Offer Coupons Online

online couponsPhoto credit: HA! Designs – Artbyheather via Compfight cc

Your restaurant might already have coupons posted online, but you might want to consider offering a deal on Groupon or similar sites. These social media sites offer discounted services, which attract new customers to the business. However, the cons of such deals can outweigh the benefits. Whichever site you choose to host your deal gets a significant chunk of the profits, and you might be sacrificing your loyal customer base for people who are just after a low price. Content marketer Carla Dewing advises restaurants to limit the length of online deals and upsell other products that will keep customers coming back.

Leverage Instagram

Instagram for RestaurantsPhoto credit: Mr. T in DC via Compfight cc

Instagram might be a way to bring customers into your restaurant. Restaurant consultant Aaron Allen suggests leveraging the popular app to boost your restaurant’s business. He notes that restaurants can hold contests using Instagram photos and reward patrons with freebies or give customers a behind-the-scenes look at the kitchen to create a personal bond with customers. Allen emphasizes that Instagram is an excellent advertising tool that allows you to instantly engage with your clientele.

Host a Social Media-Related Event

social media eventsPhoto credit: mkhmarketing via Compfight cc

Bring more customers through the door by hosting a social media-related event. Marketer Vincent Ng proposes hosting a tweetup, which is a meeting organized on Twitter. Tweetups allow people with the same interests to meet face-to-face, so why shouldn’t that shared passion be your restaurant? Ng points out that the tweetup doesn’t only attract attention on the night of the event, but raises a business’ profile days before the meeting takes place. You could also create a Facebook event for all of your restaurant’s fans or followers, which will bring in both loyal customers and those who are curious about your brand.

Write a Blog

 restaurant blogsPhoto credit: pedro mg via Compfight cc

A blog can be a critical tool in your social media arsenal. It gives you a platform to share stories about your restaurant as well as publicize deals or menu changes. Blogs also give your customers a chance to communicate with you by posting comments on what you write. An article in Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business Review comments that blogs can improve your website’s search engine ranking and visibility. You do not need to spend a great deal of money on creating a blog; there are a number of free or low cost services available.

Communicate Through Email

email marketingPhoto credit: Sean MacEntee via Compfight cc

You might think that email is an old-fashioned tool for communicating with your customers. Email advertising campaigns can have quite a high return on investment if used properly. They are an excellent way to inform people about special events, promotions and special events. Just don’t use too many pictures, or send out emails too frequently. Marketers at the British PR firm Contently Managed suggest timing emails carefully; sending out a list of drink specials at 9:00 am on a Tuesday morning won’t attract as much notice as it would if you sent the same message at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. Also, customers can use email to communicate with you. They can send a message to reserve a table or ask questions about your restaurant.

Host a Podcast

 restaurant podcastPhoto credit: Colleen AF Venable via Compfight cc

A podcast is a series of audio, video, PDF or ePub files that users can download or stream. This platform lets restaurateurs share news about their business such as special events, changes in the menu and promotions. Recording and distributing a podcast might sound expensive and complicated, but the exact opposite is the case. In addition to a computer and internet connection, you need a microphone, a recorder/mixer, a soundcard, and audio software. If you want to interview people during your podcast, you’ll need a telephone connection. With the exception of the computer and the internet connection, all of the equipment can be purchased for less than $100.

Hold a Contest

 restaurant contestPhoto credit: kevinthoule via Compfight cc

Hosting a contest might also sound like an old-fashioned idea. However, social media puts an innovative spin on these friendly competitions. Restaurant owners can run a contest for every social media platform upon which they have a presence: they can run a “Twitter Follower of the Week,” a “Facebook Fan of the Week,” a “Pinterest Pinner of the Week,” etc. The contest could be as simple as having your followers posting family-friendly pictures of themselves enjoying your food, and others vote for their favorite photo.

This post was contributed by Rachel Levy Sarfin. Rachel is a contributing author to a Toronto catering company called Feast Your Eyes. She enjoys reading restaurant blogs and cooking.

How One Destination is Rockin’ Social Media

At the beginning of June, I attended TBEX in Toronto and had the opportunity to chat with many destination marketing organizations to learn more about how they’re integrating social media into their overall marketing. One of the standouts was the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB).

The Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana CVB recently  accepted the award for Outstanding CVB of the Year at the Lt. Governor’s Tourism Summit, as well as an award for having the best Tourism Campaign/Promotion of the Year.

Every single person who works at the CVB has a passion for what they do. They absolutely pour everything into making each project as successful as it can be, and it is a tremendous honor to receive statewide recognition for the work accomplished at the CVB on behalf of our destination,” said Shelley Johnson, executive director.

Johnson also stated that over the past year, many of the major projects would not have been possible without the strong partners in tourism and volunteers throughout the community.  The bureau also won an award for its National Tourism Week promotions for the Tourism Campaign/Promotion of the Year category.

I also had the opportunity to interview their Online Content Manager, Amos Orr, to learn more about how they grew their online presence. Amos offers some great advice and first-hand examples of what worked for them!

Q: Growing your Facebook presence by 34,000 fans in a year is totally impressive! How did you do this? (ads? contests? etc)

A: In short we did a little bit of everything, and changed our perspective of how we viewed people that liked our page. Instead of fans people became friends that we wanted to share with and friends we actually wanted to hear from. To grow a number to your page is great but it should not be the end goal; the goal should be to have engaged friends. Here are some steps we took to grow and maintain a respectable level of engagement.

  • Find out who you are, and find out who your friends are.
    What makes your destination or business unique? What do people go crazy over that you have to offer? What is your attitude/personality? We discovered answers to these questions by testing content. We tracked the time of day we posted, the type of content we posted (text, image, video, event), the content of the post (food, attraction, quote, history, event), attitude of post (factual, humorous, somber, aggressive). We looked at all of these things and were able to learn a lot about who we were and what worked best for our friends. Not every Facebook page and audience are equal, but it may help to research other successful Facebook Pages in your category to see what they are doing. You don’t have to copy them exactly, but you can apply general principles.
  • We posted shareable images to get them engaged!
    While money spent wisely can get you friends, it is more important to keep them engaged and interested, because what good are all of the friends in the world if they don’t actually care about you. Images end up being the most interacted with content on Facebook, because they are more visible than a simple text post. Just think how you scroll through hundreds of posts in a minute, which ones jump out at you? We were already posting some images, but they were sporadic with no call to action or direct connection to people. We took a look at who we were as a destination and then focused on what made us unique, as well as what we knew our friends wanted. We quickly found that our food resonated with our friends the best. Then we started asking for their opinion on what they liked, where they got it, and what they liked best. Here is one of my favorite posts the pits two highly craved food items against eat other.

    ‘Like’ for Shrimp and Crab Gumbo or ‘Share’ for Chicken and Sausage Gumbo? Let the battle begin!shrimp and gumbo

    We got quite a few comments on this post and it really helped the page get exposure to our friend’s friends.

    In addition to fun pictures, we keyed into trending posts types such as e-cards and “Keep Calms”. The key to having a successful e-card was to include a witty phrase that someone else might actually say. When it says something they might actually want to tell their friends, they will want to share it. It may not directly lead someone to action but you have to be mindful of Facebook Edgerank (how often Facebook will show your posts to people).crawfish boil

  • Partnered Contests leveraged with Promoted Posts.
    This may be our largest contributor to getting new friends, but all of the other principles keep your friends engaged and coming back. Armed with the fact that we knew people loved our food, we decided to capitalize on it by hosting a contest to win some of it. It was Christmas time, so we decided to run a contest called “Cajun Christmas in a Box.” We knew we wanted to expand our audience outside of our local community, so we reached out to a local business that produces and ships boudin (picture rice/pork casserole in a sausage casing, people go crazy over it) across the country. They offered us their product for free in exchange for mentioning them in the promotion (You don’t need an expensive prize to attract people, just something they are passionate about.) Using the Woobox app ( for Facebook, we were able to generate and host the contest in-house. Woobox allowed us to fangate the contest, meaning that people had to ‘Like’ our page in order to enter. Since it is a third party app, this is allowed by Facebook terms and conditions. We then used Promoted Posts to target our driving markets to get them thinking about Southwest Louisiana and our unique cuisine. That contest resulted in over 2,000,000 impressions, 23,000 actions, 2,100 e-news opt-ins and 5,700 new friends. The cost of the promotion was nominal compared to the outcome. cajun christmas in a box
  • Learn that sometimes less is more.
    Posting 10 times a day may begin to annoy people unless it is all good quality content. And if people are not interacting with you posts, Facebook Edgerank will detect that and not feature you in people’s newsfeeds as often. I have found that it is usually better to post one quality post a day. This is not a set-in-stone rule, you can deviate just make sure what you are putting out there is what people want to see.
  • Whenever you post, use a Call to Action.

Whether you want to direct them to your website, sign-up for a newsletter or simply want them to ‘Like/Share’ the post, don’t be afraid to ask them to do it!

  • Have fun, it doesn’t always have to be about business.
    People are on social networks usually to have fun and socialize. THEY DO NOT WANT TO BE SOLD TO! (or at least they don’t want to know they are being sold to) Treat them as you would treat a friend, give them advice or better yet, get them to give you advice. It’s a two-way conversation.
  • Share cross-platform.
    Direct your fans from twitter to facebook, facebook to twitter, pinterest to facebook, etc.
  • You don’t always have to Create, you can also Curate content.
    Interact with you friends. If you see them share a great photo, let them know and them ask them for permission to share it. The is a couple reasons for asking permission:

    1. It’s polite!
    2. You can avoid content stealing issues
    3. It makes them aware that you are there and interested in them

I have yet to be turned down when asking to share content. The most anyone has asked me to do is to give them credit in the post. Instagram also provides a great platform to curate photos, just remember to ask permission.

Q: I love your YouTube presence with the various “how to” videos! What made you decide to do these? Are they easy to do? Do you manage everything in-house?
A: We are still developing our YouTube presence. We have, as you pointed out, done very well with recent how to videos. Our thought behind creating them is that if done properly, they could become timeless resources that people search for on a regular basis. Our area is known for eating crawfish, since it is such a unique aspect of our culinary culture, we thought it would be perfect for instructing people not from the area. They can be very simple or complex. I shot a “How to Eat a Crab” video on my Samsung Galaxy S4, gave it some quick titles through Power Director (an inexpensive video editing software) and loaded it to Facebook. It did surprisingly well for a virtually $0 budget film, but apparently people are very passionate on the best way to peel a crab and began to critique the star of the video on how he could have done it better! LOL It started a great conversation, but just be aware that you should really know the best “How to” for your “How to …” video. For the crawfish videos, we had those produced by a local videographer. It did take quite a bit of time to get the final product, but they did very well and have received a ton of views.

Q: I noticed you don’t have Instagram listed with the other social icons in your email signature. Are you guys on Instagram? How does your presence (or lack of) play into your overall social strategy?

A: Thanks for pointing that out, I might go in and change that. We actually do have an Instagram account at We primarily use it for content curation, since I don’t always have a ton of time to get out of the office. This allows me to leverage our friends and followers to do some of the heavy lifting for me by collecting their content. We started out by downloading the InstaRepost App on IOS and Android. Then we searched hashtags that we know people were already using in reference to our area such as #lakecharles, #swla, #lakechuck, etc. When we would come upon images we liked we would send the user a comment such as “Great Photo! I love the shot of that gator! Do you mind if I share it on the Visit Lake Charles social media channels? Just reply to @visitlakecharles and tag any other photos with #visitlakecharles.” We adopted the hashtag #VisitLakeCharles and began promoting the use of it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Just by reaching out this way, people began to organically share photos and content, even people we didn’t reach out to! You must be consistent and active on it, just like any other social media. It has not been my focus but it does provide great content and multiple truly unique perspectives that can be very eye catching.

Thanks to Amos and Megan at the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana CVB for taking the time to speak with me and offer this valuable insight!


Loews Hotels & Resorts Embarks On A Social Media Road Trip

This summer, Loews Hotels & Resorts launches a Social Summer campaign by sending Director of Social Media, Piper Stevens on a cross-country road trip.

Piper will be visiting all 19 properties and documenting her experiences across all social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Additionally travelers, for the first time, will be able to book reservations, learn about special offers, and plan trips via Loews Hotels & Resorts social media channels including Facebook and Twitter.

Piper kicked off the Social Summer road trip in the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., and then headed to explore Nashville on the second leg of her trip. You can read about her visit to D.C. and Nashville on the newly introduced Wish You Were Here blog (

Featured prominently on the Loews Hotels & Resorts website ( as well as the Loews Hotels Facebook page (, Piper’s travel blog will be updated daily as she uncovers property highlights, as well as each destination’s local flavors.

“It is important for me to step out from behind my desk and really experience how our guests are engaging with Loews destinations firsthand,” explains Piper. “As we continue to build our social media presence, we want to develop programs that truly resonate with our audience and travelers everywhere.”

With each property visit, Piper will detail everything from the local attractions, not-to-be-missed food and beverage options, travel tips, and even a music playlist for those that crave tunes while on the road.

While at each location, Piper will team up with the hotel concierge or VIP manager each Wednesday to host a Twitter chat via @Loews_Hotels to answer any questions about the hotel or the destination.

In addition to Piper bringing her point of view to the Loews community, guests can engage with the brand by sending virtual postcards to their social network.  During pre-arrival or while on property, guests will be invited to visit the Loews ‘Wish You Were Here’ Virtual Postcard App which will be located on each of the Loews property Facebook pages, where fans will have the opportunity to design their own postcard that includes a personal photo and ‘handwritten’ note to share with their family or friends on Facebook, Twitter, or via email.

For travelers looking to join-in and head out on their own summer road trip, Loews is offering guests up to 30% off of each room when they book three rooms or more at any hotel property with the Social Summer Package, available now through September 30.

Guests will also receive complimentary WiFi and a Shutterfly gift card.  A portion of the proceeds spent on will benefit

For more information or to make a reservation for a summer getaway visit or call 1-800-23-LOEWS or