Leading Your Social Engagement Plan
Colby Hutchinson is the Senior Manager of Guest Feedback and Brand Management Administration for Best Western Hotels & Resorts. He is an active member of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART) and can be reached at email@example.com.
Whether you’re running a restaurant, hotel or on-site food services, social media reviews can make or break your reputation. In fact, we’d even go as far to say that social media reviews are driving whether people try or visit your business at all!
84% of people trust peer reviews more than personal recommendations.
Recent studies by Phocuswright* and Brightlocal** show that more than 80% of people trust social media reviews from strangers as much, if not more, than recommendations from their own family and friends. What an eye-opening statement on the power of social media today! Here are a few more facts about the power of peer reviews and consumer-buying decisions:
- 82% visit review sites because they intend to buy
- 80% make a purchase within a week of researching reviews
- 87% need at least a 3-star rating before giving their business
- 48% need at least a 4-star rating before giving their business
- 77% think that reviews older than 3 months aren’t relevant
- 75% form an opinion after reading only SIX reviews
Authentic Experiences Always Win
People are no longer willing to accept our carefully-crafted marketing messages as the truth about products or services. Their skepticism leads them to seek out actual reviews from visitors and customers; this makes guest perception our new reality. We also know that guests respond to local and personalized responses from hotels over those from marketing departments – proving that authenticity is key to success. One look at the huge volume and popularity of the “Big Three” of hospitality reviews – Yelp, Google and TripAdvisor – is all takes to see this statement as being true.
- Yelp reports over 162 million visitors monthly
- TripAdvisor reports over 456 million unique visitors a month, and 661 million reviews and opinions
- Google hotel reviews globally have grown from under 2.8 million in 2016 to over 18 million in 2018 – surpassing TripAdvisor
5 Steps to Meaningful Engagements that Show Results
To effectively manage your social media presence, every business needs to have a proactive and reactive plan in place. Below are five simple steps to follow that will help you engage in a real, meaningful and operational way that shows how much you care about creating great guest experiences.
- Determine how you will measure success. Will you be reporting back on sales increases, placement on the review site, star ranking increases, or online engagements with a specific number of people?
- Select your rollout strategy. Who will manage the replies, who will be the backup, and when will they schedule the time to do it? If you need to start slowly, select an engaged GM and roll out your social media strategy at that location first. Once it is up and running, consider making the training part of your Manager in Training (MIT) program.
- Claim pages, establish logins and set alerts. Make sure you claim your business page and have login information set on the big three review sites: TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Google. Keep in mind not to use personal emails for security reasons, and make sure you have signed up for alerts so you know when there is activity on the page.
- Create resource documents. Establishing set rules for social media interactions will go a long way in helping your staff properly handle their response. Create supporting documents that include how to claim the business online, login information, plus templates for how to reply to and personalize responses for positive and negative reviews. Have an escalation plan in place to manage reviews or social media posts that have the potential to ‘go viral’ and threaten your brand reputation.
- Develop skills-based training. Determine what training is needed, and make sure those responsible for your social media voice have the resources that they need, such as time, a laptop or tablet, and a quiet area with no distractions.
We are no longer in control of our own reputations, but we are in control of how we respond.
How to Respond to Positive Reviews
It can be easy to put responding to good reviews at the bottom of your to-do list (they were happy with their experience after all), but that would be a huge mistake! Customers and guests always like to hear their business and their feedback is appreciated! Here are a few guidelines to help you craft a powerful response that keeps their impression of your business at an all-time high:
- Thank Them. Show others that you appreciate your guest and their experience.
- Keep in Mind Word Choice and Keywords. Use keywords and your business name so it will appear higher in search results. But remember that tone is VERY important, don’t compromise an authentic response by squeezing in unnecessary keywords.
- Marketing Message. Remember your audience and highlight the benefits of your property or talk about your company’s core values.
- Invite. Ask the customer to come back, and to spread the word about their experience.
How to Reply to Negative Reviews
Negative reviews can be frustrating, and it can be easy to perceive a negative review as a personal attack. Reviewers can also distort the truth to a narrative more in their favor – but don’t let this get you down! Work with your team to focus on your objective and address concerns in a non-emotional and professional manner. A good way to approach a negative review is to always work these core message points into your response and never become defensive with your tone.
- Empathize. Start your response by empathizing with your guest or customer and acknowledge their concerns.
- Marketing Message. Explain what your customers usually experience, but don’t get into too much detail, because you need to….
- Keep it Short & Sweet. Don’t go into too much detail or ask questions, and don’t challenge or blame them. That will just create a back and forth online argument for all to see.
- Continue Conversation Offline. Provide reviewer with contact information to discuss offline or in person.
Online has the Power to Grow Your Bottom Line
Making the investment to enlist, train and empower a good team responsible for your social media presence can be worth its weight in gold to your business. Give them the knowledge and confidence they need to best engage in the online world with your guests. Remember, in the event that your staff member can’t write a polished response to a reviewer: no response is better than a bad response. A bad response will just make things worse! Bottom line, by leading your social engagement plan, you will grow guest loyalty and positive word of mouth, and ultimately drive people to your business.