Advocates vs. avocados: it’s more than a case of po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe. Hoteliers are seemingly becoming disillusioned by avocados after seeing the power of advocacy (you should see the emails we get.)
Our advocologists did minutes of research and surveyed nearly half a dozen people to figure out why this debate keeps popping up, and of course to declare the ultimate champion.
(No advocates were mashed in the making of this study.)
Avocados offer up a rich, buttery taste with a creamy texture that brings guac to life. The results came back inconclusive for the advocates. First matchup goes to the fruit (yup, avocados are actually in the berry family).
After documenting aging characteristics, advocates showed “low to no signs of aging.” Avocados, on the other hand, succumb to time and were transformed into unfortunate brown globs. The winner was conclusive.
With the list of health benefits from avocados, the final round was a tough match. However, nothing compares to the impact of advocates.
The results are in. Advocates were the clear winner of this competition!
We published our findings in the Journal of Research in Advocology. The critics quickly chimed in:
“Guacamole is delicious, but it does jack $&*! for your hotel.”
— Dr. Jack Travelfianakis
— Haas Avocado Commission
We see the impact advocates have on a hotel’s bottom line everyday. And even though avocados have a ridiculously narrow window of ripe goodness, we believe hoteliers should keep them around as well.
Stay tuned for more on the impact of advocacy, (plus a few ripe-innings of avocados here and there) as our team of advocologists work day and night to bring you the best advocology research in the industry.
Holiday science brought to you by the Department of Advocology
The sounds of grumbling stomachs were heard far and wide, and the torment of a bagel-less, muffin-less, and cold-brew-less morning in the office had to stop. Plus, the line at the Starbucks machine was getting a bit lengthy thanks to the 32 ounce option. (I mean, really, Kevin? Who needs 32 ounces of coffee in the morning? All those dev hours, I guess…)
The decision was clear. We needed help:
Director of Breakfasts Flip.to seeks first-meal-making wizard
We are looking for a creative and gifted Director of Breakfast. You will be known as “the meal-making wizard” and maintain complete control of the kitchen and breakroom.
Making breakfast taste good
Cold brew making ability
Can incorporate tasty, vegan alternatives
Must hail from New York City
Sure, these were HUGE shoes to fill, and quite honestly we weren’t too sure they could.
To our surprise, the response was overwhelming. We had lines of people outside our office giving us tastings of their best breakfast dishes for days. In fact, we’re still getting the occasional chef trickle into our office. It’s a tear-jerker turning down so many crumble-top muffins in the past few days. Regardless, we had to stay strong and move on.
After countless hours of taste testing, résumé reviewing, and deliberation, a decision had been made! We couldn’t be more ecstatic to announce our new Director of Breakfasts, Traci Kent—sister of CEO and fearless Flip.to leader, Brian Kent.
The NY Style Bagels—you should’ve tasted them. And don’t get me started on the multitude of muffins. They’re so good that Traci was once asked to come to the White House for a Presidential Breakfast. She kindly turned it down. With gumption like that, we couldn’t be more proud to have her on the team. She captures the essence of Martha Stewart with the execution skills of highly trained Swat team. In other words, she’s the best.
UPDATE: Traci had to return to Brooklyn after the holidays. The team didn’t take the news very well, but we’re working out a plan to bake remote.
If you’ve been keeping up with our blog, you may have seen my recap from the Expedia Hackathon when I had the opportunity to be a guest judge before the Partner Conference kicked off the following day. Since then, I’ve had time to reflect with the team about the experience.
It was great seeing familiar faces, and this was without a doubt the biggest and best Expedia Partner Conference I’ve ever attended. The atmosphere was buzzing with an incredible mix of hoteliers and vendors, and we definitely had our hands full with over 3,800 in attendance.
From the first day, I was graciously welcomed by Expedia executives and staff. You could feel throughout the entire conference that Expedia was seriously open on creating more successful hotels through strong partnerships and innovation. That focus permeated into everyone who was in attendance, which elevated the experience and conversations.
Our booth was jumping with activity from hoteliers that were receptive and deeply intrigued by the idea of advocacy. We explained that Flip.to starts the conversation between a hotel and a potential guest like never before–with authentic, personal experiences from previous guests’ stories. This idea of building an ever-growing team of advocates who have a massive impact on a hotel’s reach and bottomline truly resonated with everyone.
We had one person stop by our booth and point out a photo of bikes on a beach during a live implementation of Adrift’s Photo Explorer. In the past, a hotel like Adrift would mention “free bikes” as an extra bonus or amenity. However, with Flip.to, Adrift is able to introduce a potential guest to the experience of a free bike–with multiple guest photo’s capturing the wanderlust that comes with it.
The conference wrapped up with a closing party at the Omnia Nightclub at Caesar’s Palace. From the morphing chandelier, panoramic views of the Las Vegas Strip, and the great company, it couldn’t have been a better way to end such a tremendous conference.
Some other antics
It’s only natural to play a little when you’re in Vegas. A couple Flip.to folks had some luck on the slots, but the luckiest person of all was Ricky, our Director of Partnerships.
Being that Ricky is a rabid Gordon Ramsay rooter, he and Account Executive, Danielle, had lunch at the Gordon Ramsay Pub and Grill. It must have been the luck that was flowing through the team, but their waiter pointed out that Ramsay was in the restaurant that very day celebrating the 3rd anniversary of the restaurant. After hearing this news, he quickly snagged a photo with his favorite celebrity chef before he headed back into the kitchen. (Nobody can turn down Ricky.)
Again, our team and I are incredibly pleased with the experience at the Expedia Conference. The crowd was a great mix of old and new friends and great opportunity to share the power of advocacy to hoteliers worldwide.
2016 looks like it’s going to be an excellent year for hoteliers. Robert Rauch, President of RAR Hospitality and a leading hospitality management and consulting firm in San Diego, recently came out with his yearly trends report.
No matter the channel your hotel picks (social media, blogs, forums), potential guests are gauging your brand’s identity and making purchase decisions based on those perceptions.
As Rauch explains, that’s why it is so important to communicate your hotel’s unique story and make a great first impression when a potential guest engages with your brand.
At Flip.to, we couldn’t agree more. We help hoteliers make their guests’ stories an integral part of their hotel’s story. We see firsthand that our customers’ guests have incredible stories to tell and huge audience who are listening. When it all comes together, the stories that people tell each other are far more convincing, easier to relate to, personable and trustworthy than any story told through an advertisement.
Rauch reminds us that experience design extends beyond the digital world, and encourages hoteliers to think about how their hotel spaces are designed–combining work, play, food and drink into an experience that keeps the youthful customer in mind.
Digital, digital, digital, and when you’re done, more digital
Digital matters in 2016, which goes without surprise. Rauch states that digital marketing boils down to two things for 2016: mobile and video. Mobile is an increasingly popular trend. More and more potential guests are using mobile to research and book travel. That’s why responsive websites, mobile-friendly emails, and even dedicated mobile apps are advised.
Plus, hoteliers should take note of the growing trend in live-streaming on mobile. Apps like Periscope average 2 million daily active users (oh, and Periscope just launched on March of this year). This growing trend is beginning to replace traditional television for millennials, and hoteliers should keep track of this new channel to stay relevant to this growing market.
Hoteliers should also take note the disruption caused by companies like Airbnb and HomeAway that have paved the way in the Sharing Economy. Rauch explains, “Mobile and digital check-in, easily accessible and plentiful outlets in all areas, reliable and fast wifi are some of the amenities desired by those who utilize Airbnb and HomeAway.” Hotels should continue to innovate and offer alternatives to these types of amenities in order to capture the attention of the modern traveler.
Take revenue strategy by the horns
By investing in new revenue management technologies, hoteliers can better forecast demand for a clearer idea of their most profitable customers and rooms, all of which help to maximize profits in the long-run.
Expedia Hackathon took place this week in Las Vegas, and I was happy to be able to sit in on the judging panel. Joined by Toni Portmann (DHISCO), Simon Lenoir (Rezdy), and Sara Hill (The Mill), it was an incredible experience.
Techies from around the world presented projects that utilize Expedia’s APIs, which can be used to book hotels, flights, and cars as well as communicate travel trends and things to do in a specific area. In the end, judging was based on the following criteria:
Useful application of the content (business value add)
Application to travel industry
I was blown away by the entries that we reviewed—many from the best-of-the-best in the hospitality tech industry. It was neck-and-neck, but the top two entries to prevail came out of SmartHOTEL and Sabre Hospitality.
The team from SmartHOTEL took first place with SmartTRIP, an application to help guests create a multi-step package—including hotels, flights, and activities—all through one portal that offers the user multiple packages to select.
SmartTRIP tapped into the creation of the ultimate guest experience—helping travelers create customized packages based completely on their preferences. It’s a great idea that lets the guest realize everything they want in a trip, up front.
At Flip.to, we see every day that experiences inspire travel for guests. They’re a huge component when it comes time to book, and this aspirational model is what continues to drive us to innovate for hotels.
2nd Place–Sabre Hospitality
The team from Sabre Hospitality took second with EVA (Expedia Voice Assistant). An application that runs on Amazon Echo, EVA offers hotel Managers a quick, unobtrusive way to get updates on the health, and promotions of their hotel by simply asking the question out loud. The team showed how revenue managers could get live updates on inventory, market share, fair share, and missed opportunities in an instant. Managers could even create simple promos based on the insight they gathered from a quick chat with EVA.
The judges loved the out-of-the-box thinking that the Sabre team brought with the Amazon Echo integration—it was really innovative and fun to see in action.
Look for a full wrap-up of the Expedia Partner Conference coming soon from the team as we return. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter for the latest updates coming out of Las Vegas!
If you follow our blog, you may recall a piece I wrote a few months back where I dug into the numbers behind advocacy on social networks and what it means for hotels. Two of the primary takeaways from that analysis were that 1) Facebook is really important to your overall online marketing strategy and 2) that relevant content is crucial.
Taking this a step further, if we isolate Facebook, the role that relevant content plays cannot be understated. How and why Facebook presents content the way it does is something every hotel marketer should understand. With that knowledge, you can craft a highly effective content strategy for your property’s presence on the largest social network on the planet.
Why hotels need a new strategy for Facebook
2011 marked a major shift in how Facebook’s News Feed (official name) operated. The original algorithm was replaced with a more “intelligent” one that adapts based on your feedback to content you engaged with previously. For instance, if you showed more interest in posts with photos you would start to see more photo posts higher in your News Feed.
Fast-forward to 2015 and the algorithm has changed—a lot. While still adaptive, it now takes into account over 1,000 different variables when deciding the order of content.
Today’s version may even decide some content just simply isn’t worth your time and push it so far down into your News Feed that there’s little chance you ever see it. According to Facebook there are about 1,500 posts on average a user could see at any given moment, so the task of deciding what you see is big.
Ultimately, Facebook cares about keeping its platform engaging to its users. When it ceases to engage with users, it loses relevancy and people drift away (think MySpace). This means that Facebook has to filter some content from your News Feed so that you’re not inundated with stories and so that you don’t feel like you’re being spammed.
For this reason, organic reach has declined and is getting ever closer to zero. From early 2012 to 2014, organic reach dropped from 16% to just over 6%, and since then it’s diminished even more.
And so the question is this: as a business, how do I get my message in front of the most people possible on Facebook?
The new content strategy: tapping into the right audiences on Facebook
There are two audiences you can tap into on Facebook that will allow you to work within the boundaries of Facebook’s News Feed while also leveraging its rules to your benefit: your own and your guests’. We’ll start with your homegrown audience—those that have “liked” your Facebook brand Page.
5,000 likes does not mean you have 5,000 engaged audience members. As part of your digital strategy it’s important to take this into consideration.
Other considerations (Facebook looks at over 1,000 variables) include some of the following:
Is the viewer interested in the content creator?
How has this post performed amongst other users?
How has this creator’s content performed in the past?
What types of posts does this viewer prefer? (e.g. image rich, posts with links, etc.)
How new is the post?
As a hotel, this means that you should always strive to have relevant, timely, and engaging content. No more Turbinado Tuesdays or Shar Pei Sundays. Stop doing that.
If TripAdvisor has taught us anything, it’s that people like to hear and see what other people’s experiences were like at your hotel. If you’re capturing guest feedback and pictures from their stay then that’s the sort of content that you should be sharing on Facebook. Let your audience see what other travelers just like them are doing at your property.
They’ll imagine themselves enjoying an amazing dinner on the waterfront, or a cocktail on the rooftop with an amazing view of the skyline. It’s one thing for you to say it’s great. It’s something entirely different for your guests to show others how great it was for them.
Relevant content amplifies your reach in two ways. First, more people will see your content if the people that first see it also interact with it. This means that every like on a guest photo you’ve shared boosts that post’s News Feed value.
Second is that with interaction comes sharing. Your reach grows tremendously when your audience shares that photo you’ve posted. When a photo is shared by one of your followers, it will rank more highly in the News Feed because it’s coming from a person and not a brand, as well as because it’s demonstrated that it has value. As you’ll soon see, quality content has a powerful ripple effect that works in harmony with News Feed’s algorithm. Spammy and unengaging content will do the opposite for your brand which is why I can’t stress enough the importance of distancing your hotel from those sort of posts.
Your Guests’ Network
Every person that comes across your brand has an audience of their own. Collectively these people represent a massive opportunity for exposure to your brand.
For hotels, this underscores an opportunity to incorporate advocacy.
By encouraging your guests to share their experience with your brand over Facebook, you enhance your own reach in a way that leverages the News Feed algorithm. For one, we now know that brand content is deprioritized in the News Feed and content from close friends is pushed higher. In addition, based on what we’ve seen on the Flip.to platform, each guest represents about 225 social connections.
Now, take the number of people coming through your door to stay with you on a given day. Do the math. A 100 room hotel running at 80% occupancy has an opportunity to reach 18,000 people on a given day.
How does this compare to the number of likes you have on Facebook right now? Then consider that your own content is only reaching a small percentage of your own audience. It’s like swimming upstream.
For a hotel, the right audience can truly mean like-minded individuals connected to the guests who’ve booked a room. With the competition for News Feed space increasing so rapidly, it’s crucial that hotels reach a wider audience who are more inclined to engage with their content.
Encouraging guests to share their stories not only gives hotels that reach, it makes a more trusted introduction to the brand. This is a far more harmonious interaction with the News Feed and a stronger long-term strategy for social marketing.
Over time, take note of which types of posts performed the best in terms of overall engagement. A digital strategy should and must evolve over time to adapt to a rapidly changing dynamic. Does your audience favor images over text? Do guest reviews tend to drive more comments? Do guest pictures of your swimming pool result in more shares and likes?
Don’t be afraid to experiment when it comes to user-generated content because on the whole your customers have more influence than you do which is exactly what the News Feed is looking for.
The focus on creating collaborative teams is a byproduct of the rapidly changing and increasingly complex world hoteliers operate in today. Ideally, your sales, marketing, and revenue management teams are already collaborating in order to keep up with these changes.
At Flip.to, we go further to say that at the core of every collaborative team should be a focus on creating a culture that aligns hotel marketing and revenue management. That’s why we created RevPAR Hacking.
Since releasing RevPAR Hacking, we’ve gathered some great feedback. Among the feedback lies insight from other industry leaders on how they approach a revenue culture.
Tips from the Pros: How to Approach a Revenue Culture
Ed Conway, General Manager, Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa LinkedIn
“Our whole team is focused on revenue as a shared metric. We’ve been able to work closer together and have a better understanding of how each individual affects the success of the joint effort.
I’ve also noticed that when our entire team is conscious of revenue considerations, we not only make smart financial decisions for our hotel, but also for reaching the right guests–starting with building on advocates that are likely to rebook and tell their network about us.”
Mark Oliver, Vice President, Business Development, GCommerce LinkedIn
“For our hotel clients, creating a revenue-centric culture leads to overall better communication and engagement across their teams–both keys for reaching a hotel’s goals. For example, a revenue team may feel more engaged with their marketing team when their revenue expertise is used in conjunction with marketing’s overall strategy. It becomes more of a partnership than anything else.”
Victor Garland, Commercial Director, In1 Solutions Ltd LinkedIn
“The arguments laid out in the book are a real opportunity to get sales, marketing, and general managers to put RevPar first and foremost in their mind when implementing anything to do with the sales and marketing mix.
Independent hotel clients that may not have the resources of large hotel chains can still implement these best practices. They’ll benefit from a greater understanding of cause and effect. More direct bookings will reduce overall distribution costs and give them back the relationship with the guest. Advocacy expands that relationship to a market that is in the same category as your existing guests.”
Your guests, your team, and your hotel’s bottom line all win when you aspire to generate the most revenue. More and more hoteliers are focusing on tactics that acquire more guests through direct bookings, and aim to reach a new audiences of potential guests that typically goes untapped–their friends, relatives, and colleagues.
Make sure you grab your free copy of RevPAR Hacking below if you want to learn more about the tactics and insights involved in creating a revenue culture.
RevPAR Hacking is the ultimate guide to the impact of revenue culture. Not only will readers get insight from leading experts in their field, but they’ll also learn the tips and tools to put them at the forefront of hotel marketing and revenue management.
Photo Explorer is an entirely new way for hotels to infuse authentic guest stories and candid perspectives into their online experience. The newest feature of our advocacy platform, it’s become an integral part of many hotel’s marketing and revenue strategy.
Check out how some of our current clients are using Photo Explorer, below.
Extend the time past guests spend with your brand. Rekindling their favorite moment is a far better way to keep in touch than pushing promotion after promotion, and you’ll have the opportunity to engage past guests in the right way for months after their stay.
Share experiences with a visitor learning about your hotel for the first time
New visitors may not be ready to book now. Present them with an opportunity to “show some love” for a favorite photo in order to receive a special incentive for a future stay, and start building a new relationship. This thoughtful interaction is relevant to their current travel considerations, and starts the conversation down the right path.
Over time, hotels convert curious onlookers into future guests with meaningful, relevant interactions as they envision the beginning of their own great travel story.
Receive warm introductions to friends, family, and colleagues of a past guests
Photo Explorer turns your guests’ memorable moments into highly engaging interactions with friends & family (and your brand). Greet your guests’ networks with a unique, distinct experience that builds a strong initial brand connection and starts them down the path to becoming a future guest.
Not only that, but your hotel has a richer story to tell thanks to the authentic perspectives and experiences that only your guests can provide.
Photo Explorer is a powerful, smart platform that drives and converts. With advocacy, hotels aspire to inspire—and aspirational selling is the key to winning in the new hotel marketplace.
Advocacy becomes a foundation of Caribe Royale’s marketing strategy
ORLANDO, FL — December 2, 2015 — Caribe Royale, a Flip.to customer since 2013, has captured authentic guest stories, warm introductions to their hotel, and more guests with their latest and most successful photo competition to date using Flip.to’s advocacy platform for hotels. Running from June through September, the Beat the Summer Heat photo contest was designed to reveal new brand stories and compelling images from guests to complement Caribe Royale’s existing marketing campaigns.
Success by the Numbers
In a short three-month span, Caribe Royale received 143 finalists in the contest, each sharing the favorite moment of their stay with their networks to rally points. The effect was viral. Guests, their friends, and even their friends’ networks were engaged to vote and share on behalf of the guest and the hotel. By the end of the competition, they together rallied an incredible 221,217 points, earned in ranges from 3 to 8 for different actions like voting or sharing.
More importantly, these engagements represent captivating, authentic introductions to the hotel through advocacy. According to a Nielsen report, 92% of respondents say they trust earned media (recommendations from friends and family) above all other forms of advertising—a fact apparent as nearly 500 of these visitors alone voted and signed up for an offer on a future stay, revealing warm leads who’ve shown real interest in the hotel.
To make them even more valuable, these sign-ups from the competition represent an ongoing opportunity to engage and nurture potential future guests, building brand affinity and driving long-term, recurring revenue for Caribe Royale.
As opposed to standard hashtag competitions—which are often riddled with image curation, attribution and usage rights pitfalls—Flip.to was built with the hotel’s marketing in mind. Images and quotes are easily curated, sorted, and shared from the hotel’s library. As a result, Caribe Royale was provided with an ongoing stream of authentic guest stories at their fingertips, with the ability to share across social media channels in just a few clicks.
Elyse Cottle, the Director of Promotions for Caribe Royale, spoke of Caribe’s recent success, “Flip.to has taken the headache out of capturing, curating, and distributing our guests’ incredible stories, saving our team countless hours. It’s always a pleasant surprise to come back to the Flip.to platform and see how much content and reach we’ve effortlessly captured.”
The competition was a resounding success, both for the guests and the hotel. Caribe Royale was recently recognized for a 2015 HSMAI Gold Adrian Award for their use of the Flip.to advocacy platform—a ‘tip of the hat’ garnered in addition to the unique user-generated content, outstanding reach, and warm introductions to potential future guests gathered using the platform.
Recently debuting Photo Explorer, Flip.to is designed to make authentic guest stories, like those captured in the Beat the Summer Heat photo competition, an integral part of the hotel’s story. The platform extends a hotel’s ability to turn guests into advocates and create a huge impact on brand exposure and ROI.
Hotels may display their guests’ favorite moments gathered during their photo competitions in a dynamic gallery, creating a truly personalized experience for every site visitor. This entirely new look at the hotel through the eyes of its guests is an incredibly smart platform, designed to convert curious on-lookers to future guests, and better communicate the personality and genuine guest experience of your hotel.
Advocacy: A Foundational Marketing and Revenue Strategy
The impact of Advocacy has been felt throughout the marketing and revenue efforts of Caribe Royale. Since launching with Flip.to, Caribe Royale has reached more than 1.6 million of their guests’ friends, relatives and colleagues, in addition to seeing a spike in traffic to their website.
“Advocacy transcends every aspect of a hotel’s business, from marketing and sales to revenue management,” added Edward St.Onge, President of Global Sales and Marketing at Flip.to. “Your hotel has the opportunity to increase direct bookings, build trusted brand connections and extend your reach to travelers across the world when advocacy becomes a core component of your hotel’s overall strategy.”
Flip.to has been key to Caribe Royale’s success. The platform gives Caribe Royale’s guests the opportunity to tell their story to the world, creating an ever-growing team of advocates who have a massive impact on their reach and bottom line.
Caribe Royale is an upscale, Caribbean-inspired convention hotel located just minutes from popular Orlando tourist attractions. To reserve a stay, visit www.cariberoyale.com, or contact Elyse Cottle at firstname.lastname@example.org.