The election, the social media echo chamber and what it means for hotels

In the last few days, news (fake or real) has become a focus thanks to a little event we call the presidential election.

The impact that social media had in the outcome is beginning to come to light, especially as it relates to the distribution of fake news stories.

You may be reading this wondering, “Why isn’t more being done about this?” The truth is handling the situation is a pretty tricky line to walk. Much of the focus has been on just how different liberal and conservative people saw content. So, why is this?

We can break what you see in your news feed down into two categories:

  • Organic News Feed posts
  • Paid News Feed posts (advertising)

Let’s start with organic posts.

You may have heard a reference to the echo chamber effect. This is something we at are very familiar with. It’s the core reason advocacy is an effective means to influence travelers. Let’s look at why.

Social Media sites like Facebook allow users to self-select friends and sites they find interesting. The result? We’re friends with and follow sites that have strong similarities with our own views and backgrounds. Naturally, we’re presented with content in our news feed from these sources that is very narrow in scope and tends to be in line with what we already believe.

This is not algorithmic witchcraft. It’s actually common sense. We collect friends along the way, and we’re friends with those people because of some like-minded similarities.

Unlike real life, social media allows us to stop following friends who post things we don’t like. People are more likely to do this on social sites than they are during live in-person interactions.

Why? The other person generally has no idea you stopped following them (so we don’t feel so bad doing it). So in our social media lives as least, this creates a laser-focused set of people with similar beliefs and interests continuously feeding related content to each other.

It falls into an ethical gray area to ask companies like Facebook or Google to intervene with content shared organically. This quickly gets into big-brother-type censorship that (left or right)—we all want to avoid.

It falls into an ethical gray area to ask companies like Facebook or Google to intervene with content shared organically. This quickly gets into big-brother-type censorship that (left or right)—we all want to avoid. We’re all responsible for understanding that just because something is on the internet, it’s not necessarily based on fact.


Now let’s switch gears to paid News Feed posts, or in other words—advertising.

Here is where companies like Facebook and Google can make an impact. They’ve created an environment where advertisers target audiences through very specific data points. (Say, things we’ve liked or searched for.) This puts content in front of us that we are likely to find relevant or positive.

This actually makes the bubble we live in even smaller since we’re only exposed to paid content that is based on our own self-selection and is likely to appeal to us. Coupled with the content we’re already seeing organically as explained above, and—well you get the picture.

Moderating these posts will not be an easy task. Any action in restricting advertisers due to content will be a challenging balancing act. Lets face it, most news these days has a strong amount of point of view or opinion interlaced with facts. So who is to judge what is real news and fake news?

You can actually see this firsthand by looking at this article by the Wall Street Journal. It illustrates the stark contrast of how information on the same topic is presented by different sources to different audiences. It’s easy to see the side-by-side difference between News Feed articles shared by different “blue” and “red” followers. Depicted posts are sorted based on if they are shared more by those with liberal or conservative behaviors.

Facebook has stepped up to the task, announcing several steps they’re testing to battle misinformation both to provide more accurate information as well as protect the integrity of the platform. Facebook’s CEO outlined a plan of stronger detection, news verification and user warnings in an announcement made on his personal Facebook page:

So what does all of this mean to a hotel? Opportunity!

For one thing, we’ve learned from the echo chamber effect that you should speak to the friends & family of your guests the same way you speak to your existing guests. They share similar social and economic status, making them a targeted audience who are likely to make similar decisions (like booking your hotel). Do this right and ultimately it will lead to higher conversion for your hotel.

The bottom line? Authenticity matters, as does relevancy and truth in advertising.

The bottom line? Authenticity matters, as does relevancy and truth in advertising. The best marketing combines the three and gets the right content in front of the right people. Do that and everyone wins (Facebook and Google will love you for it too). on the road: CHIEF Conference

Jeff and I recently wrapped up a trip to the Caribbean to attend CHTA’s CHIEF 2016 in Puerto Rico. I met some outstanding industry leaders from the area and got a taste of the incredible Caribbean hospitality and culture.

The event offered some huge takeaways as industry players came together to tackle challenges hoteliers face every day. But something else I was amazed by was how open everyone was in sharing their stories. It took this event to another level.

Check out some of our favorites below from a few of the fine folks we met at this inspirational event.

Thor Harris, Founder & CEO, Percepture

Thor from Percepture provided some fantastic foresight in communication strategies within the hospitality industry. Thanks for sharing some key takeaways from your 12 years experience in public relations, digital marketing and crisis management.

Jodi Diamond, CEO & President, Diamond PR

Jodi did an outstanding job leading and moderating the panel I participated in, ‘Once Upon a Time: Making Sales thru Tales’. Not only did she know just about everyone there, she made a point to make sure we met all of them. Huge thank you for your hospitality!

David Moore & Jessica Peguero, Hotel Managers, Hostal Casa Culebra

David and Jessica’s story is truly inspirational. They jumped headfirst into the hospitality industry by quitting their jobs to lease a 7-room property in Puerto Rico. Not only that, but they’re growing their staff by 33% with the arrival of their first child this fall!

David Chesler, EVP Global Enterprise Sales & Business Development, SiteMinder

David is a longtime friend of What do friends let their friends do? In our case, crash and co-host dinner. Thanks for the incredible opportunity to mingle with some amazing industry folk!

Sunil Chatrani, CEO, Elegant Hotels Group & Geeta Chatrani, Managing Director, Yellow Bird Hotel

Congrats to Sunil and Geeta who snagged the CHIEF 2016 Sales & Marketing Award! It’s clear why when you take a look at Elegant Hotel Group’s social accounts that they do a wonderful job telling their properties’ stories.

Matt Cooper, Chief Marketing Officer, CHTA

As the Chief Marketing Officer for CHTA, Matt knows Caribbean hospitality. He made sure we met some amazing properties, opening our eyes to all the wonderful hotels and the tight-knit community in the Caribbean.

Ed Wetschler, Caribbean Editor of Recommend Magazine

Not only did Ed give a great talk on contemporary communications, but he made it a point to take a photo with all the Eds at the conference. What can I say though, us Eds have got to stick together!

Evy Garcia, Director of Sales, El Conquistador

During our time in Puerto Rico we stayed in El Conquistador Resort. The food, staff and overall resort were outstanding!

In my panel discussion though, I made a remark about how El Conquistador could use an operational survey to gather important feedback on a fictitious problem. Unbeknown to me, the resort’s Director of Sales, Evy, was in the audience and quickly took action to resolve my fictitious problem!

After I was done she quickly came up to me to apologize, and we had a good laugh after I explained it was just an example. Evy and her staff exemplified amazing hospitality—and I was glad to see she and her team had a good sense of humor, too!

Diana Plazas, Caribbean and Latin America Region at Marriott

Beyond sharing incredible insights on the future of the Caribbean travel industry, Diana was our ‘reporter at large,’ updating us folks about the football matchups all weekend. (Fortunately she only had good news to report to me.) Thanks for keeping us in the loop, Diana!

Karolin Güler Troubetzkoy, Executive Director of Marketing and Operations, Jade Mountain Resort

Running one of the top resorts in the Caribbean, Karolin stands out as an industry leader. Meeting her at this event was a nice surprise as we know she’s an advocate for social media driving business for her resort. It just goes to show more on why the Caribbean stands out in the hospitality industry.

By the time the conference was over, Jeff and I met some unbelievable influencers from the Caribbean hospitality market. The event was welcoming, informative and especially inspirational. Thank you to everyone that made this event an outstanding experience!

State of the industry: hotel marketing

Hotel marketing has become a bit strange the past few years. Somehow, a very social and aspirational industry has become devoid of personality. In fact, when we look at most hotel marketing, it feels like the images chosen must have been taken moments after the zombie apocalypse—beautifully set up rooms and spaces missing one important thing: humans.

The result? Guests feel like they’re dealing with faceless, corporate behemoths instead of properties with true personality and an amazing staff that are passionate about hospitality. Here lies the exact reason that 3rd parties and companies like AirBnB have become so popular—they’ve made travel personal and aspirational again.

The good news is hotels have an answer to correct these issues and shift more towards aspirational marketing:


Quote from Rudyard Kipling on stories
Rudyard Kipling, 1888

The power of storytelling is not a new idea by any means. In a world of 140 characters though, authentic stories are becoming more and more scarce. A favorite quote of mine from Rudyard Kipling says, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” He wrote that in 1888.

Stories captivate an audience far better than facts or bullet points. But how does this apply to hotels?

Guest photo from The Shores Daytona
A guest story creates a more authentic experience for The Shores

Collectively, your guests capture the widest range of experiences and provide the most candid insights into your hotel. Every booking is the beginning of a new, compelling guest story to share. When hotels capture these moments, they unveil new brand stories that bring out the personality and genuine experiences at their property, and truly appeal to new guests.

This is where hotels have the edge. You actually own the experience, and are the hub of your guests’ journey. Make the stories of that journey part of your own, and use them to enrich all of your marketing efforts.

How to put storytelling to work for your hotel.

This is a topic that we live and breathe at on a daily basis. We’ve built a platform that lets guests share their travel stories with friends & family along with your hotel. You’ll captivate & inspire an entire new audience of global travelers like never before. And we do this by tapping into a simple idea—that everyone trusts their friends more than ads, especially when it comes to travel.

When your guests return home and share their favorite moments, their stories reach a like-minded demographic with a personal introduction to your hotel. Can you imagine the impact of an ever-growing team of storytellers at your fingertips?

Guest photo submission from

Being able to turn guests into advocates and then into co-creators leads to the highest brand affinity. And the impact of that doesn’t stop there.

Blend guest stories consistently throughout your marketing and communications. Use them to replace spam content that is irrelevant to your audience, hurts credibility, and can even erode your brand.

When crafting your digital experience, remember that not every visitor to your site is ready to book. Most hotels don’t really account for this at all and in fact, is where most hotels can win- at the inspiration phase of the traveler’s buying journey.

Inspire travelers to visit before they’ve even begun the planning process. You’re no longer competing with the noise (and ad spend) in the marketplace that are fighting for users ready to click ‘Book Now.’

So, what’s the way to inspire future travelers? Real, authentic guest stories.

Don’t just take our word for it.

Quote on making customers partners
What Apple, Lending Club, and AirBnB Know About Collaborating with Customers, Harvard Business Review

We’re not the only ones that see the real value in guest stories. We’ve previously touched on a great article from Harvard Business Review on ‘What Apple, Lending Club and AirBnb know about collaborating with customers,’ which clearly ties revenue and profit margin growth directly to tapping customers to become co-creators.

76% of travelers were willing to pay more for a hotel with higher review scores
Study Shows Travelers Willing to Pay More for Hotels With Better Travel Reviews, TrustYou

Another article a bit closer to home is this great study by Trust You showing that the majority of travelers are willing to pay more for a hotel with higher review scores. So what is a review anyways? Most of the ones I have seen are long form stories, in many cases too long.

And of course, TripAdvisor and a host of other review sites have all proven it.

Hotels of the world: it’s time to start to put storytelling into action.

What has your hotel’s approach been to use aspirational selling? Let me know! Your insights guide us to continue to create great content that makes a difference in your day-to-day. Reach out, or discover more. on the road: Expedia Partner Conference

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.

booth + Mask
Interested hoteliers stop by the booth


Conference kickoff
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 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.

Omnia + Mask
Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace

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, 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.

jackpot-brian + Mask
Brian hits the jackpot
Ricky-and-Gordon + Mask
Ricky snags a picture with Gordon Ramsay


Some other antics

It’s only natural to play a little when you’re in Vegas. A couple 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.

The President’s seal of approval at the Expedia Hackathon

Judges panel via @Expedia
The judges panel via @Expedia

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:

  • Implementation completeness
  • Creativity (innovation/originality)
  • 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.

1st Place–SmartHOTEL

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, 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!

Advocacy–a game changer for social media

In September, my post Making sense of social media—how to create the conversation about your hotel highlighted my article on Global Hotel Network’s Perspective column. Until now the article was exclusively accessible for GHN members. Today I’m glad to announce the article is available to everyone!

It takes a deep dive into the impact of social and how doing it right can turn into trackable ROI for your hotel. Check out the full article, below:

Create the Conversation About Your Hotel

Making sense of social for hotel managers and owners

Remember those predictions where we’d all be walking around with a computer chip implanted in our arm—our every move being watched? It turns out they were pretty close, except we choose to carry that chip around in our cell phone. That same device lets us communicate with everyone we want at all hours of the day. In turn, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have become wildly popular and they continue to grab more and more time in our daily lives.

From a marketing perspective, it just makes sense that hoteliers would try to reach potential guests on these sites. At the end of 2014, Facebook had nearly 1.4 Billion users on their network alone. Most hotel marketers did what the social media “experts” recommended and built an audience of “Followers” and “Fans.” And that was a good thing at the time.

But as social media continues to grow, what were once open platforms are now starting to look more like walled gardens. Brands are invited to come into the garden but you must follow their rules, and since they have control, they can change the game at any time they want. Remember that fan base you built on Facebook? Guess what? Now you have to pay to reach out to them—an understandable move as these social sites still need to make money. For hotels, it brings social media closer to other forms of paid advertising than a real conversation with your guests.

Facebook stat
Via Facebook

This brings up a good question—is “social media” really “social” anymore? What is meant to be a dialog between friends has lost all forms of personality. When I take a look at the majority of how hotels approach social interactions with guests, I see them dumping time (and money) into posting uninspired content. This just adds to the social noise, getting lost in hundreds of other messages competing to gain exposure on your guest’s news feed—more than 1,500 at a time on average, according to Facebook.

Consumer Trust in Online, Social and Mobile Advertising Grows.
Via Nielsen

Fortunately, hotels have the most to gain from the evolution of these social sites because people already love to talk about their travels. Friends also like to hear about these travels, as they imagine themselves visiting new destinations. In fact, recommendations from family and friends is the top influencer when choosing a vacation destination. According to Nielsen, 92% of people say they trust EARNED media (recommendations from friends and family) above ALL other forms of advertising. Our philosophy on social is this—get people talking to other people about your hotel. When that happens, you create advocacy.

A single guest can reach hundreds and sometimes thousands of potential future guests beyond the scope of your current fan base.

Advocacy is a game-changer for how hoteliers use social media. The content is real and shareable—we’re talking about authentic stories of guest experiences, amazing pictures taken at the hotel, and great examples of the hotel’s happy staff. A single guest can reach hundreds and sometimes thousands of potential future guests beyond the scope of your current fan base. How many new guests does your hotel reach every day? If handled correctly, these truly social shares can translate into real, trackable ROI for your hotel.

Guests with particularly large social followings can have a huge impact all by themselves. Hoteliers who want to understand their guests have the ability to identify and engage these social influencers before they even step foot on property. Our hotel partners have been able to interact with celebrity chefs, pro surfers and DJs after they have shared their upcoming trip with their significant number of social followers. A little special treatment made their stay a lot more memorable—and guess what? Memorable service leads to even more advocacy.

Using social to reach new audiences makes a ton of sense. The trick is get people talking to people about your hotel, instead of brands shouting messages over and over to the same audience. is a thought leader coalition, providing expert market insights and thought leadership perspectives to C-level executives in the global travel and tourism industry.

Over 100 industry leaders serve on’s industry committees and Advisory Board.

For more on this leading industry resource, visit their website at is a member of and Mr. St.Onge is a member of GHN’s Technology Committee.


Citations Manalo, J. (2015, April). Why Being Social on Facebook Isn’t Enough for Travel Brands. Retrieved from

Boland, B. (2014, June). Organic Reach on Facebook: Your Questions Answered. Retrieved from

Benecke, R.; Missildine, C.; & Costello, A. (2012) Text100 Digital Index: Travel & Tourism Study. Retrieved from Text100DigitalIndexTravelTourismStud.pdf

Consumer Trust in Online, Social and Mobile Advertising Grows. (2012, April). Retrieved from