I just returned from speaking at HITEC in Anaheim, California for the 2009 HITEC conference. HITEC is a conference where hospitality professionals gather to learn and experience the technologies that continue to shape the hospitality industry and customers? experiences. During my time at the conference I realized that most hotels and hospitality operators are still dropping the ball in regards to interactive marketing. Many hotels and resorts have forgotten their customers are online and can type. This may sound slightly funny, maybe even sarcastic but it’s the truth.
Many hotels forget that a guest experience either good or bad can travel at the speed of light. While most executives and marketing staff at a hotel are worried about sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp, they forget there are more poweful communication mediums like Facebook and Twitter that allow for guests to more easily and quickly post both good and bad reviews. This leads me to present: brand reputation managmement. Brand reputation management is not a new idea or practice, but more a reminder that the way we watch, monitor and control the things people say, share, do and think with a brand is happening all around is in real-time. The internet has revolutionized the way in which people share experiences, thoughts, ideas and rants and raves. It is important that all brands either it be hotels, shoe companies, banks, real estate, realize that they need to proactively manage and respond accordingly within digital communication verticals.
There are many tools to assist in online reputation managment. For example, you can read about 300+ Online Reputation Managment Tools here.
Twitter also allows for brands to search mentions of brands or any other keywords in their search tool located here: Twitter Seach Tool.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of tools that can assist marketers with online reputation managment. Regardless if you are a hotel, resort, surfboard manufacturer, or tour company, you must begin to reach out and explore what people are saying about your brand. There is no doubt, that people are talking about your brand 24/7. Companies and brands forget that they can innovate by internalizing what has been said in the past about thier products and services in order to create a better future experience or product.
When I had a bad experience with United Airlines recently, I vocalized it to them utilizing my Twitter account. Although, nobody from United Airlines responded, it gave me a place to vocalize my frustrations about their codeshare with US Airways. US Airways flew me from Los Angeles International to Phoenix, to Boston, to Philadelphia to Orlando because of malfunctioning planes. In total a trip that should have taken five hours from San Francsisco International took 30 hours. I received no apologies in person or online. I fly United all the time, but I will never fly US Airways again.
I also had a great brand experience online recently. I need music, pretty much all day when I am not in meetings or on the phone. I am an avid listener of Pandora Internet Radio and have been for about four years. I recently had some issues with the amount of songs I could skip in a give hour and it was beginning to bug me. So again, I went to my Twitter account to present to question to my community of followers. What I found was surprising within 4 hours of Tweeting my question, I received a response directly from the Founder of Pandora via his Twitter account. When I realized that the founder of the company took the time to reach out and reply, it created a new found sense of appreciation for the brand, product and overall customer service experience. I wish that more company and brand executives practiced that same approach habitually.
The bottom line is don’t be ignorant. Customers are becoming increasingly saavy and vocal about brands and their experiences with brands online. By harnessing the good, bad, ugly and neutral, every brand wins. The future of online branding and reputation managment is destined to spawn the co-creation of new products, services and marketing campagins. The end consumers are now your new research and development team. They are constantly leaking the ideas and feesback you need to be successful both online and offline. Don’t just shut out online, embrace it. You will be surprised and maybe even astonished by the amount of discussion that has already taken place online regarding your brand.