Some of Stir Tourism’s clients manage their social media campaigns in-house and call on our experts for targeted strategic planning and analysis to complement what they’re already doing. Other clients have us manage all aspects of their social media marketing.
A Social Media Marketing effort can be as simple as having a blog attached to your website or a corporate Twitter account and asking your customers/clients to “like” or to “follow” you. Or it can be as comprehensive as a full Social Media Marketing campaign that incorporates a variety of applications/sites and activities that fit within your brand’s guidelines, standards and foundation.
Whatever your social media marketing efforts entail, the monitoring is as important as the marketing when it comes to social media and tourism.
Through Social Media Monitoring you can a) hear what your customers (and your potential customers, as well as competitors and tourism industry insiders) are saying about your brand, b) analyze trends in online feedback, and then c) respond to it in a way that will drive sales, bookings and grow your travel or tourism business — perhaps by re-branding, changing service/product offerings or refocusing targeted marketing campaigns.
Today there are a multitude of social media monitoring tools (of varying levels of quality) that will monitor the internet (social media sites), gather information and produce reports for your analysis. But how do you choose the best tool? How do you interpret all the data that it provides? How do you know the best response? And, even if you could figure it all out, do you have the time and the capabilities in-house?
Depending on the results of your monitoring efforts, you may choose to hire an internet marketing agency (like Stir Tourism) to help. In fact, if what you find (in terms of online sentiment about your business or your brand) is particularly negative, you may need to consider Online Reputation Management services.
Handling Online Reviews
Thanks to the plethora of interactive business pages and accounts on social media and user-driven review sites (like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google Places, Angie’s List, Yahoo Local, Citysearch, and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for example), most tourism businesses can do some level of social media monitoring and online reputation management themselves.
That is, tourism business owners can see what their clients, customers, guests, supporters, opponents, competitors and industry insiders are saying about their industry, business and brand and then – if they’re proactive – make the necessary changes. Those changes can include, among other things: re-branding, re-structuring, re-pricing or re-targeting.
Recently, Stir Tourism has helped clients with some of the following in response to no or poor online sentiment about their brand:
- website and microsite creation or redesign
- social media account creation, design, fan/following building, and posting to increase engagement
- social media (Facebook) contest of Facebook “Offers” to build buzz and boost positive online sentiment
- product/service promotion through press releases, blog posts, whitepapers and articles
- search engine optimization to highlight positive online sentiment and specific keywords/keyphrases
Warning: This whole idea of business owners monitoring and responding to reviews online is a slippery slope. However, because it’s been well-established by online marketing and monitoring experts that businesses must be present and active on online review sites in order to compete today, it’s a very necessary part of growing a brand.
In “the olden days”, an unhappy customer could only spread bad sentiment about a business as fast as they could speak in-person to their network. For example, if a customer had a ‘bad’ experience while on a tour, he or she could potentially tell his or her friend(s), and so on. Today, with social media, news and views can spread like wildfire (for better or for, in this case, worse). As such, a bad online review (even if it’s no big deal in the grand scheme of things) can set a business owner to panicking. That’s understandable:
A business owner is by default passionate about their business. But that passion means he/she doesn’t have the distance from the situation to respond to a review pragmatically (without getting all fired-up). And in responding to negative reviews, business owners can and often do create more trouble for themselves.
A reply to a bad review that is angry, emotional, defensive, argumentative, petty, blames the customer, or makes excuses is a million times more damaging to a business or brand’s online reputation than the bad review itself.
It’s a bit of a “catch-22”: You must respond to negative reviews urgently (and it’s a good idea to respond publicly — after all, because the bad review is public, you had better take the opportunity to show potential and future customers that you’re proactive), but you mustn’t respond to bad reviews in a panic.
Here’s how to proceed cautiously and constructively:
- Take a breath. It’s good to be passionate about your business and it’s okay to be disheartened by bad reviews, but try not to take them personally.
- Consider all feedback valuable and be prepared to learn from each response, both positive and negative. Create a clear response strategy that lays out how your business will handle both positive and negative reviews.
- Keep in mind that when you’re posting your reply online you’re not just speaking to the angry customer, you’re also speaking to all potential future customers who are learning about your business online.
- Make sure that every response you post leads with gratitude (“Thank you for your feedback…”) and an apology (“We’re sorry that…”)
- Keep in mind that on most user-review sites, you cannot remove bad reviews and you cannot remove your replies to bad reviews. Make sure to carefully review what you’re posting.
Keep your replies calm, clear, short and succinct. Make it clear that you’re being proactive (“we’re looking into this right now”), but invite the bad reviewer to contact you directly (privately) to discuss further. (That demonstrates to the online public that you’re taking action, but keeps the (sometimes) petty (“nitty gritty”) details of the complaint out of the public eye.
Be prepared to offer compensation (a refund, a free pass, or a discount on future services).This can be hard for a business owner if they don’t believe the bad review is the result of anything they did wrong, but, again, remember: The customer is always right and – in participating in this activity (responding to online reviews) – you’re really trying to demonstrate to all those potential and future customers that your business is proactive — that you invite feedback, that you really listen, and that your customers are valuable.
Remember: It’s just as important to engage good reviewers as it is to pacify the bad ones. And while it’s not okay to pay customers to post reviews, it is totally okay to invite them to share their good experiences online. When they do, take the time to reply (publicly) with your thanks for their feedback and your excitement that they had such a good experience (with your product or service).
Want to learn more? Contact the Stir Tourism Team today and ask about our sample strategic internet marketing plan that includes insights into social media monitoring and online reputation management.
Or, more urgently, are you a business owner who’s discovered bad reviews online? We can help. Before you respond to them publicly or – worse – delete them completely, call Stir Tourism and we’ll work with your team collect data, analyze the results, develop a response strategy and handle the negative reviews in a professional and proactive way while promoting positive news about your brand online.