About Us

Welcome to our Hospitality and Travel blog! We are here to provide readers with the best tactics for social media practices in the hospitality and travel industry.  Our editorial team is composed of six Media Arts & Design students from James Madison University, who write this blog with recommendations relevant to the Hospitality and Travel industry. In addition to these posts, an original e-book and video will soon be added to complement and summarize our research. Please comment and ask us anything you need to know. Let us be your guide to corporate blogging for Hospitality and Travel audiences!

Within our team, Gina Cook serves as the video producer of the group.  She will shoot and edit the video and make sure that it meets the needs of the viewers.  Lauren Metz will provide the blog’s up-to-date research by finding scholarly articles and professional publications from 2010 on.  Lauren will also utilize her writing skills to ensure that the research is being presented in the most creative and interesting way possible.  Gina Mogavero will assist Lauren in researching articles for the blog.  Gina will use her detail-oriented skill set to edit the content and style of the posts, ensuring consistency throughout the blog.  Adam Okimatsu is our creative director.  He is responsible for the overall design and aesthetic feel of the blog and its supporting materials.  Claudia Pitarque showcases her strength in writing throughout the blog and proofreads each post for grammar and consistency.  Claudia also manages the blog’s Twitter account and the feed is regularly updated along the right side of the page.  Finally, Stephanie Strickland is the group’s project manager.  She will make sure all posts and links are functional and connect with the overall purpose of this blog.  It is also her job to come up with creative topics related to the travel and hospitality industry to feature in posts.

We are here to assist you in the process of corporate blogging for Hospitality and Travel.

Don’t get left behind in the ever-changing world of social media!

Overall Best Practices

Throughout our blog, the Travel and Hospitality team has posted material about everything a PR practitioner needs to know to manage their company’s brand. This week, we will each be writing about our overall takeaways from our research and examples that have been previously listed. Check out each of the following posts and learn more about the best practices in the travel and hospitality industry.

Become Transparent

As many of us have mentioned in previous posts, transparency is essential to a company’s successful use of social media. With many people trusting companies less and less, being transparent with your publics develops a positive image. The article “Multi-method analysis of transparency in social media practices: survey, interviews and content analysis” looked at the best ways to use social media and become a transparent company.

The article explains that there are three key factors that affect transparency. The first element of transparency is providing truthful and useful information. Obviously if a company puts out lies, the public will eventually lose trust in them. Also, withholding information from publics is not being transparent. Even if information might hurt the company’s image, it is better to put it out there rather than try to hide it, and it end up being leaked. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, Dominos’ quickly realized that holding back information could backfire and create a even worse situation.

The second element is developing interactivity, and encouraging the publics to participate. If you create a way for publics to interact with your company, but don’t promote it, it’s pointless. The first step to gaining customer participation is actually engaging them. After you have their engagement, you keep their attention by the interactive features. Public participation helps transparency because it leads the customers to feel like they are a part of the company. Interacting with customers also leads to better relationships, creating more trust.

The third element is disseminating information that is objective and accountable. Putting out biased information may not support the values of some of your customers, which could result in losing your audience. Also, by sending out messages that are not objective, companies can cause customers to be defensive and question their character. This somewhat goes back to the first element, because in order to provide information that is accountable, it has to be truthful.

Transparency is achieved when companies use social media to let their audiences know what they are doing and report news. Not only do they tell publics recent decisions they have made, but they can also use the outlets to explain why they make certain decisions. By letting the publics know the rationale behind decisions, companies because more transparent because they are giving the whole process of making a decision, not just the outcome. Transparency allows for a company to help customers understand new information, company policies and their values.

This video has the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream talking about how that company is transparent. He explains that it starts internally, having corporate transparency and top management acting as role models for employees.

The article “Why Extreme Transparency Requires Extreme Trust” explains how transparency and trust go hand in hand together. Transparency affects many other aspects of a company, such as reputation and image, which is why it is so important to focus on. Social media provides many outlets to become a transparent company.

By: Lauren Metz

CEOs, get blogging!

With the recent rise in popularity of blogging, it is no wonder that some companies have decided to make themselves available to consumers through this new channel. It has become more crucial for companies, more specifically CEO’s to blog about their brand.

In the article, Some pros and cons of corporate blogging, Mary Jo Finchum, the public relations administrator for Stanley Consultants, talks about why companies should blog and why companies would want to stay away from blogging.

Finchum mentions that some companies are hesitant to blog because of the amount of time and effort it can take up. The element of time to devote to blogging is something that most CEO’s in particular do not have an abundance of. There is also a looming fear of negative comments or less than desirable feedback.

Although these two cons to corporate blogging seem substantial, Finchum lists more than four times as many reasons why CEO’s should participate in blogging. She starts by saying that coporate blogging increases a companies credibility because consumers see their willingness to share inside information and that the company cares enough to inform them. Blogging also adds to the transparency of the company because it is so informal.

While pushing out company messages, CEO’s can also raise brand awareness through making the corporate image more accessible. Finchum talks about the level of reach potential that blogging has, making it seem like companies would be foolish not to blog. She talks about how a company can gain extra exposure through search engine optimization and she points out that within the “blogging community” blogs tend to link to other blogs, raising exposure even more.

One of the most important aspects of a corporate blog that is discussed is the amount of interaction with the target market on a personal level. Finchum talks about how CEO blogging can “humanize” a company by providing an opportunity for casual communication that does not exist on more official traditional channels. Blogging allows for more interaction with potential consumers as well as, feedback from consumers on what your company is doing good or what could use improvement. With this many pros to corporate blogging it is easy to see why so many companies have created blogs. CEOs, start blogging!

Corporate Blogging can be a daunting task, here are a few tips that were highlighted in the article, Five ‘no regrets’ moves for superior customer engagement

  1. Create a environment for customer engagement
  2. Appoint employees to monitor and encourage customer engagement
  3. Make someone the “chief content officer” (CCO)
  4. Listen
  5. Constantly look for ways to improve engagement

Devon Warwick, an analyst for OpenView Labs, talks about the importance of creating engagement through corporate blogging. Start watching at 0:34 to hear about how consumers can learn more about your company through blogging. Her biggest piece of advice is to post relevant content in a timely manner.

By: Gina Mogavero

The Importance of Branding Online

As stated in earlier posts, the purpose of this blog is to outline the most successful ways of implementing social media into a company’s marketing or branding strategy.  In understanding the best practices for doing so, it is relevant to mention the importance of branding online.

In the article Social Media in Branding: Fulfilling a Need, the author discusses 9 goals that must be in the back of one’s head when implementing social media into a strategy.

  1. Build a sense of membership or citizenship with the organization
  2. Encourage the acceptance and communication of brand value
  3. Encourage the audience to engage in dialogue and promote the brand
  4. Help the organization find and maintain a competitive advantage
  5. Inform the vision behind the brand and build differentiation for it
  6. Evaluate whether the brand is being properly communicated to and understood by the audiences
  7. Build positive brand associations
  8. Build the perceived quality of the brand
  9. Build greater awareness of the brand to audiences that it has not yet reached

These goals are essential to the success of a company’s branding strategy and shouldn’t be overlooked.

The author also states how people tend to gravitate towards Facebook and Twitter and other similar social media sites. A company will be left out if they don’t have a presence on these outlets. These sites allow for user feedback and is an inexpensive way to achieve all of the goals outlined above.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Virgin Airlines is a great example of a company branding themselves online and doing it in a way that shows off their company personality and consumer base.

Building Positive Relationships

For corporate social media success, building relationships with customers is essential.  After all, their support is the foundation upon which a company’s reputation and business is built.  Honest, reliable, and trustworthy interactions are what customers are seeking from companies, and if they find a reason to be distrustful of one business’s practices, they can simply take their business elsewhere.

Honesty is a key factor in building a successful online relationship between business and consumer.  In order for a company’s online message to appear authentic, it must actually be authentic.  Mashable’s Ted Rubin’s article on creating online relationships explains that not filtering out negative reviews or comments of your company is essential because “no one believes 100% positive feedback anyway.”  Customers will have opinions of your company, and they are entitled to voice them.  Being aware of critical messages in the online community about your company will only help you to know where changes are necessary.

No company has a perfect reputation, and having a realistic, conversational online persona can lead customers to positively perceive your brand.  An article from the Social Media Examiner states that “the more we expose our vulnerability and show something that is not normally considered to be a strong business persona, the more people in the online world will know we care.”  In Lauren Metz’s previous post, she explains how Citigroup used Twitter to gain customer service feedback from customers.  As Citigroup’s social media engagement shows, trust is more easily established when customers feel that your company cares.

Company trustworthiness in turn creates a personal relationship with your brand advocates – who according to Rubin are “people who are so delighted by your product/service/brand that they can’t wait to tell their friends and their whole social networks about the experience.”  High return rates will come from these brand advocates, as they will spread positive word-of-mouth advertising to those in their (rapidly expanding) social networks.

By: Claudia Pitarque

Conversation is key

We have discussed the importance of companies creating conversations with their customers online. Rather than talking to your clients, talk with them. This not only develops an interactive community that is engaged with your brand, but it will also make your company appear more transparent, which is just as essential.

The recent post “Creating dialogue with your customers,” points out how Jetsetters’ CEO, Drew Patterson engages with his customers with Twitter. The dialogue between Patterson and his clients involve him asking questions, making special announcements and updating viewers with the latest news. This creates a more personal relationship with Jetsetters clients and the CEO himself.

The importance of having a conversation goes beyond just being the CEO. How the company markets themselves online and communicates with their constituents through conversation is vital to create brand loyalty. CBS News wrote an article discussing travel companies that utilize social media. Some companies that have been conversing with their clients the right way include Southwest, Virgin America, Alaska Airlines and Carnival cruise lines.  The article also lists some guidelines on how to engage with the public online.

  1. Use social media every day. The worst thing a company can do is forget about their Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any other social media accounts. Don’t forget to keep up with your posts.
  2. Be social. Try to engage with the community as much as possible by responding to any of their comments and personally connecting with individual customers who take their time to engage with your brand.
  3. Make time for social media. Even if you are busy, try to schedule a couple hours of your day to get online and communicate for your company.
  4. Chose the right social media outlet that works best for you. There is a wide variety of types of social media that will appeal to different people. Find what you like best and stick with it.
  5. Add value. Make sure that when you communicate, you are talking about things that are relevant to your company and the public. Find ways to make customers coming back for more and wanting to be a part of the conversation and community.

Two of the most common forms of social media are Facebook and Twitter. Many companies today have jumped on the bandwagon and have been engaging through these outlets. If a company decides to take advantage of these web sites, they need to be consistent with their posts and maintain relations with their viewers. Virgin America does a good job of following these rules by tweeting upcoming contests, news, offers and announcements. Disney Cruise Line also markets themselves well with their Facebook page by posting pictures of customers, updating statues and posting and answering comments from users.

One last thing to keep in mind is acknowledged in the article, “Marketing to a community” consumers are constantly connecting with the “social web” where people are going to comment on your products or services regardless. Reviews can be both positive and negative and it is never good to avoid any feedback from the public. The Dell scandal is a great example of how ignoring customers’ feedback can be detrimental to the brand, so it is important to listen and engage with all consumers to be an effective company.

By: Stephanie Strickland

Cross Promote Your Message

We have discussed best practices for each major social media platform using various examples. A common theme that I have found in the examples of successful social media practices is the cross promotion of these sites.

Screenshot of Starbucks Facebook page

Disney promotes their blog posts on Twitter and Facebook. They also embed their YouTube videos on their Facebook page and on their blog. Starbucks links to their Facebook, Twitter, and Google + accounts on their website, while also using an RSS feed of their recent blog posts. You can even access their Pinterest boards on Facebook. And Zappos has a live Twitter feed alongside their blog posts.

Social media sites are making cross promotion easy for their users. Pinterest gives users the option to share “pins” on Twitter and Facebook. Instagram enables users to post directly to Twitter and Facebook. And most blogging sites have a Twitter widget for live feeds.

The article “Effective Social Media Cross Promotion with Facebook” explains the importance of developing a social media strategy that cross promotes through various channels. “After everything is said and done, what you need is a social media plan that can connect your various social media pages as best as it can be done, so your fans and prospects can have the clean, simple, and engaging experience they deserve.”

The main benefit of cross promotion is that it allows an organization to reach one customer through multiple channels. The blog Recommend.ly discusses how an company can deliver multiple calls to action without appearing too intrusive to their customers.

By: Gina Cook