Spinning The Blogosphere

Heed this warning: Beware of the blog. Quickly proving to be a reckoning force, the emergence of the blog represents the most seismic shift in hotel marketing since the materialization of the Internet. And hoteliers refusing to embrace this powerful communication tool not only risk losing control of their marketing message, but chance alienating potential guests.

The blogoshpere is exploding in the virtual universe as more than 80,000 new blogging sites debut everyday, according to Technorati, a blog tracking website. They join the 15 million sites currently in existence. Blog sites dish out anything and everything from unmasking the political machinations inside the Beltway, to tracking the latest fashion trends, to more mundane topics such as what people ate for dinner the night before. A recent report by comScore Networks reports that nearly 50 million Americans, or about 30 percent of the total U.S. Internet population, visited blogs during the first three months of 2005. That's an incredible 45 percent jump since the same period in 2004.

One sector in which people feel compelled to write on and on about is travel. Because travel is such an intimate and personal experience viewed through the kaleidoscope of life history, it is paramount that today's savvy hotelier keep abreast of what is being written about their hotels on the Internet.

Aside from myriad sites created in the living rooms of would-be travel writers, many websites serve as vast repositories of reviews and information regarding your particular hotels. Sites such as TripAdvisor.com, Concierge.com, Orbitz.com and VirtualTourist.com have become online homes to world-weary tourists and hardboiled business travelers who post their unvarnished reviews on hotel stays and experiences.

A potential minefield if left unchecked, hoteliers must monitor and counteract what's being said about their properties online. To be effective in this new realm, it's crucial to create various hotel guest identities that can be used to drop-in select comments about fictitious stays. The perfect way to dispense the positive attributes of your hotel with a highly controlled message, this puts you back in control. Remember, this is a gloves-off battle in which unhappy guests will rant and rage to anyone who will listen.

For example, one hotel in New York City was recently bashed on VirtualTourist.com by one writer. Here's a quick snippet: “Rude reception employees. Tiny and old room, lousy bathroom, a shower from the ancient times, telephone rates even outweigh the room rate. Lousy view. If you need a quiet room for a good night sleep, forget about this place! It's not worth the money at all. Staff is plain rude. This must be the number one 'don't smile' hotel.”

Ouch. While this is an extreme example, this rant does make several valid points that need addressing. Use your new identities to dispel this vitriol. One more suggestion: Don't just create identities that comment on your particular hotel. Have these pseudo-guests comment on other hotel stays in different cities in order to heighten the believability factor of their commentary.

To keep abreast of what people are writing about your hotel as it happens, there are a pair of websites dedicated to tracking these ongoing monologues. Both Technorati.com and PubSub.com provide instant access to just-posted blogs regarding your hotel or any topic for that matter. PubSub.com also has a downloadable tool, which resides on your desktop and will notify you the moment your hotel has become blog fodder.

Last piece of advice: Listen to what these amateur complainers are saying. They might just have a legitimate point. Happy blogging.

Glenn Haussman is the director of the Travel & Hospitality Division at Evins Communications, a public relations and marketing communications firm based in New York City. He is also an adjunct professor at New York University teaching classes in consumer behavior and public relations. He can be reached at glenn.haussman@evins.com

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