67 – Social Listening 101

by | January 27, 2021

In this episode of the Suite Spot, host Ryan Embree is once again joined by Vice President of Product and Technology, Jason Lee. This time, they’re talking about the importance of social listening. Jason and Ryan start the episode by defining social listening and what it means to hoteliers and their business.

Jason walks through different social media platforms – like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – and the unique ways guests interact with hotels on each. Jason and Ryan discuss the benefits and drawbacks of using social listening as a guest relations tool. And finally, Jason shares how the TMG development team has prioritized social listening with updates to the TMG OneView® Feed.

To learn more about how Travel Media Group is helping hoteliers connect with their guests using social listening or to submit a question for future episodes, call or text 407-984-7455.

Episode Transcript
Our podcast is produced as an audio resource. Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and human editing and may contain errors. Before republishing quotes, we ask that you reference the audio.

Ryan Embree:
Welcome to Suite Spot, where hoteliers check in and we check out what’s trending in hotel marketing. I’m your host, Ryan Embree. Hello everyone, welcome to another episode of the Suite Spot, this is your host, Ryan Embree. Another great episode today, with a very frequent guest of the show. I’ve said it before, when we have him on, usually this means new innovations and updates. So I, once again, will welcome Jason Lee, Vice President of Product Development and Technology at Travel Media Group. Jason, welcome back to the Suite Spot.

Jason Lee:
Ryan, thank you for having me, again.

Ryan Embree:
I’m super excited to have you on today because we have a really cool subject that I think has just become more and more prevalent, not just in hotels, but just business in general, as social media has really evolved throughout the last couple years and now businesses are kind of catching up to the curve and they’re learning how to listen to – in this case, for hotels – travelers online, but just really consumers in general. So what we’re going to talk about is social listening. So right off the bat, Jason, let’s go ahead and define what social listening is in regards to this episode and what it means to you.

Jason Lee:
Well, social listening is – it’s a little bit different than reputation and it’s a little bit different than what we have talked about before, which would be that traditional outbound social media or even responses to social media. So social listening really is about detection and capturing information that past guests or future guests are saying about your location, but they’re not saying it to everyone, they’re saying it to their audience. So this would be when you’re mentioned – so your business is mentioned or your hotel is mentioned in a post or in a tweet or your tagged – and so it could be something as simple as, “I just checked into my room – you know, and then they mention the name of your hotel – and everything looks awesome #greatweekend” or something. So something like that goes out to that person’s audience, it is not put on your page. You wouldn’t really ever see that if it wasn’t for bringing that data to light. So the fact that you were mentioned or tagged is how we pull that information in, but it becomes really valuable information and it’s surprising how much of that is out there. How often hotels are mentioned, you know, it positively and negatively.

Ryan Embree:
Yeah, it’s interesting to see, you know, as I talk about the evolution again of social media, where this all stemmed from, obviously social media from the very beginning was supposed to be a person to person interaction, but then all of a sudden users started to realize and businesses alike, at the same time, I can start having a conversation with a business, not necessarily someone that works at the business, but a business itself. And now businesses have started to take on personalities and as users of social media, they’re trying to always personalize their posts and experiences. So that is a great example of what you said, “checking into @hotel and this is a great upgraded room.” Now, all of a sudden you’ve brought that business into the conversation and you have the opportunity to respond to that guest and potentially make an impact on their followers as well as just a broader audience. So it’s super, super exciting because again, I think it’s just a shift in mindset about who you can talk to on social media.

Jason Lee:
Yeah, I totally agree. And I do feel like in some ways – this is where the definition of we talk about reputation management – but, so if you look at reputation management, just as the rating applied to text, this is another sort of reputation management, which would be defining guest experience in moments that they’re having. So it could be that there’s a rant at the end of a stay or at the beginning of a stay, but it could be just little moments I’m on Instagram and I take a picture of the cocktail I just got at the pool, you know, I mentioned the hotel and, you know, to delight my audience and tell them like what an awesome life I live, right? Then all of a sudden you see that, or it’s like, I hate paper straws or something. So you can see little things that a guest might be experiencing that maybe they would never mention in a review or they would never bring up, but they’re bringing it out to their audience.

Ryan Embree:
Yeah, it’s interesting to think of social media and this social listening as a form of reputation management. You think about it, again as hoteliers, we might be so concerned about our 4.5 star rating on TripAdvisor. Yet, somebody on Facebook could see that and then maybe try to communicate you via social media and if you’re not responding to them now all of a sudden they have an impression of your business that’s different from the one that they see on TripAdvisor or Google or any of those other sites. So it is very interesting. I want to kind of go through some of these platforms where hoteliers should be listening. We’ve talked about all these platforms before on the Suite Spot, so I thought it important to just see the way that guests can interact with hotels and hotels back to guests. Let’s start with the most popular, Facebook. How is social listening done on Facebook?

Speaker 3:
So we pick that up in mentions, so if you’ve ever done this and you start typing the name of a business, the text will change color as you’re typing. So Facebook itself is kind of prompting you to mention or to actually formally tag a business inside of a post, but you can also do that, you can also tag them in an image. So from Facebook’s standpoint, it’s very similar to the other platforms, but they make it very easy to do that. So as you start typing, it kind of fills it in for you.

Ryan Embree:
Yeah, and a lot of the times travelers are going to take advantage of that, right? It’s definitely prompt. It’s something that Facebook and other platforms have made easier to incorporate your business into the conversation, which should open the eyes of hoteliers and other businesses that you’re going to be tagged, you’re going to be mentioned, your location’s going to be put online, and we’re going to talk about some of the benefits and drawbacks of kind of using that as a guest relations tool. But I want to talk about Twitter next, because I think Twitter sometimes is a little bit different from the way that people use their Twitter versus Facebook.

Jason Lee:
Yeah, I mean, I think you hear about live tweeting. You hear about that kind of thing and I think there’s a lot of people, especially, you know, influencers that do it, but I think there are a lot of people that will live tweet a moment or an experience that they’re having. So with Twitter, using an app, you know, at this business, that’s a very common tool used and every time they’re doing it, every time they’re tweeting in an area or having this experience, they may tweet about your hotel four or five times, you know, and over the course of a small place, but also you’re seeing comments on those tweets. So I think Twitter is more about like those quick quips and comments rather than, like Facebook and Instagram, where you have more of a long form experience.

Ryan Embree:
Definitely, you think about the way that users utilize these platforms. Twitter might be something – you know, businesses have their own Twitter accounts so that they can handle guests issues on the fly. If a guest doesn’t think something’s right or has a question, they might reach out to you via Twitter and expect a response just like that – and we’re going to talk about a tool that you’ve implemented obviously to make that much easier, but you’re right, when we talk about Facebook, Instagram, sometimes those pictures or mentions can come on after a trip when you’re kind of looking and reflecting back, you say “Oh, I want to add this picture. I’ll go ahead and tag the business.” I think Twitter is a much more instant and looking for an instant reaction.

Jason Lee:
Yeah. What’s interesting about Twitter, I think, and you know, I’m always surprised by someone, you know, you see a lot of tweets about, you know, airlines. So I think there is, there could be a negative connotation you might have, if you think about it in terms of like platforms that produce content, I would say Twitter might be more on the negative side of like the comments. So I might be more apt to go off on a rant for something that upsets me rather than Facebook or Instagram, where I’m showing people what a fabulous life I live.

Ryan Embree:
Exactly, yeah. You want to live your best life on those other places, so you might not want to have a rant about an unclean room on Instagram. Speaking of, you know, Instagram actually is very interesting because of its location tags. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Jason Lee:
Yeah, I think the location tags are huge part of – so the whole post process on Instagram is it’s all driving towards mention, it’s mention and tagging. So you put an image up and then it kind of prompts you through mentioning and tagging, and like, where am I at. So your location, if you’re at a hotel, it’s going to automatically have that on there, you know, and then tagging people, but you can tag businesses, so I think Instagram really lends itself to inclusion of a location, maybe more so than any of the other because of the actual post process itself.

Ryan Embree:
And again, this should be – if you’re a hotelier out there – this should be very, very exciting to know that if you are really proud of your beautiful pool, you’re going to know that a lot of travelers are going to be taking a picture and posting it on Instagram and you can leverage those pictures to market and advertise. Obviously that’s a bit of a process, but it should be exciting. Sometimes again, we fear as an industry that if people are talking, it might not be the best thing or positive for our business, but a lot of it is. And a lot of it we can use, if we’re listening and we have our ears out there for what’s going on and we can use it to our benefit. So I did want to kind of talk about benefits and drawbacks of using social listening as a guest relations tool. Let’s start with the good, walk us through maybe a use case of it being beneficial seeing some of these tags and mentions and how hoteliers could use them to potentially leverage more business and revenue.

Jason Lee:
Yeah, so you get an alert that someone has mentioned you, you take a look at that, that alert could be something very specific to this guest stay. It could be that they checked into their room and they didn’t have towels, right? If you are quick enough on picking up that mentioned, you could alert the front desk, “Hey, this person, this is their name. They don’t have any towels, can you get them some towels?” A service recovery from something like that that happens instantly is like, that’s what you dream of and I think that’s how guest advocates are born, where guests become a super fan of your establishment because you did something like that. That’s one case. Another case could be that somebody is having a really great experience or somebody, maybe somebody just tagged your hotel in a marriage proposal, right? Bring champagne to their room. Those are the kinds of things that I think are really interesting around knowing information or having this information or the way this information comes to a hotel in real time, rather than maybe after the fact.

Ryan Embree:
Yeah, in a way I think of it is, you know, as they’re tagging the property, they’re almost giving you permission to know this about them because they want you a part of that conversation. The way I think of it is sitting behind the front desk, when I was a front desk agent asking someone, “What brings you here?” “Oh, it’s our wedding anniversary.” And that now can be translated through mobile check-in, you might not have the opportunity to make that connection with the guest right at the front desk like you would face to face, even with COVID-19 we’re talking about that. So let’s say they make it up to the room, they have a picture of their balcony view, and they’d say, “celebrating our anniversary @ your hotel.” Now, all of a sudden you have the opportunity to take that stay to the next level and do what COVID and face-to-face interaction really has taken away from you. So I think it’s super, super important right now to have your ears open.

Jason Lee:
Yeah, I would say on another note too, you can think of it in two ways: so it’s that guests in particular, it’s that guest satisfaction, but it’s also influencing every person that that guest is associated with. So that’s who’s reading all of this, that’s who is seeing all this happen in real time. So the other side to think about is to think like, yeah, I want this guest to be happy and I want to make sure that maybe I do something extraordinary for them, but at the same time, I’m also influencing this person’s audience and then whomever they end up sharing it with. So you could be talking about thousands of people at the end of that. So definitely there is both sides of that and I think that’s what’s so cool about – I think that’s what’s cool about hospitality in general is that if you do the right things, good things happen. I think that’s probably the thing in life, right? If you’re doing good things for people, good things happen. But I think on social media, in particular, if you’re doing good things and being recognized for it, the positive reverberation of that is amazing. But the opposite of that is also true.

Ryan Embree:
Correct. Yes, you do get rewarded for all the good things that you do, but if you aren’t listening, then you’re going to get called out on social media too. It is the kind of ying-yang there before we move on to that other side of things, you’re not exaggerating when you talk about thousands of travelers being influenced, as we’re doing consultations, we go on hotel’s Instagram and check their locations. And there is a place where you can see your most popular posts in your locations and if you see some of the numbers that they have following those users, it’s mind blowing to think that you could have a positive or – the scary part – have a negative impact on that amount of people. It’s a game changer and as we’re looking for just places, small areas that we can kind of recover here and there, these are the type of details that hoteliers are using now to really speed up that recovery. But I do want to talk about kind of the drawbacks and what happens when you don’t listen to your guests on social media.

Jason Lee:
Yeah. Well, when you don’t, then I think it falls on deaf ears. So I mean, what happens is just like you were talking about, you’ve got the average user on Facebook has just under 400 friends, right? So that’s the average. So people that are actively mentioning and doing things might have even more so you could think about it in those terms, every time, something that has mentioned about your property, positive or negative, it’s influencing around 400 people directly. And then it could be even more than that indirectly based on shares, comments, and likes. I think those are the kinds of things that are really important to think about is it’s just like everything else that you do, you know, reviews affect guests in pre-stay, but the perception of your property and the overall perception of your brand is really at stake in each one of these comments. So really getting your arms around and understanding what’s going on and making sure that you’re reacting in a positive way, I think is critical.

Ryan Embree:
And again, if you’re a hotelier listening to this, you can’t afford to sit on the sidelines because to that guest and to that traveler, they have a level of expectation that we have never seen before. If you are not listening, if you’re kind of burying your head in the sand or not checking your social platforms if anyone’s reached out to you for a question or an inquiry, or even an issue that they have. They’re not seeing it as, “Oh, they must not be checking.” They’re seeing it as you’re being unresponsive. You’re not listening to me and that reflects to what Jason said, all of their followers. So Jason, we’ve kind of talked about the importance of checking these mentions, these @ your location. There’s a lot of social platforms out there. So can you walk us through how you and your development team at Travel Media Group have kind of prioritized social listening into the OneView™ feed? So these hoteliers listening on this don’t have to go into every single one of their accounts to check.

Jason Lee:
Yeah, I know like some of this stuff sounds overwhelming and some of you might be listening to this like, “Oh great, I have six reputation sites that I have to manage and now I got this other stuff on top of it. Awesome, I got more stuff to do,” but we make it really easy inside of OneView™ for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, right now. We have all of these comments coming in, but not just comments – the other thing that we didn’t really talk about in this is instant messages. So we also have instant messages from Facebook coming in. So those would be people that are reaching out to you directly through that, but it’s all about that communication line. So we bring them in, they come in real time into a tile, you are alerted right away, you can set up those alerts to either get an SMS alert or an email alert. You click on that. It opens up into a tile. So if you’re familiar with OneView™, you’re familiar with our tiles, so you can respond directly to that. You can like it. You can also share that comment or that mention with the rest of your crew. So you could share it with other team members that are a part of OneView™. So I think all of these things, making it easy to manage, that’s really what OneView™ is all about. It’s about taking reputation, traditional reputation, like TripAdvisor, Google, Expedia, Booking.com and associating, and then pushing together, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, putting these pieces together because it’s all about guest perception. It’s all about the guest experience. So we push it all together so you can manage it in one place really in one way, so you’re really managing it all by making responses and reacting.

Ryan Embree:
It’s so awesome just to go into a hotel’s feed and see exactly what you were talking about. All of a sudden, you have a mention from a customer talking about your hotel, how much they love it. You can comment on that, you can like it, you can reshare, and then right underneath that might be a Google review that needs attention. That is all done within this OneView™ feed. And you can start knocking stuff off one by one, instead of saying, “Okay, when was the last time I checked TripAdvisor, have I checked my Facebook chat to make sure that I’ve taken care of everything for today?” This is real-time guest content coming through this feed.

Jason Lee:
Yeah, the other thing that’s really, I think another important part of the – from a workflow management standpoint, is that you could be as an owner or manager of the hotel, you could be the primary on an account, but you maybe don’t want your front office manager to have that amount of access, but you give them access to OneView™, they could still react to these on behalf of the hotel. So the other thing that’s interesting about this is that – and I think this happens from time to time and it can be unfortunate – and that would be where I have my business on – so the way that Facebook and Instagram connect is you connect to those businesses – and so the way that that works is I’m connecting my personal account to this business account. So I see this alert come in, I click on the alert, I go into respond to it, I could be responding to that alert as me, and not my business. That’s another important part when you’re in OneView™ you’re always, every comment that you leave, anytime you like, it’s always as the business.

Ryan Embree:
Yeah, that’s super important to be responding as a hotel and not an individual, that they’re gonna have a couple of question marks over their head of saying, “Oh, who did I message?” And, “Who’s taking care of this for me.” So yeah, it’s absolutely incredible, if you haven’t already please check it out. If you’re a current customer with Travel Media Group, this is all included. All these updates, all these exciting innovations that we really announce on our blog, on the Suite Spot, sometimes on our educational webinars, this is all included. But if you are looking for more information about getting access to your hotel’s OneView™ Feed, please feel free to reach out to us (407) 984-7455 or you can find us at travelmediagroup.com. Before we wrap up Jason, any final thoughts?

Jason Lee:
One last thing I want to say is that what’s so exciting about this is that this is just really the beginning. This is phase one of this rollout and there’s so much functionality in what it is right now, and what’s coming for this is really a new way of managing and looking at this data. So we’re not only looking at the individual transactions, but now we’re also going to kind of take it together and look at data as a whole. But all of these things come together to define a guest’s experience, and that’s what’s exciting, I think about this, that’s what’s exciting about the addition to the platform, but just know there’s a lot more to come around going in and always innovating around understanding the guest and helping the guest have the best possible stay.

Ryan Embree:
Well, it sounds like we might be having you on the Suite Spot very, very soon. So, very excited, Jason, as always, thank you so much for joining me on the Suite Spot. And thank you all for listening, we will talk to you next time To join our loyalty program. Be sure to subscribe and give us a five-star rating on iTunes. Suite Spot is produced by Travel Media Group. Our editor is Anne Sandoval, with cover art by Bary Gordon. I’m your host, Ryan Embree, and we hope you enjoyed your stay.

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