Social media is, well, social media. You can't avoid and everyone's talking about it. My biggest headache is that there's just too much of it! Stepping up to the plate are the social media monitoring companies with sophisticated software to help refine and summarize the endlessness of online data. However, this is a relatively new field, and as a result, innovation and evolution are unremitting qualities.
Circos Brand Karma (http://www.brand-karma.com/
) is one such company that is on the vanguard. I've written on their services in the past. Now, with the launch of their Blackbook Reports analytics tool, I reached out to Senior Vice President, Jamie Pagel, to expand on some of the latest industry trends and what his product can do.
Start with the elevator pitch. What's Blackbook and how will it help?
Brand Karma was one of the first in the social media monitoring and analytics for hotels space. Along the way we have learned that there are lots of different needs within the travel industry, and many stakeholders want to understand the performance data and online reputation for hotels and markets. The Blackbook is designed to package the most important and current information about a particular hotel or a particular city, and then get it into the hands of a GM, owner, travel agent or tourism board so they can understand it at first glance.
Readers of this article can receive 15% off all Blackbook reports on Brand Karma's website (http://www.brand-karma.com/products-page/
) from now through the end of November, 2012 by entering promo code LMA2012 at the time of purchase.
Now some background on Brand Karma. In a nutshell, what is your company all about? How long have you been in the hospitality industry? Where are you most active?
Brand Karma has been in the industry for seven years now. We started with a vision of making social media and online reviews as actionable as possible. But over the last few years, a phenomenon we've seen happen referred to in the technology world as ‘big data' has widened our scope. Big data is all the information that is out there - in your CRM and everything in the digital space, internal and external.
There are so many insights available, but it is difficult to sort them out to determine what is actually going to move the needle for your business. So, we transformed from being just a social media company to being a big data company that can connect the dots between social media and online reviews in addition to web analytics, bookings and everything that drives a hotel's business based on this mountain of big data.
In terms of where we are most active, we have a large portion of our operations based in Asia Pacific, with offices in Singapore, Taipei, and Tokyo. But we are very much a global company and now have operations around the world as well as a highly global customer base.
Apart from the obvious concerns for attracting customers, why should a hotel care about its online reputation in relation to the competition?
In regards to the competition, social media is the way to see how you are doing relative to your comp set and relative to the market in the public eye. That is a big part of Blackbook because the traditional types of guest surveys are not going to give you that scope.
We work with hotels to apply the data from social media towards the traditional departments as well as stakeholders at the hotel and corporate level, including operations, sales and marketing, and even revenue management. So maybe you change something operationally because everyone is frustrated about the internet access or the price of F&B. Or, maybe you see that people are raving about your spa compared to the competition, and realize that you may have a premium pricing opportunity.
As it relates to sales and marketing, our goal with social media is to get our clients to position and communicate the benefits of their hotel in the same way customers are talking about them in an online review or a social media posting. By doing so, the social media feedback and the voice of the customer becomes congruent with what the hotel puts in its brochures and on its website. This consistency can have a dramatically positive impact on the hotel's search rankings and ultimately drive more traffic.
Finally, as it relates to revenue management, there are opportunities to raise your rates when you know you're at the top of your market. If you are first or second on TripAdvisor in your market, people will recognize in their research that you are the best. As such, you should be able to demand the top rate without much resistance.
The two editions of this new service - the Market Blackbook and the Hotel Blackbook - differ substantially. Can you describe their basic divergences and how a hotel manager might use both for self-analysis and improvement?
The Hotel Blackbook is a deep dive on a specific property and its individual performance. Anyone can buy this report for a particular hotel or even buy a report for a competing hotel and a hotel in a different market to gain further insights. We analyze data that is publically accessible to everyone on the internet; we just save you a ton of time by summarizing the vast amount of social media content into a concise, legible report.
The Market Blackbook, on the other hand, is designed to look broadly at a particular market and the top 20 hotels that compete in that market. You will not find the same depth of information about each specific hotel, but you will find a pretty useful snapshot with ranking information, trends and hot topics for each property. We also include some macro insights about the market, where we summarize the overall trends, what has changed, who is rising and who is falling.
Blackbook is described an ‘on demand' performance reporting tool. What do you mean by ‘on demand'?
It is available at any time. So if your director calls you up about how the hotel down the street is doing, you can go to our website at any time, and within three hours, you will have a report in your inbox that tells you everything you need to know.
Where does Blackbook source its usage data and how does it interpret what's most important? How do you determine a hotel's market share-of-voice?
Via public-facing APIs, our data sources include the big review sites, OTAs, social networks and blog sites, information procured as either rich media (photo and video content) or social postings (status updates, tweets, etc.). Because we have data on virtually every hotel worldwide, we determine a hotel's market share-of-voice by looking at the number of postings or comments a particular hotel receives over a definite time period, benchmarked against every other hotel in the regional market.
How does Blackbook deliver differential analyses depending on the individual stakeholder?
While the Hotel Snapshot report and Market Blackbook report are the only two versions, we have designed them to have applicability to stakeholders across the industry; they decide what components to focus on.
We know from our work with hotels that GMs in particular are very busy running the property, so they don't always have time to login to a social media analytics tool. The idea is: by having a four page snapshot they can print out and take with them in the car or plane, they are able to gain an understanding of how their property is performing relative to their comp set in the public eye.
As it relates to other stakeholders, we see a huge application for travel agents. There is a lot of talk in the industry about the future of the travel agent and how they stay competitive given how much of the industry has moved online. We've learned that, for them, having a subscription to a social media analytics tool may be overwhelming. But, being able to get in-depth research on either a market they may not be selling in at the moment or a new hotel from an existing client of theirs can help them to better communicate the value to their customers.
Another group who will find these reports valuable is property developers. Being able to understand how a hotel asset performs before you put your brand on it or before you go and purchase it is critical. Additionally, understanding the marketplace is paramount. Who are the real competitors as seen through the customers' eyes?
Lastly, hotel associations and tourism boards should understand not only how their hotels are performing but also how markets around the globe are doing. For example, because we do lot of work in Asia, we know Singapore and Hong Kong are key rivals, as they are both finance hubs in the region; ADRs for hotels are very high; and they have very interesting tourist attractions. As a result, they want intelligence on how the other guys are doing, and at a $299 USD price point, the Market Blackbook provides some very clear insights.
The Blackbook service isn't available everywhere. Without getting too specific, where is it on hand now and what are your plans for now until the end of 2012?
We launched Blackbook with support for 12 different major hotel markets worldwide and plan to have support for at least 100 different hotel markets before the end of this year.
Based on your experience, where the most vital areas that hotels devote their resources when it comes to online reputation management and social media presence?
We have a framework we use to talk to our clients called the ‘Four Ms': Monitor, Measure, Manage and Monetize. Each stage builds up in value to the hotel.
We believe that all hotels should, at the very least, participate in the Monitoring stage; listening to their customers using social media.
Then, there are opportunities through either the Blackbook or a social media measurement tool to benchmark and Measure how you're doing versus the competition or year-over-year. It's not just listening to the data but digging into it to understand what insights can be gleaned.
Management gets to engagement and the decision to join the conversation, including things setting up a Facebook page, responding to reviews on TripAdvisor and really starting to make it a two-way dialogue with customers.
Finally, once you've engaged the customers in a meaningful way, you've entered the Monetization phase. That's where we really start to see the value come out, with hotels able to turn social media into a channel for bookings, increased brand value and all the things that folks in the C-suite care about.
There are some hotels that manage but do not monitor, and that's fine. We believe that this is a dangerous game however, because you may miss out on a critical post or something that can dramatically impact your online reputation.
What's the next step for the online world? Are there any areas hotels aren't taking advantage of?
User-generated content is really increasing as a factor of mobility. Consumers no longer have to wait until they are home or in their office to write a review about a hotel. Between 35% and 40% of all Facebook activity is now conducted from a mobile device.
Also, Pinterest and Instagram are a testament to the increased demand of visual content - they are certainly well-established but not yet as big as Facebook or Twitter. These sites have a lot of potential, especially for visually attractive hotels or luxury hotels.
Finally, social media in China continues to grow at an impressive rate. Fortunately, we know the landscape very well. Through Blackbook and our tool's monitored sites, including Weibo and ctrip, we understand what consumers in this market are saying and we're helping translate that into actionable data for our clients.
Readers of this article can receive 15% off all Blackbook reports on Brand Karma's website (http://www.brand-karma.com/products-page/) from now through the end of November 2012 by entering promo code ‘LMA2012' at the time of purchase.
(Article published in eHotelier
on October 30, 2012)