Luxury brands have been diffident about embracing social media, which with its mass appeal and egalitarian nature can seem so, well, common. But even high-end luxury brands are realizing they can profit from social media, as evidenced by the new Four Seasons Web site -- product of a $15 million revamp -- which embraces social media in a big way, I mean simply adores it, dahling.
Visitors to the site can take a look at what other Four Seasons guests are posting about the luxury hotel chain on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and TripAdvisor, and visit the chain’s corporate Twitter and Facebook accounts. Guests can post photos of themselves as well as advice and recommendations about specific hotels and their locales, including for example an area’s nightlife and recreation; the site also generates recommendations for visitors based on their personalized profile on the site.
According to recent surveys cited by Four Seasons, 78% of affluent individuals participate in social networking sites, including over half who use social media to connect with brands. Meanwhile 33% of hotel guests say TripAdvisor is “very” or “extremely influential” when they are choosing a luxury hotel. Separately, Four Seasons said more reservations are being made through mobile devices; revenue generated from the iPad and other tablets for the hotel chain increased 200% from 2010-2011, and is expected to grow even more in 2012.
While Four Seasons may be at the forefront of luxury hotel chains using social media, other, less rarefied brands in the hospitality business have jumped in feet first. To help hotel owners and managers stay on their toes with social media, Medallia, which creates customer experience management software systems, has developed a “Social Feedback for Hospitality” product that not only captures data from online reviews on social media sites -- including Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor, Hotels.com, Booking.com, Travelocity, and Expedia -- but also includes a “customer-recovery” capability that allows hotel owners to answer every piece of feedback they receive via social media. The Medallia hospitality product also helps improve an individual hotel’s social reputation by identifying customer promoters from survey feedback and routing them to key review and social sites. Medallia also offers local and brand-level competitive set benchmarking for key areas of service.
Although online reviews are undoubtedly a key area of information about consumer sentiment for the hospitality business and companies in general, there is also a lot of “noise” in the form of fake reviews. Back in August of last year I wrote about software created by four Cornell students to identify fake online hotel reviews. The students described their efforts to combat “opinion spam” in a report titled “Finding Deceptive Opinion Spam by Any Stretch of the Imagination.”
Overall, the Cornellians claim their software is able to spot fake reviews 90% of the time, versus just 50% for human subjects, focusing on fake positive reviews and irrelevant comments which, say, post links to other Web sites for promotional purposes. With this focus in mind, the authors say roughly half of all online hotel reviews are fake -- four times the proportion guessed by human subjects (who estimated fake reviews as 12% of all reviews).