Your Hotel's 3Bs: Better Business Blogging
By Bonnie Knutson Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU | September 2015
Look at any women's fashion publication, and you'll see that the Bohemian look is coming back into vogue. This year's fashion trends are also touting '70 style jeans with vintage-inspired "repair and restitched" detailing. Hot shoe trends include "flatforms" and blocked heels. And the prognosticators at Pantone tell us that "an eclectic, ethereal mix of understated brights, pale pastels and nature-like neutrals take center stage as designers draw from daydreams of simpler times…remembrances of retro delights, folkloric and floral art, and the magical worlds of tropical landscapes restore a sense of wellbeing." So who cares? Business cares. And they care because what's new and different (even if it is a throw-back) sells.
Just as fashion has its own look, every industry has its own language that periodically interjects new words into its lexicon. Buzzwords that insiders use to make what they do sound as though it is something new and mysterious. Why? If I were cynical, I would say to sound important; to sell product or services. If I were honest, I'd say the same thing. Computer gurus talk about RAMs, WANs, and gigabytes. Financial experts tout SmallCaps, IPOs, and Leaps. Hoteliers banter back and forth about OTAs, REVPAR, and revenue management. And marketing folks? Well, we toss about AIDA, Positioning, and TOMA as part of our secret lingo. One of the latest buzzwords in the marketing dictionary is engagement.
Engagement is one of those terms that have been absconded by marketers with everyone knowing what it is but no one can define what it means. When I think about engagement, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's legendary phrase always pops into my mind. The phrase, "I know it when I see it" is now a colloquial expression by which someone attempts to categorize something when its meaning is subjective or lacks clearly defined meaning. The phrase was famously used in 1964 by Justice Stewart to describe his threshold test for obscenity in Jacobellis v. Ohio. Referring to hard-core pornography, he wrote, "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced…and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…" It is the same with engagement.
With the growing power of social media, every hotelier wants to engage guests through online content. The trouble is that most businesses, hotels included, are still trying to find their way in making this happen because engaging customers via electronic media is more art than science. Engagement comes from content. It also comes from talking with consumers rather that talking to them. In other words, engagement comes from content that encourages a two-way conversation between your hotel brand and your guests – i.e. a dialogue versus a monologue.
While there is a host of social media channels available – website, email, Twitter, IM…ad infinitum – in my humble mind, blogs are at the top of the list for generating the two-way communication channel that we all want. So let's take a look at what it takes to engage your guests and potential guests in a blog post. But before we do, let's define exactly what a blog is and two important elements for effective blogging: content engagement and content marketing.
Simply put, a blog (short for weblog) is an interactive electronic conversation. Blogs emerged and grew with the advent of web publishing tools that made it easier for non-technical users to post content on the web. Most commonly, they include texts, but can also include graphic images and links to other sites. This makes blogs interactive, allowing guests to leave comments for the hotel, and even talk with other guests. It is this interactivity that distinguishes blogs from other social media platforms and so valuable to hotel marketing. I always think of blogs as electronic focus groups.