Just added some great tools to the website. I'm trying to keep this somewhat entry-level technology as I know that time is a precious commodity to innkeepers. Just keeping a blog current is often a big task, particularly when the property is open year round. As I find time savers or easy tools I will post them.
CutePDF is a great way to capture a page of a document, a website, anything you would typically be able to send to print you can send to your computer as a PDF capture and then email it or upload it to Google Docs, etc. Example - I wanted to send 1 particular page of a 43 page building inspection report to a Seller's agent - I click "print", check the "page" button and select "print to CutePDF" and save it to my computer. I forward just that one page onto the Seller's agent. Easy as that. And it's free!
A friend of mine just told me to give dlvr.it a try instead of Feedburner. I will say, it's very easy to setup and link with other social network accounts. It provides real time stats and allows you to set up auto posts or post directly from the site to your accounts. I'll give it a test drive and report back...
This photo below is Orange juice with Purple Basil and Cold River Vodka. But it could be served without the vodka at breakfast and makes a lovely presentation and unique taste. I submitted it to Tastespotting (along with sharing on Flickr among other photo sharing sites) and it brought me the most clicks through to my website of any referring site, in crazy volumes! The photo of the chocolate caramel shortbread square brought nearly as many clicks as well.
We're all trying to drive visitors to our websites, right? One of the reasons guests stay at a bed and breakfast or inn over a hotel is often for the wonderful breakfast and baked goods they'll enjoy. Why not show off what you have to offer? Create a profile on one of these sites and start posting photos with recipes with a link to your website. It's free advertising and somewhat targeted, free advertising. Even if a browsing visitor isn't ready for a vacation, they may very well bookmark your site for future reference. That's all you can ask for!
I will say, Tastespotting is extremely particular about the quality of the photographs they approve - I've submitted at least a dozen and only had 9 approved. It's a beautiful site with some beautiful recipes and photos and provides a very high volume of hits so it's worth a shot! Foodbuzzallows you to post freely and has quite a volume of users as well. Give it a try!
Twitter, Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Seesmic...all ways to send "tweets" but all have quirks about them.
I've gone from Tweetdeck to Hootsuite and consider it an upgrade. We all start out with Twitter.com but when you become comfortable with Twitter, time to upgrade to something with more options. Hootsuite thus far, appears to be the least restrictive and allows the most number of columns (10) and multiple tabs, each with 10 columns. It's a great way to customize what you want to read by using search terms or hashtags. It's also a simple way to follow any mentions of your name, in addition to Google Alerts. Hootsuite has never crashed on me, is seldom down and allows you to post up to 5 sites simultaneously. Hootsuite uses Ow.ly to shorten URL's and allows tracking. If you upgrade from the free Hootsuite to the $6/month plan, you can post to more sites and can track your stats through Google Analytics which is definitely important to me since I have multiple websites. Save yourself some time by Hootsuite's multiple posting options. Give it a try!
I posted this photo today on my Brokerage Blog as it relates to my real estate business. I like to feel that I am ALWAYS in touch and ALWAYS accessible (that might be a touch of OCD but that's just me). As an innkeeper, I did nearly the same thing - for those few hours where we might have had a break, we'd go hiking or sit and read on the rocks at the "beach", as long as we were within cell phone range. I'd carry a backpack with my iPhone and a copy of our reservation calendar and I'd be prepared to take reservations wherever, whenever. When a guest decides to make that inquiry or call, I figured I better be ready or they may go to the next inn that answers sooner. And that happens. It doesn't make you a slave to the business but rather gives you the freedom to enjoy while you are still "working"... Maybe it's my way of looking at things - after all, my glass is always half full...
I read a post the other day about your online score, or Klout.
So let's think about how this can apply to the hospitality industry. Can it become more reliable than TripAdvisor or Yelp? After all, Twitter and Facebook allow for you to interact one on one with your guests or potential guests, when the review sites are very controversial and not always fair. Perhaps this is another way to let your potential guests get a feel for your property by your online personality. I think this is more important of smaller inns and bed and breakfasts where there is more personal interaction between owner or innkeeper and guest. I think Social Media Klout could be a very good thing for the hospitality industry. It provides another level of customer service too.
So you decide you want to offer an online discount and broadcast it via Twitter and Facebook, rather than post it on your website for everyone; this should offer some insight into just how much interest you create from your Social Media followers and track your ROI. You decide to use a QR code embedded with the information. We could take this one step further and assume we (someone more tech savvy than myself) could integrate the QR code into the reservation system.
A very interesting question just came up from one of my current aspiring innkeeper buyers on the subject: "
It's been very interesting to watch as social media molds the way we all do business. What it undoubtedly has done has made the media much more accessible to us all. The information you provide for the media to peruse gives your property the exposure and possible chance to be noted for a review, write-up, story, etc. A static website just isn't enough anymore. Get your recipes, photos, sunrises, etc. out there! Blog, photo-blog, etc. You never know who is watching...
Quite frequently now I am seeing hotels, large and small, offering discounts "mention Twitter code #abc123". I've recently tweeted "anyone recommend a Boston area hotel/inn under $200?" and several area lodging establishments tweeted me directly with offers and discount codes not available on their websites. This enables the establishment to know exactly where their business is coming from. You can't ask for a more convenient and free method of advertising providing the capability of tracking your ROI. If you don't want to publicly offer discount rates on your website, this is a way to be selective when you see the demand pop up on your Twitter stream. Set up a column for relevant key phrases pertaining to your business and location and watch that stream for that opportunity. From Hootsuite (or your preferred Twitter client) post it to Twitter and Facebook. But I'd create one for Twitter and one for Facebook, enabling you track the ROI from each, separately.