Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Use Social Media to Grow Your E-mail List and Increase Sales...Here's How:

Want another good reason to participate in social media? How about growing your e-mail list by thousands of new, relevant and enthusiastic opt-ins. Integrating social media and e-mail is all the rage, as 46% of marketers plan to do so this year, up from 13% last year, according to a recent study by ExactTarget, the Email Marketer's Club and the Center for Media Design at Ball State University.

Once you develop a relationship with folks interested in what you have to say on social media sites, it is easier to get them to sign up for your e-mail, which will enable them to transact with your brand.

According to several surveys I've seen in DMNews, Facebook fans and Twitter followers, it seems, buy more from e-mail offers than others. Now that's a compelling reason to get involved with social networks!

So how can you grow your list? There are many ways, but here's one I like:

First launch a social media campaign through your existing e-mail list, with a link that allows recipients to post your engaging offer to their Facebook page and retweet it on Twitter. Anything relevant and free generally works. Free drinks at your hotel, free upgrades, free food on Tuesday nights, free travel widgets...anything appealing.

To take advantage of the offer, Facebook/Twitter respondents will then create a mini profile on your site in order to have their personalized promotion code delivered through e-mail. By using a triggered e-mail to deliver the code, you'll be able to collect e-mail addresses and permission for ongoing e-mail communications from your new Facebook fans and Twitter followers.

In retail examples I've seen, opt-ins run extremely high from social media campaigns. One marketer, Papa John's Pizza, reported 130,000 new Facebook fans, using this approach...converting a whopping 75% of them to their e-mail list!

So marketers, use social networks to attract thousands of engaged fans and followers...then close the loop by getting them to subscribe to your e-mail offers. Another good way to monetize your social media efforts!

Friday, May 22, 2009

19 Hotel/Airline Brands Share Tweets that Work! How to Get the Most Twitter Buzz for Your Buck...

This week, I posted how and why 32 travel brands use Twitter, and words of wisdom from 34 travel industry Gurus who tweet - and I couldn't help but wonder, what in the world gets "retweeted" the most? With that question in mind, I polled some of the leading travel hotel and airline brands that tweet daily, and asked them: "Which one of your posts enjoyed the most RTs/comments/activity?" I then asked them to send me the actual tweet.

The results were surprising. I had assumed that deal promotions would be of most interest, but instead it was the provocative tweet - something completely out of the norm, that garnered buzz and activity.

Out of the 19 travel brands that sent me their most popular tweets, only three promoted time-sensitive deals...and they were Twitter-exclusive rates and fares.

The most retweeted tweets: United Airlines' Twitter-only "Twares" and Southwest Airlines' shout-out from their Captain Kirk, during the release date of Star Trek. For hotels, the greatest number of retweets (ie, exposure) came from Secrets Resorts "swine flu vacation guarantee," and Starwood's provocative "Best in Bed" comment.

5 brands tweeted pics or events happening at their properties. One airline found that a tweeted survey prompted the greatest number of retweets and activity, and 2 hotels were successful launching Twitter sweepstakes/contests. Only one promoted last-minute deals. And check back here, the list of popular travel brand tweets continues to grow....

All of this indicates to travel suppliers that it's not the "deal" that gets Twitter folks excited - its creativity, spontaneity and uniqueness that grabs the spotlight. Want more quality followers? Want to get the most return on your time and social media investment? Want buzz? Take a look at the most retweeted/hits below...and then look at your own strategy. 'Nuf said?

Happy Memorial Day weekend to my US Twitter followers from @SusanTravels

1. @Kimpton: Sleep Rules! Late check-out at Kimpton hotels every Sunday in May in honor of Better Sleep Month
2. @PeabodyMemphis: Gavin MacLeod , Love Boat's Captain Stubing to be Honorary Duckmaster Sat 5PM. Come aboard...we're expecting you...
3. @ICEHOTEL_Sweden: Most RTs : The coolest drum solo ever! Watch the drummer from Hellacopters in action at the ICEHOTEL:
4. @hotel_max: ATTN: Book your room at Hotel Max w/ the special Twitter Follower Rate! 15% off the best avail. rate and comp WIFI! PLS RT
5. @affiniahotels: Want to perfect your grilling skills? Reserve a seat at our BBQ Bootcamp 5/16 for tips from masters Samuelsson and Burke
6. @Oceanisleinn: Versatility #oceanisle #beachgetaway
7. @HiltonAnaheim: Do you want to win a TWO night stay AND Dinner for TWO at Mix? Random drawing of first 2,000 followers! Spread the word!
8. @Fairmonthotels: Fairmont rolls out Mini-Moons for cost-conscious brides/grooms. Emerging travel trend?
9. @StarwoodBuzz: 10 years later Westin is still the best in bed. In the last decade more than 75 million people have tucked themselves into a heavenly bed!
10. @thebonaventure: Ok, here we are: "This is a major award!" Win the award! Follow the link, now! #LAPrimetime" 554 clicks!
11. @UnitedAirlines: Hurry and get your first-ever, time-sensitive Tware. $63 o/w Chicago to DC. + taxes. Addtl terms at Book soon!
12. @qatarairways: SURVEY: Will you be flying more or less in the next 3 months than you did the last 90 days? Also, what country are you from?
13. @MacdonaldHotels: Famous Industry Faces will be 'Posing in their Pants' ... Rgds SIR
14. @TabletHotels: Newsletter is out: Introducing Last Minute Tablet - Get away within the next 14 days at great prices
15. @RooseveltNYC: Check out our new blog !!
16. @TheSofiaHotel: Hi Susan! "Please go to and enter Twitterific Promo Code 25267 for a 20% Nightly Discount off Room & Tax!"
18. @SouthwestAir: From our Cpt. Kirk “Welcome aboard the Starship Enterprise. This is Cpt.Kirk along w/ my FO Spock"
19. @SecretsResorts: If a guest contracts A-H1N1 while staying with us, next 3 vacations will be free of charge

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Part II: Why 35 Travel Industry Gurus Love Twitter

If you read yesterday's blog post, you saw 32 leading Travel Brands' tweets on how and why they participate in Twitter.

They felt that this medium holds much promise, but for now, most are listening and engaging with their customers.

18 of the 32 brands used "communicate" or "dialog" in their 140 character message, while 11 brands included "offers", "promotions" or "sweepstakes" as part of their Twitter strategy.

The takeaway is there are three primary uses of Twitter, based on responses by these major travel brands - Engagement (listening/communicating/responding); Attracting passionate brand advocates as followers; and Selling at low marketing costs (promotions/deals/sweepstakes/offers).

It's not surprising that these three goals explain why travel brands tweet, my question is, how much does strategy play a role in their success? Are these companies measuring brand lift, increased customer satisfaction or sales through the Twitter channel, as a matter of course? Or, are they now merely getting their feet wet as they experiment with this new channel?

In order to rise to a level where management "gets it" and puts additional resources towards social media in general, you need to show what "good" looks like. Since brands are focused on communication, building a fan base and promoting offers, how is all of this measured and presented to senior management?

After looking at Travel Brands' current use of Twitter yesterday, I wanted to focus on the 35 bloggers, writers, and leading travel industry influencers, including analysts, CEOs, and entrepreneurs. I asked each to DM me on Twitter, @susantravels - in under 140 characters - how and why they tweet. Here are their posts:

1. @TravelEkspert: Having a Twitter/blog combination has fundamentally changed my methodology and timing for delivering my messages.
2. @travelingmamas: We use Twitter to form valuable partnerships with travel publishing companies (Uptake, Fodors, Fairmont Hotels, etc). They find us 
3. @tripwolf: I use twitter to meet other great travel bloggers - it's more personal, like sending a text rather than an email.
4. @elliottng: Best use of twitter: "Peripheral vision" on your topic of interest; your own personalized "presidential daily brief"!
5. @gbrockway: Invaluable for finding news related to niche topics, sharing info about my projects, esp TripIt, and sating my Narcissus (yes, I admit it)
6. @rickseaney: We think twitter is a perfect vehicle for timely air travel deal information, potentially better than email
7. @denschaal: I use Twitter 2 break & distribute travel news & analysis, & as vital tool to interact with & learn from industry braniacs.
8. @elliottdotorg: Thanks -- I'm here to help travelers, so that's what most of my twitter activity is about.
9. @karasw: I get the latest travel news/trends; troll for story sources; network with travel PR peeps/writers; learn from live-tweeted conferences.
10. @JohnnyJet: Drive traffic to my site.Create brand awareness.Stay on top of travel trends/news.Gives me a pers/prof connection w/readers in real time.
11. @wendyperrin: I share travel tips & deals, & answer readers' travel questions, in order to promote and I watch how travel companies use it as a customer-service tool, & then I use it myself as a journalistic & marketing tool.
12. @awtravelweekly: I use it to learn from a community I might not otherwise hear from, to pass along news and insights and keep up with travel friends.
13. @JEBworks: Sorry to be late-unswiss! Use it as an effective tool to enter the stream, observe and feed the conversation, express my opinions and share.
14. @HappyHotelier: Just show and be myself and sometimes spread the word about Haagsche Suites.
15. @TravelEditor: I use Twitter to get breaking travel news and story ideas, publicize our new articles, and meet and seek insight from other travel pros.
16. @hharteveldt: I use Twitter to share useful information, learn/share relevant industry news, & build Forrester's credibility & influence
17. @TravelSocial: Expand social media knowledge/skills; Share insights/info w/professional peers; Monitor competitors & innovations
18. @pappas: Niche discovery & distribution-relevant info exchange-vet ideas & gauge interest-realtime-Opps from twitter data are ridiculously, wonderful!
19. @barbdelollis: major#twitter fan. use it to convey news & insights from HotelCheck-In & other sources. also use to find ideas, inspiration
20. @JensThraenhart - To share interesting articles, and learn from innovators and influencers in the tourism marketing space, globally and in China
21. @EliteTravelGal Have 2k+ followers after 2 weeks & now they all know what I do. all potential clients. All luv 2 travel/need help
22. @Marilyn_Res: I work at NatGeo & there's a treasure trove of amazing stories & photos on our sites that people don't know abt, so I link 2 them on Twitter
23. @aschonland - Twitter is the network effect in real-time. I share info and get back at least double back. I announce a podcast and see listenership grow from Twitter links and leads. I have also linked with really smart people.
24. @stuartma: twitter provides human connections, dialogue & awareness that's instant, cheap & fun
25. Douglas_Quinby: Learn from industry thought-leaders, share insights from PhoCusWright research, engage with our customers, and have fun!
26. @ValynP : Twitter lets me keep up with interesting people, engage a certain audience, raise awareness of OpenTravel, plus it's fun!
27. @tweet2travel: We r launching a travel related biz in the summer & twitter is going 2 be a major component of how we work with our customers
28. @travelrants: I use twitter to raise awareness of my blog/brand and network with people from all over the world who enjoy discussing travel.
29. @SEKeener: Every staff member at BootsnAll, has a Twit acct. Community used 2b a "walled garden", now, it is everywhere, Twitter being 1 signif place.
30. @scotthyden: Single source for getting and giving industry knowledge/insight. Give custs inside look into how we think aboutour brand.
31. @brucerosard: I use Twitter as a search engine for relevant content, a way to build the PhoCusWright brand and to establish myself and my company as a thought leader
32. @AdamHealey: tx 4 thinking of me. I follow our company, industry visionaries like yourself, "hotel" + "hotels"
33. @HugoBurge twitter satisfies my curiosity for new stuff, people's activities, conversations, following sites I'm involved in & occasional propaganda ;)
34. @laurably: Keeps me on the pulse of travel industry developments; helps build awareness for USA Today travel brand; connects me w/new readers & sources
35. @HHotelConsult: Collaboration, networking, research, & "nownews", w/ topical & impacting conversation relevant to each individual's tastes,needs & interests

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Daily Tweet: Why 32 Top Travel Brands Like Twitter

I can't tell you how often I hear from leading travel brands, "so why should we Tweet?"

Tweet your brand to give you an online personality, and form conversations and relationships with your customers, I offer. Form a dialogue with brand champions, and leverage their input, I add. Work in real time with customer service issues, I plead...Provide followers with special offers/sweepstakes and let them benefit from being the "first to know." Make 'mo money using this channel - and learn how it works, I finally suggest.

Well instead of pleading my case, I turned to the experts - 32 travel brands who "get it" and who tweet daily to make brand "friends" and money. In aggregate, these brands reach millions of active Twitter followers (also known as consumers), and reap the benefit of their Twitter strategies and tactics. Take a look, and try out Twitter for your travel brand - you'll thank yourself in the morning :) And please add me to your Twitter followers list @SusanTravels!, so that I can keep you posted on even more creative travel uses for Twitter...including brands that offer Twitter-exclusive deals.

Oh - one more thing...I asked each to let me know how they use Twitter in 140 characters or less. Not easy...but at least it's not Haiku!

1. @Tripology: Twitter is an amazing research assistant. A constant flow of articles plus a great way to do quick "sniff tests" of ideas.
2. @MacdonaldHotels: With Hospitality its a people First focused business & you need to move with the times....
3. @AlaskaAir: Hi Susan. We use Twitter to listen & connect with our customers.
4. @FunjetVacations: We use Twitter to speak directly with both consumers and agents to constantly be in the know of their wants/needs & service.
5. @Oceanisleinn: Great outlet for exposing our hotel, events, places to dine, and our area. Also links people in the hosp indus. My whole staff is involved.
6. @TiaraHotels: We're using twitter since Oct.08. Easy client/partner engaging tool. Direct contact, great exposure. Planning future specific twitter offers
7. @SecretsResorts: Twitter has been great for listening to our customers, participating in relevant conversations and promoting dialogue about our resorts Also, it gives us the opportunity to share what is going on at the resorts day-to-day through photos and tweets!
8. @ConnectByHertz: Best use: (1) building awareness - our products /services as well as our industry/travel as a whole, (2) Customer Service & Feedback 3. Connecting with our customers
9. @PleasantHoliday: To make B2B brand more B2C; low marketing cost; speed to market for promo of travel deals. Let me know if need more info.
10. @trazzler: we use twitter to share info about travel,, and to communicate with our users
11. @Cheapflightscom: We use Twitter to share travel deals, give travel ideas, report travel news & help people find the cheapest flight/hotel.
12. @EliteTravelGal: Booked 6nt stay at FS Scottsdale 4 new Twitter friend after she saw my post re: getting bfast/perks at all 4SeasonsHave 2k+ followers after 2 weeks
13. @flight_centre: engage inform cust serv & strongest spoke to Hub /Spoke
14. @napamarriott: Hi Susan- Twitter allows us to directly connect with guests. We try to be an area resource helping with suggestions, recommendations, etc.
15. @hotel_preston: We proactively seek out folks traveling to Nashville & looking for a hotel. We also do giveaways & provide Nashville info
16. @LindbladExp: As a niche, experiential brand, we use Twitter to listen, send out videos/content & to watch trending industry topics.
17. @NileGuide: We use twitter to converse/engage with travelers, communicate NileGuide site & blog updates & other travel tips/news. Thx!
18. @TravelMuse: Why: Get instant feedback/endorsement and easy to scan/consume news. How: Push out new content; RT relevant tweets; talk to customers/peers/media; competitor analysis; industry news.
19. @whereivebeen: We tweet because we love to keep up-to-date with vital travel information, written by jet setters, from around the world
20. @dealbase: Thx! We always want to be close to the pulse of the early adopters: feeling & taking & responding to it, making it go faster
21. @TripAdvisor: How/why: to connect w/ & get feedback from travelers; to share TA’s content & community resources; to hear from hoteliers on how we can help
22. @MarriottIntl: Our dept's SM strategy, which is corporate based, is about open, honest conversations w/stakeholders in line w/our corporate philosophy.
23. @Travelzoo: This helps drive traffic to our site and subscribers to our newsletter, while providing an avenue for us to connect with our users. As a travel deals publisher, we use Twitter to alert our followers of the latest and greatest travel deals in the market.
24. @hotel_max: Hello! We use Twitter to spread info and fun giveaways about the Max, Seattle, and also keep an eye out for people who are coming to the city to tell them.
25. @TravelOregon: We use Twitter to have conversations about travel to Oregon with consumers in a setting that they're comfortable with.
26. @yapta: uses Twitter to keep travelers abreast of important travel news, Yapta product updates & to issue airfare price drop alerts
27. @JohnnyJet: Drive traffic to my site.Create brand awareness.Stay on top of travel trends/news.Gives me a pers/prof connection w/readers in real time.
28. @rogersmithhotel: Connecting & sharing our product. Making friends first that will hopefuly become guests. Customer service and real time info. Announcements
29. @fodorstravel: We find Twitter valuable for engaging passionate travelers, connecting with top travel bloggers, and promoting Fodor's and its community.
30. @UnitedAirlines: Maintain a micro-dialogue with our customers on issues they care about. Recognize their interest in United with special deals and promos.
31. @CharlesHotel using twi to build our audience, communicate directly w/ guests, share info, and give special offers to loyal followers
32. @PeabodyMemphis: provide helpful, newsworhty content; being human; mentions of other local attractions, staying in the conversation, twitter exclusive promos

Monday, May 11, 2009

PCLN Still Outperforms its Rivals; Continues to Grow Despite Global Economic Woes

We all are painfully aware that online travel has been hurt by global recession woes, the swine flu outbreak and significant drop in overall travel bookings., has been bucking the trend, and increasing market share from its competitors because of its opaque model, and appeal to hotel suppliers. PCLN's business process and technology allow hotel revenue management to determine how little they are willing to earn to fill their inventory. This morning's earnings call revealed projected second-quarter earnings of $1.65 to $1.75 a share on an 8% to 13% increase in revenue. PCLN posted earnings of $25 million, or 53 cents a share, up from $13.8 million, or 28 cents a share, a year earlier.

As I predicted months ago, just as 9/11 catapulted the major OTAs' strength at that time; so too would this economic downturn be a boon to PCLN. Unlike 9/11, however, hotel revenue managers are calling the shots, and determining which of the four major OTAs should receive the lion's share of their distressed inventory. Also, unlike 2001, supplier websites are robust and appealing, offering loyalty points and a vastly improved UI. Suppliers can choose between allocating inventory to the OTA channel, GDS channel, Metasearch/SEM channel, other distribution options, or selling their own inventory on their sites - with unique benefits. According to a Q1 survey I conducted among 10 major hotel distributors, PCLN was projected as the clear winner in the OTA channel. I've found that asking the right questions of suppliers that lead up to aggregated supply intent can often help predict channel "winners and losers." Even though the major OTAs recently dropped air and hotel booking fees, suppliers want to play ball first and foremost with PCLN. As long as this continues, PCLN will continue to outperform. But be mindful of Travelocity's recently launched opaque model for hotels - this could slow PCLN's rapid growth going forward. I think it's time to poll hoteliers once again to see which way supply is headed.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Monetizing US Foreign Policy?

Don't get me wrong. I love clever marketing campaigns as much as the next guy - probably more - but I don't know about Orbitz's launch today. Delighted as I am that an organization is leading the fight to open up US travel opportunities to Cuba, I'm not so sure that offering $100 off a future Orbitz Cuba package to petition signers is the way to go. It reminds me of Memorial Day commercials - "They went to war, so we could bring you Levi's jeans at 30% off!". Hmmm, US foreign policy and commercialism - not thrilled with the mix. According to a recent poll conducted by Orbitz-Ipsos:

67% of Americans say that they would support a policy that would allow all Americans to travel to Cuba.
32% of Americans would strongly support such a policy that would allow all Americans to travel to Cuba.
Only 23% say that they would oppose lifting these restrictions for Americans traveling to Cuba (only 13% would strongly oppose it).
72% agree that expanding travel and tourism from the U.S. to Cuba would have a positive impact on the day-to-day lives of the Cuban people.
Just 20% feel that allowing Americans to travel to Cuba would not positively impact Cubans in this way

All strong points for policy-makers to know. But what's up with the check box to receive Orbitz news and deals on the petition-page? And how about cross-merchandising its site, as the source for Cuba travel info. I believe these merchandising initiatives may reduce the importance of the message to our policy-makers when they see Orbitz merchandising the petition. As a marketer, kudos to Orbitz for building a potent database of folks interested in travelling to Cuba...but too opportunistic for a petition drive, in my opinion. A more genuine petition approach would have been free from all commercial opportunities. Food for thought from this Mother on this Mother's Day.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Losing/Gaining Revenue and Reputation...Here's How:

Now I know this blog is focused on how travel companies can make more money....but I wanted to write about how companies can lose money - by doing the wrong thing online. I've been watching to see how major vacation sellers respond to the current Swine Flu crisis - and how they communicate rapid changes via their websites and social networks. Here are a few grades for the largest sellers of Mexico leisure travel:

Apple Vacations, receives an "B" for effort and execution. Mexico travel is key to Apple, and with 1,648 Twitter followers and 558 Faceboook fans, Apple gets snaps for addressing this crisis with frequent traveler updates on social networks and on their website. The only reason Apple doesn't receive an "A" is because according to some Tweets and FB comments, its website was down for some time, and folks couldn't access vital info. But, we all know the online gremlins, so we need to give Apple some leeway on this one. Most importantly, the info and updates are timely, appreciated and top-notch.

Expedia, receives a "C" for its efforts. Granted, the Flu Advisory for Mexico is well-positioned on its homepage, but in reviewing Expedia's recent Tweets to 7,230 followers, I only see sales promotions and little about travelers' flu concerns. Expedia is the #1 leisure travel retailer, and these concerns are front and center. If Expedia did a better job listening to Twitter conversations, it would engage in the discussion with useful info.

Funjet Vacations, which is part of the much larger Mark Travel Group, receives an "A+." With only 291 Twitter followers, and a Funjet Vacation page with 390 fans, Funjet updates its Mexico Advisory page often, tweets about it regularly, and positions it front and center on its website. Further, the information is timely and relevant. And, like other travel sellers, Funjet promotes "fun" and great deals on vacation packages, but it weaves updates regarding travel to Mexico just as often. Kudos for Funjet in listening to its online customers.

The #2 online travel agency, Travelocity, receives a "C", like its colleague, Expedia. The last time it communicated info. regarding travel to Mexico to its 2,388 Twitter followers was 5 days ago on April 28, and the 943 followers of the Roaming Gnome will read tweeted chuckles but no info on Swine Flu and travel - You'll Never Roam Alone indeed. Really? The website does offer a link on its homepage to travel advisory info, but it doesn't date the info page, so I don't know when it was last updated.

Unfortunately a failing grade goes to my old alma mater, Liberty Travel, which offered its 94 Twitter followers nary a single tweet about travel to Mexico, among its 85 total updates. Since Liberty is new to Twitter, I checked its website, and there too was no mention of Mexico or travel updates - its as if the country fell off the Liberty Travel radar screen. To make matters worse, the new Liberty Travel website doesn't have a "search" box, so I couldn't even look for info. regarding its policies for travel to Mexico. I did, however, see several compaints on Twitter from @CatGray and @ChrisCamm, expressing dismay at the lack of response. Now here's an area that Liberty could have done some damage control by listening to conversations, and responding publicly.

So there you have it, readers. Social networking and website communications can not only help promote sales, it can enhance/diminish your online reputation too. And that affects the ability to make 'mo money.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Exclusive savings on Twitter yield big profits for Priceline and Kimpton

Wowza - the phone really started ringing after my post about exclusive Twitter hotel deals earlier this week. I commented on Dennis Schaal's Travel Weekly article on Priceline's successful hotel bookings Twitter promotion, and participated in an interview on Addison Schonland's popular podcast also on - you guessed it - Twitter-only sales. And now it seems Priceline's newest Twitterati promotion
("Cinco De Mayo Promo! May 5th - 500 random followers will get a $50 HOTEL COUPON! More followers = better chances!"$50 Twitter coupon to book a 3-night stay) will be an even greater marketing success. This promotion is designed to reward folks with the largest number of followers, so the most influential Twitterers will win the bulk of the 500 coupons. Pretty clever, Mr. Negotiator.

I'm delighted to report that my favorite hotel company, Kimpton Hotels, has what may arguably be the "richest" Twitter-exclusive promotion>..."as a thanks for helping us reach the 1K mark, Hotel Helix, Hotel Madera,
Hotel Rouge and Topaz Hotel will offer $89 rates Sun-Thurs. and 15% off the best rate using the TWTR code any other time." Cool. These are great hotels, and often go for more than double those rates on their websites. And I checked the Kimpton Website under promotions - you won't find it there. Twitter can truly become the "velvet rope" of hotel promotions. So thank you, Kimpton - I've already booked my exclusive Twitter rate, and I look forward to your hospitality. Another reason I like my Twitterati status!