A social media discussion with Chris Preston

Chris Preston, CEO and founder of Preston Media and Success Diaries joins me today for an interesting conversation about social media. We learn some expert tips to increase followers and engagement on Instagram.

Chris enlightens us about his own journey and how he has been able to acquire success on social media. He says first and foremost you focus on changing your profile picture and keeping it constant on all platforms. Next, setting a particular strategy and using a similar font and color in the posts will create personal branding and your account will be recognized anywhere. Not being random in your posts makes a lot of difference. For personal branding, one should also try taking more interviews and videos.

My next question to him – What are some of things you found on social media along the way that have helped you in increasing the reach?
– Staying to up to date with new trends.
– Being a part of various groups and engaging with people over there.
– One of the most important strategy Chris understood is – CROSS PROMOTION

Resharing posts of other people and tagging them helps in making connections and increase your network. Sending people a DM and asking them if they would be interested in collaborating also helps a lot.

– Don’t repeat the same hashtags. Try and use different hashtags in every post and using hashtags like “#like4like” can put you into the spam list or get you banned.
– Building a community and genuine connection is very important.

Chris also tells us how his wife has been supportive of him all throughout his journey and is truly proud of his success. She’s always believed in him and his vision.

And I think that’s the most important part of anyone’s success – to surround yourself with people who support you and love you.

Digital India: The Rise of a Net-Savvy Travel Freak Indian

If I were to explain what transformation means, I would love to take you to the example of the changing face of travel in India. Yes, I am referring to the revolutionary Digital India campaign that has converted an average Indian into a travel freak. Until the past couple of years, pleasure travel was no less than a distant dream for an average Indian. It was hard to find the Indian blood travelling to countries abroad for vacations. Caught in the daily 9 to 5 grind, a majority of my friends in India would rarely take the pains of visiting a travel agent to find answers to all their travel related queries. A travel plan was a herculean task for their families and it remained confined to either those who were super affluent, NRIs or were sponsored for business trips. But, not anymore! Connecting the dots with a mere introduction of online accessibility to enquiry and bookings, Digital India Campaign has revolutionized the face of travel within the country. While digitization of payments is one big factor converting Indians into travel freaks, the rise of Online Travel Alliances and social media marketing are other agents contributing to this change. Let’s talk about some of them in detail here:

1) Informed Travel Choices: By now, this has become needless to speak about how internet has changed lives across the globe. However, in context of the travel face of the Indian population, you might have much more to uncover, realise and be delighted about. Statistics reveal that Indians aged between 26 and 40 extensively search the internet for all their business and leisure travels, comparing merits of destinations vis. a vis., finding the perfect hotel choices that are pocket-friendly as well as quality driven. Well, why this amazes the world so much is the velocity at which this transformation showed up. Information or rather in-depth details of destinations, both domestic as well as abroad, keep pouring in the moment you key a search. Ah! Isn’t that just so awesome?

2) Online Travel Alliances: The online travel alliances or the OTAs such as Trivago, TripAdvisor, etc., have been the biggest boon to the Indian travel industry. We all want to fall back at someone who is responsible enough for handling all our tedious stuff. This, even when it may cost a little extra. That’s exactly how it has worked for the travel industry in India. These OTAs assure you that they will take care of everything that falls within your sphere of requirements while promising to keep you informed about every bit of it. Right from booking your air tickets to organising a stay, food, local travel as well as shopping, etc., they aim at being your companion in a destination, which is otherwise alien to you.

3) Social Media Marketing: Much before you begin to search about a destination or even a hotel choice, you may end up seeing a suite of options on your social channels. Have you experienced this too? You last searched for Malaysia and your Facebook wall shows you much more about Malaysia as well as Thailand the very next hour…. Well, I am not just talking about the ads, I am referring to the recommendations as well. What makes it even better is that most of this information is driven by genuine reviews and experiences of past travellers. And, why not, after all, this info walks down to you automatically, without you even asking for it. In addition, when you travel to a destination, you are mostly up for providing a feedback about it – whether good or bad – you wouldn’t mind rating your experience if someone asks you. Social media, that powerfully manages communication between friends, strangers and not-so-strange people, has emerged as a change agent too for the Indian travel sector.

4) Digitization of Payment: Given all of the above change agents leading to the digital revolution in the country and awakening a generation full of well-informed, net savvy travellers, it is pertinent to take into account the role of online payments too. The digitization of payments via several payment wallets, forget about cashless transactions even, is one huge factor altering the travel economics in India a big way. The demonetization conundrum that surfaced in 2016 was a big boost to the eWallets like Paytm and others.

The face of travel in India is now a blend of technology, dream realizations, stress relief and a status symbol. Indians never thought of travel in such an uncomplicated way as a majority of them do now. The digital India campaign has empowered travel decisions by enabling Indians choose faster and travel more.

Provide A Hotel Virtual Tour – What, Why And How

Exponential growth in technology has entered a new trajectory where businesses can incorporate advanced innovations into their business strategies to experience new heights of success. One obvious example in hospitality industry of new effective technology is virtual tour. It is a tool to attract more travelers to encourage them to make hotel bookings. But, what exactly is virtual tour and why hotels are creating virtual tour?

With so many hotels-independent as well as hotels belonging to chains- competing to gain more customers than others and stay ahead in the competition, it becomes necessary to take advantage of technology to lure travelers by making them aware of the luxury accommodation and modern services the property is offering, and turn them into loyal guests.

Being a hotelier, I have observed that guests spend a long time online searching and comparing hotels before booking accommodation. They want to make sure that the hotel they are choosing for their stay is clean, spacious and equipped with all modern facilities. Although most hotels have their official website where they mention everything about the property, including information on accommodation, services and their pictures, many hoteliers have started offering hotel virtual tour on the website.

Hotel virtual tour is a powerful method that hotels can use to provide their website visitor an opportunity to explore their property through 360-degree walk-through. Rather than hotel images, people can move within the hotel rooms and other area of the hotel while sitting miles away from the place. It not just provides transparency but also satisfies travelers about a hotel before making bookings.

Text is powerful and a picture speaks thousand words, but a virtual tour offers much more than that to a hotel.

Benefits of Hotel Virtual Tour

There are benefits behind the method that makes it immensely popular among hoteliers.

Increases view time on website: According to a recent survey, hotel websites offering virtual tour have 5% to 10% longer view time than the sites without a virtual tour option. It has also increased the hotels’ revenue by more than 135%. The study also revealed that hotels have experienced more than 40% sales after applying virtual tour on their websites.

Save guests’ time and boost bookings: More than 90% of modern-day travelers say 360-degree view of a hotel saves their time and satisfies them about the hotel’s services. Instead of going through every section of a hotel’s website to know if it has all the facilities that you are looking for, a virtual tour takes you to a particular area of the hotel to ensure your preferred amenities. For example, an individual on business tour can virtually visit the conference of meeting room section of the hotel to check if it’s suitable to hold a business meeting.

Increased direct bookings: In OTAs-dominated world, hotel virtual tour can take potential guests towards official website of a hotel to make bookings. It is because virtual tour facility increases traffic on the website and make visitor stick to it for a long time. When they spend some time on the website, they prefer booking accommodation through the same medium.

Gain attention on social media: Virtual tour of hotel’s official website can be shared on social media to reach many potential guests at one time. It will differentiate your hotel from others and engage people in a new way.

How to Create Hotel Virtual Tour   

  • You should use high-tech tools with ultra-wide-angle lens to generate panoramic images of the hotel.
  • Virtual tour software should be used to make it look professional. Among different virtual tour software, pick one based on reviews and your requirement.
  • Before you start creating virtual tour, decide the hotel locations to show. In addition, determine the areas to be highlighted and how they should be presented to online viewers.
  • Incorporate virtual tour with text to make guests aware of all hotel services and amenities.

With so many people traveling to different areas for different purposes, it becomes essential to lure them with attractive services. Hotel virtual tour is a way to tell them the property is clean, spacious and luxurious. It will not just help your first impression on customers, but may also result into high conversion rates.

In conversation with Samir Kuckreja

Samir Kuckreja, Founder and CEO of Tasanaya Hospitality Pvt Ltd. joins me for an interesting take on how the hospitality industry and restaurants can become more tech savvy. We also talk about their presence on various social media platforms.

He puts forward valuable and quantitative points as to how to properly optimize the costs and be patient when it comes to marketing a new restaurant. We discussed an important question everyone would be interested in – If you are a young entrepreneur who is passionate about opening a new food outlet in your hotel, what should be your main focus?

Samir suggests to focus on the basics and start with tech at the back-end for optimizing cost, menu analysis, staff productivity and various other aspects. Marketing your product on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn is also an essential part of the whole process. Zomato is one of the most successful platforms to start with when it comes to the food outlets even for the hotel industry.

Learn more about the technological aspects and new advertising trends for entrepreneurs in this episode.

Identify, Leverage, Connect: Tagging With Customers The Hashtag Way

Hashtags are now relevant across all popular social media channels! The hashtagging practice that overwhelmed the Twitter lovers a while ago, led many of us laugh it out to see how they began to use the hashtags on LinkedIn too. But, what now? These hashtagging lovers have proven digital marketing strategists like me wrong. Indeed, it’s THE TREND now and like several leading sectors, Travel Industry is up for it too.

Each one of us, irrespective of what we do, wear the travellers’ shoes off and on. We travel for fun, for business and sometimes out of a necessity. Here, the greatest need that the industry players need to fulfil is provide easy access to booking and information. But, the responsibilities do not end there. They need to connect with the customers. Similar to how a customer remains in search of the most suitable service, a service provider too keeps searching for the ideal or at least needy customer. The travel hashtags have a significant role to play here.

Hashtags are the threads that connect conversations on social media. When there are millions of posts going up every second across different channels, how would a hotelier or a service provider in the travel industry ensure that it reaches the right audience. It’s the hashtags that connect them.

Being in the business, you need to learn to leverage travel hashtags. Right from identifying the popular ones to using them on the relevant channels, you need to get the game of hashtagging right to resonate well with your customers.

Know General hashtags

#Travel #Holidays #Trip #Traveling #Travelgram #Travelling #Travelingram #Traveler #Travels #Travelphotography #Instatravel #Instatraveling #Travelph #Travelpic #Travelblogger #Traveller #Traveltheworld #Travelblog #Travelbug #Travelpics
#Travelphoto #Traveldiaries #Traveladdict #Travelstoke #TravelLife

The above mentioned are some common hashtags for you to know. But these are good only to start with when you want to maintain an initial list of some relevant ones. These have to be customized for different channels.

Identifying Hashtags for Different Channels

Every social media channel is different. Hashtags vary with variation in the audience and the trends. You need to understand that hashtags are sometimes paid too. So, they will always vary for channels. Your strategist has to identify these by searching through the channels and imbibing them within your content tactfully to improve your visibility.

Branding your Hashtag

If you are a company of 2000+ employees, it is a great idea to have a hashtag under your brand name. And each of these employees must keep posting across Twitter, Instagram or even Facebook regularly without missing out on using your brand hashtag. This will help you build an identity. When a reader searches your name with a hashtag, they will be able to see all your posts on that specific channel with a single click. This works pretty much similarly when you wish to popularize an event where you can create event-based hashtags.

Destination Hashtags

Since hospitality has a lot to do with destination identification for a traveller, as a hotelier, you have an edge for traffic spiking. The destination hashtags more or less remain the same as the names remain consistent. So, you can pick the most popular destination hashtags of your location and include them within your content.

Third-Party Hashtags

If you understand social media curation strategy, you must have been crediting the third-party content sources for writing good content. You can encourage them to use your travel hashtags in their posts to improve your visibility.

You need to be mindful of using only relevant hashtags in a post and keep the overall hashtag density moderate. When you key in a number of hashtags in a single post, you may end up losing out on a potential reader who finds your content irrelevant. You can solve this by capping the number of hashtags you use on each channel. Ideally, three hashtags are good enough for Twitter, for instance, On the other hand, you can use more than five hashtags on Instagram for the same post. You need to also test it out and measure a bit to understand what is working for you and what not. So, let’s get it rolling!

Advertising bout – Facebook Ads vs. Google AdWords

Year after year, I get a lot of queries from hotels, restaurants, and small businesses – which one is better between Google Adwords and Facebook Ads?

The fight for the best advertising platform is crucial – there are around 3 billion internet users in the world, and the right platform can make or break your direct revenue stream. Both platforms have knockout punches up their sleeve, and the debate rages on.

While both services have their merits, the benefits differ according to the budget, targeting, and strategic goal.

Check out the battle and find out which competitor you should be using for your hotel.

Round 1 – Budget and Cost per Click (CPC)

Usually, the CPC for Google Adwords is a little higher than Facebook Ads. According to AdEspresso and Wordstream, the average CPC in Q3 of last year was 0.28$ for Facebook, and 2.32$ for Google. If you have an independent hotel, with a small advertising budget, you will get more bangs for buck with Facebook ads. Round 1 goes to Facebook!

Keep in mind that clicks are not everything; there are other factors to consider such as conversions. In many cases, I have seen lower costs per leads through Facebook.

Round 2 – Defining objective

Once you have determined your budgets and costs, plan what you can achieve from this advertising spend. In my experience, Facebook is the best bet for increasing brand awareness and demand generation. However, if you want to capture demand, or generate sales and leads, AdWords is your champion.

The reasoning is simple, with Google; the guest is searching what you want to sell. So the intent to book is already there. But once again, consider all costs first.

Round 3 – Stage in the guest’s journey

Understanding where your potential guest is in the booking journey will also help you decide which platform to go for. If you want to capture guests in the moment of looking to book a stay, Google AdWords is your best bet due to the high level of intent from your audience. However, if you’re trying to bring more awareness or consideration to your offering, then Facebook ads can help you target those with a current or unknown need for your hotels.

This is how both channels can complement and fuel your hotel’s growth!

Round 3 – Service maturity and overall search volume

This point is so obvious; I don’t understand why hoteliers overlook it. If your hotel has a new restaurant or service, and there is very little or no search volume, then Google AdWords, or paid search, will most likely not generate a ton of traffic and therefore is unlikely to perform. Before you rule out AdWords completely in this scenario, you may consider bidding on a series of keywords which describe a problem that new feature solves. My advice is to test out bidding on what your service solves rather than a service that very few have been exposed to.

For example, the Tile app, a Bluetooth tracker, was one of the first apps of its kind. But the keywords “Bluetooth speaker” generated much less results than keywords like “lost my keys”, “find your phone” and “find your wallet”.

In most cases I advise hoteliers to start out on Facebook ads to generate awareness about your rooms, features, and amenities, explain what problem they solve, and develop brand recognition. Then, you’ll generate demand to set you up for more success when it comes to Google AdWords.

Final round –Who wins?

The winner, if you want immediate sales is Google Ads. But if its brand awareness and lead generation that you want, Facebook is the clear winner. Also, after going through these rounds, you will observe that there is not a ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to online advertising platforms. Before taking a decision, take a step back and analyse what you want to achieve from your investment and your available marketing budget. All other factors are secondary.

If you have read this far, do check out the #AskAviArya show. Click here to watch the episode where I give hacks to measure and calculate your overall digital marketing spend. It will help you get overwhelming ROI response!

How to Use Facebook Live to Grow Your Business In The Next 90 Days?

The most fun part of my Social Media Championship Programme is where I explain how you can use  Facebook Live, Snapchat Stories, Instagram advertising and LinkedIn marketing to grow your business in exactly 90 days. In this blog, I would love to offer a sneak peek on what the session holds for you. If you are an entrepreneur, Facebook is definitely the place to be. Let’s look at some of the ways you can use Facebook Live to grow your audience.

Life’s a reality show!

All businesses have a story and a personality. And all business should showcase that personal and human side. All marketing efforts usually take that human-ness away from your business. But if you want those loyal customers, you will have to create personal connections. And it’s not possible if all you put out on social media are mechanical, repetitive captions.

That’s the most obvious advantage of going live, hands down. Live videos on Facebook show that your business has personality traits and opinions. They turn out to be real and spontaneous. Your customers and audience will start relating to you and eventually start connecting with you. Trust me; these kinds of connections are business gold.

Sneak a peek

Launching a new product? Made a change to the website? Want to show-off a new feature? All these warrant a Facebook Live Video. Everyone wants to be the first one to find out about a new product or feature, or be the first to see something new. Use Facebook live smartly and use it as a teaser for these features or changes.

Ask for feedback, comments, and even offer promotions for new service. It will create an eager pool of customers willing to try your offering. Amazing, isn’t it?

Behind the Scenes Action

I meet a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs who are hesitant to offer a behind the scenes look of their abodes. But you have to understand, not all offices and workstations are the epitome of perfection. Don’t let that hold you back from showing your fun side.

Maybe the #MannequinChallenge is a hot trend – accept the challenge, grab a camera and shoot a quirky video with your employees in office. Be a sport!

Once your audience sees the work and effort that goes into making your product or enabling your service, they will get the big picture and would want to associate with you. Customers who understand are the best customers.

The most potential for BTS videos lies with hotels and restaurants.

Giveaways

No, I’m not just talking about contests and sweepstakes (that’s a good idea too); I’m talking about educating, motivating, or helping your audience. The more you give, the more comes back to you in amazing ways. For example, you can create a live video of a product tutorial – how best to use it, etc. It shows that you’re not a mad rush to sell products – you actually care for your customers.

You have to find what expertise you can build on, and how you can share that with the audience.

Answer Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Customer satisfaction is the basic tenet of any business. And Facebook Live is the modern day equivalent of calls. Users these days post their queries directly on social media. You can create a weekly or fortnightly live video wherein the users can post their questions in comments and your expert can answer them live.

There’s no reason to worry, they are called frequently asked questions for a reason – you wouldn’t have a problem answering them. If not, you can simply cover them in the next video. Live videos don’t have to be perfect!

Improving the Live Videos

While live videos don’t have to be perfect, they can still be improved. You can start by writing attention grabbing and keyword rich descriptions. Since this is what the audience will first see in their newsfeed, it needs to be catchy. Make sure that it is still relevant – the user should find what he expects to see.

For once, live performances can be modified! Once the live stream is over, it will be saved to your profile. You can edit the title, description, and even the video itself.

Now time for your homework! Plan your Facebook Live videos and make sure to implement all these points. I’ve got a lot more to share in my training program, including tips for other social media channels. You can check out the course right here – http://askaviarya.com/training/