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User generated Content – Part 2

In part 1 we introduced user generated content as a more powerful form of word of mouth and showed that travellers like to spread the good news and the bad about their hotel and travel experiences.

In part 2 we will explore what the evolution of this trend means for the accommodation provider.

Justice in the click of a mouse

Consumers have found their voices in a communications world that was once dominated by fancy travel brochures that said exactly what you wanted to hear. An authentic and reliable real-time transparency has been introduced to the travel experience where consumers can perform a full scale inventory, allocating points on every aspect from cleanliness, location, rooms and front desk to business service and value. Technology has created a platform where fake brands with their poor value proposition and empty promises will be exposed, while the good ones will flourish.

Found their voices and liking them too

What is clear is that online, on the superhighway, consumers are on the move and it is up to businesses to keep up. In the past, interactivity within online creative was a desired extra, today it is demanded. This has evolved from consumers not only wanting to interact but to express their opinions as well. The ability to submit a review was once considered a ‘should have’ whereas it is now becoming a ‘must have’, as authentic travel opinions become a key criteria to choosing accommodation.

User reviews are not only a feature of key accommodation players such as Hotel Club and Rates to Go, but they are also beginning to appear on leading international retail and hotel websites. Even though consumers may be demanding it, it seems the Australian market is a late adopter as there are few large online brands that have warmed to providing consumers with a platform for the ultimate judgement.

A question of control

User generated content presents a quandary to hotel brands that are used to complete control and are both unprepared and unwilling to relinquish control to the consumer. There is however, no other real option available. It is out there and it is here to stay.

It is not possible to control, let alone track, all the information that is written about your brand but it is important to keep tabs on the popular sites and correct any misinformation (sites such as TripAdvisor allow the brand to reply to all reviews).

What is key, is knowing that consumers are talking about your brand, being aware of what they are saying, perhaps taking some learnings out of the information and providing your consumers with a voice. They’ll love you for it if you do and might hate you if you don’t.