Very recently, the Four Seasons launched a new site that generated buzz about their focus on digital marketing, social marketing, and specifically their embrace of customer reviews. That's been hot on my mind this week, and I've posted quite a bit on it (follow my Google Plus).
I can't say that I am crazy about the site. The entry photos are captivating but overall its a bit cluttered. One thing that did catch my eye was a promo for Social Buzz - "read what others are saying".
Do I care what the brand has to say about themselves? No. Do I care what customers have to say? Yes. So I clicked.
Here is why resorts especially care. Four Season’s VP Marketing Susan Helstab explains in this recent USA Today artcile: “In a Four Seasons survey, 33% of guests rate TripAdvisor “very to extremely influential” in their selection of a luxury hotel. In its research, the Toronto-based hotel operator also cites these stats from consulting firm e-tailing group: 92% of internet users read product reviews and 89% say that reviews influence their booking decision.”
On their Guest Reviews page I found a nifty module powered by Revinate.Using the tool, the resort selects favorable reviews to display. I dug a bit deeper into the tool and found that its a pretty powerful reputation management tool for managing these many points where people are talking about the resort. The visitor doesn't really know that these were carefully selected, though they may suspect. The company partnered with TripAdvisor so they get top billing at the top, but there is also access to see all other reviews by other sources such as Yelp, Hotels.com, Travelocity, Google, etc.
The emphasis on reviews carries over to their Facebook page as well.
They use Evinate's Social Buzz app to provide access to guest reviews. Here they're not displaying any, and I'm not sure whether this is a limitation of the app, or oversight on their part. Key is users do have the access to guest reviews. Overall, Terranea's Facebook page provides a case study model for how a resort can make the most of Facebook. All their paths to conversion are all there - book rooms, golf tee times, spa treatments, etc. Very smart... but that's for another post.
Though brands always fear those "angry reviews", studies show that a strong majority of reviews tend to be positive. If you offer a solid product at a fair price, customers will tell others and nothing is stronger than that word of mouth endorsement!
Another key reason that I forgot to mention is SEO. Particularly with Google Place reviews. Review ranks don't affect placement, but volume does.