AJ Dimas-Lehndorf October 11, 2016
No matter who you are, you have probably encountered one hotel-related hiccup, if not a disaster. Whether it be an overtly sarcastic staff member or a less-than-spotless room, we all have a story to tell. That said, for every bad hotel story, you probably have at least one good story. The people at TripAdvisor think that both kinds of stories are worth sharing, and through these stories, other travelers can have better experiences. TripAdvisor is a social network of sorts that allows travelers to review the places they stay, eat, and visit. For this post, I will focus on how TripAdvisor works with hotels and their guests to drive traffic on its site.
TripAdvisor relies on crowd-sourced reviews. To keep the reviews coming in, TripAdvisor rewards reviewers with credibility. The more reviews you write, the more “points” you earn, and the more “points” you have, the higher your reputation. Reviewers also get bonus points for uploading pictures with their reviews, adding to the number of first-hand images on the site. There are also badges that can be earned, and are used to encourage users to review a wider variety of establishments. I’m not going to lie; I am addicted to this system. I am a Level 4 Contributor and am working toward my Hotel Expert badge. I keep reviewing places so that they will validate me and make me feel better about myself (despite the fact that neither my friends nor potential employers care). The moral of the story is that social networks and online services can generate traffic and retain users by “rewarding” them with online validation.
TripAdvisor also uses physical media to promote its online site. TripAdvisor has a profile manager that hoteliers can use to manage their hotels’ profile and respond to reviews. From this site, a hotelier can request physical media, like business cards, encouraging guests to write a review of the hotel. These materials are available at little or no cost to the hotel, and direct more users to TripAdvisor. But why would a hotel want to give free promo to another website with which it has no business association? I asked Kelsey Robbins, Guest Services Manager at the Holiday Inn & Suites – Edmonton Airport, for an answer this question from an actual hotelier’s perspective. Robbins said that one benefit is that “if our staff provides exceptional service and a guest chooses to write a review about it, they are in turn providing us with free advertising that can reach a potential guest on a more emotional level than just seeing a billboard would.” Robbins also noted that even a negative review can “benefit the hotel, but only if it is effectively dealt with” in the section after the review in which the hotel’s staff can respond to the review. Just as reviewers have goals on TripAdvisor, so do hotels. Robbins notes that “if you consistently get high review scores, TripAdvisor awards you will things like a ‘Certificate of Excellence,’ which many travelers will look for when searching for a hotel.”
In summary, TripAdvisor and hotels have a symbiotic relationship in which they both benefit from more reviews. When paired with TripAdvisor’s own methods of retaining users, this relationship has helped the site to become the most dominant player in the user review space. The best part about TripAdvisor’s success is that no one really loses (except Yelp), and users and hotels also reap the benefits.