NB: This is a guest article by Anthony Rawlins, CEO of Digital Visitor, a social media and marketing agency for travel and tourism organisations globally.
Reviews are so 2010.Â They were THE must-have for your website a couple of years ago and are still vital, but now your online visitor demands moreâ€¦ much more.
Donâ€™t get me wrong; reviews and ratings are excellent for your website and if you donâ€™t have them already, you really should implement them quickly.
Reviews drive traffic and can increase conversions and weâ€™ve written many well received articles about this including;
- The importance of online customer reviews
- Tripadvisor verses your own review solution
- The Power of One Review
However next year, you need to go beyond reviews and begin thinking more broadly about what your online visitors want to see.
How can you inspire them more? Â How can you breed loyalty when they visit your website? Â How can you encourage more repeat visits and be THE place they get their trusted information from?
There can be so much more user generated content on your website than just reviews and ratings and if you explore each stage of the buying cycle on your website, you will see you can engage with your customers and gather social media at each point.
So, before reviews and ratings which are mainly used to drive the purchase/transaction phase, there is the dream/research phase of the buying cycle.
This is where visitors to your site are undecided on what to buy or even who to buy from. They need inspiration and advice.
You can inspire them on your website and if you do this right, you can access wider audiences at earlier stages of the decision making process.
Why write this article now?
Because the travel industry is about to enter its most intensive phase of research for the entire year and you need to know how you can maximize this in future.
One way of doing this is implementing discussions and forums on your website and today these have become some of the most popular ways of engaging and interacting with new audiences on your website.
Advantages having discussions and forums on your website
1. Increased sales
Discussions and forums play an important role when your customers are at the very first stage of the customer buying cycle on your website – the research/dream stage.
Capturing them at this stage makes it easier to channel them to your products and services and then drive sales as they browse your website in more detail.
2. Multimedia content
Discussions and forums lend themselves to photos and videos more than reviews do.
Photos and videos are much more engaging than just text and numbers and when looking to inspire people to book with you, there isnâ€™t a much better way than with engaging photos and videos of destinations and your excellent products and experiences.
Photos and videos also help increase browsing time on your site so whilst people are researching online, they will spend more time on your site than with competitors.
3. Organic traffic
One of the key advantages of including a forum and discussion feature on your own website is that it will generate new content which drives new organic search engine traffic.
4. Social media traffic
Your discussion/forum should be shared with Facebook and other social media channels. This will drive social networkers back to your website from these channels.
Discussions and forums are often a much better way of introducing your brand to new social media audiences than a product review.
5. Increased repeat visits
A forum or discussion area on your website gives new online visitors, clients and potential customers a reason to return to your site and they should be notified when there are new postings against discussions or forums they ware following.
6. Market research
Being in direct contact with your customers and potential customers allows you to be better informed about their needs, wants, questions and general interests.
What questions are being asked – can you ask questions of your own? Your forums and discussions area can become a great research tool for your business.
7. Community building
Forums are ideal for providing your online visitors with a base around which to build a community loyal to your brand.
Youâ€™re not trying to replicate Facebook â€“ but you are creating more engagement and reinforcing your brand rather than anyone elses.
8. Interacting with your customers and prospects
A discussion forum is a fairly informal place but you can share announcements about your business, answer questions about your products and services, and generally talk about features and benefits of doing business with you.
Part two of the article, including the challenges around social media in travel, runs tomorrow……
NB: This is a guest article by Anthony Rawlins, CEO of Digital Visitor, a social media and marketing agency for travel and tourism organizations globally.