Thinking beyond reservations: Mobile, Social, and Hospitality (Part 2)

In my previous post, I shared a rough sketch of my ideal mobile application for resorts – it’s much more than booking a reservation! Today, let’s talk about how social media can bring potential guests closer to the live experience of a resort by enabling real-time descriptions from friends and family.

Why is real time important? Because sharing experiences while they are fresh results in more descriptive –more authentic-- content. Compare real time to how vacation experiences are usually shared: A guest returns from vacation… and a few days later connects his camera to his laptop… and then uploads photos to Flickr or Facebook… The context is limited. The feeling of being at the resort is not conveyed. The whole thing is stale as soon as it’s published and –importantly- the impression made by that content cannot be measured. There are exceptions if the guest labels his vacation with the name of the resort and/or also posts to a Facebook fan page, for example, but it’s far from ideal.

That’s why designing the killer resort app is so important: with all of those great features, guests are given incentive to keep their devices on-hand and to share in real time. While discovering super local-ratings for the various beach areas, they can also share of-the-moment feelings of excitement, bliss, relaxation, and happiness with their immediate connections. Aside from actually teleporting a potential guest to the resort for 10 minutes and then yanking them back to their cubicle at work, I cannot think of a more emotionally direct way to market a resort experience. It sounds obvious, but a more authentic description of a guest experience at a resort is equally a more authentic description of the experience that the resort is offering for sale.

In addition to the features I described previously, the well designed mobile resort app would include easy-to-use options for creating and sharing content with other onsite guests and with traditional social circles like those on Facebook. Some suggestions for content include:
  • A short video that is pre-timed to be a max of 20 seconds and then uploaded to a pre-specified page
  • A micro blog that helps to communicate with other guests and existing social circles. (Perhaps Twitter with auto-hashtag and list functions?)
  • Physical signs on the resort that encourage guests to “share a picture”. These signs could easily transmit via bluetooth to mobile devices...
In turn, ideas like these create a real opportunity for
  • User-generated content (including photos, videos, status updates, and tweets) to always be branded for the resort, which in turn further promotes the resort through organic search (assumes guest opt-in, of course)
  • Dedicated landing pages for guest-generated content that enables conversion tracking, and in turn ROI reporting
  • A content-rich platform that would support any number of contests, games, and other interactive campaigns
I’m obviously thinking out loud here and purposefully giving a light touch to the details (technology, privacy concerns..), but hey- that’s what blogs are for. Well designed functionality in this area would be like a rocket booster for a resort’s emerging social networking strategies. It would enable guests/other vacationers/back-home friends to share in real time their rich experiences related to very specific resort amenities. Think about how much more viral that content would be vs. the traditional “I had a great stay!” feedback that I often see on hotel fan pages. As an added bonus, publishing this content would incentivize management to resolve published issues quickly. Preparing a resort to process that kind of feedback is for another post, however….

As always, interested in your thoughts. What's your take on how to bring immediacy to the social efforts of resorts or similar destinations?