Archive | January, 2013

Five Reasons Every Hotel Should Have a Mobile Tour

23 Jan

If you’re a hotel, you spend a lot of time and effort to provide information to your guests. Racks of brochures line the lobby with info about the surrounding area, and a concierge is available to talk with guests about shopping and dining options. But what about having a smartphone app for the hotel – where guests could access all of this information instantly?

hotels-feature-image_1A mobile app can be an awesome marketing and customer service tool for hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts and hostels. We work with large and small properties – and a hotel app provides an opportunity to engage your guests before, during and after their stay.

Here are five great reasons that every hotel should have a mobile tour app:

  1. A Mobile App Provides a Preview of Your Hotel: Statistics show that more and more people are accessing the web via their mobile device each year, yet many hotel websites have not caught up. A mobile app is an effective way to orient potential visitors and to give them a virtual tour of the property and amenities.
  2. A Mobile App is a Portal for Reservations: Once a site visitor has had the chance to view a virtual tour of your property, they can instantly parlay that into action by porting directly from the app into the hotel’s reservation systems. A mobile app provides the visitor with an instant course of action to book a room.
  3. Instant Customer Feedback: Thanks to instant information transmitted from the app, hotels can become aware of guest issues while the customer is in the hotel–and allows you the opportunity to remedy the issue immediately.
  4. Analytics Provide Valuable Customer Data: Apps can provides analytics that help hotels understand and market to their target audience. Much like the Google Analytics gathered from website visits, TourSphere analytics provide demographic and behavioral information about the people accessing your app.
  5. A Mobile App Provides a 24×7 Concierge: Many hotel visitors are more accustomed to turning to their smartphones to advice instead of a concierge. For that audience, a mobile app can provide a “virtual concierge” that orients the visitor, informs them of area attractions and provides them a full listing of the hotel’s amenities. It creates a labor-free service for the hotel to help enhance the guests’ experience without implementing costly programs and additional concierges and guides.

Curious about how hotels are utilizing TourSphere to create mobile apps for marketing and virtual concierge purposes? Check out the Mountainview Grand app or the Chandler Inn app that helps visitors explore Boston!

Five Easy Ways to Create Content for Your Mobile App

16 Jan

For many museums, hotels and tourism sites looking to create an app, one of the more daunting aspects of the process is creating the content that will go into the tour itself. As we hear so often with social media, it’s essential to have great, engaging content to draw your visitor in and ensure the app enhances their experience with you, whether they are accessing it on-site or remotely. One of the benefits of TourSphere is that we make it extremely easy to create an app by providing you with an easy way to organize your content into a virtual tour. Of course, that means you must have content to organize. Whether it’s audio clips, videos, photos or text, there are easy ways to create engaging, interesting and professional content quickly and on a budget.

  1. Enlist the Interns: If your interns are sorting through spreadsheets and delivering mail, you’re not using them right. College students are extremely familiar with recording video and audio on their iPhones and editing it quickly and professionally. Give interns ownership of a piece of content–whether that’s an interview that needs to be recorded, voiceovers, or an existing piece of content that needs cleanup and editing. With inexpensive equipment and software, they can create fantastic and creative pieces of content. This method not only gets your app content done well, it also gives your interns a purpose and sense of accomplishment.
  2. Tap Into After-Hours Talent: Before you decide to hire a voiceover artist or team of historical re-enactment actors, check around the office to see what your colleagues are doing after hours. Do some of them have theater degrees collecting dust or recurring roles in community theater? Do they have the perfect voice for narration? Don’t assume you need to pay a lot of money for great work in these areas. It’s important the work is professional, but often this can be done by enlisting the help of the people who already work at your organization–and the project can be a lot of fun for them as well.
  3. Use What You’ve Got: Do you have a bank of professional photos of your museum artwork or the various areas of your hotel? Use these as a way to guide on-site visitors and a way to orient those using the app remotely. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Simply freshen your collection by adding anything new and including great write-ups about each site or, better yet, audio narration on each tour stop.
  4. Outsource It: When you don’t have the time or the expertise in-house to create excellent content, it’s time to turn to the experts. While we encourage building your own app with our TourSphere Builder, we also offer content development services that take the burden off you and allow you to feature professional, integrated photo, audio and video content in your mobile app.
  5. Invest in Inexpensive Hardware: If you’re planning to create a lot of content, it’s likely worthwhile to invest in some hardware like a camera or audio equipment that will make high-quality multimedia content. Thanks to technology, it’s not expensive to buy equipment that makes fantastic recordings–sometimes even a good iPhone app will do (for more on this check out our DIY content series). And this provides you with the ability to update your content quickly and easily if you need to change your app. If you’re recording video, plan to invest in a tripod–a steady shot is the difference between an amateur and a professional recording.

Tell us: What are some creative ways you’ve developed your app content?

App Spotlight: HarborArts Shipyard Gallery Walking Tour

10 Jan

If, upon visiting the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina, you noticed that one of the buildings had a large half man, half octopus sculpture on top, your curiosity might be piqued. (The name of the sculpture is Iscariot, by the way, and he’s made of recycled steel and reclaimed wood.) What is a piece of art doing in a marina?

7a9f97bfa0e22021a0aeb534f16fd580b8a98e02a305682c404da510.png.1000x666_q85Iscariot is not alone; the HarborArts project has turned the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina into a veritable art museum, but instead of walking by puzzled, visitors can now access the entire exhibit through their mobile devices on a TourSphere tour, engaging with the work and learning more about the artists.

An interactive map allows visitors to conduct a self-guided tour of more than 30 different pieces of art around the Marina. It also allows HarborArts to engage visitors about its unique mission: to protect and preserve our oceans and waterways by helping each of us to understand the issues and solutions facing our blue planet, using monumental art and public sculpture to raise awareness.

The HarborArts app is a classic example of how a mobile tour can turn what might be a confusing sight to a passerby into an opportunity for engagement with an organization and education about a mission. Further, it provides a virtual tour experience for those who aren’t able to visit the open air museum directly, with excellent photos, background and artist information about each piece of art.

In an effort to also promote the artists featured at HarborArts, the app also provides information about each artist and, when applicable, links to their blogs and websites. For those impressed by the exhibit, they can choose to instantly “Like” HarborArts on Facebook or follow the organization on Twitter, providing immediate interaction and the ability to capture the visitor’s interest before they leave the exhibit. It also provides a donation button embedded into the app, again providing an instant way to access and engage the visitor.

The HarborArts TourSphere app is another creative way for a small nonprofit organization to expand their reach and engagement economically and without hiring staff for tours. If you ever visit the Boston Harbor Shipyard and are wondering about the artwork hidden about, check out the app for the details!

To view the HarborArts Tour, visit http://harborarts.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the HarborArts Tour, visit http://harborarts.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

Smart Resolutions: Three Things You Must Do in 2013 to Simplify Your Audience Engagement

4 Jan

01.06.2012-IslandLivingStupidNewYearsResolutionsToForgetAndACoupleGoodOnesToKeepAh, New Year’s resolution time. In our personal life, we often resolve to eat healthier, be kinder or make those phone calls to long lost friends once a month. But professional resolutions can provide a boost to your year as well. All resolutioned out? Don’t worry; we’ve come up with three social media resolutions for you for 2013. Make these three simple new year’s resolutions for your social media program this year and ensure that your organization will be more engaged by the time the ball drops again!

Get Sane About Your Social Media
If you’re still logging into Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest separately to post, and posting in real time all the time, it’s time to save your sanity and get a social media dashboard. As more social networks crop up, it’s increasingly important to maximize your time and control over your social presence by using an integrated dashboard that allows you to post to multiple networks, schedule posts and review your statistics. A good dashboard also allows you to keep tabs on important search terms, hashtags, mentions and other relevant details that allow you to engage effectively with your audience.

If you’ve been itching for a dashboard but aren’t sure where to start, we have some suggestions for you (no excuses now!):

  • TweetdeckIf you’re just managing a Twitter account, Tweetdeck is a powerful tool. Available for both your desktop and mobile , Tweetdeck allows you to follow specific feeds, search terms and hashtags, to schedule tweets and to filter out the information you want so that you can be a more engaged and powerful Twitter user. It also allows you to manage multiple Twitter accounts from a single dashboard.
  • HootSuiteManaging multiple accounts and/or multiple networks–both Facebook and Twitter–is a breeze with HootSuite. HootSuite is great for teams that manage social media because you can assign tasks as well as monitor specific feeds and search terms, schedule tweets and create custom reports.

Admit that Mobile Must Be a Part of Your Interactive Strategy

If you’ve been in denial about mobile, 2013 is the year that you must come to terms with it. Numbers don’t lie, and in order to engage consumers, you have to market where they live. Not convinced? Consider this:

  • 1.08 of the world’s 4 billion mobile phones are smartphones. 3.05 billion are SMS enabled. (Source: Microsoft Tag)
  • Almost 8% of all web traffic in the US is mobile traffic. (Source: Pingdom)
  • 88% of adult Americans have a cell phone, whereas 57% have a laptop. (Source: Pew Internet)
  • 45% of all adult Americans own a smartphone. (Source: Pew Internet)
  • 55% of adult cell phone users use the Internet on their mobile phones, double the number from three years ago. (Source: Pew Internet)

Mobile use is so ubiquitous, it’s impossible to deny that having a mobile-accessible site, web app and other tactics that allow your organization to engage with your audience via mobile devices is essential in 2013.

Spend Smart on Technology
Thanks to the fact that technology continues to get better, faster and cheaper, it’s time to reassess how you’re spending your money this year. Are your technology expenditures freeing up your staff to do more meaningful work? Are you investing in flexible hardware that will change as your needs do? Do the systems you have make your organization look up to date and cutting edge, or do they seem outdated to the average user?

At TourSphere, we’re in the thick of this resolution as we launch our new kiosk product. Many of our clients are choosing to create tablet or iPad kiosks instead of traditional, bulky and inflexible kiosks. Using the TourSphere Builder, they are creating flexible web apps that they can change in an instant and simply placing tablets and iPads in place of bulky kiosks. Some apps answer basic visitor questions, allowing staff to provide more meaningful services, while others provide additional information on sites or exhibits, more deeply engaging users.

No matter how you do it, it’s important to focus on being more engaged with your audience in 2013, and that means doing your best to communicate with them in the places they naturally go. Whether that’s being accessible by mobile device, more deeply engaging them within your site itself or ensuring that you’re part of their social media feeds, develop your plan for 2013, and stick to your resolutions!

Tell us: What’s your social media, mobile or engagement resolution for 2013?

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