We know that the boom in easily accessible social media platforms has enabled legions of self appointed commentators to share opinions, observations and biased information en-masse. We all now seem to be more comfortable digitally sharing our inner most thoughts with strangers.
Accommodation providers that are spooked about customer reviews being made available via existing social media outlets may need to brace themselves for further exposure from another front.
Google has recently launched a new offering that will allow users to make a comment on most websites. Google Sidewiki is now available in beta and is embedded in the updated version of Google Toolbar. This tool will enable anyone to publish and share comments about almost any website in a side window that opens alongside web pages.
With Google Sidewiki, if someone wishes to comment on your accommodation and services offered there is no need to go through the rigmarole of using a third party travel review site. Anyone using Google Sidewiki can simply visit your own corporate website and make comment on any matter they choose without qualification. Once a comment is published the comment can be instantaneously broadcast to a wider audience on Facebook and Twitter.
Anyone can write anything about your brand using Google Sidewiki by "attaching" comments to your website. However other Google Sidewiki users will be able to self-police spammers and unfounded malicious comments with the ability of rating individual posts. This will hopefully see inspired comments rise to the top and unqualified comments falling to the bottom of Sidewiki displays.
As an accommodation provider using a website for sales, promotion and credibility: are you freaked out yet?
What will the great unwashed write on YOUR website? The trouble is, you simply don't know. The comments may not necessarily be about reviewing a stay or experience with you. It could be about the look and usability of your website, a pithy comment on that staged spa pool photo on your website or even a completely unrelated subject about an event taking place in your region.
Remember folks, this is an open frontier where anything goes!
So what can you do about Google Sidewiki? Travel blogger, Steven Joyce has this to say:
"Take ownership of Sidewiki now. Set the tone of the conversation by being the first to comment on your site. Invite people to participate, but set the standard and expectations in the beginning. Add it to your daily check list of social media things to do, right after checking your brand on twitter and seeing how many new fans you have on your Facebook page. This is just another way to engage with your audience so don’t hide from it, embrace it and make it yours. When users leave comments, respond to them the same way you do on your blog or other blogs. Unlike TripAdvisor where you have to post a management response, the barriers to responding are much less rigid, just go ahead and do it. Because the visitor is already on your site, you have an opportunity to interact with them in a more meaningful way."Sounds like good advice to us.
Will Google Sidewiki take over from specialised travel review websites such as TripAdvisor or will it just create further background noise that no-one listens to.
Before you go forth and do your own investigation about Google Sidewiki, check out their official video: