TripAdvisor to let restaurants target customers with paid ads: Should SMEs try it?


Hospitality and accommodation review platform TripAdvisor will introduce paid advertising to let restaurants target customers for the first time, but experts say using the function won’t be as simple as throwing money at the platform in hopes of reaching an audience.

Overnight the US arm of the reviews platform announced that after significant demand for the advertising option, it will be rolling out a “cost-per-click” ad function to its global user base of 4.4 million restaurants, starting immediately.

This will allow venues to pay to have their listings pop up when TripAdvisor users are searching for a place to eat in a particular area, as well as giving businesses the opportunity to target users based on their search selection criteria, including price and food type.

“Diners will see ads appear in the first spot of a relevant restaurant category on TripAdvisor, as well as in the top spot of relevant restaurant search results,” the platform explained in a statement.

Social media expert Catriona Pollard says the move comes as hospitality and accommodation are increasingly becoming “the sectors where you absolutely have to be seen”.

“Entertainment is one of those high growth areas at the moment, and you absolutely have to use platforms like [TripAdvisor],” she says.

However, just because the functionality to pay to promote businesses is now available, it doesn’t mean everyone is automatically jumping on board.

Co-founder of Brisbane-based chain Burger Urge, Sean Carthew, says while his business would certainly not rule out paying for listings on TripAdvisor, in general the company’s strategy relies more on Facebook and Instagram to engage with users anyway.

While TripAdvisor is angled at capturing foot traffic from tourists and those passing through, Carthew says Burger Urge is focused on “local knowledge [of the brand] that comes from word of mouth”.

Despite this, he says any consideration of doing more with TripAdvisor in terms of paid listings would be a matter of “costing it like any other initiative”.

Test run is key with new features

When consumers interact with TripAdvisor listings for specific businesses, they tend to already have strong feelings about the businesses in question, Pollard says.

“It’s usually really positive or really negative,” she says.

Businesses are probably more used to processing customer reviews through TripAdvisor than using it to capture customers, but Pollard says in this competitive landscape, companies should test the effects of paying for ads before committing to it as a strategy.

“Just throwing money at it is not a solution. Once it’s here, you have to test whether it works or not,” she says.

This means businesses should decide on a budget and then track the effects of their spend in 24-hour segments, Pollard suggests, making sure to keep track of whether more reviews, both positive and negative, emerge as a result of the spend.

“Do it over a seven-day period and then if it’s not working, change it,” she says.

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