I recently 'soft' launched a site focused on providing a platform for people to read and write reviews about hotel gyms and fitness centers. I want to slowly start marketing the website but really need to concentrate on getting reviews submitted by users. I's a classic chicken and egg problem. The site is basically useless without any reviews.
Any ideas on how to get reviews?
I am currently using twitter, facebook and Google Alerts to target users to write reviews.
Another idea would be to team up with websites about fitness and gyms.
Find the places where your target hangs out online (I'd say your target is people that are into fitness) and get in front of their face with your service.
"you're in this website because you're into fitness... have you been to a hotel gym lately? How was it? Leave your review here!
As soon as you have a good volume of reviews, you can actually try to sell that information to gym equipment producers and local dealers. Imagine everyone says that the gym at hotel X in Denver is terrible. Sell that information to the local Denver reseller of the best gym equipment... just a thought! :)
That's a very interesting and narrow enough niche. I would use the service when it has content in it as the existence and quality of a gym is a factor when I'm choosing a hotel.
However I would be unlikely to search for a hotel primarily based on its gym.
Hence I recommend partnering with existing review sites that cover hotels. Could you plug-in into their reviews so that people who are reviewing a hotel on, say, tripadvisor.com, would also fill-out their opinion on its gym? That's one way you could get a lot of content quickly. You need to get a lot of stuff in quickly so that your site does not stay empty for too long.
Please take this as a customer opinion, though, as I have no experience with your specific niche.
Simplify your homepage. Give your users a call to action. If you don't, I doubt your site will take off, no matter what you do.
Good luck! :)
It is an interesting niche. I can see the site is totally blank from user content at the moment, as even the top 5 hotels listed on the home page have 0 user reviews.
One thing I struggled with is actually how you write a review.
The instructions tell me to click on the 'Write a review' button and then search by either hotel name or city before selecting the best match.
So I started typing the city, 'London' getting hotels for London, Ontario and London, England. However, the results only gave me 6 results in London, England and the hotel I was looking for wasn't on the list (there are obviously a lot of hotels in London).
At this point I didn't realise that you could type in the hotel AND the city and that it didn't matter which way around. It was only through trial and error that I found this out.
The instructions on the home page say Hotel Name OR City when actually it is better to search using Hotel Name AND City.
The write a review page does actually say search by Hotel Name and City but by that point I had in my head that it was Hotel Name or City.
Back onto User Reviews - you really need to get the ball rolling with at least some reviews on the site so you can show users hotels that do have reviews. Having a totally blank site is obviously not a good thing.
I would start asking everybody you know for a review of a hotel gym to get some online. Get friends and family involved, a lot of them must have been to a hotel that had a gym even if they didn't specifically try it out. Try to get 20 reviews, then 50 reviews so that when you begin using other methods (such as asking people on forums, twitter, etc. to submit reviews) they are not faced with a totally blank site. I wouldn't want to be the first person to submit a review on a site.
Even if people don't have the time to give you reviews, discuss the review with them, make notes and then submit it to the site yourself to build up the numbers initially.
Once you have 50 or 100 reviews on the site then start your other methods of getting the site known. Like Mike says, find the forums and sites where your target market hang out. Get your social networking moving as you are doing. Partner with existing review sites like Tomas mentions.
But the main point for me is to make the site appear a lot more active that it currently is to start the ball rolling.
Hope that helps.
p.s. on a side note, how the hotels ranked when there are no user reviews. Surely they would be ranked by a score based on the number of positive/negative reviews. But when there are no user reviews then the fact that 10 Manchester Street Hotel London comes out as the number 1 hotel in London, what is this based on?
In the beginning, it's a lot of leg work. Like Greg said, going to gyms is a good start, you also want to use Google and Twitter alerts to monitor any conversations around hotel gyms. If something pops up, get involved in the conversation or contact them direct to let them know you're looking for reviews.
When I started ConceptFeedback.com, I had the same issue. We specialize in website reviews, but had the same chicken and egg problem. I spent a lot of time on forums (like these, ironically), looking for people in need of website feedback, or launching a new site, and tried to steer them my direction.
Regarding your website - you definitely need to simplify (as someone else already said). I think I saw 15 different buttons and a lot of text. Make it clear what service you are providing (gym reviews), show a few review examples, and make it extremely simple to add a new review - maybe even a form on the homepage. Don't require registration if possible, and find a way to keep people coming back and give them incentive to share the site.
While you're building the review base on your site, you might consider parsing reviews from popular hotel sites that include the words gym or workout? You'll need to be cautious of attribution and allowed use of the data, but using 3rd part data while you build out the organic data can be a good jump start. You'll have to visually identify the source and usually link to it, so keep that in mind.
Physically go to hotels with gyms and ask people for reviews right there -- transcribe what they say.
What incentive does a reviewer have to contribute to your site? A lot of that can be reciprocity (they were helped by other reviews) or users who get satisfaction out of helping others. Without much content it's harder to tap into the former, so you've got to find people who are passionate about gyms and travel and have advice to give. Who are they? Where can you find them?
A good bet is to find reviewers already on TripAdvisor who write about hotels with gyms. Send them a message and ask if they are familiar with the facilities and want to help you out.