Thanks to the mobile Web and social media, travelers are sharing their travel experiences more than ever; in fact, one recent study found that 97 percent of millennials post to social media while traveling. That user-generated content (UGC) — the photos, tweets, posts and reviews travelers share on social media, review websites and blogs — is a marketing goldmine for lodging operators.
We know that online hotel reviews have a big influence on prospective guests and that’s because travelers tend to trust the recommendations of other travelers much more than expensive advertising campaigns. What’s more, owing to social media, UGC has never been more widespread.
It’s not difficult to see that positive UGC can be a powerful tool for increasing guest engagement and sales. Here’s how to make the most of it…
Promote Your Social Media Presence
It goes without saying that to make the most of UGC you must be present and active on social media channels — after all, to engage with guests online you need to frequent the channels they do. But Internetland is a big place, so make sure your customers can find you by promoting your Facebook page and Twitter handle on property (on business cards, signs in the lobby, in-room folders, etc.), on your website and in email communications.
Monitor Social Media Mentions
If a guest tags your property on social media correctly, their photo, tweet or post will appear on your own social media page, but if a guest does not tag your property correctly you won’t be notified and therefore miss the chance to engage with that guest.
To make the most of UGC, it’s important to catch those indirect mentions so that you can alleviate all negative feedback out there and amplify the positive. Social listening tools like those provided by Hootsuite and Revinate can help immensely by automatically scanning the Web — including social media, blogs, review sites and news sites — ensuring you don’t miss any chatter about your hotel. This is a great way to catch guest photos, compliments and even videos where your property was mentioned but not tagged correctly, and which you can then re-share on your own social media pages.
Encourage Guests to Share
Whether you ask them to or not, your guests are probably already generating some content about your property online because travelers love to share their travel experiences. But, the more, the better! Promoting your social media presence as mentioned above will encourage your guests to engage with you on those networks, but there’s even more you can do to motivate guests to share their experiences of your property online.
Special touches such as thoughtful in-room extras like cookies or rubber duckies can surprise guests and inspire them to share their delight on social media. You can be even more direct by setting up a fun “selfie station” with an irresistible backdrop, or run a social media campaign, asking guests to share photos or videos of your hotel. You can (but don’t have to) offer incentives like a free cocktail or appetizer, or a free stay for extra-special content. Create and promote a hashtag for your property, which will enable social media users to tag their posts with an easily searchable keyword that leads right to you.
In terms of online reviews posted to sites like TripAdvisor, never stop asking your guests for them — whether you automate requests for reviews via email or ask guests for reviews upon check-out.
Re-Share the Love
Amplify the reach of UGC by re-sharing, retweeting and liking positive comments, awesome reviews, guest photos and videos on social media (with credit to the creator), incorporating it into your own storytelling efforts.
From TripAdvisor reviews to Tweets to Instagram photos, you can even feature UGC directly on your website by embedding handpicked posts or social media feeds. Social hubs or social walls allow you to aggregate positive social posts using a designated hashtag into a single page on your website — or displayed on a screen in your lobby.
Encouraging and promoting UGC creates brand engagement and trust, and provides prospective customers with social proof that will convince them to book a stay.