Over the last few years, social media has changed the marketing game when it comes to reaching the modern traveler. Always connected, today’s travelers consider their smartphones an indispensable travel companion and, according to one study, 97 percent of millennials post to social media at least once while traveling.
This is especially important to hotel marketers, considering the rapidly growing influence of other people’s vacation photos and selfies on travel plans.
Today, most brands incorporate social media into their marketing strategies to amplify reach and connect with customers. The key to success is harnessing the power of user-generated content to inspire customers to book your property and, in turn, share their experiences.
Recent research by Blitz Agency revealed that 84 percent of millennials and 73 percent of non-millennials are likely to plan a trip based on someone else’s vacation photos or social media updates. And while traditional word of mouth is still the winning source of travel inspiration, Facebook and Instagram follow closely behind, well ahead of traditional sources of travel inspiration, including magazines, TV and movies. When it comes to inspiring travelers, user-generated content beats professionally generated content hands down.
User-generated content resonates with travelers more than professional advertising because it represents the brand in a more authentic way — from the customer’s point of view. Some big brands are already leveraging user-generated content through hashtag campaigns with great success, for example, Starwood Hotels’ #SPGLife, Fairmont’s #FairmontMoments, and Loews Hotels’ #TravelForReal. Such campaigns motivate travelers to share their own experience of a brand, especially if tied to a competition or giveaway.
So, how can independent properties capitalize on user-generated content? The first step is connecting with your guests on the social media platforms they use. Facebook and Instagram are good bets for connecting with customers that like to post and view visual content.
- Let your guests know where to find you on social media. Promote your property’s social media pages and handles on your website, in email communications, online ads and even in print (advertising, business cards, front desk/lobby signage, in-room folders, etc.).
- Engage with customers on social media. Respond directly to customers who post about your property, whether they are sharing a selfie, a comment or asking a question. Re-share their photos (be sure to tag them), thank them for positive feedback, and address their questions or complaints in a timely and helpful manner.
- Encourage guests to share. Motivate your customers to share their positive experiences of your property on social media by creating fun hashtag campaigns that can be further incentivized by running a contest. Surprising and delighting guests with thoughtful in-room extras or other special touches and maintaining photo-worthy spaces and amenities (or even “selfie spots”) also works well to inspire guests to share the moment (and make their peers jealous) on social media.
- Re-share their love. When a guest shares a great photo or video of their experience at your property, don’t be afraid to spread those good vibes by re-sharing the content on your own pages (always giving credit to/tagging the creator), incorporating it into your property’s story and encouraging other customers to engage. Add a personal comment of your own, such as thanking them for their stay, wishing them well on the next leg of their journey, or inviting them to come back soon. Curated user-generated content from social media can even be shared on your property’s website via earned content platforms like Olapic.
Top Hotel Experiences Shared on Social Media
Interesting research by Local Measure, a customer intelligence platform for tourism and hospitality, recently revealed the hotel features guests most frequently post about on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. According to the study, the top five subjects guests post about on social media are:
- The restaurant and meals
- The bar and drinks
- Views from the property/room
- The hotel room
- The pool
While online hotel reviews are filled with comments about staff, customer service, guestroom condition and standard property amenities, it seems that on social media — now a highly visual platform — guests are compelled to share more “photogenic” experiences that will make their peers jealous.
Lodging operators can leverage this knowledge by paying special attention to such areas on their own property to ensure that the guest experience is a great one. Whether or not your property has a restaurant or a pool, focus on providing delightful (and photo-worthy) experiences by enhancing the features you do have, be it a peaceful garden area, a breakfast nook, or by providing unexpected in-room treats (which could be as simple as a personal welcome note).
Encouraging and sharing user-generated content on social media is key to inspiring prospective guests to choose your property. And it’s a powerful strategy; the more your guests engage with your property on social media, the more you learn about them too, allowing you to personalize the guest experience even further to create stronger customer relationships that result in loyal brand ambassadors.
One last tip: 80 percent of time spent on social media is via mobile devices, so your social media channels are driving a significant amount of mobile traffic to your property’s website. Be ready for mobile customers by ensuring your website and website booking engine are mobile friendly.