Imagine a scenario where everyone is buzzing about your hotel, and you didn’t have to break the bank to get them to do it. They’re snapping selfies poolside, hashtagging their picture-perfect views and delectable eats, and crafting post-holiday epic odes in the form of TripAdvisor reviews. You’re getting all of the love without the P&L heartache.
Word of mouth is the holy grail of marketing because it provides the ultimate form of brand validation—social proof. Whether it’s in the way of glowing five-star reviews or photos of your guests living their best life and tagging your hotel while they’re doing it, word of mouth spreads like wildfire and has tremendous business impact. Why? Because people want to hear the real story about your property from their peers, and the data proves the story.
According to a seminal McKinsey study, word of mouth influences 50% of purchase decisions throughout the customers’ journey, generates more than 2X the sales of paid media and is the most disruptive to consumer decisions. You could be doing all the research on the level of forensics about a particular hotel, but if a trusted peer interrupts with a story about their horrific holiday complete with a bed bug outbreak, you’ll likely move on to the next property in search results.
UGC (user-generated content) cranks up the volume on word of mouth marketing because a customer is not only signaling their affection for your brand, they’re willing to tell and share stories about their stay to their network. A 2017 TurnTo Consumer study notes that 90% of consumers’ purchasing decisions are based on UGC. A Reevo study revealed that 72% of people searching for hotels online use UGC as a basis for their purchasing decisions.
User-generated content offers rich new storytelling opportunities, and the chance to build trusted relationships with current and potential guests. Consumers believe content from their peers more than they do any other form of marketing communication. Harnessing UGC’s storytelling power can help build brand trust and ultimately resonance.
You get word of mouth in three steps:
· Create an experience worth talking about.
· Arm your guests with the tools for chatter.
· Ensure social sharing is simple.
But how do you get them talking?
Here are five tried and proven tactics to make conversations about your hotel contagious:
1. Give the star treatment: People immediately talk about the moments of surprise and delight, the times when a manager went above and beyond to make a guest’s stay that much more memorable. From booking to checkout, make sure your guest experience is seamless and delivered with the highest care. You’ve seen the TripAdvisor reviews where tired travelers aired frustrations about unhelpful front desk clerks and absentee concierges. People want to feel special and even minor treats like in-room chocolates, restocked water bottles, and a warm welcome goes the distance. For example, Loews Hotels’ “Travel for Real” campaign traded actors as smiling hotel guests in favor of real customers. The combined elements of un-staged photography and social proof made Loews’ UGC campaign compelling. Prospective guests gain real insight about the hotel without the professional airbrush. The Sol Wave House in Spain consistently engages with guests on Twitter before and during their stay—giving them immediate customer service and even allowing them to order drinks poolside with the #poolbarorder hashtag.
2. Ask them:You don’t get what you don’t ask for, right? Invite your followers and guests to share their travel stories, treasured property memories, and the highlights about their stay. What features did they love? What memory lingered long after their vacation was over? You can ask them via social media posts, newsletters, targeted post-stay marketing campaigns, brochures and collateral, and in-room and lobby cards. Share
3. “Instagrammable moments”: With Instagram’s explosive popularity, the hospitality industry is priming for their close-up. Flamingo wallpaper, neon signs, checkered floors, and natural light can transform a hotel lounge area from a rest stop to grab a bite to a social media destination. However, you don’t need to go overboard to attract the smartphone-toting crowd. Make your space irresistible by dedicating areas in for snapping photos in natural light or showcase décor that’s kitschy, colorful, and individual to your brand’s taste. Or opt for “selfie spots” or stations so guests can snap their #soblessed selfies in their best light.
For example, the Riad Yasmine’s monochrome tiled courtyard has abundant greenery and an emerald pool replete with swan-shaped inflatables, making it one of the most Instagrammed hotels in Morocco. W Barcelona’s sweeping panoramic vistas are absolute #goals for the beachcomber. And if you want to lounge poolside, you can stage an impromptu photo shoot by the infinity pool.
4. Show them the way during and after their stay: Some guests are savvy enough to whip out their phone and document their experiences as if they were on a film set. Others need education and nudging. Encourage social sharing on-property through compelling print and online collateral including lobby signage, in-room folders, email communication, etc.). Perhaps have a menu insert inviting guests to ‘gram their eats and tag the hotel. In their post-stay email communications, you can show them how to upload photos to their TripAdvisor reviews and fun ways to share their shots on social media, complete with stickers, colorful fonts, overlayed gifs, and emojis.
5. Reward them: Consider contests strategically to incent guests to post and amp up your UGC inventory. For example, a creative way to run a contest is to ask people to share stories that then you can retell to your followers. Caravelle Resort launches a quarterly #HappyGuest campaign where one winner is chosen for a free 2-night stay.
At the end of the day, you’re in the people business. Your brand and business rely on people—your guests, followers, brand champions—and their experiences, thoughts, and mentions of your hotel to succeed.
Need help crafting UGC campaigns? At Storified Hospitality Group, we offerworkshopson story design and architecture from hotel veterans who have created consistent, award-winning, revenue-generating content.
Contact ustoday to get started.