Hospitality marketing should be fun, imaginative, and memorable. We’re selling aspirations and experiences, emotions and feelings. That’s what makes ho-hum advertising especially painful in hospitality: Rather than reflect the possibilities, it comes across as derivative. Or worse: joyless, lazy, or tired. These are most definitely NOT three adjectives you want anyone to use to describe your property!

One of the easiest, most effective ways to combat repetition in marketing is to turn to your customers for inspiration. The images and videos guests share on social media about your property, as well as their reviews, are a direct line into how your property is perceived and experienced. Authentic user-generated content helps cut through the noise and build consumer trust across all touchpoints — and emphasizes the quality of the experience from an unbiased perspective.

80% of consumers are willing to pay for a better experience. This holds true across sectors and countries, with around one in ten consumers (9%) actually willing to increase their spending by more than half. -CapGemini

This guest-driven authenticity is powerful. It resonates more strongly and influences how others see your hotel. As a result of these authentic non-solicited stories, your brand becomes an extension of your guests. From identifying guest stories to sharing and engaging across channels, here’s how to bring your best guest stories to life.

Step 1: Research

Don’t skimp the most revealing step: research. Take the time to peruse your property’s social media channels, email inboxes, review sites, and internal guest communications.

The goal of a “guest stories initiative” is to honor your guests’ organic experiences by highlighting those experiences. When you re-share content, it expands the guest’s social reach — a small gesture with outsized impact. Potential guests also see this engagement positively, as it suggests responsiveness and listening. And, of course, your property benefits from the effective (and affordable) word-of-mouth marketing.

Guest stories can be discovered across channels you regularly access. You may not realize it, but you have a wealth of shared guest stories waiting to be recognized!

Social media

  • This includes channels where your property doesn’t have an official presence. Look for geo-tagged content across popular platforms.

Local experiences

  • Are there local events that align with your hotel’s brand? What about local in-destination activities that your concierge sets up for guests? These are sources of great guest stories!

Hotel staff

  • Each interaction can be rich sources of data about what’s important to guests, and what might make a good story to tell others.

Internal channels

  • Encourage staff to celebrate wins and highlight compelling stories. This gives you greater visibility across the entire hotel, even those you may not have a daily relationship with.

Case study: @JumeirahGroup features a blend of influencers and “regular” guests on both its Instagram feed and Stories. The features allow it to engage new communities, as well as showcase how different types of guests experience their properties.

Step 2: Socialize

Now that you’ve identified the best guest stories, socialize the project internally. Ask others what guest stories they have seen and heard, and encourage contributions from around the organization. Ask everyone to think like your best guests: what do they expect before arriving? What do they want to get out of the hotel experience? What makes them happy? What annoys them? What surprises them? These are all areas to explore as you surface ideas from colleagues.

Once you’ve added to your own repository, you’ll have more fodder for highlighting your best guest stories. You’ll also want to ask colleagues for creative ideas for showcasing the best guests: is it an invite-only event, or perhaps personalized welcome gifts for a subset of guests?

Step 3: Create

Now comes the fun part: collaborating with colleagues, choosing the right stories, and co-creating the content. After all, content is the backbone of a guest stories initiative! The content that works best overlaps between what content customers want and the content your brand wants to share. The most effective messaging covers subjects guests want to hear, and not just what your property wants to say.

Collaborating. Consult with colleagues to map out a framework for which types of stories align best with your property’s unique voice. That way you have a North Start for evaluating guest stories. Also, now is the time to discuss operational issues, such as hosting influencers or creating personalized welcome gifts.

Choosing. When choosing the stories to re-post on social media channels, start with the framework. Then empower your communications, content and social teams to repost the best guest stories. Be sure to call out the original creator — it’s this public engagement that truly brings guest stories to life!

Creating. When creating your own content, or using guest stories as the framework for a larger content campaign (such as a contest or to personalize welcome gifts), carefully consider your channel strategy. Whenever you can, re-purpose and extend the value of the content investment.

Case study: @TheStandard takes full advantage of the brand’s variety of experiences. It’s Instagram feed features captivating images and stories from its farm-to-table vendors, guests, media placements, and events happening across its portfolio. It also features cute moments and current promotions to encourage engagement — and actual spending.

Step 4: Execute

Now it’s time to implement the plan! There are two parts: the operational piece and the publishing piece. You’ll need to determine the workflow for things that require coordination, like personalized room gifts, including guest stories in email marketing, or updating your website with new guest content. You’ll also need to schedule your social posts according to your calendar (including placeholders for yet-to-be-discovered guest stories).

Choose your channels wisely. Take what you know about your best guests — who they are, where they spend their time, and what channels they prefer — and select the most impactful channels first. This is actually fairly straightforward, as the ideal channels are the ones where you find and highlight your best guest stories.

  • Your blog: This is the place for longer-form stories but also include a visual element. Each blog article should focus on a specific story that appeals to a target audience for your hotel.
  • Social media: This is the place to share and re-post guest content (with attribution, of course!). You want to appeal to similar guests who may be researching hotels for an upcoming stay. Keep it fun, fresh, and light!
  • Internal channels: Be sure to share these stories with staff as well! Each story is a motivator and celebrates the work everyone does each day.

Case study: The Leading Hotels of the World features “Trending Moments” posted by its community. By using #LHWtraveler as the shared tag, it encourages engagement — and makes it much easier to search for relevant stories and aggregate them in one place.

Step 5: Measure — and repeat

You’ve come so far! Don’t stop now. Measure what worked by tracking standard metrics such as likes, shares, and comments. Consider less obvious metrics as well, such as sentiment of comments. To connect content to conversion, a simple metric trick would be to customize your UTM parameters to track the success of specific campaigns.

Another ally in measurement: your hotel CRM. This centralized resource can compile related guest data, such as which campaigns a guest interacts with and which marketing messaging results in a booking. Take the time to integrate the CRM into the workflow, so guest profiles maintain relevance.

Take your learnings from the measurement phase and improve the cycle. See what messages worked well on which channels. Did the room gifts and personalized amenities capture guest attention — and result in social shares or repeat visits? Brand affinity and guest perceptions are moving targets, so keep a long-term mindset, and know that not everything can be easily measured.

Next steps

Don’t overthink your first steps! What’s important is to build momentum. It’s easy to use the tools you have in front of you, such as your CRM, social media, and reputation management tools. Your guests are already sharing their stories; as you amplify the best stories, it creates a virtuous cycle that encourages others to share. Your guest stories are a means to achieve success and further the reach of your brand. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, especially when it comes to social media and content.

Take time to experiment with using these stories throughout the travel journey. Each phase of that journey can be augmented with your best guest stories, adding an element of unvarnished social proof to your marketing.

Showcasing your hotel’s best guest stories fosters engagement and authenticity. It’s a true conversation. As you begin to understand your best guest stories, you’ll know which types of stays are ideal candidates for personalization. Augmenting the guest experience with unexpected flourishes encourages social sharing — and all that priceless organic reach. Loyalty is won on the margins, by attention to detail. Deliver that detail to guests, and they will reward you by sharing their story!

Author
Nicki Graham Nicki Graham is the Senior Director, Global Marketing at Cendyn. She leads the global marketing team to drive demand generation, brand awareness and maintain presence for Cendyn as the leading CRM, sales and revenue strategy provider for the hospitality industry. When she's not out there promoting Cendyn, you'll find her either with her dog, Yukon, or out running.

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