Travelers are constantly looking for advice from their peers, social media influencers, review websites, magazines, and more. There’s no reason why hotel brands can’t excel in this space by showcasing their extensive knowledge of local culture through robust curated experiences.
Most brands already offer curated experiences to guests, but marketing these suggestions with User-Generated Content can make them more visible, attractive, and trustworthy.
UGC provides a seal of approval from guests that an experience is worthwhile. It also creates an aura of authenticity by showing a real person doing the suggested experience. UGC can also help a brand differentiate itself from competitors by drawing on the unique perspectives of guests. Finally, it can help a brand reach a wider audience by joining the larger conversation around sought-after experiences.
Hotel brands are uniquely positioned to benefit from this approach because of the volume of UGC connected to their properties and the preference future guests have for viewing the authentic experiences of their peers. In fact, 90% of millennials said that they share experiences on social media when traveling and 40% said that they consult UGC when planning their next trip, according to the research firm L2.
The reasons for this are clear. Leisure guests interact with properties for extended periods of time, go sightseeing, and pursue culturally authentic experiences. In other words, they want to make sure they’re getting what they expect before they book a trip and spend a lot of money.
How hotels can incentivize content
Brands can gather UGC in a number of ways. First, customers can be encouraged to mention your brand in social posts, so that all relevant content can be quickly scanned and cataloged on social media. Browsing mentions and locations related to itinerary items can also yield relevant UGC. For example, images associated with a featured restaurant or city street can be curated on social media.
Companies can also elicit UGC through image contests around travel themes such as “sunset,” “skylines,” or “beach trip,” that results in a winner getting a prize. Four Seasons often creates such image contests and has seven times more engagement on Instagram than its peers.
Finally, companies can encourage customers to upload content directly onto brand sites for loyalty points or other benefits.
Maximize content impact
Once a steady flow of UGC is established, high quality and authentic images can be added to social media pages to boost engagement and bookings. Instagram, with its highly visual format, is a good platform for sharing UGC, and platforms like Facebook allow brands to provide more information on a specific experience. Existing customers may appreciate that their photos of tourist destinations or exclusive attractions are being featured and this can create word-of-mouth awareness. Future customers, meanwhile, will be able to browse different points of views on the suggestions that a brand provides. By viewing UGC, a future customer may feel reassured that an experience is vetted because other people have enjoyed it enough to share their memories. They then may feel inspired to click-through to brand websites to learn more about booking options.
The success of peer-to-peer marketing is well-documented. Some of the top hospitality influencers have built grassroots followings simply by sharing creative and authentic images and videos.
The End Goal: Curated Experiences… and more!
Travel suggestions have always been a core part of a hotel’s brand proposition — if a guest wants to know what to do in a new area, they’re encouraged to ask an on-hand expert or open a readily available guidebook. But with the dominance of user reviews sites like Google, Yelp, and Expedia, and the success of travel influencers, brands have lost some of their status as trusted arbiters of a location’s culture and opportunities. Highlighting curated experiences with UGC is a good way to regain this credibility.
The possibilities are endless. Brands can develop detailed suggestions for a range of experiences — family trips, date nights, sightseeing tours — and then market them with UGC. Brands can also use UGC as a research tool to learn how customers are spending their trips and then creating new experiences based on this information.
Ultimately, the curated experiences featured on social platforms and websites can incorporate a range of UGC and professional content so existing and potential customers can get used to looking to a brand for guidance when making travel decisions.