There’s an old marketing idiom that says, “Content is king.” It’s in reference to the fact that good, quality content will always reign supreme over any SEO-search-term-laden online content. But folks, in case you haven’t noticed, there’s a new king in town and it goes by the name of User-generated Content (or UGC for short). While UGC hasn’t necessarily dethroned traditional online forms of content (ahem, like this blog post for instance), it co-rules the digital space—and is an incredibly effective way to increase your hotel’s revenue.
Simply put, UGC positions guests as the brand voice through their photos, videos, and stories. And as this report on the state of UGC in 2022 demonstrates, UGC is essential to your digital marketing strategy. Let’s dig into the statistics and specifics of how to leverage UGC to increase your hotel’s bottom line.
Why is UGC so important to hotel marketing?
When you think about it, it’s simple. Are you more likely to visit a restaurant because of a commercial that interrupted your NFL viewing or because your friend-who-knows-food recommended it? Your friend, of course, because you trust his opinion. UGC does just this for brands. The numbers agree.
- 72% of consumers believe customer reviews and testimonials are more credible than the brand’s own words.
- 62% of consumers are more likely to click on content that features customer photos over brand photos.
- 76% of consumers have been persuaded to purchase a product because someone recommended it.
Sharing authentic guest experiences not only provides your customers with content that’s valuable to them but builds trust and loyalty, too—which is so important at this time as the hospitality industry works at rebuilding excitement for travel.
One of the best parts of UGC marketing is its return on investment. While UGC can be promoted like your other digital components, there is greater organic reach potential through users sharing on their platforms and by leveraging branded hashtags and location tags.
How can hotels encourage guests to create UGC?
For hotels to leverage UGC, they first need to have UGC. How do you encourage your guests to share their content? The majority of your guests are already sharing their trips on social media. Ensure your hotel is part of that conversation and:
- Be active on social media: engage with followers by not only sharing your hotel photos and videos, but actively engaging in the comments. Search the hashtags you use for related content and watch for tagged content you can engage with. In addition to responding to comments on your social content, also search for content in your region and engage with visitors proactively, whether they’re staying with you or not. Social management tools, like Hootsuite and Sprout Social, offer a dashboard for scheduling and monitoring content for all your social channels. What’s more, you can set search streams for specific mentions and hashtags, so you never miss an opportunity.
- Use branded hashtags: create a branded hashtag to use in all your social posts and display in physical areas at your hotel to encourage guests to use it. The Ritz-Carlton, for example, uses #RCmemories and a search on Instagram will pull up a range of pics and videos from the brand and its guests.
- Surprise and delight guests: take the opportunity to surprise your guests with moments of delight throughout their stay, from in-room chocolates to free cocktails at dinner. Guests won’t be able to resist sharing their delight with their social circle.
- Run contests: social media contests are an efficient way to grow followers fast but ones that ask followers to tag, like, and share often lose followers as fast as they gain them. For a more engaging contest that generates UGC, ask guests to share photos of their trip online and tag your hotel. The prize has to be big enough to incentivize guests, such as a free night’s stay. The Marriott ran a very successful contest on TikTok to recruit three people to travel the world making TikToks for Marriott. In the process, they’ve garnered thousands of videos. The winning travelers will continue to create UGC short-form videos.
How can hotels use UGC?
Hotels can use user-generated content in a variety of ways. But before you do, ensure you have written permission from the creator. Sliding into their DMs with a request to share is usually enough. But if you have plans to use their content on your website or advertising, the creator may expect more than just “the exposure” and credit. Then get sharing!
- Social media: make UGC one of your social media content pillars and regularly share guest content on your page and in your stories. Images can catch a beautiful moment in time but video is most impactful, especially testimonials or a guest’s POV of the amenities and experiences at your hotel. Be sure to tap into short-form videos as Instagram Reels and TikTok receive the largest organic reach.
- Reviews: monitor guest reviews across OTA channels and keep up to date with responding to them. Reputation management platforms like Revinate can help streamline this process. Reviews and testimonials are an effective piece of UGC you can quote and share in marketing emails, on your hotel website, and social media.
- Blog: You can use your hotel blog to highlight guests’ content in a round-up type format or perhaps invite a guest post.
- Website content: sprinkle quotes from guests, testimonials, and guest photography (with permission) throughout your website to provide third-party inspiration.
- Email marketing: Testimonials, stories, and UGC images make a persuasive marketing email. While UGC may center around your hotel, include content about activities and entertainment in your region as well for the full inspirational picture.
Level up your UGC content by working with influencers. Social media accounts that have more than 10,000 followers can give you a greater reach, attract new guests, and dip into new markets. Influencers aren’t likely to work with you for free and some will have a rate sheet with prices for stories, grid posts, or content shared on your account.
Micro-influencers on the other hand, have a much smaller following but are often cited for having a more dedicated, niche audience—because of this, they have the potential to offer a higher ROI. With micro-influencers, you may offer an exchange of services instead of payment, such as a stay at your hotel, a spa service, a free meal, or a discount for any of the above.
When choosing an influencer to work with, keep your customer segments in mind and ensure there is alignment.
Note: have a deep look to decide if the influencer is aligned with your values and who’s followers appear to be the kind of people you’d like to invite to your hotel. Read comments and ensure they are relevant to the content the influencer is sharing. Otherwise, engagement, likes, and followers may be driven by bots.
Elevate & Amplify UGC for Bookings
While many people are eager to get back to traveling, many others are wary or anxious. For the hotel industry, UGC offers a way to show guests firsthand what travel looks like now. Customers know that you have a vested interest in encouraging them to travel. Your satisfied guests, on the other hand, build trust in your brand by sharing their experiences. That’s marketing gold hotels must encourage and leverage.
UGC offers valuable insight into what resonates with your guests as well. What they share is important to them and, rest assured, will be important to future guests, too. By amplifying this content, you’ll tap into what guests are looking for. And for marketing teams desperate for more creative inspiration, UGC keeps the content coming!
In a way, UGC is a type of virtual reality that allows potential guests to experience your hotel through the eyes of someone like them. When the content evokes a positive sentiment, a bond is formed—which is very powerful, especially in today’s market as hoteliers work hard to regain trust. There’s no better marketing than that.