Digital Marketing for Hotels – How to Drive Sales and Engagement With User Generated Content

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Digital Marketing for Hotels – How to Drive Sales and Engagement With User Generated Content

If you’re trying to get more people to stay at your hotel, you need a strong strategy focused on digital marketing for hotels.

That means you can’t just throw a website together, update your social networks once a week, and expect amazing results. Instead, you need to consistently use marketing methods that have been proven to drive engagement and sales.

One of the best, most cost-effective ways to implement digital marketing for hotels is to let your guests do your advertising for you with User Generated Content.

But before we talk about how you can do that, let’s go over some of the best ways to get your guests to share UGC on social media. That way, you can make sure you’ve always got plenty of content to work with.

In this post, we share these best digital marketing strategies for improving your strategy with UGC:

  1. Photo ops
  2. Advertising your social media channel
  3. Creating a branded hashtag/campaign contest

Read on to learn how to use them!

Check out our guide on: how to find influencers that work for your brand or product!

How to Encourage Guests to Share User Generated Content on Social Media

1. Photo ops

One of the easiest ways to inspire guest to take/share photos at your hotel is to give them a great photo opportunity.

Chapter 3 _ 2. Darlingharbour

Source: Instagram

For example, you could host an event at your hotel and encourage guests who attend to share their favorite photos. To make this strategy extra effective, amp up the event décor and try to include a fun prop guests can pose next to.

You can see that the prop fits well with their overall theme, and it’s easy to understand how a setup like this would encourage people to take more event photos.

So, next time you plan a fun event at your hotel, get creative and think about ways you can create a themed photo op for your guests.

Now, you may be thinking:

What if I don’t want to host an event? Can I still create a photo op?

Definitely – just set up a fun prop/backdrop in your hotel lobby and encourage guests to take pictures next to it!

Alamo Drafthouse, a popular movie theater chain, is known for using this strategy. When a new movie comes out, they often place a prop related to that movie in their lobby. And naturally, people flock to the prop to take photos like these:

Hotels are starting to pick up on this strategy too.

The Soho House Barcelona is really popular in the Instagram community and has not only great photo ops – they have a photo booth machine to encourage guests to take photos. They even pick some photos and display them in their lobby!

Chapter 3 _ 6. Soho House BCN 2.

Don’t be afraid to apply this strategy to your hotel marketing efforts – it’s a great way to stand out over your competitors! You could create your own travel-related backdrop, make a “head in the hole” photo cutout, or make your own “selfie frame” – there are tons of possibilities.

Remember – people love taking photos of themselves and sharing those photos online. In fact, research shows that young adults will take more than 25,000 pictures of themselves during their lifetime!

So if you can give your guests a great photo op, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll get some solid user-generated content.

2. Advertise your social media channels

If you checked into your hotel today as a guest, would you be made aware of the hotel’s social media channels and/or branded hashtag at any point during your stay?

If the answer is “no,” then you need to work on your social channel visibility. In other words, you need to make sure your customers know how to share their experience at your hotel on social media.

You can start by advertising your social channels on your physical marketing collateral, like:

  • Business cards
  • Flyers
  • Keycard packets

You can also create a bulletin board in your lobby and post the information there and instruct your front desk employees to encourage guests to post a photo with your hotel’s hashtag.

3. Create a branded hashtag campaign/contest.

This strategy is pretty straightforward – if you know how to create a hashtag for your brand and encourage guests to share photos with that hashtag.

Loews Hotel executed this strategy successfully in 2015.

They created the “#TravelForReal” hashtag campaign, which encouraged Loews guests to share Instagram photos from their stay and include the hashtag on each photo. And they were able to collect a ton of User Generated Content as a result.

In fact, that hashtag is showing 10,825 posts on Instagram collected as of today.

When you’re planning your own branded hashtag campaign, be sure you choose your hashtag wisely. It should be fairly short, easy to type/remember, and evoke an emotional reaction if possible.

Related reading: 7 Tips to Successfully Use Instagram Contests

It should also be consistent with your brand – for example, you should probably avoid using a bland/corporate-y hashtag if your marketing is fun and casual!

Also, make sure you advertise your hashtag everywhere, so guests know to use it when they upload photos. You can put the hashtag on your website, in your social media profiles, and even on your physical marketing collateral to spread the word.

How to use Digital Marketing for Hotels and  UGC to Drive Sales and Boost Engagement

Now that you know how to get UGC from your guests, it’s time to talk about the best ways for you to use that UGC throughout your hotel marketing efforts.

Here are 4 strategies you can start using right away to help increase sales and brand engagement:

1. Share User Generated Content on your website

Be honest – how would you feel if you saw one of your photos on a major brand’s website?

If you’re anything like me, you’d love it.

And your customers are no different. So, why not make the most of their desire?

You can do that by creating a carousel on your hotel website dedicated to showing off your User Generated Content. Here’s how Vanity Hotels does it on their site:

This carousel is featured prominently on their home page, and it shows off photos that have been posted to their guests’ social media accounts.

If you decide to use this marketing tactic, make sure you use a tool such as Flowbox which gives the author of the photo credit and follows the terms and conditions of the social media network.

2. Partner with Instagram influencers

Influencer marketing strategy is the process of identifying influencers (people with large social followings online) whose target audience aligns with your and incentivizing those influencers to promote your brand. It’s not a new concept, but it’s an effective one that your hotel needs to use if you want more brand visibility.

You can use this 4-step process to execute an Instagram influencer marketing strategy:

  • Pinpoint the best influencers for your brand to partner with.
  • Once you’ve found the influencers you’d like to work with, you reach out to them and offer them an incentive to post about your brand.
  • Collaborate with the influencer correctly and set proper expectations upfront.
  • After they post the photo, engage with it and re-post it to your hotel’s Instagram account (after getting permission to re-post it, of course!).

Feeling a bit unsure about the ROI of this marketing tactic?

You shouldn’t – according to eMarketer, 81% of marketers who have used influencer marketing judged it to be effective. That’s a pretty big majority.

If you’re wondering how a hotel marketer should approach Instagram influencer marketing, Starwood Hotels and Resorts is a great example.

First of all, they’re no stranger to using Instagram for marketing. According to Skift, they were the first hospitality company to advertise on Instagram in January 2014, and they regularly publish user-generated Instagram photos (45,000 of which are uploaded on the photo-sharing app every month, according to Marketing Land) on their official website.

But what’s really impressive is the fact that they used influencer marketing (you can read the case study here!) to reach almost 500K Instagram users.

Here’s an example of one of the influencers they partnered with:

Her name is Alexandra, and she’s one of the top French lifestyle social media influencers. As you can see, this photo she posted showed off the hotel’s luxurious features, aesthetic appeal, and amazing views.

The entire Starwood Hotels and Resorts influencer marketing campaign generated more than 17K likes on 9 pieces of original, brand-sponsored content.

So if you want those kinds of results – or maybe even better results – try running an influencer marketing campaign for your hotel, and see what happens!

3. Re-post guest photos to Instagram

97% of Millennials share a photo on social media while travelling.

Instagram engagement rates for branded posts are between 300% and 500% better than Facebook. And a study from Forrester research found that Instagram delivers 120x more engagement per follower than Twitter.

James Quarles, Global Head of Business and Brand Development at Instagram was quoted saying this:

“Inspiring people to ‘Book Now’ on Instagram is already being adopted by the industry, including major hotel brands and airlines, and [the] results are promising.”

The study by MDG Advertising shows that 30% of US travellers turn to social media to find trip inspiration and 40% of UK Millenialls say they consider how instagrammable a locations is when trip planning.

Not only does Flowbox allow you to pick the most on-brand photos – it also lets you thank your guests for their photos and request media rights from them at the click of a button.

Once you’ve identified the photos you want, you can publish them to your Instagram with a single click.

Here’s an example of how Rusticae, a leading company in the tourism industry, shares user photos on their Instagram account:


These kinds of photos give Rusticae’s followers a peek at what it’s really like to stay in their hotels. They also inspire those followers to want to travel, which is the kind of hotel marketing initiative that moves them further along in the customer journey and puts them one step closer to booking a room.

Don’t get me wrong – you should share your UGC on other social networks like Twitter and Facebook too. But don’t neglect Instagram in the process, or you could be missing out on a huge opportunity for sales and brand engagement.

Whatever you do, make sure you track your results and analyze them to see what works best with your target customers. Then, you can adjust your marketing strategy to focus on the most effective User Generated Content marketing tactics for your hotel.

Why not check out how to improve your email marketing strategy with UGC.

Which of these hotel marketing strategies are you most excited to try? Share in the comments section below!