A solid social media strategy is composed of many moving pieces – from honing in on who your target audience is down to the type of content you are publishing on a daily basis. While each segment is as important as the next, one may argue that at the end of the day, content is king. If the content you are sharing is not interesting, believable, or engaging, the other pieces do not matter. In order to be successful on social media platforms, your team should be sharing a variety of content to keep users interested and engaged in your brand.
Creating original content is imperative in order for your brand to stand out; however, curated content is equally important. If it does not already, user generated content (more commonly referred to as UGC), should play an integral role in your content plan. UGC is an essential part of content curation and easy to come across if you know where to look and how to encourage guest participation.
What is user generated content?
User generated content is a term that refers to any form of content (i.e. video, images, text, and so on) that a user on a shared platform (such as Facebook or Yelp) makes/ publishes. There are many different types of user generated content, especially as far as social media is concerned, from ratings and reviews to personal stories and images.
What are the benefits of UGC?
There are countless benefits to incorporating user generated content into your social media strategy. First of all, user generated content is free. More often than not, users simply want to be seen and heard. Many people with public profiles tag businesses and brands hoping to have their content featured in front of a larger audience or are voluntarily sharing their opinions, images, and videos as a means of collaboration. By sharing UGC, you are positioning said user as an expert and acknowledging them will help them feel connected to both you – the brand – and their peers.
User generated content is as authentic as it gets. You are not just pulling out any old stock photo to share your on-site restaurant burger special – this photo, from a guest who recently stayed at your hotel, is an actual representation of what future guests can expect when they dine at your hotel. Why is authenticity important? The American Marketing Association shared that “63% of consumers would buy from a company they consider to be authentic over and above its competitors and 43% of millennials rank authenticity above the content itself when consuming news.”
Let your guests be the voice of your hotel. Just think – if you were traveling and deciding between two hotels to book your stay at, would you call the hotel and ask how their service is? Or would you turn to sites such as Facebook, TripAdvisor, and Yelp to read peer reviews? People trust other people, not companies, brands, and institutions. The number speak for themselves. Adweek reported that just under 50% of millennials and 36% of baby boomers trust UGC. Only 25% of both millennials and baby boomers trust branded content.
Where do I find user generated content?
User generated content is easy to find if you know where to look. In fact, “how to find user generated content” could comprise an entire blog post of its own. For the sake of this article, we will point out a few of the quickest and easiest places to look on Facebook and Instagram.
Notifications. Many times, when guests “check-in” at your hotel or post to your page, they will share a photo or video of what they were doing, eating, or what they could see at that exact moment. This could be a good opportunity for your social media manager to repurpose a photo of a beautiful view from a guest room to share on your hotel’s channels.
Reviews. While potential guests may head over to read what other users had to say on their own, re-purposing Facebook reviews as part of your content strategy is a must. Always be sure to read through the review in its entirety (even if the user gave you five stars) prior to sharing to ensure that the review is appropriate and is content that you want to put in front of your audience and their extended network.
Notifications. If a guest tags your username (whether in a photo or in their caption), you will receive a notification. Once you have the app open, click on the heart in the menu across the bottom of the application to see mentions of your hotel. Resharing Instagram photos of your property, on-site dining options, amenities, and local area bring a fresh perspective and give your feed a nice break from those (often times stuffy) professional shots.
Search: Locations. Guests may not always tag your username in their posts, but can still geotag the hotel. Whether your hotel has an Instagram account or not, your team will still be able to locate plenty of great images from guests who have added your hotel as the location on their posts.
Search: Hashtags. If your hotel has its own unique hashtag or, in turn, if you are a branded hotel and the brand has their own hashtag, running a search for either or on Instagram can result in plenty of user generated content for you to share.
If you are finding that guests are not tagging your hotel or sharing the content you desire, do not fear! Encouraging guests to share their stories (so you can, in turn, share their stories) is easy.
How Can My Hotel Encourage User Generated Content?
Method 1: Promote UGC On-Property
Display Signage. Hang marketing collateral throughout the hotel so guests know what social media channels your hotel is on, what your property’s specific username is so they can tag you, and what hashtags to include in their posts in order for their content to be found. By having this, what may seem like basic information, displayed, guests will know where to find you online and will be more inclined to tag you in photos from their stay or leave a positive review.
If your property does not have its own hashtag, what are you waiting for? Creating your own hashtag is easy. Keep it short and simple so guests can easily remember the hashtag and implement it into their content. While social media is all about creativity, you do not want to get too creative here. The hashtag should make sense and be easily identifiable. Your hotel name + city (or a shortened version of your hotel name if it is too long + city) will suffice.
Get Interactive. Invest in monitors to display a live content feed. Tools such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite can be used to pull in content that includes specific hashtags, that are geotagged at a specific location, or that tagged your hotel’s handle/ username. Guests will be encouraged to post their own content for a chance to be seen on the big screen. If you have a larger budget, many hotels have interactive screens and gadgets that guests can take selfies on to post or email to a friend. You can always display your hotel’s own feeds too!
Method Two: Offer Incentives
While many people are eager to share their content with the world for no reason other than a few minutes of Instagram fame, offering incentives is a sure fire way to get your guests to play along.
On-Site Dining Offers. If you are on social media, you likely can not scroll through your feed without seeing a photo of what someone in your network had for lunch or dinner that day. Crafty cocktails and mouth-watering meals make for great (re-shareable) content. Is your hotel home to a bar or restaurant? Offer a buy one, get one deal, percentage off of the total bill, or a free appetizer or dessert if the diner/ guest checks in on Facebook or posts a photo of their meal on Instagram. Incentives such as these will encourage your hotel guests to share where they are and what they are eating with their friends and family. If they were already planning on Instagram-ing their meal, at the least, it serves as a friendly reminder to actually tag your hotel!
Free Wifi. Upon check-in, your front desk staff can offer 24 hours worth of WiFi to guests that like your hotel’s Facebook Page or that follow you on Twitter and/ or Instagram. Not only will this make guests aware of your social media accounts, but your username/ Page will be top of mind for tagging purposes when they post a photo from their stay down the line.
Encourage Reviews. If a guest had a positive experience, encourage your front desk staff to provide the guest with a handout asking them to leave a review on Facebook or TripAdvisor. As mentioned earlier, reviews and positive comments can make for great user generated content and is, at its core, free advertising for the hotel. Some brands even offer a promotional code that can be used for a percentage off a future stay if hotel guests share their experience and feedback.
Host a Giveaway or Sweepstakes. Hosting a giveaway on your social media channels can have multiple benefits. This tactic can help grow your email subscriber list, solicit feedback, and increase brand awareness. Creating a sweepstakes on Facebook or Instagram is also an easy way to cultivate UGC from past guests. For example, your hotel may ask users to submit a photo of their favorite memory from their last vacation in (insert your city here) for a chance to win a two-night stay. Users submit their photos through a form, entries are automatically uploaded to your social media platform, and users can then vote for their favorite entry. Your hotel can share the photos entrants submitted. Not only does this make for great content, but I will help get your hotel’s posts in front of people who may have not seen it otherwise.
Method Three: Ask!
When all else fails, just ask! Post content on your social media accounts that encourages users to share a photo from their stay in the comments. For example, do you have a photo of a view from one of your guest rooms to share? Caption the photo, “Here’s one of our favorite views from one of our guest rooms. Do you have photos of the mountains from your stay? Share them with us in the comments!” Alternatively, when you share UGC, pairing the caption with something like, “Want to be featured on our Instagram account? Make sure to tag @yourhotel in your posts on Instagram!”
Support Your Supporters
When you implement user generated content into your publishing queue, always make sure you give credit where credit is due. When sharing photos, feedback, etc. from others, be sure to cite your sources and ensure that you get permission from the proper parties when necessary. Users will appreciate the shout-out, feel more connected to your brand, and continue to share their experience.
Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from www.HotelExecutive.com.