You’ve opened a Facebook and Twitter account for your property, and maybe you’ve even tried your hand at Instagram or Tumblr;
You're not living under a rock: you know that social media is an important channel for engaging guests, but how do you keep up the momentum?
If you’ve ever found yourself wondering what to post next, check out these two major hotel brands for inspiration. Their cost-effective, ultra-personal campaigns offer a glimpse into the future of social media marketing for the hospitality industry.
Loews Hotels and Resorts recently unveiled a cutting-edge campaign that uses real guests’ Instagram photos rather than staged, professional shots in their marketing materials. Under the hashtag #travelforreal, these candid photos provide a quirky, intimate window into Loews properties.
In an interview with AdFreak, agency chief creative officer Doug Spitzer explains, "these are real-life images of actual guest experiences, licensed by Loews.” Most were taken by guests themselves, and of the few taken by professionals to capture weddings or other events, none were commissioned by the brand.
Why Does It Work?
The Loews photos don’t use any tricks that consumers have become wary of: no Photoshop, no wide-angle lenses. These are the equivalent of raw footage. A little girl reclines poolside with cucumber slices on her eyes. A young musician plays a banjo in a hotel room. Emotional, honest, and fun, these shots effortlessly humanize the brand.
The Instagram campaign gives Loews control over user-created content. By selecting and curating the images, Loews is able to highlight their property’s human side while still maintaining quality control. It’s a best-of-both-worlds approach that accommodates the interests of both guests and the brand.
Rather than focus on amenities, these photos showcase genuine experiences. Research shows that Millennials, in particular, value experience over products. The Loews Instagram campaign puts real-life moments above any other details.
In 2014, Marriott launched its #LoveTravels campaign to attract and retain LGBT travelers, and they’ve expanded it since the recent U.S. marriage equality ruling. The ads feature Braden Summers’ portraits of well-known LGBT Americans, including out basketball player Jason Collins and transgender fashion model Geena Rocero. Scenes of ordinary, real-life couples accompany these celebrity images.
Why Does It Work?
Not only does Marriott reach out to LGBT guests, it creates an inclusive and welcoming tone for the entire brand. In an interview with Marketing Daily, Kristine Friend, Marriott’s senior direct of segment marketing, says the goal is “to reflect what the world looks like.” She adds, “we wanted to do something different to illustrate a wider sense of belonging."
Sure, Marriott didn’t know about the U.S. Supreme Court decision when they launched this campaign. But they definitely paid attention to the zeitgeist. By embracing the marriage equality movement, Marriott has positioned itself as a current, in-the-know brand.
Richard Gray, managing director of Fort Lauderdale’s wildly successful Love Is Love campaign, says it’s vital to use actual gay or transgender people in marketing to this demographic. Taking this approach, Marriott’s campaign is able to harness the same authenticity of the Loews’ Instagram images—even though theirs are professionally produced. Marriott’s campaign gets even more real with its companion siteLoveTravelsWithMe, which features travelers’ stories via original images and video. Plus, the site encourages users to upload and share their own travel experiences and interests.
It may not make sense for your brand to have its own hashtag campaign. But take a page from Loews and Marriott, and consider simple ways to engage your audience with social media. Think user-generated content, and then get out in front of it. For example, consider inviting guests to submit photos via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Select the best and display them on your homepage. Or utilize the power of your web platform to incorporate a Facebook feed on your site. One of BookingSuite’s partners, Anthony’s Key Resort in Honduras, has successfully used this approach. It’s an effortless way to add timely, interactive content to your site.