The hospitality industry is inherently social. It’s all about people and interactions. The most beautifully appointed hotel in the world can be a terrible experience if the customer service is bad. People travel with or to see their loved ones. They travel for networking. They share their trips on social media.
So, it’s no surprise that social media marketing is especially important for hospitality companies.
The problem is figuring out how to stand out in a media-saturated culture, in an already crowded field, up against a thousand other companies vying for customers’ attention. Building a solid social media presence requires creative, advanced campaigns that make the most of the latest technologies in the field.
Untraditional Viral Campaigns
It’s hard to believe that viral content has been around long enough to have a “standard” format. But here we are. Viral content is the holy grail of internet marketing. When content goes truly viral (in a good way) it makes enormous waves.
Take Taco Bell’s downright unusual social media campaign from last summer. The fast-food giant opened a pop-up, Taco Bell branded resort in Palm Springs for an exclusive four-day run. They offered Taco Branded manicures, 24/7 Taco Bell room service, spiked Baja Blasts, and filled it Instagrammable, branded décor. Sound weird? You’re not alone.
But it worked.
The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel & Resort sold out in under two minutes of going live in June. It immersed guests in a 360-degree experience that they shared like crazy.
“Across four days, 400 hundred people from 21 states stayed at the hotel, according to company figures shared with Marketing Dive, including honeymooners, influencers, and a couple who canceled an anniversary trip to Prague after securing a reservation. Online, the campaign generated 4.4 billion impressions and more than 5,000 articles from news outlets.” – Marketing Dive, Campaign of the Year: Taco Bell’s ‘The Bell’
This kind of crazy stunt isn’t something most brands could pull off, but there are a lot of lessons to be learned here. It capitalized on the same experiential travel trend that prompted Oscar Meyer to rent out its famous Wienermobile as an Airbnb last year.
“The Bell” also prioritized aesthetics. They branded and themed anything and everything they could in a way that just begged to be photographed and shared.
It also made use of the power of exclusivity. Consumers downright thrive on exclusivity. It makes them feel special and forges a powerful connection between customer and brand.
An exclusive event or experience with great aesthetics doesn’t have to be a pop-up hotel in Palm Springs with pool floaties shaped like hot sauce packets. It can be a tasting event or a small class held in your space. It could be a limited-time package that ties into local events. There are lots of ways to create unique and exciting experiences that have viral magic, especially in the hospitality industry.
Interactive User Generated Content
The best untraditional viral campaigns make excellent use of interactive user-generated content. This is another area where hotels are uniquely positioned to make the most of the power of encouraging your customers to create content. People are already primed to take and share pictures; it’s the perfect forum for these kinds of campaigns.
Hillside Beach Club – a five-star resort in Fethiye Turkey ran an especially brilliant and unusual campaign that rocketed them from 11,000 followers to 30,000 in just over three weeks. They did it by announcing (via their Instagram account) that they were looking for six “Chief Instagram Officers.” Rather than asking for traditional job applications, the resort asked users to apply for the job on social media by posting their best beach photo with @hillsidebeachclub under the hashtag #jobatheavenonearth. Applicants were judged and chosen based on their photography skills and their overall social media presence.
Today, Hillside Beach Club has over 105 thousand followers.
Hilton made waves with their first-ever user-generated marketing campaign by inviting users to share their Hilton stories using the hashtag #HiltonStory
“We wanted to thank travelers for sharing their stories with us and reward them with more nights to keep seeking adventure. We know that every day, everything we do is setting the stage for guests physically and virtually. Because while it may be our stage…it’s their story.” – Shorty Awards
The campaign, which ran from July through October 2014, generated over 18.8 million social impressions and was mentioned over 5.5 thousand times on Instagram and Twitter. At the end of the campaign, the total number of earned media impressions was over 21.3 million. Users even continued to post with the #HiltonStory hashtag for several years after the campaign ended.
Marriot followed suit in their own way just a year later by partnering with GoPro and inviting users to submit their photos using the hashtags, #GoPro, #travelbrilliantly and #viajegenial for the chance to be featured on the Marriott Hotels’ website.
Shangri La has recently launched a similar campaign, ‘My Shangri La’, which encourages users to share their Shangri La moments on social media. They’ve taken it a step further with the competitive element by offering free stays to winners.
AI-Powered Customer Service
Chatbots and ad optimization are just a few of the ways AI is helping businesses in the hospitality sector improve their campaigns and their guests’ experiences. In fact, Hootsuite predicts that by the end of this year, 85% of all customer service interactions will be powered by bots.
AI has the ability to help you reach the right consumers at the optimal moment. It can also aid in personalizing the guest experience, assess hotel performance in real-time, and enhance the overall hotel experience.
This doesn’t mean you should start replacing your staff with robots. AI can actually be complementary to hotel staff. Rather than replacing your customer service reps, AI solutions make them more effective and valuable by enhancing their knowledge, performance and speed.
The Sweet Spot
There are few brands left that aren’t trying to take advantage of social media marketing. Some pop and some flop.
The unfortunate truth is, many companies that attempt to launch viral campaigns will end up with rather “meh” results. Not bad enough to garner a collective cringe from the internet, but not good enough to get on many users’ radars.
You have to hit the sweet spot which means you’ve gotta have a hook. Whether it’s a socially redeeming cause, a super-exclusive event, building anticipation, or just a really clever, funny, or unique schtick, there has to be something special about your campaign. Something that draws users in and gets them excited about your brand, excited to participate, and excited to share with their social networks.
It would also help if you had great aesthetics. The visuals associated with your campaign should be as Instagram-worthy as possible. Trendy, eye-catching aesthetics that make for great photo-ops go a long way in elevating your campaign to truly viral status.
Creative, untraditional viral campaigns, and advanced strategies that make use of interactive user-generated content help your marketing efforts stand out from the crowd. Combine that with cutting edge technologies like AI-powered customer service and you’ve got a serious leg up on the competition.