You’ve heard it a million times: a picture is worth a thousand words.
And when it comes to planning a successful marketing strategy, that’s 100% true.
But far too many marketers fail to realize the mistake they’re making in their hotel marketing plan by only publishing images taken by professional photographers. What they should focus more on is collecting user-generated visual content for social media and their hotel website.
Because if your hotel experience is exciting enough that your guests want to take pictures and videos to remind themselves and to show their friends how great a time they had, you need to take advantage of it.
If not, all that fantastic user-generated content (UGC) —which serves as proof of how great your hotel is— just goes to waste.
Let these numbers sink in:
- 25 % of search results for the world’s 20 largest brands are links to user-generated content.
- Millennials trust user-generated content 50% more than other media.
- Social media posts with images produce 180 % more engagement.
It’s clear that there’s no better way to tap into the immense power of visual user-generated content to drive your hotel’s marketing efforts.
So let’s talk more about what UGC actually does for your existing customers and how well it works to attract new guests to your hotel.
Why Successful Marketers Prioritize Visual UGC in their Hotel Marketing Plan
Visual UGC helps travelers picture themselves staying at your hotel
If you read our last blog post about the customer journey in the hotel and tourism industry, you know that the first stage in the customer journey is the “Travel Idea/Awareness” stage.
During that stage, travelers often find inspiration from online content. For example, they may be unsure of where they want to travel/stay until they see a photo online of someone’s experience at a specific destination/hotel, like this:
That’s why it’s so important for your hotel to prioritize visual UGC marketing specifically. Sure, customer reviews are still important, but those are more helpful in the later stages of the customer journey.
To inspire travelers to stay at your hotel when they’re in the first stage, you need images that make them want to book a room. They need to see pictures of cities, hotel rooms, and destinations that inspire them to book their trip (and ideally, book a room at your hotel!).
Now, you might think that professional photos are the way to go. While you should have some professional photos of your hotel, you need to focus more on collecting user-generated photos that make your hotel look enticing.
Visual UGC works so well because it’s not only visually appealing, but it also allows you to appeal to the emotions of your target customers.
That’s because your potential customers trust user-generated content more than professional content. After all, any hotel can hire a photographer to take the most flattering images possible, but only the best hotels inspire real guests to take pictures and give them glowing recommendations.
Travelers use mobile devices during and after their stay
Once you’ve used your UGC to entice people to stay at your hotel, you’ll want to make sure their experience staying in your hotel is exceptional. Your guests will likely be using their mobile devices during and after they stay, and if they enjoy themselves, there’s a good chance they’ll share their experience with their social media followers.
Check out this Stikky Media data about how travelers use their mobile devices during their vacations:
- 72% of travelers post vacation photos to a social network while still on vacation.
Since so many people post photos on vacation, it’s critical for your hotel to have a way to collect and use those photos. 51% of US consumers trust user-generated content over other information on a company’s website, so if you’re only using professional photos and content, you’re letting a valuable trust-building asset go to waste.
- 46% of people check into a location (using Facebook, Instagram or Foursquare, for example) while on vacation.
When people check into your location, their social media followers are notified. Chances are, some of those followers will check out your hotel to learn more about where their friend is staying.
That’s why it’s so important for you to have user-generated visual content for social media – you want everyone who checks out your hotel’s page on a whim to get a sense of what it’s like to stay at your hotel.
If they see your hotel in a positive light based on real people’s experiences there, they’ll be much more likely to book a room at your hotel on their next vacation.
- Taking photos is one of the top five ways travelers use their mobile devices while traveling.
They don’t just share while traveling – they actually keep sharing information long after they’ve returned home too! More specifically, 76% of travelers post vacation photos on social media and 46% post hotel reviews after their vacation.
As you can imagine, the most successful hotels are taking full advantage of this UGC and using it to lower customer acquisition costs and build their brand online. If you’re not taking advantage of the fact that your hotel guests are posting pictures that show your hotel in a positive light, you’re missing out on a major marketing opportunity.
Visual UGC increases engagement
Now more than ever before, the trend towards visual content is here to stay. One article posted on HubSpot notes that the amount of visual content from brands and people alike on Facebook’s News feed has increased 3.6x year-to-year.
Forecasters like Semrush predict that more and more marketers will incorporate visual content on their web and social media presences to engage new and existing users more than ever before in the years to come.
But before we talk about how this all works, let’s address this question:
What exactly is brand engagement, and why does it matter for your hotel?
Simply put, when customers are engaged with your brand, it means they feel a sense of loyalty and/or emotional attachment to it. They’re more likely to buy from you, recommend your hotel to others, and interact with your brand on social media.
This can result in greater profits for your hotel – not only from the engaged customer, but also from the people they share their positive opinions with.
Let’s talk specifics. Here are a few ways visual UGC marketing can drive brand engagement for your hotel:
- Influencer sharing – For example, when an influencer shares a picture that includes your hotel to their Instagram account, their followers will see that picture. And chances are, many of them will become interested in your hotel simply because someone they’re connected with has stayed there.
- Photo re-posting – Most people would love for one of their photos to be posted to a big brand’s social media account. When you share a guest’s photo, you’ll make them feel special and build brand loyalty as a result. (Just make sure you ask for permission first any time you want to re-post someone’s photo!)
- UGC contests and giveaways – People love to win free stuff, so you can feel pretty confident knowing you’ll get lots of participants any time you ask your following to submit their content in exchange for being entered in a UGC contest or giveaway.
Still not quite sure if user-generated content is a good way to build your brand online?
Research shows that brand engagement increases by 28% when customers are exposed to both professional content and user-generated content.
So, you’ll still want to have professional content on your site and social media accounts. But you must incorporate user-generated content too if you want to get the most out of your marketing efforts.
Visual UGC is the modern-day version of word-of-mouth marketing
Put yourself in a traveler’s shoes for a second. Let’s say you’re planning a trip to New York City soon, and you’re trying to decide where to stay. Your friend just went there last month and told you all about the wonderful experience they had at the hotel.
In that situation, what are you more likely to do – trust your friend’s opinion and book a room at the hotel they stayed at, or trust some random commercial/ad and book at a different hotel?
Obviously, you’re going to trust your friend who has had firsthand experience staying in the hotel you’re considering.
You don’t have much control over whether or not customers talk about your hotel with loved ones (except by offering an exceptional guest experience, of course!). But you can help ensure that your happy guests help you with the modern-day equivalent of word-of-mouth marketing by sharing photos of their experience on social media.
Using visual UGC allows you to keep customer acquisition costs low
Advertising campaigns can get pretty pricey, and if you’re not careful, you can easily end up spending a lot of money without getting a good return on your investment.
Don’t let that happen.
To keep your customer acquisition costs low and reduce the amount of money you spend on marketing, take advantage of your user-generated content. Here are just a few of the ways UGC can help you lower your customer acquisition costs:
- Ads with UGC generate 5-times greater clickthrough rates. So, if you include a customer photo or video in each ad, and you’ll likely get a much better return on your investment.
- When consumers see UGC while shopping, conversion rate goes up 4.6%. When they interact with that user-generated content, conversion rate increases 9.6%. This is largely due to the fact that visual UGC addresses concerns potential customer need to get resolved before buying. For example, a potential customer may wonder what the hotel room they’re interested in really looks like. By taking a look at photos from previous customers, they’ll be able to quickly understand what it’s like to stay at your hotel.
- UGC helps you keep social media content production costs low. Creating professional content costs your hotel’s marketing team time and money, but sharing a customer’s content is quick and doesn’t cost you much.
Related reading: How to Lower Customer Acquisition Costs with User-generated Content
When it comes to hospitality marketing, the days of traditional advertising are long gone. People don’t want to hear claims about a hotel from that hotel’s marketing department – they want a genuine look (in the form of a photo or video) at what it’s like to stay in that hotel. And they want to see that media coming from a real guest.
So, make sure you’re giving your guests an exceptional experience every time they stay at your hotel and encouraging them to share photos and videos about that experience.
By doing so, not only will you build stronger bonds with previous and existing guests – you’ll build a stronger online presence that will allow you to attract more new business than ever.
Interested in learning more about how UGC can help boost sales at your hotel? Subscribe to our blog, and we’ll let you know when the next post is available!