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In our ongoing “Questions from the Client” series, we dig into our grab bag of client queries to answer a question that current and potential SocialToaster clients have asked us.
Today’s Question: Hey I’ve seen your post on tourism and I own a chain of hotels in different markets. How can I use advocacy marketing to increase hotel bookings?

In July of 2018, the occupancy rate of the hotel industry across the United States was 73.6%, meaning that on any given night, a little less than 3/4 of hotel rooms are booked. If your hotel is consistently under-booked, then an advocacy marketing program could be just the room-reserving tool you need to turn your occupancy rate woes into occupancy rate WOWs!

 

Why Does Advocacy Marketing Matter?

As many hotel marketing managers will tell you, social media alone doesn’t drive bookings. In fact, social media is only responsible for 3.3% of web traffic to hotels’ websites and 0.75% of all hotel bookings.

Most hotel bookings come directly from travel booking websites like Expedia, Hotels.com, Kayak, etc. However, even though social media doesn’t drive bookings directly, it does have a noticeable impact and influencer on the booking process. Of 2,000 consumers that were surveyed by Eviivo, 44% respondents said they checked review sites prior to booking their stay and 39% of individuals said they use recommendations from their friends.

Why?

Because people trust word of mouth recommendations. Whether that recommendation comes from a parent, a close friend, a colleague, or even a beloved blogger. In fact, nearly 92% of individuals trust word-of-mouth recommendations over any other type of advertising. While people don’t book a hotel stay directly through social media, advocacy marketing can help to support the booking process by helping hotels build awareness of their property, showcase customer testimonials, and build third-party credibility.

 

What is Advocacy Marketing?

In today’s world of seemingly endless choices and options if people aren’t talking about you, then you’re essentially irrelevant. An advocacy marketing program is a social amplification tool that your hotel can use to help empower your biggest fans to share your content on their personal social channels.

Your customers join the program by signing up with their social media profile. Once they join, they have the opportunity to earn prizes by sharing your content with their friends and family.  Each post shared increases your social media exposure while also strengthening your third-party credibility. Each time a fan shares a piece of content they are giving it their personal endorsement.  

 

Advocacy Marketing Content Designed To Increase Hotel Bookings

Once your advocacy marketing program is in place, you’ll want to create quality content that speaks to your fans. These tips and best practices will help you start closing those open rooms.

Create and Promote Special Packages

A special package allows you to combine the actual room rates with special features that add value to your guests’ stay. For example, The Ritz Carlton offers a tea time with music provided by a local harpist. Offering additional services like fitness classes or spa treatments make for a deal that anyone would be hard pressed to pass up.

As a bonus, it encourages guests to use services they might not normally use or even consider using during their stay, which may make them more inclined to book a stay with your hotel again in the future. You can appeal to families by offering a flat rate discount on food and beverage or offer a complimentary bottle of wine or champagne for couples.

Whatever you choose to offer, make sure that it adds additional value to their stay and gives them a reason to book with your hotel directly over a booking site.

Organize a Meet-up Event for Influencers

Having a hotel in a major travel destination makes it that much more difficult to stand out from the crowd. With more than 800 million active monthly users on Instagram alone and nearly 60 million of those being adults, you have a serious opportunity to capture and captivate a large audience.  

Hosting a monthly themed meet-up for influencers, micro-influencers, and the “whos-who” of your area will encourage, not only influencers to participate and share their experience online but also encourage those at home watching to book a trip. In fact, hotelmanagment.net found that more than 120 million Instagram users visited a website, got direction, contacted or direct messaged a business solely based on an Instagram post.

As your invited influencers share and create content, channel all that magic to your advocates to help further increase the reach and visibility of the great content being created.

Share Your Guests Experience

Andy Warhol once said, “in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” And he was kind of right. Thanks to social media you can make any of your guests feel special and “famous” by giving them a platform to share their personal experience with your property.

Sharing moments from your guests, like quotes, photos, etc., can help to preserve the authentic moments experienced by your guests as well as cultivate an environment that encourages capturing and sharing those authentic moments. If your guests know that they have a chance to be shared on to a platform that is seen by hundreds of thousands of people, potentially even millions, why wouldn’t they want to freely share their experience in hopes of a little taste of notoriety?

You can also use your advocacy marketing program to highlight customer testimonials and 5-star ratings. Let your potential bookers know exactly what to expect when they choose your hotel over competitors.

Show Off What You Got

Is your hotel located in an old, historic building with a rich history? Are you near a beautiful nature reserve or a museum that consistently brings in one-of-its-kind exhibits? While spa treatments and fitness classes are great, most hotels have those. But not every hotel is in a 200-year old building or right at the foot of a great hiking trail.

If your hotel isn’t exactly one-of-a-kind, you can focus on what’s unique to your area. Is there a bourbon distillery nearby that offers tastings? A haunted tour through your city? People are dynamic with lots of interests, so don’t be afraid to really flaunt your feathers and show your pride.

Focus on the Picture

No, really. Focus on the pictures. 52% of Facebook users say that their friends’ or families’ photos inspire them to book trips. The more “insta-worthy” your hotel is, the more likely guests are going to share their experience through their content posts and stories.

They say a photo is worth 1,000 words, so how can you make sure that the photos your guests are sharing aren’t forgetting to say something?

Provide Lots of Natural Lighting

Both indoor and outdoor photos look best with lots of natural light. Natural light provides the best clarity and colors for photos and it’s what gives photos that sharp, crisp look. If you can’t offer tons of natural lighting, no problem. Just make sure that you supplement that with great indoor lighting and lots of it!

Provide a Photo Worthy Area  

This doesn’t have to be one wall. In fact, it could be a seating area or a room with really great wallpaper or interesting art. Whatever it is, just make sure that it’s visually appealing and, again, has great lighting.

Don’t Forget to Add Some Color

Flowers, pillows, and art are a great way to add pops of color that look great in photos. Depending on your hotel style—reserved v. eclectic— will determine the accent colors.

 

Come Fly with Us

Are you ready to take your marketing efforts to the next level with an advocacy marketing program? Schedule a demo with Social Toaster and learn how our platform can help you launch and maintain your advocacy program by building strong, lasting relationships with your guests. Just give us call at 855.62.TOAST or send us an email to get started today!