Last week, we had the pleasure of welcoming Melissa Taylor, Digital Director in HL Group’s Consumer and Hospitality division, into our New York City offices.
With more than a decade of experience in integrated marketing, social media and public relations behind her, Melissa helps global hospitality brands (as well as businesses across media, technology and consumer product) drive channel growth and engagement through powerful content. Over the course of the presentation, she demonstrated a vast understanding of the travel funnel and how brands can use content and community to move consumers through from dreaming to decision to departure.
Below, you’ll find 10 key takeaways and digital marketing trends in travel and hospitality.
1. Don’t sell rooms. Sell experiences.
Accommodations alone aren’t enough to sway the modern day traveler. Ingrained in the decision making process is a desire to experience not only what your hotel has to offer but also the restaurants, bars and shops within the vicinity of your hotel property. Digitally, this means sharing not only images of your beds, beaches and ballrooms, but also of the local excursions travelers may aspire to go on while there.
2. The microsite is maturing.
So, it’s clear that hospitality brands need to inspire consumers in order to drive bookings. One of the biggest challenges, however, is actually creating unique, immersive experiences at each leg of the journey. In an incredibly competitive space, content-rich microsites are making it easier to connect with consumers on a human level.
3. (Editorial) content is king.
While “the experience” is what drives consumers throughout the booking journey, many hospitality brands are still struggling to adopt experience-driven content. The bottom line? Traditional hotel photography—think: crisp white sheets, overwrought room service, sterile lobby shots—simply doesn’t have the same digital impact as editorial-style content. To inspire consumers, your content needs to transport them to a desirable moment.
How can you source inspiring images to share with consumers? Here are a few different avenues to explore:
- Hire an in-house content guru
- Hotel guests
- Social and creative agencies
- Marketing managers at individual properties
4. Influencer marketing is MASSIVE …
Influencer marketing is essential to hospitality brands. The benefit is clear. Influencers enable teams that are light on content to acquire photos and videos at scale – and at the property level. This content can be shared on social channels like Instagram and Pinterest to create top of the funnel awareness, in ads to accelerate the journey, as well as on-site to drive bookings. At the same time, influencers who deploy content on their owned social channels help brands improve their audience reach and grow their visual presence.
5. … AND size doesn’t always matter.
Unsurprisingly, follower count is one of the first things marketers look for when vetting an influencer opportunity. It makes sense. Hospitality brands can receive dozens of influencer requests daily. The more followers an influencer has, the greater reach they can guarantee.
However, while audience size weighs heavily on the decision, it’s not the only thing brands look for. As an extension of your team, it’s important that the influencers you choose to work with represent your brand well. To achieve this, ask yourself the following when analyzing the opportunity:
- Are the influencer’s images on-brand?
- Does their style and voice mirror our aesthetic?
- Is their audience active and engaged?
- What types of comments do their followers leave?
- Are they working with any competitors or brands that depart from our business values?
- What are their interests?
- Are they reliable?
- Will we get the rights to the content?
6. Video content is heating up.
One of the biggest benefits of working with influencers? It’s a great way to build out your video inventory. And video is huge. As a matter of fact, in the last six months, video watch time on Instagram is up 40%.
The challenge here is that video content can require a lot more time, money and manpower to create than a simple static image. In this regard, influencers can add a ton of value. Here are a couple of best practices when working with influencers to create video content:
- Don’t be overly critical of an influencer’s follower count. With video content in particular, audience size is less important than their style and skill. Focus on quality.
- Incorporate a few revisions into your contract to ensure that, from start to finish, the video content is on point. You want to make sure that you get this right!
7. Tag. You’re it!
Another major digital trend in travel: Instagram users tagging their friends and family within the comments section of an image to share in a moment of inspiration. Tagging within comments on Instagram is essentially the equivalent of a Facebook share – a qualified engagement that increases earned reach, gets more eyes on content, and can even drive an uptick in followers. Travel marketers can nurture this behavior by adding a basic call-to-action (“tag a friend!”) to Instagram captions.
8. Instagram as a traffic driver.
Another call-to-action you might see popping up across travel accounts on Instagram is to “click link in bio”; that’s because without paying to sponsor content, Instagram images aren’t clickable. If the goal for travel marketers is to move consumers through from discovery to departure, Curalate Like2Buy and other interactive solutions make this journey possible. Using Curalate, consumers can take action on Instagram content and click out to booking pages, microsites and even your other social channels.
9. All hail the #Triplegram.
Photo cred: @projectinspo
As users become loyal to brands on Instagram, they’re much more likely to go directly to their favorite feeds. The #triplegram—a series of three photos published consecutively that use the same aesthetic or filter—lends to a mesmerizing, panorama-like experience. Definitely something to consider if you’re looking to experiment with different content formats that provide a breathtaking, holistic overview of your properties.
10. Property-level guest engagements.
As you can probably guess, user-generated content is fairly prolific for hospitality brands – whether for work or play, people love taking photos while away. Rather than simply interacting with or re-gramming a guest’s photo, brands can go above and beyond by providing a delightful guest experience. For instance, if a guest posts a photo from one of your hotel properties, why not connect with that property manager and have them share a special gift? Don’t just focus on special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries either. Sometimes, the most unexpected surprises are the most effective.