User-Generated Marketing Campaigns Engage Travelers

In the days of film cameras and slide projectors, having to (painfully) sit through the vacation photos of family and friends was a common occurrence. But times have certainly changed. With the social media explosion, anyone can easily share photos, text, and other info with anyone else. And people love it. Keying on this burgeoning interest, hotels are introducing new ways to engage travelers through social media.

At Holiday Inn, a new “Journey to Extraordinary” campaign invites guests to share their travel stories and hotel experiences through digital platforms such as Tumblr, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Early profiles have included a social entrepreneur, a double-amputee athlete, and an award-winning rodeo clown. Combining real-life guest stories with the work of professional photographers, the campaign is designed to appeal to the tech-savvy travelers who make up an increasing proportion of guests.

New content will be rolling out through November, with stories added weekly across the various digital platforms, according to Maurice Cooper, vice president, Holiday Inn brand, Americas. “How our guests communicate and interact with us has changed over time,” he says, “which is why we’ve taken a digitally-led marketing approach for the first time to have a two-way conversation with our target guest.”

Advertisement

Designed especially to appeal to the younger generation of travelers and how they get their travel information, such efforts seem to be gaining popularity across the industry. That’s the case with The Ritz-Carlton’s new “Your Memories” option for sharing photos. Through this initiative, travelers are invited to display photos as they are shared though outlets such as Twitter and Instagram. Guests may also submit their photos directly through the Ritz-Carlton website to be a part of its expanding collection of images. The collection features a dynamic, mosaic-like display that continuously refreshes.

“People all over the world share their travel memories through social media more than anywhere else in their lives,” says Clayton Ruebensaal, vice president, global marketing, The Ritz-Carlton. “For us it was territory we felt compelled to participate with in a meaningful way.”

The move was based on extensive research and results have been positive, with nearly 50,000 pieces of tagged content to date. “We’ve been researching and surveying guests on social media preferences for two years and found the value of social is directly linked to its value to our consumers,” Ruebensaal says.

He notes that social channels as a whole have not proven to be large direct revenue generators, but they do offer the chance to strengthen relationships. “They have proven to be strong engagement channels on which we can deepen our connectivity to advocates of the brand,” Ruebensaal says.

Hilton Hotels & Resorts has taken a similar approach with “Our Stage. Your Story.” Launched in February, the integrated brand campaign uses print, digital, and social media to showcase interesting travel stories.

“Social media provides a great avenue to reach consumers at every phase of the travel experience,” says Nancy Deck, Hilton Worldwide’s VP of full-service and multi-brand marketing. “From inspiring travel during the booking phase with targeted social ads, to engaging consumers during vacation by surprising and delighting them with perks, to post–vacation nostalgia and content sharing, we look to create a setting that allows guests to openly share their own travel stories.”

Part of the campaign has included a contest where guests submit stories related to their stays. Winners have included a mother’s photos of her children playing on the beach and a bride sharing a wedding photo.

Deck says that such activities fit well with social media and the chance to share experiences with a larger community, adding that consumers especially enjoy sharing their travel memories. Research underpinning Hilton’s campaign revealed that 72 percent of consumers are sharing photos on social networks while they are still on vacation, 46 percent check into a location on social, and 70 percent update their Facebook status while vacationing.

Looking ahead, Holiday Inn’s Cooper cites the difficulty of predicting future directions given the constant change in how people interact. But at a minimum, he foresees a continuing emphasis on social media.

“We do know that travelers are connected digitally on a 24/7 basis and are looking for ways to instantly interact with brands more than ever before,” he says. “So we will continue to innovate and evolve in order to meet those needs and build relationships with our guests, wherever they may be.”