While luxury hotel guests happily share their travel photos via their own social media accounts, they often need encouragement to share that content with a brand, as it requires additional steps, such as adding #brandname or even requiring the guest to visit the brand site to upload photos or videos. One way to encourage UGC is for brands to incentivize their guests to share content, something that Four Seasons excels at. The brand’s “Focus on Four Seasons” Instagram contest encourages guests to submit content using #FocusFSChallenge for a chance to win a six-day getaway at two different Four Seasons properties. Incentivizing UGC submission has paid off for Four Seasons — using a combination of brand-and-user-generated content, Four Seasons registers seven times as many interactions on Instagram as the average Index brand and commands an impressive 15 percent of the total interactions registered by the entire Index in 2015. Additionally, leveraging UGC has not come at the cost of quality. Instead, through curating content that aligns with brand rules, images selected are just as good, if not better than the images uploaded by the brand.
Brands should not limit UGC to social media. Instead, brands should incorporate the low-cost content into their site experience, which can increase conversions by 10 percent. Despite this benefit, only 40 percent of luxury hotel brands integrated UGC into property-specific pages or sites and 14 percent integrated it into the site landing page, while eight percent hosted UGC on a separate microsite. W Hotels offers a best-in-class user experience by placing a large, red “Book Now” button within the overlay that pops up when an image is clicked.
Beyond a source of content, UGC can be used to include guest ideas. luxury hotel brands can solicit and use guest ideas to deliver the experience that their guests want. Introduced in 2013, Marriott’s #TravelBrilliantly campaign is still the only brand to seek and reward guests for sharing innovative ideas on how to improve the travel and hotel stay experience. Marriott collects, curates, and shares these ideas via a dedicated microsite. Ideas that are actually executed by Marriott can be found in a section titled “Ideas Brought to Life.” By showcasing the best user ideas so prominently, Marriott further encourages guests to participate in the ongoing contest.
Social marketing campaigns that incorporate UGC see a 50 percent lift in engagement. Recognizing this, luxury hotel brands are employing a variety of different approaches to integrate UGC into their campaigns, including partnering with influencers to amplify reach. As part of Hyatt Regency’s “It’s Good Not to Be Home” campaign, the brand partnered with Comedy Central to sponsor the New York Comedy Festival and developed a video series with comedian Iliza Shlesinger that was promoted across channels. Through Comedy Central’s Snapchat Discover channel, the brand solicited UGC through a contest where Snapchat users could win tickets to a Shlesinger show by sharing their original “not at home” moments on the platform using #AtHyattRegency #PassportToComedy. The campaign generated 2.2 million impressions in 90 days on Snapchat, a 33 percent growth in the brand’s Facebook community size, the addition of 4,300 followers on Instagram (new channel) and 7,400 followers on Twitter (new channel) resulting in a 105 percent increase in the brand’s social engagement. The campaign also helped drive a 17 percent increase in Hyatt Gold Passport loyalty program enrollments.
As brands continue to expand UGC’s role in their marketing strategy, it is important to remember the most common, and most important, form of UGC: reviews. Seventy-nine percent of travelers looking for accommodations read between six and 12 reviews across four to 10 properties before making a decision on where to stay. Seventy percent of consumers trust guest reviews and peer recommendations over professionally written content, and 90 percent of consumers rely on guest ratings, making it the second most important factor in booking decisions (following price). However, a third of Index brands still do not provide user reviews on their site. Brands that excel when it comes to reviews embed them on every property page, create visually compelling galleries by integrating images, and enable easy filtering and sorting for a seamless experience.