Did you know that more than 70% of travelers update Facebook while on vacation? That’s a staggering number, right?

For the most part, we can assume this is because they want to flaunt their beach bods and cocktails to their friend’s list, but it’s not just beneficial to those doing the sharing. In fact, guests that shout about their hotel stays and vacations on social media are helping out said hotels more than they could ever imagine.

Essentially, this is a form of digital word-of-mouth, where travelers are subconsciously promoting their stays to their friends via pool pictures and balcony selfies.

With these kind of social recommendations being shared all around the web today, social media can be your most powerful promotion channel that can either make or break your hotel’s success. Using it in the right way can lead to powerful marketing and engagement opportunities – the icing on the cake in this digitally-led day and age.

Some hotels have even go so far as to dress themselves up especially for Twitter. The Sol Wave House Hotel in Spain prides itself on its dedication to Twitter and offers guests the chance to get Tweet happy at every opportunity. The image below shows their Fill My Fridge hashtag, that guests can use if they want their mini-bar restocking.

So how can you leverage all of these social shares to your advantage? How can a “hot dog or legs” pool-side snap boost your sales? We’re going to dive into the ways you can take advantage of your guest’s social shares to grow your hotel’s revenue.

How to Transform Hotel Guests in Marketers

  1. Authentic Visual User Generated Content (UGC)

We’ve spoken before about what exactly UGC is and why it’s so powerful, so let’s dig into why it increases conversions.

Firstly, UGC is very rarely Photoshopped like traditional marketing shots, which means guests are sharing raw materials and real-life stories – something that your target customer can actually relate to.

Travelocity’s collection of visual UGC displayed with TINT

People like seeing what a hotel is actually like from a first-hand perspective, not something that has been whipped up and polished to within an inch of its life by the marketing team (who, incidentally, have one aim – to get customers).

With raw social footage from guests, you’re giving your audience an unfiltered look into hotel life that doesn’t have any ulterior motives. This goes a long way in an age where consumers don’t buy into brand-led marketing.

How to Use Visual UGC to Turn Hotel Guests Into Marketers

So how can you leverage these visuals that your guests are collecting and sharing? There are plenty of ways.

1. Influencer marketing

Your hotel guests become influencer marketers the moment they step through the doors of your establishment.

What is an influencer marketer? It’s marketing (in this case social shares) conducted by someone who is qualified to make that suggestions – i.e. someone who has stayed at your hotel and experienced it first-hand. Sure, they might not have the biggest following in the world, but the 400 or so Facebook friends they do have? Well they’re super connected and are more likely to listen that if a stranger were harking on about a hotel they hadn’t heard of before.

Make the most of this by tapping into the fact that people love to take photos while they’re away and, when they share these photos on social media, they are instantly growing the reach of your hotel.

2. Photo contests for guests

There’s a lot to be said for the humble photo contest. Everyone likes to think they’re the newest photographer on the block, right? Well use this to your advantage and encourage your guests to submit their best photos of your hotel on social media using a certain hashtag or phrase.

This encourages them to get creative, take photos they’re proud of, and share your hotel in the best light while they’re at it.

What do they get in return? Apart from the street cred of being an awesome photographer, you can reward them with a free drink at the bar or a free night’s stay – whatever you feel they would appreciate the most.

3. Reshare content

Let’s face it, everyone loves that little kick they get when a brand retweets or shares their content. It feels nice to get that recognition, and it means that they’re more likely to share your stuff in the future (in the hopes that you’ll re-share again).

By re-sharing visuals that your guests are putting out there, you’re showing potential customers “hey, look how awesome our guests think we are.” You’re also adding content to your portfolio and giving potential guests the chance to see your hotel through a variety of different eyes (because everyone has a different opinion, right?).

4. Bring stories online

Storytelling is HUGE in the marketing world at the moment. Consumers are sick of seeing salesy ads that push products they don’t want or need. Instead, they are craving real-life stories that they can connect with on a human level.

By bringing some of your guest’s offline stories online, you’re giving potential customers the chance to connect with your brand through the eyes of others. Rather than saying “look at how great our hotel is, you should stay here,” you’re instead saying, “look at the narratives you can have here,” and, “look at the memories this person made in our hotel.”

Here, the Artist’s Residence shares a “behind-the-scenes” story

You can always repurpose these stories to promote them elsewhere, like creating blog posts out of them, case studies, videos, and more.

5. Hashtag Campaigns

The #HiltonStory campaign is a great example of a hotel making good use of the good old hashtag. Bringing together visuals and social media shares from their guests onto TINT, they created a storyboard that not only gave an overview of their property through the eyes of numerous different guests, but it was also shortlisted for the best hospitality social campaign in 2016.

Personalized hashtag campaigns are a great way to pull in information from a variety of different social sources, and allow potential guests to get an overview of your property in one single place.

2. Word of Mouth Recommendations

I mentioned before that people are more likely to trust reviews (even from strangers) than brands themselves. The buying process is important to customers, and they will use reviews to find a solution to their problem.

According to a TripAdvisor survey, 93% of travelers read online reviews before they even consider booking a hotel. That’s a huge number of travelers. What’s more, 53% said they wouldn’t book a room at a hotel that had no reviews at all. So even if you’ve had no complaints from guests and provide a stellar service, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage if you don’t encourage guests to leave reviews.

So why are reviews so important?

The biggest reason is because they provide relevant, up-to-date information on your hotel that’s give by real people who have experienced it for themselves. According to the TripAdvisor study, 80% of travelers are most interested in the freshest reviews. That’s because it’s difficult to tell when a website was last updated, whereas a review left by someone who stayed in the hotel last week is likely to be akin to real-time updates.

But it’s not enough to just have one or two shining reviews up. You need to give guests a variety of opinions from different kinds of people. Why? Because 80% of travelers will read between 6 and 12 reviews before they book somewhere. This is considered enough of a perspective to know what they can expect – both good and bad.

Worried about negative reviews?

TripAdvisor often stirs dread in hotel owners because consumers can be quite catty with their opinions. Perhaps you’re concerned that someone might leave a negative review which will influence other guests for eternity.

Don’t worry, though. The majority of hotel reviews are positive, with 70% of guests saying that they’re happy to sharing useful information with other travelers.

How to Use Word of Mouth Reviews to Turn Hotel Guests into Marketers

1.Offer a giveaway or discount

People like incentives. It’s a common fact. To encourage guests to leave a review, consider giving them a free gift, like a drink at the bar or a branded chocolate. Alternatively, you can offer them a percentage discount for the next time they book if they leave a review.

Remember: every review counts, and you want to get as many fresh guests as possible giving their two cents.

2. Follow up with guests

It’s likely that you have a mailing list filled with the email addresses of past guests, right? Instead of dropping off the radar when they leave and only dropping into their inbox during promotions, consider using this safe place to ask for feedback.

Check in with them a week or so after their stay and gentle encourage them to leave a review (remember that discount or free gift you were going to give them? Mention that here, too).

3. Include User Generated Content on your website

Most guests will leave their reviews on external sites like TripAdvisor, but that doesn’t mean they have to stay in the hands of third-parties. In fact, there are plenty of ways you can repurpose these reviews on your own site.

Just like you can create stories with guest’s visual collateral, you can also use word-of-mouth reviews as blog posts, case, studies, and to weave stories about your past guest’s experiences to help convert new website bookings.

How about cutting them up to and revealing snippets of reviews on social media channels to tease and tempt new customers?

4. Respond to reviews

Reviews aren’t just a one-track way of getting free promotion. Instead, they should create a dialogue between guests and the hotel (or management team, more specifically).

And, when your guests have taken the time to share their stories and experiences with you, the least you can do is respond to them and thank them, right?

5. Collect and curate

One of the best ways you can showcase your word-of-mouth reviews is to get them all together in one place. With a tool like TINT, you can pull in social shares with a certain hashtag and create a wall of content made by your guests. This includes visual elements and word-of-mouth reviews, creating an all-encompassing experience for potential guests.

Finally, let your hotel guests take it further

Once you’ve got a consistent stream of shares and reviews coming in from guests that essentially keep your marketing going without you having to lift a finger, you can take it one step further.

With TINT, you can insert custom mentions into your stream, which gives you the chance to feature local restaurants and attractions and earn additional revenue while you do it. This gives guests the chance to see what they can do in the local area, and provides them with a “bigger-picture story” of their vacation.

Keeping the momentum going is the most important part, and this is successfully done by continuously interacting with your guests, encouraging them to share their stories, and repurposing these stories to create new connections with new guests. And then the cycle starts all over again.

Promote On-Site Selling

As well as using UGC to encourage potential guests to book a stay, it can also encourage current guests to spend more on-site.

How? By acting as a social concierge service.

The Ritz-Carlton features a UGC screen in its lobby

Think about what you currently show guests on the screens around your lobby or in their rooms. Do you show them a marketing video or slideshow that was created in the isolated confines of your marketing department? I’m going to go out on a limb and say yes, you do.

But did you know that social media posts are thought to influence 59% of global purchasing decisions? And you can make good use of this technique on those screens in your lobby and in your guests’ rooms.

How? By showing guests great customer experiences through UGC, you can drive them to follow suit.

This is content that your guests can relate to, is authentic, and up-to-date. It will encourage your guests to grab a slice of that action if they want to enjoy their experience as much as the other experiences on screen – which, in turn, leads them to purchase add-ons, activities, and other additional benefits you offer.

So, are you convinced yet that your hotel guests are your ticket to marketing success? Try it out and see what kind of results you get.