What is an Influencer?

The Short Answer is EVERYONE

Recently, there has been a lot of focus on social media influencers and their role in hotel marketing. It’s a topic that we’ve already written about, twice (see ‘Is Influencer Marketing for Hotels Actually Worth It?’ and ‘Real Influencer Marketing Strategy for Hotels’), and it’s one that we’ll continue to cover. However, in the discussion on influencers that’s happening at the moment, we feel like there’s one group of influential people that are being overlooked: your guests.

Not the guests whose room you’ve comped in exchange for a blog post, but the guests who booked their getaway months in advance. The young, professional woman in town for a conference; the couple celebrating their first wedding anniversary; or the luxury-loving traveler  who has come to experience your hotel.

Influencer Selfie In Hotel Lobby at The Baur au Lac
Influencer Selfie In Hotel Lobby at The Baur au Lac

These guests might not have millions of Instagram followers or their own YouTube channel. They may not even be on social media at all. However, they do have friends and family that they talk to regularly, and most will have at least a small group of friends and acquaintances they connect with on social media. This means that each guest has a network of people who likely share similar interests and who will trust them when they say, “Oh my god you have to go to this hotel, I had an incredible time.”

Word-of-mouth recommendations have been around since before marketing was a concept, and these personal recommendations are recognized as one of the of the most credible and powerful forms of advertising or marketing today. The 2015 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report, found that 83% of the 30,000 people polled trusted the recommendations of family and friends. For comparison, 66% of those polled trusted consumer opinions posted online, and 46% trusted ads on social media platforms.

Consumer Trust Statistics

Referrals from Friends and Family

Online Consumer Reviews

Social Media Advertising

Of course, if you work in hotel marketing, you don’t need us to tell you the power that personal recommendations can have. The knowledge that recommendations from real people are seen as credible is what drives hotels to seek endorsements from influencers and reviews from guests. However, many brands shy away from actively encouraging guests to make recommendations to friends and family. Instead, brands focus on influencer endorsements that they can control and public reviews they can track and respond to, and hope that their guests will advocate for their brand organically.

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Hotels shy away from promoting word-of-mouth marketing partly because it largely happens in private, so it can be incredibly hard to track and measure, and because they don’t want to do anything that might negatively impact their guests’ stay. This reservation is understandable, and, of course, the guest experience does and should take precedence. However, there are many ways to gently encourage guests to become advocates – either through face-to-face conversations or via social media – without negatively impacting their experience in any way.

Below we’ve broken down a few ideas for encouraging guests to promote your hotel to their networks. The ideas are broken down into three stages: building the foundation for promotion; creating opportunities for promotion; and, finally, giving a gentle push.

Build the Foundation for Promotion

Make Sure Your Guest Has an Incredible Stay

This is the most obvious strategy, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. Going above and beyond to create an extraordinary experience for your guests is one of the best ways to get people talking your brand.

Create High-impact, Shareable Moments

Performing a few small but thoughtful gestures, such as adding a welcome gift to the room,  can improve your guest’s stay and give them something notable to share on social media and mention in conversation. Even a hand-signed card with the guest’s name on it, along with a small gift of chocolates or fruit, will go a long way in making the guest feel welcome and appreciated, and will look great on Facebook or Instagram. The best welcome gifts are those that are personalized to the guest and that reflect your brand – for example if you make your own honey you could leave a sample with a note, or you could leave a bundle of postcards with iconic images of your hotel and an offer to mail these at no charge.

They key to creating these moments is to focus on creating something that makes your guest feel special and is easy for them to share.

Tell a Good Story

Stories are fundamental to the human experience. We are an ultrasocial species, and stories help us understand the world, solve problems, and remember information. So, use any opportunity you can – including your website, ads, social media, in-room informational TV channel, and in-room promotional and informational material – to tell great stories that are worth repeating. Tell the story of how your hotel began, or your florist who dreamed of working for the queen, or the people and places that make your city magic.

Create Opportunities for Promotion

Be Social Media-friendly

While there are hotels introducing Instagram butlers and fully equipped social media suites, and even building from the ground-up to be completely Instagrammable, you don’t need to do anything this drastic. There are plenty of ways to be more social media-friendly without disrupting the feel of your property, such as ensuring that the spaces people regularly photograph are well-lit, and that bathroom mirrors offer flattering spaces for selfies. Don’t be afraid to use markers to highlight the effort you have made to make particular spaces social media-friendly. People who aren’t interested in social media likely won’t even notice, but it’s a great way to get the attention of those who are.

Have a Brand Hashtag

If you don’t already have a unique hashtag for your hotel you could be missing a great opportunity. A hashtag not only allows you to easily find content that guests create at your hotel, it encourages guests to produce content, and means that potential guests can easily search for content other social media users have created.

Connect With Guests on Social Media

Make sure you’re putting effort into meaningfully connecting with social media users, rather than simply collecting as many followers as you can. Answer any questions that are posed, respond to reviews, comment on posts that tag your hotel, and feature content that guests have created. Connecting meaningfully will not only improve your relationship with that guest, but it’s something that’s visible to your guest’s entire network, and it’s an interaction your guest might talk about with others.

Give a gentle push

Encourage Guests to Post on Social Media

Encouraging guests to post from your hotel to their social media can be a simple but hugely effective way to earn the trust of the people in their network. Take a look at this piece for a few tips on encouraging guests to post great images.

Start a Referral Program

A well structured referral program can be an amazing way to encourage guests to recommend your hotel to others. It gives your guests a way to benefit their friends and family, and gives those friends and family an additional reason to follow through on the recommendation. There are so many forms that a referral program can take, so do some research and choose a strategy that suits your brand.

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