User generated content (UGC) is what influences a great number of travelers to make informed decisions about destinations they want to visit. Sites like TripAdvisor, Stay.com and others count among the pioneer travel sites that understood that UGC is not just a trend, but a reality that is here to stay.
A whitepaper by Rivet Works, Inc. explains that “while 47 percent of American consumers trust paid advertising, 92 percent trust earned promotion and find it more relevant to their purchasing journey,” – citing a 2012 study by the Nielsen Company.
Whitepaper author, Caryn Pratt, Rivet Works, Inc. VP of Marketing, goes on to explain that:
UGC can do more than pique interest in a destination; it can be part of a process that inspires bookings and creates qualified leads that companies can firmly assess.
Thus, it is imperative for hoteliers and other hospitality marketing managers to find lucrative ways that employ UGC into their marketing mix. UGC is affordable, honest, and shows that a business owner values customer input, going beyond platforms like TripAdvisor to listen and engage.
The value of UGC is not always quantifiable in terms of ROI, but user generated content impacts more than just sales: it impacts PR as well. A brand that listens and engages is a brand that builds proactive relationships with consumers, media, and peers. When customers control part of the message, they become an active voice – an ambassador, if you will – for the brand. Smart marketers show their customers that what they have matters.
Some hotels around the world already offer incentives to consumers who take the time to review and share ideas, pictures, and feelings about their travels.
How to implement UGC into your site
More than “reviews” – user generated content should tell a story, relate an experience. Many hotels do showcase a page of “reviews” – some lazily scraped from TripAdvisor based on the five star ranking status. But Marriott took the practice to a deeper level, one that listens, engages, and allows guests to share and exchange experiences, travel tips, and more.
Introducing Marriott Rewards Insiders: the right way to approach UGC as a hotelier. It’s all in the description:
This is a community with members at its heart. Ask questions and share travel stories. Find breaking program news and leaks, browse photo albums or join a discussion.
This community is not all about positive Marriott experiences: harsh critique is always allowed, addressed, and, when possible, solved. This practice of openness and care for guests is what makes Marriott such an extraordinary hospitality business. Besides true stories and true Marriott experiences by real hotel guests, the Marriott Rewards Insiders community program also offers travel tips, and other topics: food and beverages, best spas, golf, weddings and receptions, and much more.
The upside of having such a UGC strategy in place is easy to figure out: guests maintain interest in the brand, and continue spreading the message through proactive WOM (word of mouth): either online, or offline.
Here’s why you should have a UGC strategy now
- Because Marriott does it: and they’ve been a successful hospitality business for years. That means: they know how to do things right.
- Because there’s no better PR than the honest opinion of a real guest.
- Because caring is sharing: give your guests a platform to share their experiences in your hotel. Allow them to post pictures, thoughts, stories, and tips.
- Nothing builds trust better than real guest “reviews.”
- Keep your hotel site fresh, engaging, challenging and fun.
- Booking revenue will grow.
- Much of the UGC will be re-shared on social media, pushing the message even further.
- There’s SEO value in UGC hosted directly on your site