Earlier, I defined guestsourcing as a way for hospitality companies to involve their customers in the promotional process. The rewards include:
- Having a wider range of media to work with
- Access to a broad content base that increases your search rankings
- Increased loyalty from your guests
Now, I’d like to get practical and show you how to take advantage of this concept.
It’s very important you approach this right. Michael pointed out in a recent comment:
It seems to be more genuine and effective when it isn’t forced. Beyond the effort involved, when you court users who are not familiar with social media and not quite sure how to review…it can look and feel awkward…from bad reviews, to “shill” looking reviews.
I agree completely: timing is everything.
The perfect timing
Over and over, I’ve observed the best time to ask for online participation is after you receive positive guest feedback in some form. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it works.
If you get nothing else out of this article…
The next time you receive positive feedback, ask the guest for some type of online contribution. This works like magic for getting reviews on TripAdvisor, but remember we’re discussing guestsourcing here – the art of getting media on the web.
Ask the guest if they would like to share some photos of what they liked about your hotel. Perhaps this will be on Flickr…or just attached to a TripAdvisor review. The important thing is getting the content online – where potential guests can see it.
Turn existing fans into online participants
Earlier this week I talked with a hotel that had a very strong offline fan base, but just recently began social media marketing. With just a little bit of promotion, these fans quickly started participating and submitting their own content. It’s especially important to leverage your existing reputation if you’re new to this.
Listen and reach out
Be aware when prominent bloggers and media producers are visiting your area. Roger Smith did that with Chris Brogan. You can do that by monitoring Twitter and other channels to see who is visiting your area.
Reach out to media producers!
From a marketing perspective, these are among your most valuable guests.
Create a contact point
Designate a social media contact person to provide help and access. Make it very easy for people to get in touch with them: by phone, email, Twitter, etc.
Guestsourcing Photos and Videos
Build a Flickr group to serve as a central collection point for photos: both for contributors and for viewers.
Showcase the best guest photos on your website, like Sunriver Resort. Reward creativity with attention.
Actively solicit new submissions on your site, and in your Flickr group.
Provide a standardized tag – yourhotelname – to make discovery easier.
With video, you may want to note what Omni Hotels is doing. As part of their Omni Flips for Summer package, guests are loaned a Flip Video camcorder for the duration of their stay. A “Summer Fun Counselor” helps guests process and upload their videos.
Encouraging blog reviews
There are many bloggers that exclusively write hotel reviews – either professionally or as a hobby. You want to treat your visiting bloggers like royalty, because they have the ability to sway online perceptions. (Which I say without bias, because I’m not a hotel review blogger…)
I recommend putting together a special blogger’s package. This can include:
- A hotel fact sheet (like you would use with the press)
- The background story on the hotel
- Interview access to the owner or general manager (as appropriate)
- High-resolution hotel photos
- A neighborhood guide (including the best cafes with wifi!)
- …and of course free internet access to write about you
Create a separate page to promote this
You may want to create a separate page on your website for visiting photographers and bloggers. Having links and suggestions all in one place provides easy access to all the information above.
There are no rules
You need to use your intuition on what is appropriate for your hotel and each situation. Hopefully this guide will give you some ideas, but in the end you need to…
Go out there and experiment!
I’d like to create a new word that summarizes how hotels can effectively participate in today’s web:
Guestsourcing: the practice of sourcing content from customers in the hospitality industry.
Terms such as user-generated content (UGC) and crowdsourcing have been popular for the past 4 or 5 years, but I find them unsatisfactory for this concept.
- UGC can refer to anything from product reviews to opensource software; guestsourcing should apply only to rich media in the travel & hospitality context
- Crowdsourcing is a term better applied to project-based work; guestsourcing should be an ongoing process
It’s time we had a specific label for this concept in the travel & hospitality marketing industry.
Advantages of guestsourcing
Greater depth of information: there’s a reason Wikipedia is over 25 times larger than the Encyclopedia Britannica – everyone working together can create more content than one individual organization. A wide range of information is essential for reaching the long tail of niche web searches.
Guest’s perspective: Travel planners would rather hear from other guests than from marketers like us
Potential to increase brand loyalty: Active participation in content production can create a sense of ownership
Increased search visibility: Neislen Buzz Metrics reports 26% of all search results link to user-created content
Free & candid market research: Guests will be freely talking about what they like and don’t like – without interruptive surveys or focus groups
What types of content?
Guestsourcing primarily focuses on five areas of searchable content:
- Wikis (for destination information)
- Blog posts
- Audio (to a lesser degree)
Guest-written reviews – like the ones you find on TripAdvisor – fall outside the definition of this term. While this type of guest-produced content is essential for any hotel marketing effort, much has been written on this topic and no further definition is needed. Blog posts, however, represent a unique type of contribution to an organization’s web presence, and should come under the category of guestsourcing.
Traits of highly effective guestsourcing
- A plan and organizational culture of actively encouraging guests to produce content
- Providing resources and access to produce the content
- Explaining a way to organize content uploaded to the internet
- Creating a central access point for others to access the content
- Developing sharing mechanisms to distribute the content