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In my June column, we discussed why the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) matters to the hospitality industry and the technical/organizational steps members should take to comply with the regulation. Practically speaking, any U.S. company desirous of European customers must comply with the GDPR as of May 25, 2018, or risk facing penalties as high as 4 percent of global revenue.

I’m a numbers guy so let’s start with a few from this year’s HITEC. HFTP, who produces HITEC, turns 65 years old this year, HITEC celebrated 45 years in existence by setting an attendance record, and Hospitality Upgrade is celebrating its 25th birthday. And you couldn’t help but feel the buzz in Toronto as Canada prepared to celebrate its sesquicentennial (150 years) the Saturday after HITEC.

Last year was a pivotal one for independent hotels, per STR, an American company that tracks supply and demand data for multiple market sectors, which revealed that these ‘un-branded’ properties had greater overall average daily rate (ADR) and revenue per available room (RevPAR) than their branded hotel brethren. Expedia, Inc. dug deep into its Q1 2017 data to shed light on the continued rise of independents in 2017, and offer tips for independent properties to best leverage this momentum.

Employee engagement has been getting more attention from executives, especially as more practitioners worry about the shift in workforce mentality and what employees expect from their organizations. Jimmy Lin shares three vital building blocks to engage (and retain) employees. 

Hotel template websites while being a cheap and fast way to set up your website are not recommended if you are looking to make the most of your money.

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How to Leverage User Generated Content

02/09/2017

User generated content (UGC) is a powerful tool for social media marketers. Videos, blogs, discussion form posts, images, tweets and other forms of media created by consumers, are considered user generated content. It’s proven that people trust other consumers’ experiences on products and services more than direct marketing from brands. UGC campaigns are particularly effective in promoting brand image and community. It allows you to create content with your customers, not just for them.

User Image
A brand can increase awareness and drive sales by collaborating with influencers (people with social media accounts with a large and steady following) and encouraging customers to share personal images. One example is Starwood’s “Influencer” campaign. Starwood collaborated with five Instagram influencers to tell engaging stories. Their posts allowed users to reserve a hotel room via the influencers’ descriptions and also encouraged their followers to share their own content related to Starwood experiences.

 
Click here for more details of Starwood’s Influencer strategy:
http://mediakix.com/2016/07/instagram-case-study-starwood-hotels-strategy/#gs.nullhttps://skift.bAgUjo


Video
UGC can also be video. WestJet’s 2015 “Christmas Miracle” campaign used video to show how the company performed “mini miracles” for its customers. The campaign promoted UGC on social media with the hashtag #WestJetChristmasCreate. The video and tagged content created incentives for customers to share their thoughts regarding the brand and to take brand-inspired actions.
 

Click here for more information of WestJet’s Christmas marketing campaign:
http://hashtagio.com/westjet-christmas-social-media-case-study/


Steps to Create a UGC Campaign
 

1. Identify your audience
Base your phrasing and distribution strategies on what appeals to your target audience. The end goal of UGC is to engage and interact with your customers so you should analyze the habits of your audience. Here are some questions you might ask:
¦ “Do I want my consumers to feel educated or entertained?” (It is possible to do both.)
¦ “How can I create a memorable user experience that will create long-lasting relationships?” (Loyal users are more likely to become brand advocates)
¦ “How can I create a desire within my audience to respond and create content of their own?” (Get influencers/brand advocates to create UGC.)

2. Identify the message you wish to convey
By doing this you can create a theme for the campaign and have consistent messaging that will help your audience connect with your brand.


3. Choose a platform and how to engage the audience
Once you have defined who and what, the next question you should be asking yourself is how? Since each social network has its own distinct demographic, it is recommended that you expand your online presence to as many platforms as possible. It may be necessary to tailor your tone or style of communication (status update, photo, video, etc.) to fit a particular demographic or platform.


4. Create a hashtag
You can increase the popularity of your content with a hashtag. Hashtags allow your followers to view all content in a certain tag on every social media site. Some best practices for hashtags are as follows:

¦  Use the hashtag often and make it obvious (use it on social posts and printed media).
¦  Keep it short, unique and relevant to the content of the campaign.
¦  Use other branded hashtags in the posts to increase awareness across all social media outlets.
¦  Don’t over-hashtag your posts.


5. Share audience content
Share the content that your audience posts for the campaign by creating a gallery on your website, Instagram or Twitter. There are even some sites that will compile the content for you. By sharing content and tagging the user you have acknowledged the user’s contribution to the campaign, are creating brand loyalists and humanizing your brand.


6. Remain consistent
Stay consistent with your campaign’s message and amount of engagement you have with your audience. One way to do this is only share content on your sites that are consistent with the brand’s image and message you wish to convey. Continuously promote and speak to the target audience you have chosen to solidify your campaign and remain consistent in the message.


7. Measure the outcome
The second method is more scientific. Using an “A/B test” or test group and control group. This requires two identical groups (campaigns); one will remain the same throughout the test and the other will be the experimental group. The experimental group will receive the same content as the control group, but certain aspects will be changed (adding UGC, review content, etc.). It is important to remember that no results are immediate. Marketers should allow at least three months to ensure accurate results.

Social Media Today, an online community and resource for professionals to understand social media, found that pages with photos outperformed others by 10 percent, and featuring user-generated photos caused an increase of nearly 150 percent. Additionally, reach is significantly impacted by the use of UGC. The same study showed that one engaged fan reached the same number of people with one share of content to an existing network that a marketer would pay for access via paid mediums.
About The Author
Boston University




Tal Chesed, Celina Friedman, Natalie Mazouz, Vivian Wu, Andrea Soto

Special thanks to Leora Lanz's Digital Marketing for Hospitality class at the Boston University School of Hospitality Administration for providing this series for our readers.

This is the first article in a total of five articles in this series.

 
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