The drumbeat mantra of the last several years has been “content marketing is king.”
If we accept that is good advice (and it is!) an obvious first question is: What is content marketing? The Content Marketing Institute does a good job by defining it as:
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
A helpful analogy goes that social media is the glass and content marketing is the water that fills it and that the customer drinks. As a key component of inbound marketing, content goes above and beyond this relationship with social media. It should aim to be more permanent and carefully crafted so that each piece has an intentional path to delivering utility for customers.
Blog posts and similar articles are the most recognizable items in the content marketing tool belt.
But other forms of content have grown significantly in importance over the last few years:
- Infographics can give readers complex statistics in an easy to digest format.
- Podcast audiences form a close network of listeners who truly love your brand and product.
- Video format gives content consumers an engaging medium that is hard for them to ignore.
Because they share so well across different networks and can be consumed easily by readers, infographics are particularly fertile ground for content marketing.
In our context, hotel content marketing connects with guests by making their lives easier, by simplifying the trip planning process, or by adding richness to their stay at your boutique hotel.
Why Does Content Marketing Make Sense for Hotels?
In essence, there are two answers to this question. Because content marketing is a better option for the digital budget you have and, increasingly, content marketing is the only option for certain digital budgets. Let’s take the former — and less startling — answer first.
What makes content marketing a better choice for hotels?
- Compelling content marketing is an ad that consumers want to read, watch, or listen to.
- Content marketing has a great ROI — three times as many leads generated — compared to traditional marketing.
- In their survey for 2017, MarketingProfs found that 66% of marketers said their company’s content marketing approach was either very or moderately successful.
- And a Gartner survey found that marketers are reinvesting savings back into digital marketing.
Connecting the dots between an idea for useful content and an increase in revenue can take time, planning, and some upfront effort but the solid track record is clear. Later in this post, we’ll explore some more of the doors that content marketing can unlock for your boutique hotel.
The sands of digital advertising are shifting — and quickly — away from display ads. There are two easy-to-understand reasons this is happening:
- 200 million people now use ad blockers.
- And eye-tracking studies show that those of us who don’t have an ad-blocker have trained our brain to ignore banner ads.
Specially created content is at the opposite end of the spectrum from annoying display ads. Done right, the purpose is to educate, empower, or entertain — it is the regularly scheduled programming, not the interruption.
Elements of a Content Marketing Plan
According to Aberdeen, content marketing leaders see nearly eight-times higher year-over-over growth in unique site traffic compared to followers in the content marketing space. It makes sense that those companies who have a plan and stick to it see results, while those who flounder from one “I hear we should really” idea to another are left way behind.
A boutique hotel marketing strategy and associated marketing plan should be the foundation for your hotel’s content marketing plan. There are several specific ways that your hotel’s general marketing strategy and plan will support your content marketing including:
- An understanding of buyer personas will guide whether you create short videos for Instagram’s younger, more culture oriented audience or focus on the longer format that works with Youtube’s more varied audience.
- The strengths you identify during your SWOT analysis are great places to start building content.
- You’ll be able to put your hotel content marketing goals through the same SMART filters — specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.
In some cases, creating content can require what seems like a lot of resources. For instance, video production can seem like a task for only the best (and most expensive) professional crews. Two things to keep in mind:
- Sometimes the most appropriate content is unfiltered, casual and authentic. Your videos should be professional but they don’t necessarily have to be slickly produced.
- One content-creation project can yield many products. Maybe a video shoot for Youtube also offers the opportunity to post great photos on Facebook, a “making of” type series on Instagram Stories, and cross-share posts to Twitter. Returning to the idea that content is the liquid that fills social media containers, once you’re ready to open the tap, start thinking about all vessels that can share it.
That last idea can influence the timeline you set for your hotel’s content marketing. In some instances, content should be published as soon as it’s created, but it’s just as important to consider the value that can be created by spreading out when you post similar content. By spreading the content net more widely you stand a better chance of catching more of the distracted butterflies that represent potential customers in this analogy.
What Content to Cover?
You’re ready to start down the path of results-oriented hotel content marketing, but the question remains: What content should you create? The guiding star for content marketing should always be the goal of filling a void, meeting a need, solving a problem for a potential customer. As Neil Patel so aptly puts it, “It’s very hard to trust a brand that you see only on TV commercials. It’s a lot easier to trust a company whose content showed you how to get something done successfully.”
Important tactics for assessing the viability of a content marketing idea are
- Keyword research: Are guests asking the question you’re hoping to answer? One of the greatest benefits of well-designed content is that it continues to bring positive attention to your business well after it is published. But this will only happen if there is sufficient search traffic seeking out the keywords that pertain to the topic you plan to cover.
- Competition research: Has another business already exploited your idea or captured the market for solving a particular problem? Sure, there is always room to improve on an existing solution, but in the early stages of your experience with hotel content marketing, it’s best to look for unfilled niches and be the first with a particular idea.
- Continue to innovate: Is there ever too much of a good thing? Once your hotel starts publishing content, it’s easy to slide into trying to recapture today’s success with tomorrow’s content. It’s okay for your marketing to share a few common ideas, but you don’t want, for instance, one tutorial video to compete with another. Instead of asking “what made this content successful?” it’s better to wonder “why was it successful?” and then use that as common ground.
Guest and Influencer-Generated Content
For much of this post, we’ve looked at content creation as an in-house endeavour from design to execution. But there is a special class of hotel content marketing that departs from that roadmap. With a bit of planning, you can have the content created by someone else — your guests. Taking photos and shooting videos are activities that come naturally when we’re on vacation and it makes sense that if travellers have carefully selected a boutique hotel for their accommodation, they’ll want to tell their friends and family all about the experience.
Loews Hotels does a good job of presenting visually appealing photos posted by guests. They use the #TravelForReal hashtag and credit and compensate the original poster.
Successful guest-generated content campaigns follow a few relatively simple guidelines. For the most part, they:
- Consider the guest’s motivation. Why should paying customers post their holiday snaps with your hashtag for free? Maybe you’re offering a weekly prize for the best photo or your hotel’s following has grown to the point where a reshare would mean something to the average social media user.
- Focus on brand strength. If your boutique hotel takes particular pride in having a strong poolside cocktail program, that’s the place to encourage guests to post their photos.
Influencer-generated content is a special class of this type of marketing. In this case, journalists, bloggers, and those with a significant social media following are invited to be guests of a particular hotel on the understanding that they will return the favour by creating and publishing content based on their experience. Sometimes this exchange is an unspoken quid pro quo, but more often recently hotels and influencers are dealing with each other through more formal agreements that clearly spell out expectations, timelines, and compensation.
As well as contributing their hard-earned audience to your efforts, influencers will often have a handle on breaking social media trends like live video before brands do. A good example of this is Marriott’s plan to work with Snapchat influencers.
Chasing Viral with Your Hotel Content Marketing
We’re dealing with the idea of viral content marketing last because, quite frankly, the idea of “going viral” can be a distraction. Build a solid base first, get used to the idea of publishing content that hits the targets you set and then, maybe, start thinking about whether it makes sense to shoot for the moon.
How far away is the moon? Well, there’s no hard-and-fast rule about what a post has to do to be considered viral, but most definitions focus on the scale of the audience and the percentage who share it. A viral post has such a strong emotional hook that people who see it on Facebook will feel compelled to like it there and then also go to the extra effort of sharing it on Twitter.
Inc has a good primer from Kelsey Libert on the eight elements that go into virality. The thorough list has a few possible surprises — including how well map-based content performs and that viral content calls for very light branding.
Sometimes brands will get lucky and a regular post will go viral, but if it’s the goal from the beginning then the product tends to be resource-intensive and highly-produced like the Two Bellmen web series.
The Two Bellmen series goes the entertainment route and very lightly promotes the features of the JW Marriott brand.
The good news is that many of the building blocks needed for viral content also help create content that hits less ambitious targets.
Jump Into Hotel Content Marketing
For hotels, content marketing should be fun and engaging but the best examples usually start with thoughtful planning and some careful consideration. You’ll have a solid foundation if you start by asking:
- Why does content marketing make sense for our property?
- How would content marketing fit into our larger marketing plan?
- Where can we use content marketing to make our customers’ lives easier by solving their travel-related problems?
- What content would best showcase the strongest element of our hotel?
- How can guests and influencers play a role in making content for us?
- Are we ready to aim for having our content go viral?
Guiding boutique hotels through these steps is what we do. Get in touch and we’ll get started today on mapping your course to succeeding at hotel content marketing.