How independents can compete in the content arms race
 
How independents can compete in the content arms race
31 AUGUST 2016 7:34 AM

Guests want online content from and about your hotel when they’re looking to book and during their stays. Here are five tips on how independent properties can keep ahead.

Traveling consumers have an insatiable appetite for content, putting hoteliers in the middle of a content arms race.

The amount of time traveling consumers invest online—deciding where to go, how to get there, where to stay and what to do when they get there—is astonishing today. It doesn’t matter if they are traveling for business or pleasure either, as a great many consumers are living blended lives, traveling with their families, friends and pets regardless of the motivation. Can you say “bleisure?”

The major brands have invested heavily in developing the teams and tools necessary to deliver content, initiate and measure relevant conversations, and build online relationships with their customers. Perhaps the best example is Marriott International’s M Live Studio, which launched in 2015 at Marriott’s headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, and has since expanded to Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe. Each studio is an epicenter for creating real-time content and social engagement in multiple languages. They track conversations, trends, global performance, marketing campaigns and brand reputation across social platforms, identifying opportunities to engage with consumers.

So how can independent hoteliers compete?

Own new media and technology
Yes, you must continually seek out and embrace new opportunities in media and technology. This will help you negotiate the techno-realities of today’s consumer. But don’t just embrace change, that’s not enough. You must own it in order to win.

The social media world is a fast-paced frontier with an ever-evolving language that goes beyond “likes,” “posts” and “pins” on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. In order to own it, you must remain fluent in the latest cyber-speak such as BizSugar, Delicious, Digg, Periscope, Quora, StumbleUpon, Viber, Vine and WhatsApp.

You must stay up on the various social media management tools, too. Not only can they help streamline and consolidate your marketing efforts, they can help you stay in the know. Check out Buffer, Everypost, Hootsuite, SocialOomph and Sprout Social.

Most importantly, you must gain and maintain an understanding of how to produce, edit and upload video content. According to Cisco, which just released its annual report on internet traffic, video is beginning to stretch the limits of the internet, and will account for 79% of all global web traffic by 2020. That’s an increase of 63% from last year, the vast majority of which was driven by consumers downloading video content to their laptops, tablets and smartphones. Purchasing a GoPro is a great place to start. These compact cameras are durable, waterproof and made for capturing action on-the-go. Easy enough for kids to use, high-quality enough for pros and it comes with free DIY editing software.

For years we’ve believed the internet can level the playing field for independent hoteliers. This has never been more true than today, as there are numerous online and technology tools available that enable anyone to win, and they’ve never been less expensive or easier to use. Staying up on the latest will help you win.

Deliver fresh, unique and authentic content
Today’s traveling consumer is seeking authentic, locally inspired experiences, and you must create processes and procedures to collect and communicate these experiences to them through your hotel or resort’s website and social media channels.

What authentic experiences are available—on your property, through your employees, and in and around your destination—that may be of interest to potential guests? More importantly, how are you collecting and communicating these to them? If at all possible, consumers should be able to curate their stay on your hotel website.

Tell your story
The best marketers are master storytellers, and storytelling matters more than ever today. As independent hoteliers, we have an incredible opportunity—and I would say responsibility—to create famous, lasting brand stories for our properties.

Anywhere you sell and market your hotel or resort is an opportunity to tell your story. The most successful brands in the world are purpose-driven and don’t get bored telling their story, because it is authentic to them. Retell it over and over again, in new, surprising, creative ways, but make sure the core story doesn't change. Remember, too, that when telling your hotel’s story, you aren’t spending money—you are investing it. With each investment, your brand becomes more valuable.

Rethink expertise
It’s very easy to think that you are the expert on your own hotel, but in many ways, that’s a myth. The true experts are your past guests. Engage with them, listen to them—both online and in person—and use their feedback to fine-tune your product, experience, your content and online user experience. This process will always be evolving. You’ll never be finished.

Never stop investing in learning
I encourage you to continue learning about content marketing. It is an ever-evolving discipline which can deliver amazing results, especially for independent properties, as it is the most competitive arena for you to compete with your branded competitors. No matter the size of their team or investment, they will never have the ability to identify opportunities, and act upon them as quickly or with the same agility as an independent.

These are a few of my thoughts on how you can compete in the content arms race. I’d like to get your thoughts. How are you and your organization fighting the good fight? Please feel free to share your opinions, stories, ask questions or comment here.

John Fareed, principal of John Fareed Hospitality Consulting LLC, is an internationally recognized authority in the field of hospitality marketing. He holds a Master of Science degree in Hospitality Management from the Dublin Institute of Technology's School of Hospitality Management and Tourism in Dublin, Ireland—where he is currently pursuing a PhD—as well as professional designations from the prestigious International Society of Hospitality Consultants and the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International. Fareed’s consulting clients include Fortune 500 companies, brands, lenders, developers, REIT’s, management companies, investors, owners, attorneys, and insurers. To learn more visit www.johnfareed.com or contact Fareed directly at jf@johnfareed.com.

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