With 20 exceptional properties throughout the world, Red Carnation Hotels prides itself on offering distinctive experiences catering for a variety of travel interests and styles. They include celebrations of history and heritage with signature dining and hand-crafted wines all with a common thread of personalized service. Hotel properties cover a host of inspiring locations, from South Africa’s Western Cape to the Royal Mews in London to castle grounds overlooking Lough Corrib in Ireland.
Here, Ciara Fitzpatrick, Marketing Manager at Red Carnation Hotels answers questions about the key role that Visual User-Generated Content (UGC) plays in the luxury hotel group’s marketing and highlights some benefits that are not so widely discussed.
Why do you think visual UGC is so key for the hotel sector?
People rarely book a hotel these days without scouring the customer reviews. And, increasingly, many will also check out Instagram and Facebook for photos from guests who’ve stayed there—to get a feel for what the hotel or resort is really like. Guest images provide the added reassurance that a hotel is as good as its marketing says it is.
And visual UGC is on the increase. Since the pandemic, we’ve seen a sharp rise in our guests sharing images from their hotel stays. Probably a lasting impact of pandemic lockdowns when people who’d seldom used social media before, became accustomed to regularly sharing their lives on the likes of Instagram and Facebook to stay connected with friends and family. And now it’s become a habit.
How and where do you use guest images?
Every Red Carnation hotel website has a Nosto UGC widget embedded on its home page as well as themed pages for afternoon tea or other signature events and experiences. These automatically populate the page with up-to-date images that our guests are sharing about their stay on social media. And each hotel reposts guests’ social shares on its own social accounts, as well as including UGC imagery in marketing emails and on-screen at events.
What are some of the less talked about benefits of UGC?
There’s no doubt that UGC provides the social proof that often gives people the confidence to book a hotel stay. It also helps us maintain a constantly updated well of visual content to keep our websites and other digital channels fresh and appealing. There are, however, three additional benefits we’ve seen that aren’t discussed so much.
- Inspiring creativity
The images guests share inspire visual ideas we can explore in our own social media and wider marketing campaigns. For example, a large number of guests at one of our coastal hotels were taking and sharing photos of the coastline framed through the gaps in an intricately designed balcony—a really interesting image that we’d never have known about otherwise.
Guests who stay at our castle hotel are more inclined to post images of the exterior of the property than its beautiful interiors. When we changed our own content strategy to focus more on the rugged exterior, we noticed an increase in engagement.
UGC captures the authenticity of real guest experiences in a way we can’t easily replicate in professional hotel photography. While they may not be as polished, people often relate to them more.
- An informal source of guest feedback
Analyzing and taking note of the visual memories that guests share is a little like doing informal market research. Because our centralized marketing team (based in London) can’t visit every hotel regularly, the UGC images allow us to soak up details on individual hotels, giving us a sense of what was important to guests. How do guests like to spend their time in each hotel? Which nearby attractions, events and beauty spots do they visit?
- Supporting the employer brand
With staff recruitment and retention a challenge in all aspects of hospitality, we actively encourage employees to share behind-the-scenes user-generated images to showcase what it’s really like working in our hotels. It’s an important way of supporting the employer brand, giving potential new recruits an authentic picture of life at Red Carnation.
Employee photos are kept continually updated on our recruitment pages via a UGC widget. They’re also shared on our ‘Life at Red Carnation’ Instagram account and showcased at recruitment fairs and events.
Any advice to marketers about using UGC?
I can only see the impact and benefits of visual UGC increasing and growing over time—especially in travel. Marketers in the sector have got to help their brands realize its potential.
UGC is a well of content just waiting for marketers to dip into. From images and video to guest testimonials, your audience is already highlighting your best bits. No matter your budget, skill set or schedule, a short dialogue with your customer about using their content is quick, easy and foolproof. And I can pretty much guarantee that they are going to love your brand even more when they see their post featuring on your feed. I know I would! So, focus on making your brand worth talking about, and they’ll surely start talking.