How Red Carnation Hotels Powers Social Ads and Web Experiences with Authentic Guest Content

Red Carnation Hotels, a family-owned collection of five-star boutique hotels across Europe, Africa and America, is known for its attention to detail and impeccable customer service. With unique hotels that provide tailored travel experiences for each and every visitor, Red Carnation needed a way to capture all of the special moments guests were sharing across social media. By partnering with Stackla, RCH easily captures these “Instagrammable moments,” as Dan Christian, Chief Digital Officer at The Travel Corporation, Red Carnation Hotels’ parent company, calls them, and leverages them across their multi-channel content strategy.

With a library of these authentic, user-generated images ready to use, Red Carnation Hotels drives more bookings — and keeps customers coming back for more.

Treating guests and team members like the influential content creators they are

For Red Carnation, social channels are an essential tool for promoting their distinct and memorable travel experiences. “First and foremost, we’re very focused on growing awareness and getting people to understand what a travel experience will be like,” said Christian. “We want to bring people into the consideration stage and, most importantly, get them to book. We’re really seeing an incredible number of people booking their next trip purely based on the user-generated content they’re seeing.”

We want to bring people into the consideration stage and, most importantly, get them to book. We’re really seeing an incredible number of people booking their next trip purely based on the user-generated content they’re seeing.

Dan Christian, Chief Digital Officer, The Travel Corporation

Visual social proof has proven effective in inspiring travel bookings time and time again. According to a recent Stackla report, 86 percent of people have become interested in traveling to a location after seeing images from friends, family or peers. “It used to be the case that we’d go through multiple touchpoints and we’d get some over the line, but now people are seeing a UGC image they really connect with and they’re opting right in,” said Christian.


Because social posts make such a strong initial impact in the travel booking journey, Red Carnation knew they needed to tap into all of the content creators that publish the most effective content. For the RCH team, that meant that, in addition to looking to customer-created content about specific hotels, they also look to their employees to create and publish content as well. “We’re working to try and make our customers our brand advocates. We give people who are really connected to the product and the experience, our customers and team members, an opportunity to participate on these platforms and get involved,” said Christian.

“We want to bring the people who are already involved in the business and make them the influencers. It becomes much more meaningful. It’s an accurate representation — and it’s changing traveler booking patterns,” said Christian. By treating not only the customers, but the staff too, as the content creators they are, Red Carnations empowers all of its brand advocates to collaborate on the brand’s visual messaging, promoting a real, authentic look and feel. With Stackla, Red Carnation can easily source all of this content for their use; to date, the team has sourced over 147,230 UGC photos.

As Christian says, “The people who have the stories to tell are on the ground. And, to do social well, you need to make the connection with those who have the stories to tell.” And Red Carnation lives out this advice. With social feeds full of authentic UGC, the hotels offer potential travelers real visual proof into what a stay will really look like.

This UGC-centric strategy is working, too. In fact, nine out of fifteen of the top engaged posts on Instagram are UGC images. By leveraging Stackla’s robust rights management workflows, the Red Carnation team has rights approved over 1,240 images for use across their web and social channels.

From social media to social ads, UGC outperforms branded content

The team behind Red Carnation’s luxury Egerton House Hotel in Kensington, London, knows the power of UGC. Seeing results from their homepage gallery of content created by guests — the gallery reduced the homepage bounce rate by 25% — they decided to look into extending this UGC strategy into their paid social campaigns.

Wanting to leverage user-generated content, but also ensure it would perform as well as their branded content in the long run, the team ran a series of A/B tests between the UGC ads and their traditional branded ads. The results? Authenticity reigns supreme. Compared to the professional branded ads, the UGC-powered ads saw:

  • 38% higher click-through rate
  • 30% lower cost-per-click
  • 36% more clicks

“We’re now seeing a much larger click-through rate in images that feature user-generated content. They stand out to people right away,” said Christian. “They can tell the difference between a photo a guest has posted and a photo we would have shot as part of a photoshoot. There’s been a significant cost decrease in us taking this UGC approach.

With UGC coming out on top of tests like these, it’s clear that Red Carnation benefits from marketing with their customers. “We want to let the consumer tell us what’s working whenever possible and let them have a vote in the content we serve them,” said Christian.

Red Carnation transforms UGC into homepage feature video

With all of their guests’ UGC coming in and performing well across social and web, Red Carnation wanted to feature that authentic visual proof front and center on their site. The Red Carnation team put together a video, Through the Eyes of Our Guests, featuring a compilation of the top UGC they’ve sourced from guests across their hotels, and they placed it directly on the Red Carnation homepage.

Through the Eyes of our Guests from Red Carnation Hotels on Vimeo.

With over 3,000 plays, the video is piquing the interests of potential guests right at the moment of inspiration. By promoting stays at their hotels with real customer content, Red Carnation Hotels immediately provides visual proof for potential guests looking to book. And, they aren’t only featuring their human guests. Their VIP (Very Important Pet) video features the furry best friends of Red Carnation customers and employees — a creative and adorable way to show that RCH hotels are pet-friendly!

With more people than ever looking to social content to inspire their next travel decision, creatively featuring UGC in ways like this ensures Red Carnation stands apart.  “Across all demographics, for luxury, for kids, for seniors, people want to travel and they want to share their experiences,” said Christian.

As Christian notes, posting real guest photos of Red Carnation stays isn’t just about gaining bragging rights. “It’s not about showing off where you are,” says Christian. “The images, using brand hashtags, make people want to be there — without being envious that you’re there. We want to have someone look at a photo and want to be there, instead of looking at a photo and saying ‘Why you and not me?’”

Across multiple touchpoints, Red Carnation drives bookings with UGC

For travel brands especially, getting social media and web right can be the difference between driving bookings and driving customers away. With user-generated content at the heart its web and social strategy, organic and paid, Red Carnation provides an authentic look into a real stay at their hotels. “We want to use the most inspiring user-generated content in the most powerful way,” said Christian. “UGC is definitely the future for us. We’ve seen success with UGC. Now we want to replicate it as much as possible.”