The stats speak for themselves – nearly all online travel customers (95%) read reviews as they shop for a hotel room, while more than three-quarters (76%) regard online reviews as insightful and, therefore, helpful during that journey. All of which means that, if you’re not already leveraging social proof on your website; boy, are you behind the curve!
Social proof in a nutshell
What’s referred to as social proof – the sharing of other people’s (i.e. previous and current customers) views on your service – is powerful because it’s all about trying to influence guest behaviour via others’ positive impressions of your business. And the bottom line is that it works. Whatever the psychology behind it (it’s pretty much that the higher the number of people have done something, the more likely many of us are to behave as they have), it’s a hugely lucrative selling tool. Especially when it comes to driving up direct bookings via an independent hotel’s website. So, as a hotelier then, how can you best leverage the power of social proof…?
Don’t cut corners with customer reviews
A good deal of social proof’s effectiveness boils down to the pulling power of customer reviews. Recent research tells us that as many as half of all travellers have published an online review in the last year. While you let that fact sink in, consider too that more than half of hotel customers (53%) won’t even book a room unless they’ve first read a review. Quite simply then, the importance of positive online reviews can’t be understated; they’re an utter necessity nowadays.
But how can you ensure visitors to your site see them? Merely embed a review widget on the website so visitors can write and post them – it’s that easy. What takes more time and effort (but is well worth it, though) is keeping on top of the reviews left on your sites. For them to be as effective a marketing tool as they can be, you need to take advantage of the interaction – and, thus, impression that your business is as much about communicating with and meeting the concerns of your guests – they can generate. So you should always aim to reply, whatever appropriate response that requires.
Don’t scrimp on social media
Unsurprisingly, another hugely leverageable device when it comes to social proof is social media. Especially when it comes to younger travellers. Indeed, a recent industry study has found that nearly every millennial traveller (a whopping 94% of them) access the Facebook social platform when they’re travelling, while more than seven in every 10 of them (71%) access the visual content-focused Instagram. Perhaps even more telling is that apparently one third of customers have actually changed the hotel they were intending to stay at owing to social media influence.
Again, as with reviews on your site, on your social accounts you must remain active and consistent – they’re fantastic for reflecting your hotel’s brand, so you have to make sure it’s presented in the best light all the time. Always reply to comments! In fact, a good way to manage your efforts is to deploy a hotel social media strategy
. This way you’ll be able to create posts and properly schedule them via specific tools; the like of which deploy analytics to make clear which posts and messages are resonating best with your audience. A reputable digital marketing agency that knows what it’s doing, like Digital Hotelier, will be able to help you here.
UGCs and hashtags
The industry terminology for the likes of customer reviews – and more beyond – is user-generated content (UGC). As an overall entity, UGCs tend to be nuanced and subtly influential over potential customers because they can be incredibly varied. In addition to reviews then, we’re talking everything from users’ blog articles to discussion forum posts, Tweets to Facebook comments, user-created imagery to user-uploaded videos/ podcasts and even Wikipedia page entries.
As stated, you’ll often find UGCs populating social media platforms, meaning they can be encouraged by a hashtag (#) when it’s placed in front of a word or phrase – if it gets picked up by users it will ‘trend’ and become even more prominent on the social platform. Of course, the real aim of the game when it comes to a social media UGC is getting it shared by all and sundry. You can try to kick this off by sharing someone else’s content that casts your hotel in a favourable light (it’s perfectly acceptable – and, indeed, encouraged – to do so without permission on Twitter). But, yet again, don’t forget to properly respond to any UGC – where relevant – and, as often as you can, anyone who uses your hashtag.
Overall then, when leveraged correctly, social proof can be highly effective in not just engaging and interacting with pre-existing, current and potential guests, but driving them to your website to book directly and boost revenues.