Loyal customers can be a huge marketing asset. Not only do they help raise brand awareness through social media channels and with friends and family, but they are familiar with your company’s products and services and eager to share their recommendations. These types of consumers are referred to as “advocates” because of their passion and dedication to a brand. They can be easily confused with “influencers” who also promote brands online, but are usually motivated by a paycheck or other perks. Advocates are not paid advertisers and typically don’t have the large following of influencers, yet their value is greater. According to recent research, 92% of consumers say they trust the opinion of brand advocates, compared to just 18% for influencers.
Why does this matter for the hospitality industry? Many hotels, especially large brands, have loyalty programs. These programs enable properties to learn more about their guests to provide special offers and personalized services. Loyalty members are a hotel’s biggest fans! They love the quality and consistency of your property and are happy to share personal information to enhance their next stay. These are your advocates, and empowering them to share your brand story will help grow your business.
The Power of Advocates
Here’s why advocates are so instrumental in growing brand awareness and reputation:
Creating a Guest Advocacy Program
The first step to engaging brand advocates is to identify who they are.
Start by combing online review sites such as TripAdvisor to find overly positive responses to a recent stay. From there, dig deeper into that user’s profile to explore their influence and contact them if it looks like they’re regulars at your property.
Feedback Survey Results
Does your property send a post-stay survey to guests for feedback? Take a look at the results. Have any of your loyalty members consistently submitted five star reviews?
Social Media Mentions & Search
Depending on which sites you use, keep an eye on the notifications tab in your profile for @ mentions and tags. These people are already talking about you! Keyword searches on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest can help narrow your search to those who may be interested in your brand, communicate in a similar voice, or otherwise compliment your brand values. LinkedIn is particularly useful for filtering users by job title to find influential meeting planners, travel bloggers and others. View their followers – are these travelers or potential customers? Are they in your area?
Once you have a promising lead, decide how you want to reach out. The quickest way is through a direct message on social media. You could also make a more formal connection through email, or perhaps take a personal approach through snail mail. In each case, be natural and genuine. Tailor your pitch to the person’s background and what you’d like to engage them in. A meeting planner would be the perfect person to advocate for your group business operations, while a corporate traveler might love the chance to rave about your hotel’s comfortable beds and wide range of amenities.
Partnering with Advocates
Partnerships are most successful when goals are established upfront. Discuss expectations with your advocates so everyone is on the same page. There are several ways you can do this:
- Agree on frequency of social posts, use of testimonials, videos, and other types of content. Remember – these people are happy customers and are talking about your brand for a reason! Help them help you by equipping them with high quality photos whenever they post.
- Trust they know their audience and what will drive reactions and shares.
- Feature their content on your own social media or blog to inspire potential new guests into booking with you.
- Provide your advocates with a discount, upgrade, or comped stay as a thank you for their partnership. The most important part of partnering with advocates is the relationship you share with them that will keep them coming back to your property.
Creating a Community
Making connections among your brand advocates also has its benefits. Use one of your social media channels to create a private group. These types of communities allow advocates to get to know each other and share tips and tricks. You can poll this group to test new ideas or request feedback on something before going to the general public. Providing behind-the-scenes and exclusive details to your advocates builds trust and shows you value their dedication to your brand. It may even empower them to promote and defend your property in all kinds of conversations online and offline.
Partnering with advocates can help bring your brand to life, enabling you to reach a new and broader audience of potential customers. Your website’s photo gallery will only go so far in conveying the guest experience. Take a personal approach to marketing your property by allowing advocates to share their stories. Not only is it more impactful, but provides inspiration and excitement for shoppers about the possibilities of their stay or next event.