A hotelier’s guide to successful Snapchat marketing
A hotelier’s guide to successful Snapchat marketing
24 JUNE 2016 6:47 AM

Hoteliers are building a presence on Snapchat by investing in geofilters and creating custom content through an “organic channel” approach.

GLOBAL REPORT—Hoteliers are beginning to create a presence on Snapchat by posting unique content and crafting filters for brands and companies, which can sometimes require spending more money to produce high-quality content for users, sources said.

Innovation and trends author Michael Tchong said hoteliers need to be prepared and have realistic expectations when it comes to investing in Snapchat.

“(Snapchat) reaches 100 million young users, so for hotel brands with typical customers that are 35 years old, clearly, it might not be a directly bottom-line producing result,” he said. “It’s going to have to be kind of like developing a market that may grow into a brand, therefore, (hoteliers) can’t expect instant results.”

Geofilter campaigns
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide recently began using Snapchat for marketing with the creation of “geofilters” across all the company’s brands. Geofilters are screens or pictures available based on location, event or business that can be placed over pictures and videos that are sent to other Snapchat users.

Christine Espinoza, associate director of global, social and digital content strategy at Starwood, said the company decided to create geofilters for use across all brands after the success of W Hotel’s geofilter campaign, which was launched last year.

“With that success, we decided that we wanted to do this across all of our brands and at all of our hotels under the umbrella of (Starwood Preferred Guest),” she said. “(W Hotels’) geofilters generated nearly double the views that we had anticipated; the conversion rate on them was also really high, which means that people who are on Snapchat who saw the filters actually used them more often than people used branded geofilters in general.”

Anthony Ingham, global brand leader at W Hotels, said the brand’s three-month geofilter campaign featured three filters that rotated monthly, which Ingham called “playful tongue-in-cheek spins on the traditional postcard.” Snapchat users were able to access the filters at 24 W properties in the U.S., as well as the W Montreal and W London-Leicester Square.

“Snapchat is an emerging platform with the attention of an increasingly important audience, so we jumped at the chance to be the first travel brand to participate in a national geofilter campaign,” he said via email.

W Hotels also partnered with a multimedia artist to create new geofilters in June. The new filters were created to support the Human Rights Campaign’s fight for equality, and they feature phrases such as “I am what I am” and “The road to equality has never been straight.”

By extending the SPG geofilter campaign to all brands across the U.S., U.K. and Canada, Starwood hopes to learn what types of travelers are using geofilters, Espinoza said.

“The benefit we’ll get out of it is being able to understand how our guests and our members are using Snapchat,” Espinoza said. “While we don’t yet have a branded presence on Snapchat in terms of actual brand channels, having the geofilters across all of our brands will help us start to understand things such as volume of people using Snapchat at our hotels, (if use) varies by hotel type, (if people are) mostly snapping at our leisure resorts or if we see this behavior also at our meetings and business hotels.”

She said the company will track return on investment on Snapchat by looking at the number of geofilter uses at specific properties as an indicator of whether the SPG filters are compelling, and Starwood will also monitor the total number of impressions on each filter. Espinoza said all metrics are provided directly by Snapchat.

Creative content, advertising
Snapchat users expect fresh, creative content, which can sometimes require more work for sales-and-marketing departments, according to Tchong.

“The initial tactic for most hotel brands might be to provide behind the scenes of say, a concert like Hilton did, and give (users) the inside scoop to happenings at an event or concert or what have you,” he said. “So it is, of course, not easy to produce. And the content brands that are on Snapchat Discover are putting a lot of effort into developing unique content for this channel that is not within their normal (marketing plan).”

Snapchat Discover is a platform within the Snapchat app that features unique content from news and entertainment outlets.

Tchong said taking a “casual approach” to advertising on Snapchat will probably leave brands with results they don’t want.

“If you spend a lot of money getting custom-tailored advertising on a regular basis, you’re probably going to get better results than if you’re taking a casual approach to it,” he said. “A lot of marketers feel that engagement (on Snapchat) is fantastic and they’re very happy with the results, and others are less excited about it. Again, that tells you the level of investment that comes with it.”

Snapchat as an ‘organic channel’
Four Season Hotels & Resorts took the organic approach to Snapchat by using it purely as a channel to connect with guests. Yvonne Yuen, global social media marketing consultant at Four Seasons, said the company uses Snapchat as an “organic channel.”

“We have one global channel from which all of our properties tell their stories from around the world,” she said via email. “Our followers on Snapchat never know where we’ll take them next.”

Yuen said Four Seasons does not have one designated person who posts content to the company’s Snapchat. Instead, employees at all properties are trained on how to use the platform. The person posting at each property is usually a public relations or social media position.

“We have been training our staff at properties around the world our voice and objectives on Snapchat, then providing them with access to the global account to tell stories from their destinations,” she said.

Four Seasons tracks ROI through metrics available on Snapchat, including views and screenshots, Yuen said. She added the brand also “takes stock of the Snapchat feedback, which comes through our other social media channels.”

Yuen said the company also recently invested in an “on-demand geofilter experiment,” which allowed the brand to see how many people saw the filter and how many were actually using the filter.

On Four Seasons’ organic channel, Yuen said cohesive stories seem to be favorites among users.

“Not only was a lot of planning involved, but many of the fun tools of Snapchat were incorporated: emojis, speed-up filter (and) geofilters,” she said.

Four Seasons often features behind-the-scenes content from different properties, such as chefs in the kitchen, guests participating in on-property yoga for National Yoga Day and Music Day on the French Riviera.

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