Hotel marketers and social media teams can grow guest engagement and brand awareness by investing time and creativity into building a presence on YouTube.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—While Facebook, Twitter and Instagram claim the top spots as necessities in hotel social media marketing, some brand marketers have built formidable campaigns on YouTube, which sources said offers significant advantages when creating and distributing engaging video content.
Hotel marketers can more effectively use video to tell a story that promotes a brand, as well as better communicate a company’s or property’s culture and ability to personalize an experience.
No current social media platform outperforms YouTube in achieving those goals, said Noah Brodsky, SVP of worldwide loyalty and engagement at Wyndham Hotel Group.
“The key to success on YouTube really is that it’s a great platform for storytelling,” Brodsky said. “Whereas Facebook and Twitter are awesome for animated GIFs or snippets of ‘newsjacking’ or whatever is the story of the moment, YouTube—when you’ve got a polished story to tell and you’ve got engaging and fun characters to tell it with—YouTube is the best channel.”
YouTube—which was acquired by Google in 2006—is also bolstered by its functionality as a search engine, according to Tammy Lucas, VP of marketing at Best Western Hotels & Resorts.
“We’ve really elevated our strategy on YouTube because it really has become the place to search for a lot of content,” Lucas said. “It’s one of the top three search engines now.”
Using the platform effectively
As a subsidiary of Google, YouTube has evolved into more than just a video platform in the past several years, according to Keith Kakadia, CEO of social media consultant company Sociallyin.
“YouTube has been collecting a lot of data, so the targeting options we’re allowed to target by are (more) interesting now on YouTube than they were say six, seven years ago,” Kakadia said. “… Because it is so robust now, you are really able to reach exactly who you want to reach. You’re able to target by interest, you’re able to target by specific channels, competitor channels, you’re able to target by (country), and there many other different capabilities for targeting.”
Kakadia said launching an advertisement campaign on YouTube is much more cost-effective than a television campaign.
“When a television ad comes on, all consumers go to their first screen, their mobile device,” he said. “It’s a big difference between television and YouTube videos, because even though with YouTube videos they might skip your ad, you’re able to actually see how many completed the view, how many people skipped, and get some real feedback as far as marketing is concerned.”
Marketers can use YouTube analytics to study the number of views on a video, likes and dislikes, average length of view, how many users skipped the video—if the content is advertised on other YouTube videos—and even conversions back to a brand website. Lucas said Best Western has noticed marketing efforts on YouTube pay off based on the platform’s analytics.
“We’re really able to track all of the engagement but also where (viewers) are clicking through to book on our website at BestWestern.com, and where maybe we might be seeing them drop off as well,” she said. “Our results have been extremely strong for some of the brand list surveys that we’ve seen. We’ve seen increases upwards of 15% on these metrics, and then viewership, we’ve seen a tremendous increase in viewership. I think we’re about a 59% increase in viewership on our YouTube channel. You constantly optimize based on what some of those results are telling you.”
Brodsky said that while Wyndham also uses YouTube’s tracking tools to steer its marketing, the company uses the platform more for engagement purposes.
“Above all, we think of our YouTube page not as a direct revenue-generating channel, but as a great awareness and engagement channel,” Brodsky said. “Broadly speaking, we think of our social strategy as an engagement and awareness play, so we also talk to our owners and our guests to see how they’re reacting to and engaging with our content.”
YouTube success stories
Both Best Western and Wyndham have developed YouTube series that have become popular with viewers. Lucas noted Best Western’s “Travel Hacks” tip videos and the “Travel Moms” series, which includes interviews with children, have both performed quite well.
“You have to have authentic content for sure,” Lucas said. “You have to be careful about the creative that you’re using within that content, so it does resonate with the customers that you’re trying to attract. I think it has to be helpful. An element of humor like we did with the ‘Travel Moms’ series, that is always really important. And you have to watch the length of your videos.”
Lucas said Best Western uses YouTube to create a broad variety of content to appeal to multiple demographics, including millennials, baby boomers and families. The company’s latest initiative is exploring 360-degree virtual reality technology users can access on YouTube that gives viewers immersive experiences of Best Western properties.
“They can see what the front of building is going to look like, what the lobby is going to look like, what the rooms are going to look like,” Lucas said. “So we’re trying to keep up to where we see marketing going and what we feel the expectations of customers are today. They want authentic content and they want to be able to see what they’re going to be able to experience in true life.”
Brodsky said Wyndham’s marketing team was able to see the effectiveness of campaigns featuring the the “Wyndham Rewards Wyzard” almost immediately after creating the character to serve as the spokesperson for its loyalty program. Wyndham also created an innovative video series “Have Points, Will Travel” that first played on guestroom TVs but expanded to Wyndham’s YouTube channel.
“I think that was one place where we could think about a multichannel strategy with a piece of content that didn’t create a lot of extra cost but created something really interesting and intriguing to people to go online and discover and explore,” Brodsky said. “Our in-room TV spot says, ‘For more episodes and extras, go to our YouTube channel.’ So we’re driving people (to mobile) while in their hotel room, because we know they’re on multiple screens while they’re in the hotel room.”
It takes time and money
Kakadia said brands can build their YouTube marketing by using the platform to post more unique content, like market-specific videos travelers might search for on YouTube before they book a trip.
“In a general sense, I think it’s stuff that’s delivering value, not content that’s just very salesman-like and very pushy and ‘Here’s our promotion for this,’” he said. “But more so delivering some sort of value, whether it’s information on local markets or things that tourists might be interested in, things that they might be researching about before they come into the city.”
Brodsky said a successful YouTube presence and marketing strategy still requires significant commitment.
“YouTube should not be your first channel,” he said. “YouTube takes serious investment of time and money, and it’s not something that you can just give to the summer intern and then walk away from it in August. To do a YouTube channel right—and I think Wyndham Rewards is great example—you need to have a consistent strategy and you need to have the right budget to be able to produce really high-quality content that people will really enjoy.”