Industry standards put the average hotel marketing budget at about 4 to 5% of the property’s total revenue. That’s a nice starting point and marketing certainly is a necessary expense (and one that can deliver pretty awesome ROI), but what if you could get some of your exposure for free?

Social moments are a low-to-no-cost way to connect, engage, and convert, but they won’t just happen. You have to know how to give this phenomenon the room — sometimes literally — it needs to flourish.

What is a Social Moment?

A social moment is basically a snippet of an experience that ends up on social media. That definition makes the entire concept sound almost accidental, like a byproduct of a really good time, but in reality these moments are highly curated, highly orchestrated, and potentially highly profitable.

Anytime someone takes a picture in front of your towering flagstone fireplace and posts it on Instagram with hashtags likes #hotelname, #AspenGetaway, and #SkiCation, or does a Facebook Live of your newly refurbished spa-like bathrooms, that’s a social moment.

These moments could come courtesy of experts, celebrities, popular opinion, friends, or the average Joe who just knows how to conjure up shareable content.

Power of Social Proof: Using Social Media for Hotels

Whenever someone books a room in your hotel and says they found you because of someone else’s social media post, that’s social proof at work. It’s the 21st-century version of word of mouth except it comes with pictures and people can click through from an influencer’s post and find your site in mere seconds.

The desire to have a good time is contagious. People love aspirational marketing, and social proof is the epitome of putting dreams on full display.

Creating a Social-Friendly Environment

No one wants to take a picture or videotape a tour of something ugly. To give your hotel a chance to shine, you need to set the scene with mood lighting, interesting décor, eye-catching architectural elements, and the staff to help it all come together.

A social moment could be:

  • Two friends making faces in your mirrored elevator
  • A short video of guests decorating your annual lobby Christmas tree
  • A celebrity couple taking pictures in your hot tub and sharing them with followers
  • A sponsored tweet talking up the grub at your new on-site restaurant

Organic social posts cost you nothing. Sponsored posts and influencer partnerships could cost you a free stay or thousands of dollars, it all depends on the situation.

Social Moments in Action: The Brands Who Are Doing It Best

At Chef José Andrés’ Las Vegas restaurant Jaleo, delicious, creamy croquettes are served in a shoe, a choice that has led to countless social media posts featuring the quirky vessel.

The artsy vibe of Ace Hotel’s downtown Los Angeles location makes it one of the most Instagrammable hotels, and guests don’t hesitate to take advantage.

WeWork, a coworking company with some 400 locations in 26 countries, is killing it on Instagram thanks to a feed featuring 90% user-generated content. People love being part of the company’s community and that translates into social proof incarnate.

Putting together an “Instagram hot spot” increases your chances of gaining online traction, but most social moments come about organically and you may be surprised at what guests decide to feature.

Focus on creating incredible experiences for everyone who walks through your front door and the social proof will follow.

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