Ms. Rondeau

Social Media & Relationship Marketing

Why Storytelling Sells & How to Analyze If Your Story Does

By Darlene Rondeau, Vice President, Best Practices, Online Merchandising, Leonardo

What's the first thing we do when meeting someone new? We ask them questions in an effort to hear their story: Where are you from? What kind of work do you do? Do you have kids? What we're trying to do, more than just to pass the time - is we're looking for a way to connect to that person.

Stories make life interesting, but they are also useful because they give people a way to relate. Humans love storytelling, which creates a big opportunity for hotel brands and their properties. And now that social media is maturing from just a friendly addition to your marketing plan to a necessary component of your overall strategy, its role is more vital than ever.

Strategically Social

A solid social media strategy ensures you're taking part in conversations your guests are having. It also means staying true to your hotel's social voice and character. By sharing your hotel's individuality through all your social media posts and shares, you're differentiating your property from the competition - not to mention engaging with your audience in a compelling, personal way (and not sounding like a robot!) A well-planned social strategy also includes having content readily available to go about creatively repurposing that material appropriately for each of the channels you're using to interact with hotel shoppers.

Why Stories Sell on Social Media

Stories are deeply and fundamentally engaging to consumers, and because people can relate to stories, creating content with this in mind on your most important social platforms creates the basis for authentic conversations. The contemporary guest appreciates being informed, educated and delighted, not "sold to."

  • On average, per day per person, we receive more than 2,900 marketing messages, so you see that ordinary content isn't going to cut it any longer. This notion extends to all of your content marketing, and importantly, social storytelling
  • Today's consumer is in charge. They decide how and where they'll shop for hotels. They choose which device is most convenient to use. They solicit input from friends, family and even strangers over brands
  • Storytelling gives hotel marketers the opportunity to connect and engage on an emotional level with their audience by sharing a compelling tale supplemented with vivid images. When visual storytelling works, it conveys impressions and conjures up memories; when it works well, it makes us feel

Studies show that people prefer, even on a subconscious level, to interact with visuals over plain text. In fact, 90% of all information that gets transmitted to our brains is visual. In the "now" economy, consumers want snackable chunks of visual content, particularly with video offering consumers an opportunity to visit your property virtually and make a booking when the time is right. In fact, in 2013, 81% of online travel bookers consulted videos before making a purchase. This statistic is significant, but perhaps not surprising - considering 65% of consumers are visual learners.

One of the easiest ways for marketers to get started is to use a video-sharing platform like YouTube to broadcast your story to the world. And today's online travel shoppers turn to YouTube to do just that: to find out what makes your hotel unique, to get a better glimpse of the experience they'll have at your hotel, and to provide confidence that this is the right choice for them.

People Don't Buy What You Do

People don`t buy what you do, they buy why you do it and how it makes them feel and the measured results of visual storytelling to respond to these two reality checks is why we've seen a marketing shift across all industries, and more recently in hospitality. A compelling social narrative can be even told with a great photo on Instagram, a fun six-second looping video on Vine, or a delightful disappearing image on Snapchat. The digital landscape is evolving with storytelling and social media connected at the hip. Savvy marketers have figured this out and are getting really creative in their efforts to relate and inspire their audience. The social media movement, by the numbers:

  • A recent study by Shareaholic, which tracked 300,000 websites over four months, suggested that social media referrals now lead to 30% of a website's overall traffic
  • 75% of people don't believe that companies tell the truth in traditional advertisements
  • 92% of people have more confidence in information found online than they do in anything from a salesclerk or other source
  • 82% will join a brand-sponsored online community because consumers want to identify themselves with a brand

Social media storytelling is not a nice-to-have anymore. While you certainly don't have to be on every single social media channel, the key is telling a story about your property that's genuine, to the target audience you want to reach, on the channels they're using for their shopping journey. So before you start posting and pinning, consider what your goals are and how you want to measure your marketing effectiveness.

How to Use Analytics to Measure Your Social Impact

Storytelling is solidly grounded in the new-ish world of social marketing. As with all marketing initiatives, it's important to implement your programs, and then evaluate what's working, and what's not. Social media analytics tools help you actively measure the numbers to guide further action. You've worked hard to source, curate, publish and amplify your hotel's story; but are you achieving your goals - whether it's brand awareness, increased engagement, lead generation, or conversions?

What Tools Should You Use?

  1. Social Mention is a social media search and analysis platform that aggregates user generated content (UGC) from across the universe into a single stream of information. It allows you to easily track and measure what people are saying about your hotel or brand.

  2. Twitter Analytics is a data-driven Twitter extension that allows you to measure engagement and learn how to make your tweets more successful. You can go in depth with the demographics of your followers to explore their interests, locations, their viewing patterns and ultimately decipher their psychographics. Track what posts drive more clicks, retweets and the overall engagement rates.

  3. Facebook Page Insights is a built in extension on your Facebook page that allows you to view your posts' organic reach, engagement and likes. It also provides a thorough analysis and breakdown of how each metric is defined for all your paid and organic posts.

  4. Twtrland is a social intelligence platform that helps you build your online identity. Not only can you use Twtrland to monitor who is talking about your hotel, you can also use it to curate content that help tell your hotel story and provide relevant information to guests. For example, you could search for "hotel marketing" and find related content to share with your followers, ensuring you stay in the loop - and help build your online reputation. You can also search for influencers (people who are interested in the topics you're interested in) and follow them, share their content and start a social relationship.

  5. Digital Marketing Systems that your property uses may allow you to further track engagement on social media. At Leonardo, for example, our Digital Marketing System called Vizlly allows hoteliers to understand what content consumers are engaging with on all their digital marketing channels, including their Facebook Apps, and then strategize accordingly. By monitoring the guests who click on your booking engine from Facebook, you can then follow them through the booking path and understand what guests are engaging with online and if they're confident enough to book. When evaluating these results, you may see that consumers care more about images of your rooms than your exterior, or that they're constantly clicking on your "Free WiFi" promotion. Identify, analyze, and strategize - then repeat.

Making a Big Impact on Social

I've often said that if GMs or DOSMs want to raise prices (or even just fill their rooms), they need to tell a better story - and it's true. There's a reason why we happily pull out our wallet to buy an expensive bottle of water - you're not just buying that water anymore, you're buying into the story the brand is selling, that makes you feel good about spending that extra money.

In a world where everything is rapidly being commoditized, it's refreshing (pardon my pun) to know that an authentic story, wrapped with rich meaning and visuals can actually help you justify a higher price. In other words, consumers are willing to pay more for an anticipated experience and hotel shoppers are no different. So, if you'd like to get $10 more per night than your competition across the street, tell a better story.

Social media is a powerful platform to tell your hotel story. Get started identifying what your hotel story is, amplifying it on social, and then analyzing the results for maximum impact to take advantage of this tool.

Darlene Rondeau has more than 25 years of sales and marketing leadership focused on providing solutions for Fortune 1000 Companies, primarily in the travel industry. Currently, Rondeau is Vice President, Best Practices, Online Merchandising for Leonardo. In this role, Ms. Rondeau has the objective of heightening awareness of new digital visual storytelling techniques that motive consumers throughout their travel shopping journey. Leonardo is an technology company serving the global hospitality industry. Leonardo provides e-marketers at hotel brands, management companies, hotel properties and travel websites with technology solutions that improve the way they present their hotels online to travel shoppers. Formerly at Leonardo, Ms. Rondeau held the position of Vice President, Hotels, The Americas. Ms. Rondeau can be contacted at 416-593-6634 or darlene.rondeau@leonardo.com Extended Bio...

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