With social media, there’s only one move to make – video

A well-framed picture may say a thousand words, but these days on social media a simple video can garner thousands of views and likes, the internet’s barometer of popularity. Indeed, if you ask any social media marketer what’s hot right now, they will undoubtedly say, “video.”

Contributed by Juliana Shallcross

Not surprisingly, many hospitality brands have leaned heavily into video content on social media, experimenting with new ways to bring their properties to life via the hand-held screen.

“A few years ago, we were creating content to square images, utilizing carousels to have people swipe left and right, and just repurposing broadcast video on social platforms,” said Katie Johnson, vice president and brand leader for Hyatt Hotels Corp.’s Independents Collections and Residences. “Now social has become video-first, specifically vertical video.”

Whitney Reynolds, senior director of content and partnerships for Kimpton Hotels and Resorts, said video has been a great way to tie in all the elements of a hotel stay from checking in to opening the door and admiring the room view.

“A short-form video allows us to tell the whole story and really showcase all of those little moments that lead to the magic of your hotel stay,” Reynolds explained. “A static image can’t do that. If you’re looking at one image of a guest room or an image of a view, it’s only capturing that one part of the guest journey.”

“Social has become video-first, specifically vertical video.” – Katie Johnson

With the emergence of TikTok and Instagram Reels, along with advanced video production tools often found within social media apps, user-generated videos can do just as good of a job telling a story as slick professional shoots.

“User-generated content (UGC) is like social currency and when we can have other people tell our story, it feels more authentic and genuine,” Johnson said, mentioning a case study her team did showed that UGC content outperformed produced content. “Consumers still trust people they know when it comes to being influenced.”

The influence piece

This preference for user-generated content highlights another subtle shift in brands’ social media strategy—seeking out niche influencers who have both content creation skills and high engagement rates as a means of boosting a hotel’s return on investment.

“The influence piece is only part of the value in partnering with them,” Reynolds said. “They’re really some of the best creators of original content. So, if you look at them as creators, which we have done at Kimpton, that kind of opens up a whole new value proposition for influencer work.”

Depending on the terms of the agreement, a hotel brand can use a content creator’s photo and video assets on their own channels, at the brand and property levels. “Knowing the volume of content that we need to be churning out successful on social that’s critical, especially with video being so important now,” Reynolds said. “For them to be in our properties, capturing these beautiful videos and then delivering that video file to us to share with our followers, that is worth the investment.”

“They’re really some of the best creators of original content. So, if you look at them as creators, which we have done at Kimpton, that kind of opens up a whole new value proposition for influencer work.” – Whitney Reynolds

Brandon Billings, vice president of social media and content strategy for MMGY Global, said incorporating these creators into longer-term engagements will become the norm for marketing campaigns.

“These content creators, you can almost think of them as another paid media channel, but from a very much social perspective, building content that can really help elevate a property or a destination,” he said. “And that content is usually better than any production house that you bring in, and it’s built in a way that people are naturally already wanting to engage with it.”

Cutting through clutter

Yet as social media platforms continue to mature, the hotel marketplace has become more saturated (both offline and on), making it difficult for brands to stand out, no matter how good their content is. Or as Johnson said, long gone are the days when a post can go viral organically. Add in rapidly mutating viral trends and mysterious algorithms, the social media landscape is a dizzying place to navigate.

Hyatt Hotels have cut through some of the content clutter with paid social campaigns.

“A paid strategy is required these days to ensure people are seeing the content we’re carefully curating and creating,” Johnson explained. “You can have the most elegant content that truly showcases your brand, but you have no control over who sees it if you post organically.”

Johnson added that some of Hyatt’s successes have happened when their content was served to the right audience on social media.

Building brand

But one thing hasn’t changed – hotels still see social media as the best tool for brand awareness, and not so much as a driver of sales.

“Compared to CPG and even food & beverage, booking travel takes a lot more planning. So, the immediate booking does not necessarily happen when you see a video of our hotel,” Johnson added. “We look at a full-funnel integrated marketing approach and try to inspire people when they’re first thinking about travel through social media.”

“They [brands] have to understand what’s working within the [social media] space and then be able to be a fast follower, step in, and activate.” – Brandon Billings

Reynolds said that not every single social media post can address all the stages of the marketing funnel. Kimpton’s social channels do drive bookings around their big sales such as their annual October sale and Cyber Monday deals but, in general, 90% of their social media posts are about brand-building and brand affinity.

“Our number one goal for social is introducing people to our brand, growing interest in our brand, and really creating that brand love and the love of our hotels,” Reynolds added.

Next steps

As for what’s next, Billings said social media will keep evolving and moving forward, meaning brands have to be ready for whatever emerges next. “They have to understand what’s working within the [social media] space and then be able to be a fast follower, step in, and activate,” he advised.

The push for more authentic, not as polished, video-based content will also remain strong, especially on TikTok where Johnson said “raw and honest” content is expected. “Consumers have gotten smart when it comes to consuming content on social, so they want to see what our hotels really look like without a heavy filter,” she said.