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  • Brenda Sandoval Valdes

The Power of Content Marketing, Viral Videos, and Social Platforms

Savvy hotels now seek sleeker and smarter ways to attain brand loyalty among current and potential customers, according to the leading communications and marketing agency, LINKS WorldGroup. Today's technological innovations create almost limitless ways to share information and engage with the public. Combining this ability with age-old corporate social responsibility initiatives and actions allows for the opportunity to allow customers to feel they are supporting important causes, while simultaneously creating loyalty to brands.

Customer surveys have confirmed that international hotel groups and major names who give back to the community which their property is in, care for the environment with green practices, and implement process and investments that go beyond mere profit, are ultimately more admired through the eyes of customers. Companies must also take into account that today's modern consumer has limitless access to information and is incredibly savvy. This is a key factor for hotels that wish to create long-term brand leverage, as they are able to highlight their role in community development through smart social media presence and content marketing.

According to a recent survey, 75% of respondents revealed that they felt organizations weren't doing enough to increase brand loyalty. While some may argue that sponsored content is not the best way to go about public relations for CSR, there is data to show that in such cases sponsored content is not perceived as advertising. It is still important to identify such content clearly and gain trust for being transparent.

Social media is a platform that is attracting major attention for its ability to bring companies closer to consumers. Buzzwords such as sentiments, engaging content, viral, reach, influencers, quick interaction, feedback, complaint resolution, and regular stream of content can build positive rapport when implemented correctly. Companies in travel have a lot to gain from trust built on social media. It is always, however, important to remember that consumers want to engage with corporations, and companies should use this platform to speak with rather than pander to customers or simply advertise their initiatives. Customers can quickly see this as companies simply wanting to 'do good' for the sake of their bottom line. That is why smart and clever content marketing is key.

It is also possible to measure and quantify the results of social media activities and keep track of how successful any campaign or activity is. It is important for hotel executives to implement strategic marketing consultancy to engage in and track social media initiatives. Through an organized process of content creation for social media and other content marketing efforts that includes research, analysis, data collection, organization, writing, and editing of blogs, newsletters, press releases, brochures and overall collateral, LINKS provides an in-depth approach that results in powerful content for hotel clients. The end goal, LINKS says, is to build long relationships between hotels and their audience through a strategic communication process. This translates into creative and adaptable ways to reach the target audience.

This explosion in content over the last decade has resulted in hotel marketers waxing eloquent on how best to sell content and how to best deliver that all-important message. Quality content has always been important in the travel and hospitality industry, but now it is more essential than ever. Marketers must focus on providing travelers with relevant and share-worthy social media posts and engaging articles. This is a key opportunity to build hotel brands through insightful compelling content and smart delivery. By having consumers share to their own networks and creating traffic through outside sites, the possibilities to reach international feeder markets are wonderfully cost-effective and much more impactful than traditional print advertising.

"While content delivered can take a wide variety of forms - from customer stories to fictional set ups, one should keep in mind that we are doing this to market properties so that consumers can make the best decision. Content marketing strategies should not therefore shy away from selling," says Brenda Sandoval of LINKS WorldGroup.

A key component in content marketing is the plethora of online social media platforms available today. A common mistake that hotels make when trying to engage consumers online is simply trying to cold sell their property. Today's consumers are way too smart to engage in this and they have far too many options to waste their time. Instead, companies should use these platforms to position their hotel as a leader in the industry, to create a want for the experience their hotel provides and turn their properties into brands. Understanding how to effectively convey these messages are key in increasing occupancy and creating a return on investment.

Delivering an impactful headline is key in capturing busy online readers, who are inundated with endless streams of information, and failing to do so can be a fatal marketing mistake. Content creators must ensure that their headline is engaging enough to get that all-important 'click-through,' with the body of the content also structured smartly enough for the new age and always-on-the-go reader. There are ample techniques of content structuring available today that can make blogs, articles and marketing material readable from several points of views.

New sales and marketing horizons are always opening up, and the last few years have seen the rise of new ways to connect and influence. Online videos have become today's addiction of choice for many, with some consumer spending their days watching one video after another. And content marketers couldn't have asked for a better, more powerful medium to hook their audiences. Videos derive their appeal from the power of visuals, words and a personal presence that is hard to achieve with other mediums. The figures for video marketing are astounding, with one survey revealing an average watch time of 5.5 hours every day per consumer. In this mass appeal, videos have taken over blogs, infographics and other marketing material by a great distance. The sales figures support the effectiveness of video marketing ad advertising, with data showing a jump in sales when videos are included.

Every day, social media sites report between 6-8 billion video views. Therefore, it's no wonder every other business today aspires to create that one 'viral video'. For 2018, companies should expect and plan for greater refinement and improvement in production and marketing of videos. The following three issues will gain limelight in the year 2018: Firstly, the autoplay feature has been slightly contentious among advertisers owing to unique consumer preferences. Some like to watch one video after another, while other consumers are discreet and wish to have better control over what they watch.

Secondly, native video is not to be discarded. In fact, it is seen as a better alternative to hosting videos on social networking sites due to various reasons. It is easier to gather detailed statistics from one's own website or server, and the video itself can be presented and marketed smarter. One should expect a rise in native video hosting as well. Lastly, the share of video streaming in total data consumed online will increase even further from the current 75+ percent to over 80 percent. Video marketing must therefore be a major component of marketing efforts for all industries, be it manufacturing, real estate, travel or consumer goods.

"The rise of the video is amazing, and we expect its march to continue in the coming years. Businesses in travel and hospitality should consider more refined strategies for delivering video content to their audience and customers," says Brenda.

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