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Well-done short-form videos create a feeling of authenticity. No wonder savvy independent hotel brands are using the social media app TikTok to offer casual, energizing peeks at their properties.

Hotel marketers are using short-form video campaigns on the social media app TikTok to score views from millions of potential guests. In many cases, this interest — revealed through the popularity of tags such as #smallluxuryhotels (more than 3 million views), #hoteldesign (more than 13 million views), and #besthotel (33 million views) — is prompting people to book trips.

“TikTok is no longer considered a dance-trend app for teenagers,” said Richard Hyde, managing director of Small Luxury Hotels. “The platform is rapidly aging up. We’ve seen engagement from users of all ages on our Small Luxury Hotels of the World account.”

AdWeek reports that, as the China-based viral video app becomes more sophisticated, the age of its demographic continues to rise along with the number of users. TikTok was the most downloaded app of 2021, with 656 million downloads. 

No matter what the generation of the user, the appeal of the content is universal, Hyde said.

“Authenticity is quickly becoming the new cultural currency,” he said of adopting a more “behind the scenes” approach. “Our hotels are experiential, entertaining, spontaneous, enriching, and fun – like Tik Tok. The platform doesn’t require polished content. Users will sniff out professionally made videos and they won’t perform as well. Our TikTok strategy is based on showing our beautiful hotels from a guest’s perspective.”

That strategy is even better news for brands with limited resources, as promoting user-generated content can save on sourcing talent while also capitalizing on the poster’s base of followers. 

Here are three hotels whose design-focused content generated by users or staff went viral.

The Retreat Elcot Park, United Kingdom

Small Luxury Hotels recently hired a new member of its social media team to create content for a burgeoning repository of TikTok content. One of that team’s projects was to capture footage of Villa Franca in Positano, which now has over 400,000 views. 

Another smashing success was a campaign for The Retreat Elcot Park in the English countryside, timed around the same week that the second season of Bridgerton was released. 

“With the Bridgerton tag trending on TikTok, we entered that cultural conversation in an authentic way,” Hyde said. “Using a soundbite from the new series, we framed the hotel as a place that Bridgerton fans must visit.”

“The TikTok reached an audience of 50,000 — 86 percent of whom discovered the video via the ‘For You Page’, meaning they were not following us yet,” Hyde said. “The comments were filled with friends tagging each other saying that they must visit the property.”

“As well as discoverability, ‘saves’ are an important metric for us,” Hyde explained. “Users are now saving the destinations they would like to visit in the future.”

The Pod Hotels, New York

Pod Hotels are renowned for their modern micro accommodations – but as a small brand, a “team” of one marketing professional can oftentimes feel a bit small too, says director of marketing and digital strategy Shanna Soares.

It’s one of the reasons she and hotel management sponsored a social media “residency” last summer for six creators, with TikTok a particular focus to help build hype online. One of the most successful posts came courtesy of Dylan Mulvaney (@dylanmulvaney, 8 million followers), who was hosted in a Pod Pad apartment.

Her most successful content focused on the mid-century modern accommodations that offer about five times more square footage than the average Pod guestroom.

But a code tracked back to Mulvaney’s post shows more conversion to the hotel rooms than the month-to-month apartments, said Soares. That video alone has so far garnered 668,000 likes, a testament to testimonial marketing’s power.

“Dylan really resonates with her followers,” said Soares. “She has an authentic presence and brings positivity and joy to the content she creates. Getting a fresh perspective is super valuable. Especially with digital marketing, it’s so important to stay current.” 

The chief means of doing so these days is by broadening the focus outside of Instagram and older platforms.

“We have to use tools like TikTok,” Soares said. “We’re a budget property, not a big international brand. But we are in some really cool neighborhoods. So the more you can showcase those neighborhoods and the hotel, the better.”

She likes the platform in particular because it’s an “educational opportunity” for potential guests who may have heard about micro hotels but don’t know much about the concept. Like Hyde, Soares touts the authenticity factor.

“We want the consumer to see that our rooms are fun, functional, and there’s enough space here,” Soares said. “But for others, it might not be for them. And it’s a great opportunity for them to see that as well. These videos are a way for us to be super authentic. Video gives you a much better look at those things, and TikTok doesn’t have to be as polished as a video we’d produce to host on our website.” 

Pod Hotels has also had success with other user-generated content like that from Morgann Book (@morgannbook, 2.8M followers). Her post about Pod’s design and policy as one of the few New York hotels accepting reservations as young as 18 has gotten 68,300 views and has been shared almost 1,000 times.

Ladera Resort, St. Lucia

There’s describing the spectacular scenery at Ladera — 36 rooms and villas with breathtaking views of the Piton mountains and the Caribbean Sea — and then there’s seeing it on TikTok.

Words can barely do justice to the open-air concept here, originally pioneered on the island by American architect John DiPol for a mountaintop restaurant. Hotelier Ralph Hooper bought the property in 1988 and has continued the open concept in each accommodation. 

Ladera takes a page from Pod Hotels and has found its greatest TikTok success via its guests, notably Alex Blodgett (@alexblodett1), who has so far garnered 3.9 million views and 441,000 likes of her private plunge pool.

While bikini campaigns have gone the way of the dodo bird and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, there’s a lot to be said for the momentum behind what the Selfie Generation will share. And others will clearly share alike — Ladera has seen strong engagement through 30,000-plus shares of Blodgett’s video. 

St. Lucia Tourism Authority was early to recognize the power of the platform and was one of the first Caribbean islands to create a destination-themed hashtag: #TikTokSaintLucia.

A TikTok campaign earlier this year included four travel influencers hosted by independent hotels Jade Mountain Resort, Ti Kaye Resort & Spa, Stonefield Villa Resort, and Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa.

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Tags: destination marketing, future of lodging, hotel marketing, marketing, small luxury hotels, social media, social media marketing, tiktok

Photo credit: TikTok app on iPhone. Source: Nordskov Media / Flickr / Creative Commons. Nordskov Media / Flickr / Creative Commons

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