Buzz is important when you’re wooing group business planners. The more buzz you have, the more demand you can create. Digital marketing is a perfect vehicle to make buzz happen. That’s why, in the age of the curated selfie, it’s imperative that your venue is photo-ready — from the biggest conference space to the smallest meeting room. The reward: Images of your picture-perfect hotel may make it to Instagram, which has more than 1 billion active users.
Research tells us that digital marketing, more specifically social sharing, can be an effective, low-cost way to get your message out. There’s a huge audience out there. The average Instagram user spends 27 minutes on the platform, according to eMarketer, and more than a third of users have engaged in “social commerce,” making buying decisions based on what they see on a marketer’s social page.
Hoteliers should have their own Instagram pages, but they must also do everything they can to encourage grassroots marketing. It’s up to you, as an on-property professional, to make sure meeting and event attendees are inspired to post their own Instagram photos, videos, and stories.
“In this day and age, everyone is capturing special moments and sharing them with the rest of the world," explains Suzanne Halperin, vice president of catering and banquet brand operations for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. “One person posting can result in hundreds of people viewing it, so imagine if multiple people are posting!”
Halperin discussed this strategy in depth during her presentation at Cvent CONNECT in Las Vegas. Here are her top four must-dos for curating socially sharable spaces.
1. Create Warm, Welcoming Spaces Using Unconventional Setups
We all know what a typical hotel lobby or meeting room looks like, but what if you could turn what’s typical on its head? What if you could put guests at ease and make them feel right at home immediately? It might lead to photos. Halperin suggests starting with things you can’t see, adding soothing or venue-appropriate music and setting the thermostat to the perfect temperature. Appeal to attendees’ sense of taste, too. A table filled with water or small bites is a welcoming way to greet guests.
Venue seating is important, too. She suggests giving conference rooms a dynamic arrangement, using round, oval, or square vignettes that encourage attendees to sit down, relax, and take in their environment. This type of creative seating encourages guests to move around and stay engaged and comfortable, says Halperin, who recently managed an event that used a combination of couches and overstuffed chairs in rounds and rectangle spaces to inspire guest comfort.
2. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Audiovisual
If you go to an event and there’s a single screen at the front of the room, you, like most attendees, probably aren’t all that impressed. However, if a room is filled with uplights and video mapping (projecting video onto objects), everything changes. Add in a separate social screen where attendees can live-tweet or post about the event, and you’ve created plenty of Instagram-worthy photo ops and a way to keep people engaged.
How can you get this done? Work with your in-house video team to create a menu of options for planners to choose from and be open to new ideas from outside AV vendors. You can’t sell what you don’t show.
3. Create Unique Food and Drink Offerings and Presentations
When it comes to catering, consider the latest trends and the design offerings that reflect them. For instance, cultural and ethnic food is very popular, as are gluten- and dairy-free dishes and vegan or vegetarian meals. Find inspiration from Pinterest by searching “catering display” or “catering ideas.” Don’t forget the basics, though. Even tried-and-true event offerings such as deli buffets can get an Instagram update via presentation and garnish, says Halperin, who points out that unique vessels and equipment can also elevate what some might consider ho-hum dining.
Bottom line: The most photographed food and drink is going to be creatively presented and approachable, delivered in a warm and inviting atmosphere.
4. Sprinkle Fun, Unique Experiences Throughout Your Meetings and Events
Halperin points out that interactive, educational, and immersive experiences are no longer an event enhancement, they are an expectation. Her venues are seeing great success with options such as chef-led pasta-making classes, cocktail classes and wine tastings, and wellness offerings including yoga and chair and hand massages.
You can envision how each of these experiences could be an Instagram moment, right? They are sharable because they make it all about the attendee. If you can bring a “unique activation to life” on your property, there’s a good chance it’s going to make its way to social platforms, reaching a whole new audience of potential customers.
To learn more about how to make your venue stand out and other strategies for meetings and events, download Straight From Cvent CONNECT: Group Business Best Practices.