Should your hotel brand be on TikTok?

By Jessica L on 24 September 2021

Hotel brands have so far been slow to experiment with TikTok. But is that about to change? Now the most downloaded app in the world, it's on course to achieve over a billion monthly active users by the end of 2021 and is fast evolving as a serious marketing tool. To connect with its primarily Gen-Z users, brands will need to consider a TikTok-specific strategy rather than simply replicating what has worked on other channels. 

The hub for culture and trends

TikTok is an app for making and sharing short videos. In the two years that it’s been on the scene, it’s steadily expanded its appeal from a place for whimsy (dance-offs, lip-syncs and so on) to a viable platform for brands to have a presence on. The company’s mission is to “inspire creativity and bring joy”, which it does by harnessing trend culture to drive viral engagement. 

It is masterful at capturing attention. A sound-on app with vertical, full-screen content that’s algorithmically curated, it keeps users plugged in by its frankly addictive feed and interactive concept.

Travel a fast-growing category

User-generated content is an incredibly powerful source of travel inspiration, so it’s of little surprise that related content on TikTok achieves impressive reach. During lockdown, TikTok launched the #TikTokTravel hashtag challenge to encourage users to share travel stories, resulting in 24.5 billion views

While several major airlines (Virgin Atlantic, Ryanair, Delta, to name a few) have been using TikTok for a while, hotel brands have typically been hesitant.

This year, Marriott made its first foray into TikTok marketing as part of its global Power of Travel campaign. Marriott Bonvoy, the brand’s loyalty program, partnered with 27 creators with a combined following of 34 million to maximise its exposure on the app. Encouraging TikTokers to create their own content around the hashtag #TravelMakesUs, the campaign aimed to tap into growing wanderlust and encourage story-sharing.

Next generation of travellers

While TikTok is aiming to diversify its audience, it stands that over 60% of its users are Gen-Z. Usage of the app by under-25s is in fact so staggering that over half of Gen Z consumers are on TikTok, versus 39% of Millennials. With this group’s spending power only set to grow, and travel preferences still being learnt, it would be a missed opportunity for brands not to focus on connecting with them now. Clearly, TikTok taps into the Gen-Z mindset in ways that Instagram and Facebook can only hope to mirror – just by exploring the mechanisms of the app can marketers gain useful insights on this demographic’s content consumption habits.

TikTok content is fast, digestible, yes – but another reason why it resonates so strongly is because it tends to feel more authentic and less aspirational than Instagram’s flawless aesthetics. Hotel marketers will need to play to the app’s strengths and focus on humanizing the brand. The most successful TikTok campaigns seemingly break the fourth wall and invite the community into the creative process.

How to market a hotel on TikTok

Travel is multi-sensory and uplifting – TikTok will be, for some brands, a way to immerse their target audience in the experience in a way that would be challenging in traditional advertising. It’s also the source of so many storytelling opportunities, which is ultimately how TikTok wants us to perceive its highly shareable content.

Some hotel brands like Avani Hotels & Resorts in Southeast Asia have partnered with local influencers to produce destination guides that take users off the usual tourist trail. Others have created organic content in the form of hotel tours, behind-the-scenes insights and sharing hidden gems in the neighbourhood. TikTok For Business enables brands to fully exploit the platform’s greatest strengths with a range of advertising products from brand takeovers to in-feed ads and branded hashtag challenges.

Whether TikTok has a place in your current marketing strategy or not, it’s a platform worth getting to know – just don’t get lost down the rabbit hole.

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