Social proof should be in every hotel's marketing toolkit. The technique, which uses the thoughts and feelings of others to influence customers, feeds into our need to belong and our unshakable trust in ‘people like me’.

We hear time and time again from our clients and partners that social proof is especially crucial for winning over customers in Asia. That’s partly down to massive adoption of social media and mobile, both of which make social proof easier to find for consumers and easier to harness for business.

With intra-regional travel the dominant force in Asia Pacific, hotels there have got to be using social proof and using it right. The latter is harder to do than it sounds, so here’s a few thoughts on how to maximise the value from social proof.

Reviews — from the right people in the right places

Not all reviews are equal as far as Asian customers are concerned. According to Expedia, reviews of Westerners are of little use to this audience due to differing standards on things like cleanliness. So what matters is that your reviewers represent the full range of your potential guests.

Make sure you are encouraging your Asian customers to leave their feedback and perhaps offer incentives that can be claimed in- or post-stay once they do. Display such reviews prominently on your website and where they appear on external sites, respond to boost visibility.

If your reviews are coming via social media, make sure they are on the right platform. Facebook, for example, is blocked in China so Weibo will be more useful there.

Engage customers on social media

While we’re on the topic of social media, it’s worth noting just how powerful a medium it is in APAC. The region is home to 54% of the world’s social media users and 56% of the world’s social media mobile users, according to We Are Social and Hootsuite. Customers there are already online and primed to share, so give them every opportunity to do so.

Creating and promoting a hashtag has worked wonders for Kempinski. They simply suggest customers add #Kempinski to the posts they share on social. The posts then sit on its website in a visually inviting “guest gallery”.

Social is also a neat way of presenting social proof. Sharing a significant milestone in a simple tweet or post can be understated but impactful. “Today we welcomed our 1000th guest” or “Proud to say we’ve got our 50th five-star review” could work.

Lastly, there are social media influencers. A few posts from a relevant influencer could open up your hotel to their readymade audience. If all it costs you is a discounted or even free stay at your property, it could be worth the investment.

User-generated content

Kempinski’s hashtag kills two birds with one stone; it provides social proof and also generates rich content the company can use on its website. It’s often shareable, engaging and more authentic than stuff dreamed up by marketers (not to mention cheaper) so customers love it.

UGC also tends to have an element of storytelling and therefore makes compelling social proof. Kissmetrics, which makes a behavioural analytics and engagement platform, says our brains are more receptive to stories than data. Stories tend to be more persuasive too because they transport us into specific scenarios. So if you are soliciting Instagram posts or reviews make sure you ask for full details and contact the customer if you need more.

Word of warning though, you don’t own UGC. If you want to use a photo or blog post in formal marketing rather than reposting on social or on a feed on your website, you may need to get the creator’s permission first.

Put social proof in a positive light

Kissmetrics also looked in to what kind of social proof is the most effective. They examined research on the effects of signs in a forest designed to prevent theft, including one containing negative social proof. It read: “Many past visitors have removed the petrified wood from the park, destroying the natural state of the Petrified Forest.” The sign actually encouraged more stealing, because it made people feel as if it was normal and "okay".

A separate study shows positive social proof — think along the lines of “77% of customers are already receiving perks via our loyalty scheme” — on the other hand seems to have the opposite effect.

Of course the foundation of effective social proof, whether it be reviews, celebrity endorsements or even the waiting list to get a table at your restaurant, is creating top class experiences for your customers to talk about in the first place. Only after you’ve done that can you worry about whether you are framing the feedback you get in the best possible way. We’ll be looking at the secrets to perfect guest experience in subsequent blog posts so keep your eyes peeled.

We also happen to know one place you can get all the guidance you need on wowing Asian guests. The first Asia-Pacific edition of the Direct Booking Summit is coming to Singapore in 2019. Read all about the event and how to register in our blog on the launch. You can find out about summits in Amsterdam and Dallas there too.

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