Advocacy Academy: Spotlight on Adventures on the Gorge

We love helping our customers get the incredible impact from advocacy each and every day. After all, we pioneered advocacy and are reimagining marketing that’s a win for travelers, great for business and plain ol’ good hospitality.

And if you’ve wondered what you can do to maximize your advocacy efforts through our platform, then read on, because today, we’re bringing you a special edition of Advocacy Academy, spotlighting customers crushing it on the platform (and beyond).

Meet Adventures On The Gorge. This destination in West Virginia is a premier location for whitewater rafting, rock climbing and a lot of fun (like their upcoming Bridge Day event—meet you there?).

Family travelers and adventurers alike come to explore the outfitters of the New River Gorge. One such adventurer? Laura W. and her family. Laura shared about her son’s Scout trip:

Facebook post with story from Laura W., recent traveler to Adventures on the Gorge

Jay Young, the Gorge’s Social Media Manager, (spotting a great opportunity to nurture his guest) saw the post and jumped into action. He not only gave her story a shoutout, but he also invited her to become a storyteller for their brand!

Facebook invitation by Adventure on the Gorge

And storyteller did she become! Together with her friends, Laura’s experience has been shared 20 times in just a few weeks, inspiring 46 friends and family so far to show interest in a future stay. (Opted-in, warm leads for all the marketing types out there…)

This all because Jay went the extra mile to engage Laura, inviting her to share her unique perspective.

But that’s not where this story stops.

When Jay saw the highlight of Laura’s stay, he instantly was reminded of his own son, so he knew that this story would connect with other travelers. He shared it on to his own audiences:

Adventures on the Gorge shares Laura W. story to their page

Right away—you guessed it!—Laura W. showed her excitement. Jay was of course sure to respond back right away, building a stronger relationship with his guest, a true testament to Jay’s sense of hospitality.

Facebook comment by Laura W. to Adventure on the Gorge.

The key from this Advocacy Academy? Engaging authentically with your guests is a win-win for everyone. And while there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to advocacy, there are some great ways to expand your use of the platform.

Look out for more examples of travel brands who are sparking some amazing conversations with their guests, and we’ll leave you with a few tips below:

  • Reach out and respond to guests that engage with your brand and spark a conversation with them.
  • Invitations are a powerful way to earn more storytellers and watch your advocacy impact skyrocket.
  • Share outstanding guest stories to your own audiences right from the platform.
  • Lean on your Account Manager for questions and ideas about getting the most out of the platform—we’re here to help!

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Best of the web: Our favorite headlines from September

We’re halfway through September, which means—besides the fact that we’re jamming to Earth, Wind and Fire more than usual—we’re at the tail end of peak season for those of our hospitality friends and customers with especially busy summers.

With everyone’s full schedules in mind, we combed through this summer’s marketing headlines to give you the tl;dr (too-long-didn’t-read) on everything from new regulations, to the ROI of social media.

Technology trends in the hotel industry: Spotlight on Jordan Hollander

From a thought leader on trailblazing hospitality tech: We love a good conversation with hospitality’s movers and shakers, and this chat with Hotel Tech Report’s Jordan Hollander is especially great. Hollander sat down with Digital Intent to talk industry challenges in their Disruptors podcast. He touched on why, at times, innovation can be difficult to navigate within hotel organizations. To help, he also shared some key examples of how to move quickly and overcome hurdles.

Plus, he made some nice mentions for a lot of the folks we call friends—like ALICE App, Highgate Hotels, Travel Tripper, and more.

TL;DR: Hollander identified some of hospitality’s challenges, like slowness to adapt and digitize. His team built Hotel Tech Report to help hotels to incorporate tech into their operation and help innovative vendors to gain market share.

Harvard Business Review's What You Need to Know about California's New Data Privacy Law

On data, privacy & relationship-building: This spring, marketers around the world focused a lot of energy on compliance for the European Union’s GDPR, elevating the urgency of protecting customer data and relationship-focused marketing.

Now, all eyes are on California’s new data protection law that brings this topic to the US. Harvard Business Review passed along the need-to-know details on the law and what it means for marketers moving forward. (Bonus material: You can find a few more great takes on this topic here, here and here.)

TL;DR: As data protection laws arrive stateside, taking great care of guests’ data is even more critical. Marketing and communication that’s focused on building relationships with travelers and nurturing them along the way isn’t just a best practice—it’s where marketing is ultimately headed.

The ROI of Social Media Infographic from HospitalityNet

On social by the numbers: Social media is, of course, one of the most powerful tools for marketers when harnessed correctly, but measuring impact can be challenging at times—so HospitalityNet stepped up to give us the essential stats on tracking ROI. According to CMO’s, they’re spending 12% of their budgets on social, with that number expected to rise to 20% in the next 5 years. That’s a large chunk of hard-earned marketing dollars, so understanding the value, and how social ties back to a business impact is critical.

At, we’ve found that using these channels to let travelers introduce properties and destinations to new audiences is one of the most authentic ways to use social (and we work hard to make sure those interactions are super trackable as well).

TL;DR: Many marketers look at social engagement (likes and comments), but find it challenging to track the sales impact. Only 20% of CMOs say they’ve quantified the business impact (with marketing agencies reporting similarly). So if you’re scratching your head to put numbers to those conversions, you’re not alone.

Destination Think! Sparking genuine word-of-mouth is always a best practice

On marketing your destination by word-of-mouth: Destination Think! not only delved into the importance of truly organic word-of-mouth in marketing, but also strategies for sparking it. They also noted the importance of tourism advocacy, as well as using stories and community to forge lasting relationships with travelers.

The bottom line? The importance of authentically reaching audiences on social can’t be overstated—building trust instead of simply trying to shout over an already noisy conversation. (We’ve said it before, and we’ll said it again!) Letting your travelers spread the word about your destination organically on a massive scale is the best way to reach new audiences.

TL;DR: Letting your travelers be the storytellers for your destination powerfully sparks word-of-mouth marketing and relationships with new audiences. Community-building wins out over clickbait every time. Your marketing should have a CTA that is directly relevant and captivating to the reader.

What news caught your eye this summer, and what do you think is next on the horizon? Drop us a line, and we’ll feature it next time.

Integrating local experiences to differentiate your hotel

At, we’re constantly working with people in the industry that inspire us. Here’s a special post from our friend Nancy Huang, Marketing Director at Travel Tripper. Join us for more on experiential marketing during our webinar on May 3!

With travel inherently rooted in destinations, it’s vital for hospitality companies to provide customers with high-quality local offerings. In recent years, there has been an even stronger push for hotels to deliver more authentic and integrated experiences, perhaps due to the preferences of the Millennial generation and the advent of the social media age. Today’s travelers want more than just a place to stay; they want to truly connect with the destination. Hotels can satisfy this need by integrating local products and activities into their amenities and offerings.

Organizing local activities

In addition to local products, hotels can also arrange for activities that allow guests to experience the destination in a way that goes beyond what’s typically found in tourist guides. Airbnb is currently experimenting with a new product, Experiences, which allows local residents to sell their own guided tours, similar to the way hosts offer up places to stay.

Guests can book such experiences as city tours, food and drink tastings, hikes, and bike excursions, which are only made available to them after they complete a booking on the site. Currently Airbnb’s experiences are only offered in San Francisco and Paris, but if things go well the company may expand the product to other cities.

Generator Hostels, part of a new breed of boutique hostel, offers its own events in the eight European cities where it has properties. Guests can take part in a group tapas tour in Barcelona, play petanque in Paris, sample whiskeys in Dublin, and much more. Each of the design-forward “poshtels” reflects its local culture and history. The branch in Berlin’s hip Mitte neighborhood, for example, celebrates the area’s thriving art scene. Generator also provides high-quality content in comprehensive guides of each of its markets, and even facilitates opportunities for guests to meet local residents.

Crafting your own unique offerings

When brainstorming ways to integrate local experiences into your own hotel’s special offers, amenities and packages, make sure to cater to a wide range of interest areas. Local food and products are always good places to start, and they’re easy to source and offer to guests.

It’s important to note that while higher quality local products can be more expensive than generic equivalents, they are worth it for the elevated experience, and can actually lower shipping costs since they’re transported from nearby. These products can be sold in the hotel’s gift shop, or offered complimentary as trial size toiletries or snacks in guest rooms.

When it comes to crafting local experiences, find ways to allow your guests to experience the destination as residents would. For example, instead of a typical guided city tour, craft a run or bike tour that takes guests through your city’s most scenic parks and walkways.

Another route is to create social experiences in which guests can meet and interact with local residents. Generator Hostels frequently hosts art and music events featuring local DJs, musicians, artists, and more. Roger Smith in New York City, which displays local art throughout the hotel, frequently hosts art talks and discussions that are open for guests and the public. Also consider the benefits of incorporating social media influencers into these local experiences, as they can bring an added layer of promotion and PR to the event.

All destinations are unique, so take advantage of your property’s neighboring community and everything it has to offer. Take time to fully explore the surrounding area’s history and culture, and come up with creative methods to commemorate them.

Incorporating local products

As farm-to-table dining has become increasingly praised for quite some time, hotels have also been adopting sustainable, environmentally friendly practices for their food and beverage offerings. Travelers are keen to sample local cuisine, and if ingredients come from nearby farms or the hotel’s own rooftop garden, then they will be all the more impressed.

And it’s not just smaller, boutique properties that are hopping on the culinary bandwagon. Even chain hotels are attempting to appeal to business travelers with discerning culinary tastes. Hyatt, for example, requires all of its restaurants to feature at least five local ingredients in their menu offerings. Drink lists are also being upgraded, with hotels across the globe offering beers brewed on-site.

Provenance Hotels does a particularly good job of telling a location-based story through the hotel experience. In addition to designing each hotel around a unique local theme and decorating its properties with locally produced art, Provenance offers its guests an array of local products so they can learn about the businesses flourishing in nearby areas. In Portland’s Hotel Lucia, for example, guests can sample local hand-harvested salt and handcrafted olive oil, as well as Bee Local honey, which is produced on the hotel’s own roof.

60 days in: How Tourism Australia won the Super Bowl

It’s been 60 days since the Philadelphia Eagles upset the New England Patriots at Super Bowl LII.

If you’re anything like me, though, what stuck with you wasn’t the game. I’m talking commercials—and the storytelling of brands who shelled out millions of dollars for their moment in the advertising spotlight.

And this year, thanks to Tourism Australia, destination marketing took center stage. Since the drop of the newest Dundee movie campaign, we’ve all been waiting in anticipation for what’s next for the brand.

Today, we speak to why it worked, the impact of Australia’s faux-film so far, and what the future looks like. Take a look!


For more on the Dundee campaign and its long-term impact for travel marketing in Australia, check out what the Drum and NewsComAu had to say, and be sure to tune in to the Why Australia video series.

Plus, let us know what you thought and be sure to follow along with Allison Schult, Hunter and me, here—we’d love to connect with you!

Audiences and influencers: the good, the bad and the fake

Reaching & inspiring quality audiences has always been a cornerstone of any effective travel marketing strategy. But now, more than ever, there are more factors to consider—from demographic, to conversion, to even the realness of the audience (all thanks to bots and “follower factories”).

Plus once found, how do you find and speak to those audiences in meaningful ways? Today, we cover this and more with our take on understanding your target audience and sparking authentic conversations.


For more on reaching real audiences, check out tnooz, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal for their takes, or reach out to me—I can’t wait to hear from you!

The hotel marketer’s guide to the galaxy: Facebook’s search for authenticity

2017 was a year of ups and downs for Facebook. They faced some hard questions, rooted to perhaps a bigger quandary: What is the purpose of Facebook—and all social platforms? To quote Douglas Adams and the all-famous Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I imagine it went something like this:

“The answer to the great question of Life… The Universe…! And Everything…!”

I mean, let’s face it: if nearly a third of the world’s population are on the bandwagon, it’s certainly a question worth pursuing—what is the greater purpose of social media? We’ve put some “Deep Thought” to that ourselves. (See what we did there?)

“Being “social” revolves around the idea of people sharing personal experiences with friends and family—travel conversations that hotels have long tried to join.”

Ultimately, it seems clear that the answer is conversations between people. (Either that, or 42.)

Well, then brands got in the mix. And while “social” media aimed for authentic connection, it became—and continues to be—neither personal nor between friends, quickly resembling another paid advertising channel.

Facebook took notice. So, citing a focus on meaningful connection and “bringing people together,” Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg (yet again) announced some overhauls to the social network for 2018. What does that include? To start, the prioritization of stories from users’ family and friends, limiting distribution of public content from businesses and outright demotion of “engagement bait.”

Historically, Zuckerberg has been vocal about the company’s “responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being,” so this most recent attempt to curate a more positive user experience is nothing new.

Facebook made a similar announcement in May of 2017 limiting the reach of posts that link to “low-quality web experiences.” More broadly, they’ve been shaping the user experience by means of their Community Standards for much longer.

Striking a balance between user experience and monetization is a delicate process, but the platforms call the shots… and increasingly pull the plug on the kind of lazy marketing that simply shouts at users, paying no mind to audience or context.

These changes are not insignificant for hospitality marketers, who are now faced with a new challenge: How do I shift my strategy?

Well unto this we say, “Don’t panic.” (Okay, last Hitchhiker’s reference, we promise…)

Here are some ways to shift your thinking and creatively stand out on the 2-billion-user social giant.

Take an editorial approach to content marketing

It’s no surprise that quality branded content is and will continue to be a potent strategy for your marketing. What defines quality? Think through who you’re trying to reach, and build toward creating interest, relevance and relationships with your guests.

  • Take a storytelling approach: focus on empathy and experiences.
  • Be sure your messaging is relevant and inspiring.
  • Make the content you create useful.

Even in the wake of changes to how social platforms organize and deliver content, what hasn’t changed is what travelers connect with: content that’s relevant, shareable and engaging.

One marketing tactic highlighted by Forbes is taking a straightforwardly editorial approach to content marketing, using human interest and engaging, accessible angles to make inspiration about your brand more shareable than ever.

Become the topic of conversation

If we know that Facebook’s aim is to bring the platform back to being a social network where conversations between people are the cornerstone, then ultimately, the exchange of stories between family and friends is the only truly organic reach you’ll have.

What’s more, no matter how creative your content, the power of a traveler speaking for you is unmatched.

Just know this: becoming the topic of guest conversations cannot be forced, and you can’t manufacture or mass-produce authenticity. However, you can empower travelers with the tools to kickstart those experiences by letting them tell their stories in warm ways.

So, how do you become the topic of conversation?

Spoiler alert: it starts by providing an incredible guest experience at your hotel, complete with stories worth sharing. (Breathe a sigh of relief. You’ve got this already.)

Another powerful way to become the topic of conversation? Encourage your travelers to become storytellers for your hotel. Why? Travelers are inspired by experiences, and they trust the folks they know.

Give them a platform to share, and pair it with experiences and conversions that make sense for this new audience. You’ll reach new audiences in the most trusted way possible, inspiring new travelers along their path to visit your destination.

Micro-influencers have powerful reach and can harness trust much more effectively than an ad ever could.

Reimagine an audience-focused approach to paid advertising

With these changes in mind, it’s apparent that paid will continue to be part of a well-rounded social strategy.

Yet in a day and age when travelers are constantly inundated with content and advertisements, it’s no surprise that reaching audiences with ads can be a challenge. Social audiences have learned to tune out content they don’t care to see—both actively and subconsciously.

So how do you thoughtfully and creatively engage travelers through advertising?

Apply the same principles of relevance, thoughtfulness, and storytelling to set yourself apart. When advertising your hotel, sell travelers on an experience instead of a price. Use simple, memorable and accessible imagery that conveys a story instead of a commodity.

Instead of using messages designed to be catchy or flashy, use what you know of your audience in order to tailor your message through the use of high-quality targeting, such as Facebook’s “custom audiences” feature.

At the end of the day, all three of these avenues build upon one another to tell a powerful story about your hotel and reach future travelers.

This is more than just our take—it’s also a cautionary tale: without authenticity and storytelling to back up your marketing, you’re fighting a losing battle against both your audience and your platform. So don’t find yourself left behind!

How are you adjusting to the shifting marketing landscape? What strategies have worked for you, and what other brands do you see making big strides? Join the conversation—we’d love to hear from you!

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Advocacy at work: Reunion Resort taps into inspiration with

At, we’ve made our careers in hospitality. A lot of our customers are industry folks who we have a long history with and we’ve developed a lot of friendships along the way.

Reunion Resort’s Carolina Ousley is one of those friends. She’s been a great leader in marketing since we’ve known her. Our own Richard Dunbar paid her a visit recently during OPMA’s Executive Summit. (More on that to come soon.)

Carolina had some kind words to say, and we’re just ecstatic to share them. Take a peek:


Feel free to give Carolina a follow here. And if you’re interested in how advocacy is a game-changer for hotels & resorts, let’s chat. 20 minutes is usually all it takes to kick-off.

(And since we know busy hoteliers don’t have too much time to spare, we do our best to make those minutes as fun as possible.)

Micro-influencers: why trust trumps ads

Micro-influencers can make a huge impact for your hotel marketing strategy—they’re trustworthy, authentic, and can even trump the influence of someone who has a large number of followers. Tune in as I share why:


Want to make micro-influencers part of your strategy? Check out Adweek, Venture Beat, and Jeff Bullas, or get in touch with me here.

The Crane Resort taps into the power of guest storytelling to boost their bottom line with

Caribbean mainstay widens audience to the tune of 300K in first 5 months

ORLANDO, FL — December 19, 2016 —, the advocacy platform that helps hotels reach, inspire and convert travelers has helped amplify the marketing efforts of The Crane Resort. Just five short months since launch, the century-old Barbadian resort has been personally introduced to 300,000 travelers worldwide with the help of their guests.


The Crane Resort brings to light guest stories with

“There’s no better way to learn about a travel experience than from someone you know and trust. Our guests share everything with friends and family—from their excitement about an upcoming stay to their disappointment about having to leave—all punctuated by stories of their favourite moments along the way,” noted Eboni Phillips, Marketing and Communications Manager at The Crane Resort. “With, we now have the ability to quantify social with the power of these influential recommendations.”

Touch points throughout the traveler journey let guests share their authentic stories about the hotel to travelers worldwide. The platform earns and tracks new bookings while growing traffic, leads and tracked potential guests through a true conversion funnel. Unique to the advocacy marketing platform, is specifically designed for hotels and travelers.

For The Crane, this has added up to incredible impact. Their reach has well-topped a quarter of a million since August, in addition to driving more than 23,000 unique site visitors, 2,100 warm leads and 21 booked room nights with the platform.

The Crane Resort brings to light guest stories with

The impact is made broader by the library of curated guest stories captured through the advocacy platform—stories that reveal the property’s character from a unique point of view, including everything from its magical sense of seclusion to the famed Crane Beach.

All content carries a full legal release, so The Crane Resort may use it to enhance their own marketing. This is critical for hotels and resorts seeking to adopt a storytelling mindset to win over new travelers.

“The authentic perspective of your guests is an incredibly effective add to your content strategy. What’s important is that hotels use it to drive actionable results, sending quality traffic to compelling experiences they own,” said Danielle Fierman, Account Executive at “It’s there where hotels like The Crane capture warm leads, revealing the opportunity to market to these travelers directly. Since they’ve been introduced by their friends and family, these impressions are more potent than any ad.”

The Crane Resort brings to light guest stories with

Phillips went on to add, “ offered us the opportunity to track and measure advocacy with a cost-effective platform that was seamlessly implemented at our resort. We’ve pushed beyond the typical offer of sun, sea and sand, instead providing personal and powerful recommendations from friends and family.”

The historic Crane Resort overlooks the famous pink sands and turquoise waters of Crane Beach—named Best Beach in the Caribbean by readers of USA Today. Guests enjoy an idyllic respite on the Southeast coast of Barbados. The property offers grand colonial styled suites featuring lush gardens, private pools and rooftop terraces, and an impressive array of world-class amenities and services including fitness facilities, spectacular cascading pools, exciting restaurants including Zagat #1 rated Zen.

To learn more about The Crane, view the stories of their recent guests, or to reserve a stay visit or call (866) 978-5942.

The election, the social media echo chamber and what it means for hotels

In the last few days, news (fake or real) has become a focus thanks to a little event we call the presidential election.

The impact that social media had in the outcome is beginning to come to light, especially as it relates to the distribution of fake news stories.

You may be reading this wondering, “Why isn’t more being done about this?” The truth is handling the situation is a pretty tricky line to walk. Much of the focus has been on just how different liberal and conservative people saw content. So, why is this?

We can break what you see in your news feed down into two categories:

  • Organic News Feed posts
  • Paid News Feed posts (advertising)

Let’s start with organic posts.

You may have heard a reference to the echo chamber effect. This is something we at are very familiar with. It’s the core reason advocacy is an effective means to influence travelers. Let’s look at why.

Social Media sites like Facebook allow users to self-select friends and sites they find interesting. The result? We’re friends with and follow sites that have strong similarities with our own views and backgrounds. Naturally, we’re presented with content in our news feed from these sources that is very narrow in scope and tends to be in line with what we already believe.

This is not algorithmic witchcraft. It’s actually common sense. We collect friends along the way, and we’re friends with those people because of some like-minded similarities.

Unlike real life, social media allows us to stop following friends who post things we don’t like. People are more likely to do this on social sites than they are during live in-person interactions.

Why? The other person generally has no idea you stopped following them (so we don’t feel so bad doing it). So in our social media lives as least, this creates a laser-focused set of people with similar beliefs and interests continuously feeding related content to each other.

It falls into an ethical gray area to ask companies like Facebook or Google to intervene with content shared organically. This quickly gets into big-brother-type censorship that (left or right)—we all want to avoid.

It falls into an ethical gray area to ask companies like Facebook or Google to intervene with content shared organically. This quickly gets into big-brother-type censorship that (left or right)—we all want to avoid. We’re all responsible for understanding that just because something is on the internet, it’s not necessarily based on fact.


Now let’s switch gears to paid News Feed posts, or in other words—advertising.

Here is where companies like Facebook and Google can make an impact. They’ve created an environment where advertisers target audiences through very specific data points. (Say, things we’ve liked or searched for.) This puts content in front of us that we are likely to find relevant or positive.

This actually makes the bubble we live in even smaller since we’re only exposed to paid content that is based on our own self-selection and is likely to appeal to us. Coupled with the content we’re already seeing organically as explained above, and—well you get the picture.

Moderating these posts will not be an easy task. Any action in restricting advertisers due to content will be a challenging balancing act. Lets face it, most news these days has a strong amount of point of view or opinion interlaced with facts. So who is to judge what is real news and fake news?

You can actually see this firsthand by looking at this article by the Wall Street Journal. It illustrates the stark contrast of how information on the same topic is presented by different sources to different audiences. It’s easy to see the side-by-side difference between News Feed articles shared by different “blue” and “red” followers. Depicted posts are sorted based on if they are shared more by those with liberal or conservative behaviors.

Facebook has stepped up to the task, announcing several steps they’re testing to battle misinformation both to provide more accurate information as well as protect the integrity of the platform. Facebook’s CEO outlined a plan of stronger detection, news verification and user warnings in an announcement made on his personal Facebook page:

So what does all of this mean to a hotel? Opportunity!

For one thing, we’ve learned from the echo chamber effect that you should speak to the friends & family of your guests the same way you speak to your existing guests. They share similar social and economic status, making them a targeted audience who are likely to make similar decisions (like booking your hotel). Do this right and ultimately it will lead to higher conversion for your hotel.

The bottom line? Authenticity matters, as does relevancy and truth in advertising.

The bottom line? Authenticity matters, as does relevancy and truth in advertising. The best marketing combines the three and gets the right content in front of the right people. Do that and everyone wins (Facebook and Google will love you for it too).