In September, I attended my 7th Dragon Con in downtown Atlanta. According to their website, Dragon Con is “the largest multimedia, pop culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe – and the best place to celebrate all of these things with fellow fans on Labor Day weekend.” In 2018, the official (conservative) headcount was 80,000 people. Since Dragon Con is so big, it’s hosted among five Atlanta hotels that are all within a couple of blocks of each other.
This year, I noticed that all five hotels started to embrace the Dragon Con event and to create excitement surrounding the occasion. Their various social media accounts started displaying Dragon Con-related posts leading up to the weekend by featuring themed drinks and foods, preparations for guests, and exciting upcoming events and plans. Then, throughout the convention, the hotels all bolstered engagement on their social media channels by conversing with guests and commenting back to them when they were tagged in posts.
This got me thinking about how many new guests were coming through the doors of these five hotels during Dragon Con and what the hotels were doing over the course of the weekend to create brand loyalty. When a hotel is hosting a large event, it has the choice to be active or passive in its approach towards posting on social media, providing great customer service, and creating memorable events for guests. These decisions can make the difference between customer loyalty and ambivalence.
When hotels embrace the spirit of hosted events and, more importantly, the interests of their guests, they can benefit in several ways:
I took an unofficial poll of Dragon Con attendees via a Facebook group page and found that most of them were loyal to the same hotels year after year. In some cases, it was because of legacy booking (if you stayed there this year, you are “in” for next year without having to rush to make reservations in time). In other cases, attendees like myself were loyalty members of the hotel brand. And then others were partial to hotels because of tradition or the fact that “my friends and I always stay here!”
Regardless of why, hotels should take note of the opportunities to encourage loyalty to their brand during these events. What makes your hotel stand out among the others? Why would guests want to stay there year after year? Are you doing something special to make your guests feel valued during their time with you?
This year, each hotel chose a fandom theme for the convention and marketed accordingly. The Westin’s theme was Game of Thrones, the Hilton’s was Star Wars, the Hyatt embraced all things space with their “Mission to the Moon Burger,” and the Marriott and Sheraton had generic geeky themes. The Hilton even created Dragon Con key cards. How fun is that?
When hotels chose a fandom theme, marketed that theme, tagged the event (@DragonCon), and used their hashtag, they created excitement and anticipation. I would not have bought the Marriott’s carpet-themed cake or the Westin’s Game of Thrones drink or the Hilton’s Star Wars drink had I not seen these posts on the hotels’ social media accounts. More than once, our group of eight chose to dine on site instead of at other area restaurants because of this marketing. With very little effort, the social media posts brought in business.
Did the Sheraton, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, or Westin hire me or even ask me to tag them in any of my posts? Nope. But I did. I’m not an influencer by any stretch of the imagination, but multiply me by 80,000 and that’s the potential for a lot of exposure. No matter what your business is, it’s always a great idea to engage with people who are marketing your business for free on their social media platforms by liking and responding to their posts.
Putting a Human Face on a Corporation
The people on your staff are your best cheerleaders. I cannot tell you how many smiles I saw throughout the long weekend on what must have been very tired faces. Seeing the staff donning costumes or themed shirts, taking photos, handing out drinks, and dancing to the music was so fun to experience as a guest. It fostered a sense of camaraderie. Encourage your staff to have a good time with your guests. Yes, be professional and courteous, but let your hair down while you’re at it. It creates a relationship between your hotel and your guests, which will keep them coming back.
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Laura Lee – SEO Director & Account Manager