The world of social media in general can be daunting for businesses, especially those that typically favour traditional approaches to marketing.

So it’s not uncommon for hoteliers, owners, operators, revenue managers and marketing directors in the industry to shy away completely when the topic of TikTok comes up.

“It’s completely understandable why they feel this way. There are times when I feel way too old to be playing around on TikTok, particularly when I see kids and teens creating all this incredible content, snapping their fingers in a video and all of a sudden there’s a beautiful plate of food that appears,” says Dean Cothill, founder and CEO of DC Communications. “What people need to understand is that there are many ways a business can approach TikTok, and it doesn’t have to be a heavy, time-consuming and intimidating burden.”

 

TIKTOK AND THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY

What is TikTok? Basically, it’s a social media app (one of the fastest growing of them all) that allows users to create and share snackable, short-form video content. Content varies from lip-syncing songs and other audio to trying your hand at the latest TikTok challenge, with the ultimate goal of sharing videos that are fun, quirky and original. From that explanation, TikTok may seem like a waste of time in the eyes of many hotel owners and managers. However, with 6.44 million active TikTok users in South Africa over the age of 18, TikTok remains one of the best channels to attract more leisure and business travel guests alike.

It’s also worth noting that TikTok curates a personal feed for every user based on their interests and search history in order to help individuals find content that’s relevant and interesting to them. That’s great news for businesses, which can take advantage of this by creating targeted content for the audiences they want to reach.

Add to this the fact that the hashtag #TikTokTravel attracted over 20.8 billion views globally in 2021, indicating that TikTok users are hungry for travel experiences and tourism content, and it’s clear that hotels and resorts simply cannot afford not to embrace the opportunities and benefits inherent in TikTok marketing. “Hotels and resorts in South Africa haven’t scratched the surface when it comes to leveraging the benefits of TikTok. The platform remains an untapped resource in the industry, but I guarantee that once they start taking advantage of the many uses and functions available to businesses and brands as part of a targeted social media strategy, they will quickly recognise the benefits and even begin to see results,” says Cothill.

 

OVERCOMING BARRIERS TO ADOPTION

The biggest obstacles standing in the way of hoteliers embracing the use of TikTok come down to fear and apathy around TikTok in general, mainly as a result of being misinformed or having misconceptions about who TikTok is made for. Other barriers include a lack of time, budget (“do I have to pay someone to do this?”), and skill. Based on these challenges, a hotel owner or marketer will often take the ostrich approach and decide that it’s easier to avoid the platform altogether. “TikTok does not have to cost a thing, nor does it have to feel like a chore. In fact, hotels and resorts will probably find that they have a wealth of content just waiting to be shared directly from the offerings they have available right now. “Ideas like getting the chef to share what their signature dish is, or what the cocktail of the week will be based on a calendar-related them, are just some of the more out-of-the-box posts that TikTok users will enjoy. There are tons more out there waiting to be discovered, with just a little bit of creativity and initiative,” adds Cothill.

 

OKAY, NOW HOW DO YOU TIKTOK?

TikTok marketing opportunities can easily align with hotels’ overall business objectives, whether that’s to boost business, increase conversions, direct more traffic to their websites, deepen their audience reach, or simply build brand awareness. With this in mind and a strong digital strategy to guide you, you can start to take the first steps into creating TikTok posts. The platform offers a range of features specifically geared for business and brand users, including in-feed ads that allow you to highlight your hotel and tell brand stories that will appear on an individual’s ‘For You’ feed – their personal, curated feed. TopView is another useful feature that gives brands digital billboard space on users’ screens, allowing hotels to create and share an immersive brand experience through engaging and interactive audio-visual content.

TikTok is also a great platform to introduce a branded hashtag challenge as it allows brands to promote and market the challenge using a variety of tactics, helping the campaign gain momentum from the get-go. The Marriott did a great job of this with its #30stays300stays challenge that encourages TikTokers to enter to win an all-expenses paid trip to experience the hotel group’s various properties around the world. “There are so many ways that hotels can go about TikTok marketing in an original and effective way. My advice is to use your creativity to stand out from everyone else. You can also look into influencer marketing to work hand-in-hand with your social media efforts. The possibilities truly are endless,” says Cothill.

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