TikTok isn't just for teens – travel TikTok has taken off

The past year and a bit forced being a ‘homebody’ onto millions of people, and through that period, a surge of digital content consumption and engagement manifested at unseen levels for most social media platforms. People literally escaped their ‘quarantine blues’ by way of virtual means, and this presents the hospitality sector with a burgeoning demand from many keen travellers who have been looking to pick up where they left off with their real-life travel bucket lists. 

Along with many emerging digital trends related to the spike in screen time, the theory that TikTok would only be a fad was completely blown out of the water. TikTok currently stands as the most downloaded non-game app globally, and as it grows from strength to strength as a viral community-building platform, hoteliers should cash in on the potential reach that comes with using #tiktoktravel as a marketing tool.

TikTok isnt just for teens – travel TikTok has taken off

Why TikTok?

As the future of travel unfolds amid vaccinations and restrictions being lifted in many countries, it is younger travellers (Millenials and Gen Z) who are likely to be the generation most comfortable to travel during the pandemic. If you want to get your hotel brand in front of these younger generations, you need to go where they are, and that’s TikTok.

According to digital marketing agency Omnicore, the platform has 689 million active users, 50% of which are under the age of 34; and as you may have already noticed, the content that does really well on the platform goes on to be shared to many of the other social media apps where your next guests may be.

To help you make the most of this platform, we’ve gathered three top tips to use as the foundation to build an engaging presence on TikTok, and attract future guests to share memorable travel experiences, with your property at the centre of those experiences.

Focus on interacting with the community before creating content

It’s easy for some of us to fall into the trap of relying too heavily on formulas for creating  content according to what we understand to be ‘evergreen’, or should do well technically. When marketing in a brand new space like TikTok, however, this can lead to you missing the mark. Whoever does your property’s marketing may need to stray slightly from your usual tone and messaging, because the content on this platform is largely consumed for its ‘entertainment factor’, which comes naturally from the way content is so personalised and relatable. So brands that want to make a lasting impression on the people that are on this app should follow suit, and keep their presence locked in on what the people like to see. 

The more time you spend on the platform simply as a consumer, following and analysing the kind of content that’s out there and doing well, the more you get to find where you would like to fit in, or what best represents the voice you’d like to use for your brand and its audiences. The #tiktoktravel hashtag has about 24.2 Billion views and counting; and it’s here, between hotel hacks, hidden gems, and challenges, where you will find your bearings – and get loads of examples of the kind of moments that will resonate with your future guests. 

There’s a lot of content to gather inspiration from, like this insightful blog by National Geographic to give you a brief background about the community of TikTok, from which you can move onto this TikTok blog by Buzzfeed for 27 of some of the best and most breathtaking travel TikToks from around the world. 

Find your 'sweet spot' between conversational and profesional content

Most TikTok content isn't scripted or directed, and that gives you the opportunity to involve the different elements and teams that make up your property and its surroundings. When it comes to following hashtags that will guide you to align and segment content that’s relevant to hoteliers and travelers, here’s where to start:

  • #tiktoktravel (24.2 Billion views), #travelbucketlist (3.1Billion views), #hiddengem ( 951.9Million views) - the content under these hashtags is mostly from the travellers’ perspective, and is similar to Instagram’s “Reels” that take the viewer through the whole travel experience (mostly the good and photogenic parts for some travellers). For hoteliers to join this segment of the community is probably easiest, as the guests would be the ones creating most of the content after being prompted by a branded hashtag challenge along with these top hashtags.
  • #restock (3.9 Billion views) - the content here is where people show what they love to restock and show in a casual setting, and can be what hoteliers use to expose how they prepare and stock some of the most loved food and beverages at the property, or that of nearby attractions that align with their brands. This can also create an opportunity for collaborations across brands at a later stage.
  • #cleaning (15.5 Billion views), #housekeeping (733.1 Million views) and #cleantok (18.4 Billion views) - these are the super satisfying cleaning videos that have people show the world how they deep clean common areas in their homes; and for hoteliers during a pandemic, it may have greater benefits to publicly display how their housekeeping teams do what they do to make sure the property stays covid-free and hygienic all year long for their safety.

Get to know the inner workings of the app

There is also lots of technical information to support your curiosity about the inner workings of the platform, like this blog from the Wall Street Journal that gives you some of the details about TikTok’s algorithm that will help you strategise your content even better. 

If you’re a new user who’s quite active on the platform, you realise over time how TikTok seems to just ‘figure you out’. From the first few videos you watch in full or skip, the algorithm sorts your content according to your location, language, and generally what you like. And the more active you are, the more you see what you like being recommended on your landing page, which TikTokers know as the #foryoupage. And it's not by pure luck – that’s how the app gives you relevant content, and in turn, you get an organic sense of what to create when you’re ready.

Focussing a lot of time on consuming will also keep you abreast of TikTok trends as they emerge, and help you to segment your content accordingly to draw in the audiences that will become your guests. Doing your research while engaging with relevant content will guide you to using TikTok’s algorithm to your advantage, and landing where you need to be organically. Some of the things to take note of and interact with the most are challenges, music and hashtags, and one tour operator called Contiki does this really well.

Find nearby attractions and activities your property can align with

It's important for you to take stock of local attractions, activities and restaurants that you think create the most exciting experience for a traveller visiting your city. Checking out your surroundings to carefully curate a trip itinerary centred around your property gives you the extended reach of a tour operator, and will give you all the nearby locations you will be working with to create your TikTok content, especially when everything opens up again in the near future. If those businesses are active TikTok as well, you have the opportunity to engage with them and boost each other on the platform.

You can also identify nearby attractions that your potential guests will love by looking at the tags and feedback from guests who’ve already visited, and checked into those nearby attractions on different social media platforms.

You may be lucky enough to have a local TikToker who’s already mentioned some of the local spots you'd like to put on the radar as part of your property’s experience, and knowing the hidden gems and help navigate your content creation to benefit your property and guests at the same time.

Weight your paid options before campaigns

While it's advisable to ​​​​post authentic, relevant and engaging videos on your channel to get a feel for what works best for your brand (from organic interactions with audiences and the analytics that come with a Pro/Business account on TikTok), you have the option of working with influencers to help you create the kind of content that will reach new, wider audiences from the onset, if you do need a hand.

Advertising is also an option on TikTok, and even though TikTok Ads are said to be quite pricey while they don’t have much of a track record as of yet, there are five different types of ads available on the platform. Revelation, a PR, Advertising and Social Media company breaks the five different types of TikTok ads down simply below, and we have added a few examples of why they could work for your property and its guests.

  1. In-Feed ads – These types of ads are short clips that pop up on your audience's feed to attract visits to your site and conversions, and you have a window of 9-15 seconds to share your call-to-action. For example, to advertise your new booking packages, menu changes and other changes around the property you want to bring to the attention of your future guests.
  2. Brand takeovers – This option gives brands ad space for the whole day to display their branded multimedia with embedded links to hashtag challenges or landing pages, every time a user opens their app. Though this option may take a bit more curation or even help from an external agency, hoteliers with the means to take this route can have a neatly targeted campaign with the right visuals.
  3. TopView – Everyone sees the “For You” page on the app, and as the name alludes, these ads automatically play at the top of your audience's feed. The amount of screen time is 60 seconds at most, so the potential for reach is incredible with this option as well.
  4. Branded hashtag challenges – Branded hashtags make it easier for you to track the engagements on your campaign, whether you create or join hashtag challenges, but you should include the top performing and relevant hashtags (like the ones above) to those challenges with your branded hashtags, to spread the reach of your content even more.
  5. Branded effects – Similar to SnapChat, you can create branded 2D and 3D TikTok lenses for users to apply to faces and photos. You also can choose branded stickers or AR filters, which you can treat in a challenge kind of format for traveller giveaways, for example.

TikTok has proven itself to be a community-building tool that will likely not be going anywhere for a long while to come, and many brands from different sectors are tapping into audiences there as they continue to grow. It would be a good investment for more of us in the hospitality industry to take advantage of this space, but before you do, it’s important to do research and join the community before you can successfully entertain, engage and inspire them, and keep them excited to come to your area, and your property.