Social Spotlight: Hilton’s pandemic strategy proves the business value of social

Social Spotlight: Hilton's pandemic strategy proves the business value of social


For more than a century, Hilton has built its reputation on raising the standards of the guest experience. Indeed, many of the staples in today’s hospitality industry – room service, minibars, centralized reservation systems – were once Hilton innovations.

And although it’s been four decades since minibars made their glorious debut, Hilton continues to innovate. A few years ago, they introduced their Hilton Honors app and Digital Key technology to enable guests to contactless check-in and check-out. The Five Feet to Fitness ™ offer includes 11 different fitness machines and accessories, so guests can work out in the privacy of their room. The recent CleanStay program promises guests stricter cleaning and inspection protocols after the pandemic.

As an industry pioneer, many brands see Hilton as a shining example of how to address the changing needs of today’s traveler and rise to the challenge of reinventing the hospitality experience.


While the impact of the pandemic was devastating across the board, travel and hospitality was one of the hardest hit industries. As with most hotels, resorts, and other travel destinations, Hilton’s first challenge was dealing with the aftermath of cancellations.

But over time the challenge became (and remains) the general feeling for travel. In addition to the everyday challenge of standing out from other hotel options, Hilton also had to overcome new hesitations and objections to traveling during a pandemic. Your business depended on it. So what did you do? In short, they listened.


Hilton’s strategy to rebuild trust in travel and its brand seems to encompass three insight-based pillars: product innovation, creative marketing and customer loyalty. Let’s unpack each pillar and see how your brand can use social insights to advance similar business strategies.

Product innovation

During a pandemic, travelers’ priorities change. When looking for a hotel, they care less about amenities and service than about cleanliness and protection. To compete with the comfort and security of your own four walls, Hilton has developed a program that ensures the same care and attention to the cleaning of your hotel rooms. In collaboration with the trusted household cleaning brand Lysol, the Hilton brand has launched CleanStay in select hotels.

Above all, the program included the Hilton CleanStay seal, a product innovation with which guests know that their room has been professionally cleaned thoroughly since the last guest – and that no one has entered their room since this cleaning.

To promote the program, Hilton shared the announcement on its social channels as well as a video showing the cleaning logs in action. Judging by a few comments, this program had a direct impact on loyalty and revenue.

It looks like I’ll be making @Hilton Hotels my choice of hotels from now on!

– Chef Dennis (@AskChefDennis) June 15, 2020

Use of social media to promote product innovations:

Social insights can tell a brand a lot about what their audience thinks, feels, wants, needs, uses, does, etc. Although the desire for clean spaces may have been a no-brainer in the context of the pandemic, knowing which cleaning brands the Hilton audience trusted most, and the desire for a visual cue might come from social listening.

By listening to social conversations that included keywords like cleaning, hotels, antivirus, etc., Hilton may have discovered the realizations that people trust Lysol and don’t always trust someone’s word that something has been cleaned up – which is their choice Regarding brand partnership and physical seal innovation.

With a sophisticated listening tool, your team can set up queries to monitor specific topics and keywords, as well as attitudes towards your brand and others. These insights could just point to a niche in the market or a new opportunity to create something new for your customers.

Marketing creative

In October 2020, Hilton announced its “To New Memories” global marketing campaign. The initiative was driven by a customer survey that found that nearly nine in ten travelers say travel memories are some of the happiest of their lives. 95% of travelers miss them and 90% believe we currently have a travel memory deficit.

The campaign was created to rekindle people’s passion for travel and remind them of what vacation, adventure and getaways feel like. It appealed to the emotions of the Hilton audience at a time when they lacked travel and the memories it created the most. Long story short, you used FOMO to stimulate desire and action.

Use social to get creative with marketing:

For people who are not as motivated by the promise of a clean space, Hilton went one level deeper with this campaign by engaging the emotions of their audience. To do this, they first had to find out how their audience felt.

While Hilton used an actual customer survey to gain insights into travel mood, not every brand has similar resources. That’s the beauty of social listening. You don’t need a lot of time or money to figure out how your audience is feeling at any given point in time. Through their social activity, people tell us everything we need to know on a daily basis. We just have to make sure we’re listening.

And when it comes to marketing campaigns, that emotional insight and connection leads to messaging and creativity that surge deep enough to inspire your audience to take action. It makes a difference whether you sell them for what you sell and why you sell them. The “why” is always more effective.

Customer connection

With so many people working from home during the pandemic, Hilton recognized the opportunity to provide a distraction-free environment for guests to work remotely more productively. The initiative is called Workspaces and offers day rooms with a spacious desk, an ergonomic chair and improved WiFi.

To promote workspaces on social networks, Hilton asked his followers to send them a photo of themselves in their daily workspace using #UpgradeYourView. In return, they updated it to reflect the “travel background of their dreams”.

While it was only a one-day initiative, the images created were highly shareable, giving the brand the ability to connect with their audience, promote their new program, and keep track of a drop in travel.

Certain Hilton chains and locations have also mastered the art of real customer loyalty. When power outages in Texas drove an elderly man out of his home, his granddaughter checked him into a local hotel the family jokingly called the Waldorf Astoria. When a true Waldorf Astoria property – one of Hilton’s most prestigious and luxurious chains – found out about its history, they personally invited to stay with them as soon as travel restrictions eased.

Knowing this could take a while, the hotel decided to bring their one of a kind luxury experience straight to them by sending them a Waldorf Astoria care package with a bathrobe, slippers, luggage tag and much more that they could use while planning their trip.

These moments of surprise and delight create lasting connections not only with the guests directly involved, but also with everyone who happens to hear about them. In this case, the story made it onto local Texas news and gave the hotel a free branding ad. And of course, the story then ensures that great content can be shared on their own channels.

Using Social Media to Drive Customer Connection:

These moments would be difficult to stumble upon without a sophisticated social listening solution. People don’t always use your brand handle when mentioning you in their social conversations. By monitoring certain relevant keywords, the Rome Waldorf Astoria location was able to bless this man beyond anything he had ever expected, while positively influencing brand perception.

Travel and hotel brands aren’t the only ones who can take advantage of opportunities for surprise and amusement. Every time your team can add value for members of your audience or solve a problem, you are building your brand and having a direct impact on your business through customer loyalty.

And there is just no better way to do it than with social listening.