Graduate Hotels Student Ambassadors Helped Drive 1 Million New Guests Through the Doors of 13 New Properties  

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Graduate Hotels, founded in 2014, is a 33 hotel collection located in dynamic university towns in the United States and United Kingdom. 

Each hotel is handcrafted based on the university-driven towns it resides in and no two look alike. Since 2013, Graduate Hotels has been the go-to place to stay for alumni visiting their college towns, those coming to celebrate large athletic events, weddings, sorority and fraternity reunion weekends and as an immersive experience to the allure and culture of each unique city for prospective students and their families. 


Graduate Hotels are extremely hyperlocal to the communities of the university towns that they do business in. In the summer of 2020, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a dramatic shift in the travel industry, so like many brands, Graduate Hotels recognized they needed to pivot their marketing strategy quickly and efficiently.

With the travel industry already being a competitive and noisy space, combined with consumers facing significant travel restrictions, Graduate Hotels knew that if they were going to attract new students and their families to their properties, then they needed to identify spokespeople in each key market to partner with. 

Because they had a smaller post-pandemic marketing team while researching best practices for building ambassador programs, they spoke with other real estate companies who were also working with ambassadors and concluded that their HQ team – who was already busy opening up new properties – needed a time saving solution so they could create an “ambassador playbook” that could be deployed by the local marketing teams quickly as each property was slated to open.  

Social media is a powerful tool in the hotel industry and Graduate Hotels knew that college aged nano-influencers would be the perfect ambassadors – not only are they able to advertise to their own community, but also to the parents of students who frequent the college towns for parent’s weekends, graduations and alumni events. But with nano-influencers, the brand realized immediately that if they really wanted to stay organized & build a program that could scale into multiple markets as their footprint grew while maintaining a direct relationship with their ambassadors, Graduate Hotels knew instantly that they needed more than spreadsheets and slack channels when starting this program and to expand the amount of ambassadors in the future

In addition to social media, hotels also have a unique set of marketing needs so they also knew they needed an all-in-one platform  that could fit their hyperlocal needs, such as segmentation based on locations of each hotel, track events, and enable ambassadors to share promo codes to encourage their network to book rooms.


After deciding they wanted to leverage student ambassadors and technology, Graduate Hotels asked a student housing real estate developer What platform are you using to manage your growing ambassador team? Their team recommended SocialLadder as a low touch and friendly user experience platform that can manage hundreds of ambassadors at once and provide the much needed segmentation. Trusting their experience, Graduate Hotels went through the seamless demo and sales process with SocialLadder and partnered with SocialLadder in 2020. 

Thomas Ostrom, Chief of Staff at Graduate Hotels noted, “We needed the support from students to be able to help achieve our goals from all those different initiatives as we were focused on growing awareness during our rapid expansion.”

As Graduate Hotels enters a new market, they deploy 1-2 ambassadors per hotel to help generate brand awareness through user generated content tasks and promo code sharing. For more mature markets, ambassadors are tasked with recommending ideas for in real life events to attract people to check out the hotel & create content on site along with creating social media content and making referrals for room bookings, dining, and facility rentals.

SocialLadder, accessible from a desktop or cellphone was the perfect fit- the ability to gamify every task and being able to tailor the program and weigh different contributions to different tasks was attractive and has the ability to pivot from year to year to learn what has been the most and least impactful. 


Graduate Hotels scaled quickly and efficiently from 2020 to 2022, going from 20 hotels to 33 in just under two years and there are no plans to slow down the growth of new hotels in states including Texas and New Jersey. 

“As we scale and expand our footprint into new markets, SocialLadder is an integral part of our marketing strategy,” says Ostrom.

Since launching with SocialLadder, Graduate Hotels has:

  • Opened all 13 new locations globally with ambassadors 
  • Top performing ambassadors provide a value of $5,500 each by getting friends to book rooms & via content creation
  • Top performing creators contribute $2000 in earned media value (EMV) per post  
  • Content has 3X in EMV
  • An ROI of 1087% in their first year on SocialLadder 
  • Promoted more than room stays and properties – ambassadors promote new products under the Graduate Hotels brand, for example their new coffee table book that is sold online and in hotel retail shops


“I would say if you’re gonna start an ambassador program or even grow an ambassador program you need to leverage an all in one solution like SocialLadder.”

“The college age demographic requires that tasks and communication are simple and convenient, otherwise will lose their attention. SocialLadder, communication and gamification is extremely attractive especially so you can attract and retain the talent needed to help grow your brand.”

“We couldn’t have could have launched these new markets without SocialLadder.”

Thomas Ostrom, Chief of Staff, at Graduate Hotels






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