When it comes to promoting travel destinations, user-generated content (UGC) has few peers. Travelers – especially young ones – increasingly avoid purchasing if their destination, tour, or experience hasn’t been validated by their peers. That’s because UGC is a potent form of social proof – one of the most critical drivers of purchasing decisions.
“Visitors to hotel websites that include UGC galleries spend 90% more time on those sites, and luxury hotel brands that source more than half of their posts from user-generated content receive 2.6 times higher engagement than brands that don’t,” writes Konstantinos Vgenopoulos at Miappi.
Adds Jose Angelo Gallegos at Tint: “Studies have found that a whopping 70% of consumers value recommendations from their peers over polished campaigns from brands themselves.”
And if you’re targeting millennials, you definitely need UGC: 32-39% of them won’t book a hotel stay without it.
Fortunately, today’s travel marketers are doing business in an era of unprecedented sharing – and they have a product that people are eager to share, and to consume. As Vgenopoulos puts it: “It’s arguably easier to create content in travel than it is in any other industry. Would you rather take a look at screenshots of some spreadsheet software or at the sun going down at a five-star resort in the Caribbean?”
Here are a few tips for encouraging UGC:
1. Make reviewing easy
“A mind-boggling 95% of travelers read reviews before booking – that’s almost every single person,” Gallegos writes. “And, more than that, these same travelers are saying no to places that don’t have any reviews which shows just how vital the words of others are.” Bottom line: You need reviews to drive your destination’s visibility. Want tips for obtaining and managing them? Here you go.
2. Offer contests and giveaways in exchange for content
“Plane tickets, a free night stay, free in-destination attractions — all of these are examples of assets that can be used to encourage user-generated content,” writes Hannah Khan on The DCI Blog. “Contests or giveaways can prompt users to share their experiences or post about why they would like to visit a destination.”
3. Promote sharing of photos from “interactive landmarks”
“Landmarks, both intentional or coincidental, are a tangible and effective way to promote a destination on social media,” according to Khan. “These interactive landmarks are an immersive way to engage visitors and organically market a destination.” Oft-Instagrammed interactive-landmark examples that successfully promote travel destinations include “That Pink Door” in Palm Springs, California, Amsterdam’s “I Amsterdam” sign, and the “Southernmost Point Buoy” in Key West, Florida.
4. Make your own website UGC-friendly
Although social media provides a robust platform for UGC, you don’t have control over what happens on Facebook, Instagram, or other channels. But you do have control over what happens on your website. The more receptive to USG you can make it, the better. “Once you’ve set a campaign and it’s started generating content, the next step is to make your website benefit from this visual UGC,” according to the Altexsoft blog. “You can embed feeds from social media and combine posted images on your website. Additionally, set upload forms to enable direct content contributions.”
Don’t forget to get permission to post the UGC you receive. “If you want UGC for your marketing, you need to take steps to avoid potential legal hassles,” writes Jim Belosic at Social Media Examiner. “The last thing you want is to have one of your customers come after you for showcasing their content in your marketing.”