By Tom Mcloughlin, Founder, SEO Travel
Social media is everywhere at this point in time, or at least it can sometimes feel like it is. Not only are plenty of users sharing snapshots of their lives through all kinds of content online, but ‘influencer’ is a job title more and more people can adopt either part-time or full-time.
We’re also living in a time when many people have access to smartphones, tablets and professional-standard photography and filming equipment and use this to document their everyday experiences, from holidays to the contents of their weekly food shop. All of these factors have contributed to the rise of user-generated content, and plenty of brands have been jumping at any opportunity to encourage their audience to hop on the trend.
User-generated content marketing is a great approach for travel brands to adopt if they’re looking for ways to strengthen their connection with their customers, make their brand messaging stronger and develop a more efficient marketing strategy. This post explains what UGC marketing is, the different types of content that can be used in the approach, how to use it in your content marketing and some of the benefits.
What Is User-Generated Content?
User-generated content (UGC) is any kind of content that web users have made themselves or have had a hand in making. This might take the form of photos, videos, blog posts, audio content, or a combination of any of those.
Under this definition, any content posted on personal social media or websites counts as UGC. But in the context of marketing, we’re talking about content that has been created for a brand or content that features the product or service that a brand offers, which can then be used by that brand as part of its marketing efforts.
Types of User-Generated Content
Here are some of the most common types of content generated by users, along with a travel industry-specific example to illustrate the applications of each:
- Blog post: A user writes a review of their stay at a resort on their blog to share the experience with their followers
- Images: A user takes photos of themselves on an organised tour of a new city and shares the images on social media
- Videos: A user vlogs their trip to a hotel and uploads it to YouTube or TikTok
- Social Media posts: A user tweets about their experience travelling with a tour company to offer their thanks for the smooth journey
- Reviews: A user leaves a positive review on the website of a self-catering cottage they stayed in
- Podcasts: A podcast host or guest talks about the experience they had on an organised tour of a country and name-drops the company
How to Get User-Generated Content
If you’re considering involving user-generated media in your marketing strategy, here are some of the ways that you can encourage it from your customers.
Create a Brand Hashtag
One of the easiest easy to curate user-generated content on social media is to create a brand hashtag and encourage any customer engaging with your offering to use this hashtag when sharing any media about it. Not only will this hopefully encourage more people to share content on their own social media about your travel brand, but it also collects all of this content in one place and makes it easy to sift through and evaluate.
Run a Competition
If you think your customer base needs more of an incentive to create and share content about your travel brand, running a competition is a classic approach in UGC marketing. Whether you run this through social media or create a page on your website for submissions, design a competition brief asking for content-based entries of photographs, videos or writing. You can then share the best entries as part of your content marketing strategy and offer a prize for the best one with a free trip, tour or product as a reward.
Speaking of incentives, if you’re looking for review-based user-generated content then it can be beneficial to offer a reward or benefit to customers who rate your company after their experiences with your product or service. Perhaps they get a 10% discount on their next booking when they leave a review, or they get entered into a prize draw to win a free trip. Having this incentive is sure to encourage more customers to contribute.
Promote your Profiles
When it comes to social media user-generated content, customers are going to be more inclined to include your brand in what they post if it’s very easy to do so. Therefore, you should include the handles of your social media profiles on all of your advertising material and around your venue or accommodation if applicable, as this makes it incredibly easy to know who to tag or mention. Even better, include a QR code that will take the customer straight to your website or social media account.
Organise an Event
Events in the travel industry are a fantastic way to generate a lot of exciting UGC, so if you’re looking to get a lot of content quickly then hosting an event is a great approach. Make sure to encourage attendees to document the event and share it, especially if they’re an influencer or key figure in the industry and have a following that is going to be interested in your brand.
Finally, your customers are going to be more inspired to feature your brand in their content if they are proud to be promoting it. Cultivating a real sense of community amongst those that purchase your offering will encourage this and also encourage potential customers that see this content to become part of this community as well.
You can help to encourage a feeling of being in a special ‘group’ by setting up an email newsletter, offering early access to deals to previous customers, and creating specific hashtags for these valued members of your audience to use when they share content.
The Benefits of User-Generated Content
Adopting user-generated content in marketing has a variety of different benefits for travel brands. Here are some of the key ones to bear in mind if you’re still on the fence about adding this approach to your marketing strategy.
Creates Memorable Content
There’s an element of creativity in user-generated content that internal marketing content doesn’t have in quite the same way. It tends to be more memorable because of this, with the added weight of being created authentically by a member of your audience to help it stick in viewers’ minds even more.
It’s also been found that millennial audiences in particular find user-generated content to be 35% more memorable than other media. If this is the demographic you want to target with your travel marketing, you’ll make more of an impact with UGC.
Increases Conversion Rates
Perhaps one of the most convincing benefits of implementing a user-generated content marketing strategy is that it significantly increases conversion rates. This report from Nosto revealed that 79% of consumers are influenced by user-generated content when making purchasing decisions, which is a huge percentage of your audience that will potentially be swayed if they see content created by people already using your travel product or service.
Builds Customer Trust
You can make as many claims as you like about the value of your company’s offering, but it’s not going to have the same persuasive sway as a single customer singing the praises of your product or service. Real, positive reviews are a huge help when it comes to increasing sales, but they’re also integral to building customer trust.
Not all user-generated content is an explicit review, but if it features your brand in it then it’s likely to be positive. The majority of UGC is also created without any prompting from the featured brand(s), which adds a layer of real authenticity in that it’s been inspired simply by a customer’s enjoyment.
Having a customer base that creates and shares content about your travel brand’s offering helps to build trust with potential customers because they see that your product or service is genuinely valuable. It establishes a sense of trust in your brand from those engaging with user-generated content as it proves that your advertising content actually delivers on what it promises.
Strengthens Customer Relationships
When you share and promote your customer’s user-generated content, you strengthen the relationship you have with them, especially if you credit them for what they’ve made. This also improves brand loyalty from these customers, helping them to feel closer to you, more likely to make a repeat purchase and also more likely to recommend your business to other travellers. What’s not to like?
Creates a Community
In a similar vein to strengthening your travel brand’s relationship with its customers, encouraging and sharing user-generated content also helps to create a kind of community amongst the followers that interact with and contribute to this.
A sense of community in your customer base is a key part of high retention and repeat business. When customers feel like they’re part of an exclusive group with a direct connection to your brand, they’re likely to make multiple bookings or purchases and actively engage more with your marketing material.
Having a community of followers also increases the number of interactions that you’re likely to have with your customers, and that loyal customers are going to have with each other, further strengthening this bond.
Leads to Partnerships
Promoting or requesting user-generator content can be a great way to get into partnership marketing and include this approach in your marketing strategy as well. Suppose some of the customers creating content about your travel brand have a significant following or are even an influencer. In that case, this can be a great opportunity to approach them and ask if they’re likely to create promotional content that still has a ‘UGC’ feel as part of a partnership.
Partnerships can take all kinds of forms, so whether you’re paying a direct fee for the content they create or offering free trips or products in exchange for reviews, this kind of marketing goes hand in hand with user-generated media.
This approach can also be a great way to start encouraging other customers to share UGC about your brand, as when they see how it has been praised and shared they’ll be more likely to want to do the same.
Saves Time and Money
Finally, perhaps one of the biggest benefits of consumer-generated content from a purely marketing perspective is that it can save your team quite a bit of time and resources when it comes to finding content to share. If you’re trying to construct a regular social media posting schedule, being able to use social media user-generated content means you have one less post that needs to be ideated and created, allowing more time to be spent on other marketing efforts and making this element of your strategy more efficient.
You can also use user-generated content as social proof on your website, which is far more persuasive than writing content trying to get the benefits across. This also saves you time and resources, as when it comes to sharing testimonials you’ll hopefully already have several to hand.
It can be tricky to get your customers and target audience to start creating user-generated content, but once you’ve tapped into the best way to encourage this, you’ll discover an absolute gold mine of creative and persuasive content. We’re seeing an increase in the number of brands using UGC marketing in both the travel industry and beyond, so if you’re wanting to keep ahead of the curve then this is definitely an approach to adopt.
If you’re looking for advice on marketing techniques like user-generated content marketing, or want help developing a successful marketing strategy, get in touch with SEO Travel for a chat and to find out more about the range of marketing services that we offer.