Back in the 90s ( and even up to the early 2000s), when we talked about marketing, things where unilinear. Audiences were literally consumers as they absorbed whatever brands doled out. The challenge was making them respond via a sale. If your advertising didn’t work, you wouldn’t know about it right away, but chances are your business feel it soon enough.
The reach of social media also works as a double-edged sword, though. If your marketing is lackluster, you’d either get silence or online backlash—both results not that desirable.
The reality is that audiences now play an active role in marketing. Everything we do can lead to conversation. As such, we should tap our audience to help us do the marketing that resonates with them. It’s literally the content "by them and for them." That is through user-generated content (UGC)—and it’s especially useful if you’re a travel brand.
UGC is already everywhere
Here’s an exercise: personally, how do you travel? Chances are, you don’t remember the last time you picked up a brochure to learn about your chosen destination.
Today, travelers look to friends for recommendations. They check their Instagram accounts and search for content that talk about the places they want to visit. If that doesn’t cut it, they go to review sites or do a quick Twitter scan. And this isn’t just me. In fact, 95% of travelers read reviews before booking.
What we’re trying to point out here is that people are already talking about their travel experiences online. Wouldn’t you want to tap into this readily-available resource?
By including user-generated content in your marketing plans, you’ll be able to have a presence that you approve of online. And, at best, you will be able to lead genuine and useful conversations about your brand.
Think of it as being your brand's digital shepherd.
UGC cultivates real connections
As mentioned earlier, social media is about interaction.
Gone are the days that people take messages at face value. They are also more discerning of marketing that comes from faceless, machine-like corporations.
Millennials and Gen-Z-ers look for visual ways of communicating—hence the massive growth of visual platforms like Instagram—and they want them to feel organic.
When you are so caught up in the specifics of your brand, in its marketing, at times you get stuck at just one POV. Don’t forget that you need a set of fresh eyes from time to time. That is what user-generated content does, especially when it comes to travel marketing.
There is no one way to describe a person’s experience with travel; that’s the beauty of it. In an island, one may enjoy trekking through trees while others may enjoy the beach. Some may like the indigenous culture of the place, while others are more drawn to the nightlife.
The more messages there are out there, the more kinds of people may resonate to them. Different strokes for different folks.
For example, locals can give a different perspective to a place. Their experience can capture the destination’s essence travelers may not immediately understand.
This personality creates an authenticity that reverberates online. Your brand just has to drive these experiences to be turned into digital content. Your job will not be creation but curation.
UGC is amplified when tied to advertising
All this talk about UGC, but how does one incorporate it into their advertising? Here are a few examples.
Look at GoPro. The camera brand was hinged on marketing which transformed customers into brand advocates. It elevated UGC as a form of advertising.
Loews Hotel, for a limited budget, launched the #TravelForReal campaign by printing the hashtag on keycards and magazines. The images curated showcased the individual experiences of guests. The brand was soon able to repurpose these images for their own materials.
These examples show how UGC can work exceptionally well when its amplified by conventional advertising. Advertising gives the extra push, widening the reach, for UGC to snowball.
Remember the ice bucket challenge which was leveraged to promote awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)? How about Drake’s “In My Feelings” challenge that got everyone uploading their dance videos online?
The GetCraft Marketplace is a good place to start, with thousands of influencers across categories who can help amplify your UGC strategy.
In a digital landscape governed by interactions and conversations, it follows that people should be at the advertising’s center. The old ways don’t have to die, but they do have to transform. It’s about balancing the old and the new. And for travel brands, where experiences are its cornerstone, this means embracing UGC as their must-do marketing.