The numbers are in and they’re impressive: travel in the United States is now a $950 billion industry (that’s billion with a capital B). Moreover, Americans are traveling in record numbers with more than 103 million people, the highest number on record, traveling during the 2016 holiday season. According to AAA, the aforementioned number is approximately a 1.5 percent increase (1.5 million people) over the same travel period, in 2015. With all this in mind, it begs the question: How can brands better harness the user-generated content (UGC) from the millions of travelers snapping pics out there? Glad you asked! Check out our eight tips below to learn how your brand easily encourage the creation of UGC whenever and wherever a traveler unpacks their bags!
1. Create a showcase
One of the driving forces for travelers on Instagram is that they want to be seen when they’re on vacation. Need proof? There are currently more than 49 million images tagged with #vacation on the platform. To tap into this human desire to be recognized, consider creating a social media photo space where consumers can further showcase their travels and adventures. One great example is Hyatt’s destination inspiration page, social.hyatt.com, a hub of traveler-created photos that feature guests’ experiences across any of Hyatt’s 575 global properties, while simultaneously driving consumers to brand’s site.
2. Create a hashtag
Easy to remember, easy to type, and totally free to promote—a unique hashtag is your brand’s ticket to creating an Instagram movement. One example we love is Texas Tourism, which reached out to residents across the Lone Star state to share their “only-in-Texas moments” using the hashtag #TexasToDo. In partnership with Olapic, the brand collected, curated, and arranged the images in an inspirational gallery page on TravelTexas.com— increasing user engagement and time on site. Not only that, but the page is filterable by interest, region, and trending city, helping Texas Tourism share tens of thousands of authentic, user-generated images relevant to its audience.
3. Create opportunities for user generated video
By 2019, video content will be the driving factor behind 85% of search traffic in the US. So whether it’s Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook, quality user-generated video content on social media will likely be a focused on the travel industry in the coming year. Newly introduced Snapchat “stories” result in nearly 10 billion video views per day, according to CMO.com. One example of video being king is the city of Philadelphia’s tourism department launching a Snapchat channel utilizing geotagging over the summer as a way to engage visitors and locals. In doing this, the city received more than 5 million views on their first seven Live Story snaps. Knowing this, are you providing the right opportunities for visitors to not only create engaging images, but also videos that showcase your brand?
4. Create easy photo ops
Let’s face it, not everyone is born a natural photographer or has an eye for taking great pics, but that doesn’t mean they have to be left out of the social media revolution. Instagram meetups allow properties and destinations to lead participants to the exact spots they want to highlight that would make a great Instagram shot, and also provide the opportunity to bear witness to how UGC is created. We have highlighted before the idea of Marriott’s integrated “Selfie Spots” that scatter many of the brand’s properties. These spots are curated locations, often including free selfie sticks, that translate directly into UGC opportunities—Think, something as simple as a sign at a beautiful sunset viewing location, and there you have a new place to encourage traveler photos and selfies.
5. Create incentives, contests, or prizes
Want to encourage and excite travelers to submit UGC? Create a contest that utilizes special hashtags for the chance to win a free visit, complimentary drink, or branded swag. Have them create UGC at prime locations around a property or destination, and ask them tag friends as well to encourage more submissions or future visits.
6. Create a rewards program
Consumers are already familiar with the perks of being loyal to brands—often using reward programs for discounts on hotels, car rentals, and airlines. Given this, it makes sense that they would be receptive to earning points for staying loyal on social media as well! According to Scripted, this type of loyalty program is a great way to encourage the creation of visual content and also identify brand enthusiasts that a brand can consider working with in the future. Kimpton, for example, has Kimpton Karma Rewards, which rewards guests for mentioning its properties on their social media channels, while Marriott has PlusPoints which rewards users with points when they post with a branded hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.
7. Create more access
Help travelers get access to social media wherever they go to create beautiful UGC while visiting a popular spot in order to maximize and extend their enthusiasm. In other words, make sure that WiFi is free and plentiful whenever possible and be sure to encourage users to post when they gain access. One great example of access above the clouds is Lufthansa, which uses its MySkyStatus app to let flyers log in and update social networks midflight with photos and more.
8. Create social media ops at home
Why wait for travelers to leave their homes before they start generating content? Follow Air New Zealand’s successful #AirNSPacked lead: a social media campaign which asked travelers to upload images of their packed suitcase and then had users guess where they were they would be vacationing for the chance to win a prize. We love the idea of packing in UGC before travelers even leave home.
Clearly, social media users are excited to share their content! Knowing this, what will your brand do to earn and elevate the best of traveler UGC?