There’s a common misconception among travel brands that the only use for user-generated, or earned, content (UGC) is to stock an Instagram feed. When in reality, that idea only scratches the surface of what UGC can do. Earned content can be deployed on more than just Instagram, but across your website, in social ads, or in print to help users discover your brand through the eyes of other travelers — Inspiring their next journey to a new destination and turning ordinary travelers into voracious advocates for your brand before they even return home.
Travelers want more than an interesting place to go or a basic bed to sleep in: They’re looking for an entire experience they can share with family and friends. While planning their perfect trip, travelers interact with countless pieces of content, from both your brand and others, which eventually leads them to make a purchase decision. Not all of this content lives on social media either. Read on below to pick up tips on how to pique travelers’ interest & discovery of your brand using UGC channels outside of the expected social channels.
Catch Attention with Direct Mail
According to Xerox, you have 2.5 seconds to make an impression with a direct mail piece. Anything someone sees in their mail needs to stand out and convey your message quickly, or all of the time spent planning your campaign goes to waste.
For example, images of hotel balconies and generic sunsets that could be anywhere in the world, don’t stand out. While you may think an image is beautiful, evaluate carefully whether or not what you’re sending really incites a feeling of what it is like to experience your brand. Instead of sending out generic images promoting a new sale, you can create everything, from postcards to brochures, with UGC that showcases what makes your brand unique. This could be as simple as aggregating images from vacationers who took photos at your most camera-ready spots and including them in a direct mail piece for a more personalized touch when trying to reach potential customers. For more ideas like this, check out our recent travel whitepaper.
You can make the campaign even more successful if you gain permission to use the name or social handle of the person whose photos you’re using. People recognize social media handles, and often when they’re credited in an image, it gives an air of authenticity to your brand. Once you’ve grabbed the user’s attention, be sure to use this moment to encourage travelers to gain more inspiration or even a discount by visiting your website.
Urge Action on Your Website
Visitors to your website can come from a number of different places: social media discovery, a recommendation from a review site, or even directly from search results. No matter how a visitor lands on your site, this is yet another opportunity to show off exactly why you’re unique.
Your brand doesn’t need to limit user-generated content images to a gallery. Consider incorporating them on your product pages and order forms to show people your brand through the lens of your customers and remind people of why they want to purchase.
According to AdWeek, website conversions are 29% higher with UGC than on sites without it. Additionally, millennials, the largest demographic in travel, are especially more invested in this type of content. A study by Ipsos and Crowdtap found that 45% of Millennials state they use UGC to help make decisions about hotels, and 40% use it to make decisions on travel in general.
With so many buyers eager to consume and find inspiration through earned content, brands should recognize the need to enhance their sites and the user-experience through incorporating this kind of content into their website best practices.
Build Excitement with Email
After a traveler has booked with you, or joined your email list, continue to reinforce what makes your brand unique through email communication filled with travelers’ content. One way to encourage these customers to learn more about your company’s experience is through the use of testimonials in the form of social media updates clipped into your email communications.
Additionally, when providing details about upcoming trips, showcase what they’ll be experiencing with high-quality UGC from recent visitors. Don’t just list check-in and out times in a simple, impersonal email. Instead, use content to remind them why they chose your particular tour company, hotel, or airline by increasing their excitement using visual assets from previous travelers.
This use of UGC in a regular communication will continue to build a buzz for their upcoming experience and can begin the process of turning a customer into an advocate for your brand. Within these emails, you can also urge your future travelers to share their upcoming trip with friends and family on social media using a branded hashtag.
Enhance the Live Experience
Once travelers start their adventures with you, your brand can use UGC to enhance their experience. For example, if you’re a hotel, issue key cards and share promotions in the lobby with images sourced from users. This customer-facing material is unique, and will make the traveler look twice at the image.
Travelers remember things that break the mold. 35% of Millennials find UGC more memorable than any other kind of media and 50% find it more trustworthy. A key card with an image from another happy traveler is not only easier to find in their belongings, but it makes you stand apart from other hotels, while promoting your brand to anyone who sees the traveler using or holding the key card.
Keep in Touch and Create Advocates
Once the travelers return home, continue the process of converting them to advocates instead of one-time users of your product. Send a follow-up message inquiring about their time with you and consider including a UGC image related to their trip to remind them of the fun they had. Within the message, you can even ask them to share their best images or videos with a branded hashtag and an incentive such as receiving a discount off their next trip or another promotion of that sort.
Additionally, you can communicate with past travelers once every couple of months to let them know about upcoming offers and contests to share their UGC, each time with a different piece of earned content in the material.
UGC can be used throughout the traveler’s journey to inspire discovery, enhance loyalty, and create advocacy for your brand. Are you ready to improve the customer experience with your travel brand through the use of UGC? Contact us to discover how you can source high-quality UGC for your brand quickly and efficiently.