6 Tips for Using User-Generated Content to Market Your Destination

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*This article was originally published on http://www.aboutdci.com, to view the original article, click here.* 

Bags packed, sunglasses on, phones and cameras out — it’s vacation time.

Few industries are as fortunate as the tourism industry when it comes to the ability to organically inspire users to capture their experiences and share them on social media. With smartphones capable of creating high-definition photos and videos and nearly half of the world’s population using some form of social media, curating authentic travel stories and sharing them nearly instantaneously comes as second nature to many digitally savvy travelers. Marketing that uses user-generated content, or UGC marketing, is 50 percent more trusted among millennials than other forms of traditional media or advertising, additionally — marketing material that includes UGC has a 4x higher click-through rate and a 50 percent drop in cost-per-click when compared to traditional advertising. Why? Simply because consumers trust the real travel experiences of other consumers more than they trust the carefully curated messages of brands.

While professional quality photo assets and picture-perfect commercials surely inspire travelers, destination marketing organizations (DMOs) must not overlook the fact that they can attract new visitors by showcasing the stories and experiences of those who have already visited the destination.

How can DMOs best leverage already existing UGC from their destination? Here are six tips:

  1. Host contests or giveaways that require user-generated 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. Contests or giveaways can prompt users to share their experiences or post about why they would like to visit a destination. Requiring that users tag a friend “they would like to go with”, in exchange for additional contest entries is an effective way to raise awareness for your destination while also collecting content that can be shared on your DMO’s social channels. Incentivizing UGC not only ensures higher-quality content, but also a boost in engagement and exposure, as social media algorithms increase exposure to posts that receive higher engagement.


  1. Re-purpose content found using geotags

In an ideal world, every social media user would be using your destination’s hashtag in their posts when visiting. In reality, only a fraction of visitors take the time to look up the hashtag #DiscoverLA or #SeePuertoRico, so Instagram, Twitter and Facebook geotags are a great way to discover content about your destination. Instead of searching for your destination’s hashtag, search instead for a particular city, attraction or popular photo spot to find a wealth of digital content from visitors. This authentic, user-generated content can then be used for the destination’s own social media, boosted posts and marketing campaigns, and with permission from the user – in paid advertising (see example below).

Disneyland engaging with users via user-generated content

  1. Create a social media campaign — using only user-generated content

A strategic social media campaign involves the careful curation of digital assets, meaningful copy that tells a story and thoughtful engagement with current and prospective consumers – and what if you could simultaneously do all three? By creating a social media campaign that puts consumers at the forefront via user-generated content, DMOs can tap into a wealth of content that allows consumers to be brand ambassadors and storytellers for the campaign from start to finish.

Example: Explore Georgia, #ExploreGeorgiaPup campaign

#exploregeorgiapup campaign using user-generated content

  1. Encourage user-generated content on social media and in engagements

Not seeing enough user-generated content about your destination? Ask for it! Don’t be afraid to put phrases like “comment below with your favorite picture” or “share your best moment with the hashtag _________” to encourage visitors to post their own content. Additionally, you can ask for user-generated content from visitors who are already posting in the destination by engaging with their posts. Add comments such as “We love this post! Can’t wait to see more! #hashtaghere.” Users who feel their posts are attracting engagement are more likely to post more and tag the destination in their posts.


  1. Place interactive landmarks in spaces around your destination

Social media landmarks, both intentional or coincidental, are a tangible and effective way to promote a destination on social media. While some landmarks are branded with the destination, such as the “‘I AMsterdam’ sign” in Amsterdam, many have organically attracted visitors. Considerthe Instagram famous “That Pink Door” in Palm Springs, California. These interactive landmarks are an immersive way to engage visitors and organically market a destination in the digital space, as digitally savvy visitors are naturally compelled to share their experiences on social media, creating content for the destination.

Example: Palm Springs, California — #thatpinkdoor

#thatpinkdoor on Instagram

6. Use the user-generated content for research purposes

Which sites around your destination receive the most engagement on social media? Which parts of the destination don’t receive any digital engagement at all? What are users saying about your destination? These are a few of the questions that can be answered from studying UGC. UGC can play a vital role in understanding visitors’ perceptions of your destination. By compiling and analyzing 100 to 500 recent posts about your destination, your DMO can easily understand not only what visitors think of your destination, but also which parts of your destination are receiving the most engagement and why.

How is your destination using user-generated content? Send us a tweet or a DM on Instagram, at @aboutdci!

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