User or Lose It: A Beginner’s Guide to UGC

One of destination marketing’s most valuable assets often goes underutilized by brands that fail to stay up to date on the latest trends. The best part of this one, it’s easy on the budget.

For decades, destinations have invested plenty to lure in journalists and other influencers with promises of accommodations and five-star experiences, all to get exposure. While press trips have proven to be a useful aspect of any destination marketing PR plan, despite expense, chances are you’re neglecting one of the most valuable tools a destination has.

No matter your tourism location or niche, there’s a pretty good chance people are talking about their experience with your experience. Are you listening?

When it comes to social media, we should all know the importance of authenticity. That doesn’t always have to come from you. In fact, it’s in its purest form when you are not the source.

In a world where social media is practically indispensable for some generations, chances are people already have something to say about your destination. Leveraging that user-generated content, aka UGC, is essential.

Unique to the tourism industry is the overall experience that a destination creates. Socially savvy travelers will rave, review, hashtag, geotag and post on their own accord to promote your destination for free without any coaxing like you might do with influencers!

Unlike sponsored posts, user-generated content is produced organically by happy tourists who found your destination post-worthy.

Millennials and Gen Z-ers use YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as search engines, looking to piece a comprehensive image of a destination together before a trip so they know what to expect.

Unlike stock photos that depict manufactured memories, user-generated photos bookmark a real moment in time. It’s the honeymoon, the first vacation as a family, the romantic getaway, the proposal. Each photo a user shares at your destination is an authentic experience, and the smiles, the excitement and all the emotion are translated through this lens.

That’s why UGC is so important.

If a restaurant has a string of bad Yelp reviews – or worse, no reviews – it deters travelers just as it does consumers. Take inventory and work with organizational partners to fix this.

It’s also important to note that before you go browsing hashtags and reposting photos, ask permission to avoid legal issues. Copyright laws become blurred where the internet is concerned, so it’s best to cover your bases and do your research before integrating UGC onto your destination’s social media or website.

If you’re already collaborating with an influencer, chances are they will let you use their content because it’s promoting their page as well. One rule of thumb is to always ask permission and give proper photo credit when incorporating another person’s images.

Platforms like CrowdRiff take the heavy lifting out of what is also known as crowdsourcing. Pulling in images based on geotags and hashtags, these programs also manage rights to all visuals, so you don’t have to.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but alone, it’s not going to sell your locale to travelers who can take their pick of any number of experiences. UGC acts merely as a backdrop, allowing potential travelers to picture themselves at your destination. So, let your story fill in the blanks.


About the Author

Brenna brings NYC agency experience back to her hometown of Syracuse as a content developer. While she may have left the Big Apple behind, Brenna’s energetic aura and innovative energy continue to reflect her time spent in the notoriously busy City. With a penchant for copywriting and digital media, she adapts her public relations background and direct marketing specialties to dive deeper into the digital world. Brenna has a mind for business and passion for photography and graphics, which complements her strategic planning skills, aptitude for building client relationships and tendency to invent creative solutions that reflect the constantly evolving web and social media landscape.